Saturday, February 22, 2014

Recapping the Sixers trade deadline moves with Spike Eskin

Sam Hinkie continues to implement his plan to build the Sixers up.
The Sixers were one of the more active teams on Thursday as we approached the NBA trade deadline at 3 PM.   Sam Hinkie wanted to take the next step in his long-term process to build a contender.  I talked with Spike Eskin from SportsRadio 94WIP to get some perspective on how he believes the Sixers are positioning themselves for the future after Thursday’s trades.

Entering the season the Sixers had three players on their roster that were viewed as the more seasoned ones in their fountain of youth.  Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young were viewed as expendable pieces for an organization that was clearly looking towards the future as opposed to competing right now.  Turner and Hawes were dealt on Thursday.

There were many rumors that the Sixers would be able to get a first round draft pick for Turner.  But one of the things Eskin observed as Thursday’s trade deadline came and went was that the value of first round picks seems to be higher than Turner’s value was even in a career year for Turner.

Turner was bound to be traded by the Sixers on
Thursday.  It just took longer than expected.
“I think the biggest thing I took away wasn’t a Sixers thing but sort of an NBA thing,” Eskin said. When you look at a more national picture the deadline was kind of quiet and teams are just not trading first round picks.”

While the rumors were circulating, after the deadline, Eskin began to be skeptical of the validity of such rumors.

“They’re fun for the internet and fun for discussion but the fact is that Sam Hinkie isn’t telling anyone what the offers are or who he’s talking to so if you’re hearing rumors what that generally is is an agent trying to create value for his client,” Eskin added.

That left the Sixers to package Lavoy Allen with Turner to acquire veteran small forward Danny Granger from the Indiana Pacers.  Now while Eskin believes the Sixers will buy out Granger’s contract and in all likelihood Granger will not play a game for the Sixers, the trade was more about moving Evan Turner whose contract is set to expire in the summer.

“I think it was basically about the fact that they have no interest in re-signing Evan Turner,” Eskin said.

Spencer Hawes tenure as a Sixer has come and gone.
The Hawes trade was just about the best the Sixers could do for him acquiring Henry Sims, Earl Clark, and two second round picks from the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Clark was recently released and Sims is nothing more than a bench player if he even stays around long term so the two second rounder picks for Hawes was “fine” in Eskin’s opinion.

That left the Sixers with Thaddeus Young.  The one trade asset they still have on the roster and of the three, Young was the only one under contract past this season.  While his name was still being thrown around in rumors, Eskin believes the chances of Young getting traded on draft night are higher than they ever were on Thursday.

“I think they could use him for a pick, I think they could use him to move up, I think people are more willing to trade first round picks when they know what pick it is,” Eskin said.

Now while the Sixers are positioning themselves for a big 2014 NBA Draft, the important thing is that they draft well and don’t remain at the bottom of the NBA for years to come.  Hinkie’s plan goes against what prior ownership and members of the front office have tried but one thing’s for certain, Hinkie’s trying to build a contender and not just a playoff team that will win at least 40 games every season.

“It says something about ownership,” Eskin said.  “They’re willing to put a team on the court that is barely even a team in a lot of respects and that says a lot about ownership that they trust Hinkie.”


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The real Sixers have arrived

It took a while.  But the team everyone was expecting to be far and away the worst in the NBA has finally showed up.  The Sixers have lost their last two games to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors by a combined 88 points.  Given the preseason expectations this can't come as too much of a surprise.  But there are some positives to extract from this season so far that is now 53 games old.

While General Manager Sam Hinkie is believed to have orchestrated this plan to tank the season and get a high lottery pick, the players and coaches aren't going out there trying to lose.  Hinkie just assembled the team so that they weren't talented enough to win a lot of games.  So it's important to realize how great of a job Head Coach Brett Brown has done in his first year as head coach.

The Las Vegas over/under on Sixers wins this season was 16.5.  After 53 games, the Sixers have already won 15.  While it sounds stupid to be taking positives from a 15-38 record, the fact of the matter is that it's surprising the Sixers have even won 15 games so far this year. It's really the best of both worlds for the Sixers.  Brett Brown has had the players fighting hard and hanging with lots of teams which should give the front office reassurance that they hired the right coach and when given more talent at his disposal should be able to win more games.

From a front office prespective, while the tanking efforts started off slowly with wins over the Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, and Chicago Bulls to start the season, the Sixers are currently the second worst team in the NBA.  They probably won't catch the Milwaukee Bucks who are five games worse, but the second worst record in the NBA gives the Sixers a 19.9% chance at the first pick in the draft and guarantees them a top-five pick.

So when you consider the way the season's gone understand that the last two games have been painful, but that's who the Sixers are. They are very much inferior to lots of teams in the NBA especially Western Conference playoff teams like the Clippers and Warriors.  So the fact that we haven't seen that Sixers team show up night in and night out speaks to the coaching job Brett Brown has done.

Also realize that the Sixers' acquiring their key players through the draft is similar to other NBA teams, except the Sixers are doing it a little bit quicker.  The Washington Wizards have been in the basement since Gilbert Arenas departed and it's taken the lottery selections of John Wall and Bradley Beal to finally have them relevant again.  But along the way the Wizards ceded their fifth overall pick in 2009 to Minnesota and drafted Jan Vesley sixth overall in 2011 who hasn't panned out.  The Wizards have not qualified for the postseason since the 2007-08 season and barring any unforseen injuries or a big collapse are in line to finally make the playoffs again this year.

The Oklahoma City Thunder became who they are today with three lottery picks in three consecutive seasons.  The, then SuperSonics franchise, drafted Kevin Durant second overall in 2007.  Durant won the rookie of the year in 2007 but the francise was still bad enough that they found themselves in the lottery again in 2008 and drafted Russell Westbrook fourth overall.  Yet again in 2009 they were in the lottery and selected James Harden third overall.  The Thunder finally made it to the playoffs in 2009-10 for the first time since the 2004-05 season and got to the NBA Finals featuring these three players in 2012.

Now while additional pieces have fallen in place for both these franchises, and while Harden was traded to Houston, the point is that the road back towards the playoffs was a long, arduous journey that took a while.  For the Sixers, it might not take nearly as long.  This is a team that just two seasons ago was one game away from the Eastern Conference finals.  Then after the Andrew Bynum debacle last year, the Sixers went from being a contender in the East before last season to a team that could be set up for a long stay at the bottom of the NBA similar to Oklahoma City/Seattle and Washington.

Those are two examples of teams that have made it out of the NBA's abyss but there are some teams that have been stuck in there for a while and still are like the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats.  Sacramento is in contention for a high lottery pick this year, and while Charlotte may make the playoffs, that's only because the Eastern Conference is pitiful.  Both teams have been cellar-dwelling for quite a while and may continue to in the future.

All signs are indicating that the Sixers willl have four lottery picks in two years, after having acquired Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams in last year's draft and both their pick and the New Orleans Pelicans' pick will be lottery picks this year.  It doesn't appear that the Pelicans will be in the top five of the draft which means the Sixers would retain the pick and who knows what will come in the future and if Sam Hinkie will try and acquire a third 2014 first-round pick using Evan Turner as trade bait.  If they can draft well this year then they'll be on the way up after really only being all the way at bottom for this season.  Even with the Andrew Bynum debacle last season the Sixers weren't as bad as they are now.  But to climb back out after only one year is an accomplishment and says something about the front office and head coach.

Whomever the Sixers draft this summer, they should enter next season with a more clear vision on where they're headed and for most teams, building through the lottery takes more than two drafts and their team looks as bad as the Sixers have the last two nights on a consistent basis.  By no means are the Sixers having a good season, but given the preseason expectations it hasn't been as bad people thought it might. 

Michael Carter-Williams is the favorite to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award, Nerlens Noel could wind up as the best player in last year's draft class, Brett Brown has done a phenomenal job coaching the roster at his disposal, and the Sixers should have two lottery picks to add to the mix this summer.  The future of the organization is very bright.