3. Some Degree of Upside
Those are the criteria new Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has utilized when searching for players to fill out the roster this offseason. Refreshingly, the team has no desire to overpay any veterans to come in and help scrape together a few extra wins. Instead, the Sixers are bringing in as many young, raw talents as they can find, in the hopes that the legion of player development coaches they’ve hired can turn ‘garbage into gold’ in at least one or two cases. The latest two lottery tickets Philadelphia will scratch off this season are former Los Angeles Laker Darius Morris, and ex-Temple Owl Khalif Wyatt.
Starting with Morris, the soon-to-be 3rd-year player is still just 22 years old, after being drafted by the Lakers in 2011 with the 41st overall pick, following his sophomore season at Michigan. The 6’4″ point guard exploded during his second campaign with the Wolverines as a versatile stat-stuffer, averaging 15.0 ppg on 48.9% shooting, 6.7 apg, and 4.0 rpg. Morris actually set the single-season assist record for the school, until being recently surpassed by Trey Burke. Interesting fact: in Michigan’s first round NCAA tournament win over Tennessee, they were the first team to ever win a tournament game without making a free throw (Sam Hinkie and his analytics would not approve).
With the Lakers, Morris never saw much regular playing time, until the playoffs last season when the Los Angeles roster began resembling the cast of the Walking Dead. Starting amidst a host of Laker injuries, Morris dropped a career-high 26 points and 6 assists against San Antonio. However, he was torched defensively by Tony Parker and company in a blowout loss (but really, who aside from Lebron wasn’t abused by Parker last postseason). Across two regular seasons with Los Angeles, Morris shot the ball well from behind the arc in limited opportunities at 37.3% (28-75). That being said, he only shot 22.3% on three pointers across two seasons of college, so his long-range game is likely still very much a work in progress.
In Khalif Wyatt, the Sixers have made official a signing that has long been suspected since the former Owl’s strong performance in the Orlando Summer League. Across five games, Wyatt averaged 13.8 ppg in just 19.2 minutes of action, and shot 42.9% from behind the arc. After shooting a high volume of threes at a clip of 35.8% across four years of college, it’s conceivable that with some additional coaching at the professional level, Wyatt will be the team’s best outside shooter this season. Unfortunately, he’ll also rival Evan Turner for the team-lead in sourpuss faces to the referees when calls don’t go his way. Nevertheless, with the Philadelphia roster extremely thin on the wings, Wyatt will be given every opportunity to carve out a spot in the rotation. Let’s hope the commitment he showed to getting in shape and honing his craft prior to summer league carries over now that he’s ‘made it’.
Signings of Darius Morris and Khalif Wyatt – As with Wroten, Hinkie is bringing on players who excelled at the college level and is hoping to develop them into cheap, usable rotation pieces for the time when he hits big on one or two of the team’s high lottery picks. Barely any cap space is being devoted to these types of players and they certainly aren’t game-changers in the sense that they’ll prevent the team from bottoming out in the win column. One of the most exciting parts of what should be an admittedly tough-to-watch forthcoming Sixers season, will be finding out whom among this cast of characters will step up and seize this opportunity to carve out a permanent NBA career for himself. Sixers basketball: Where former college stars get one last chance to shine!