Tag Archives: Philadelphia 76ers

Trade Grade: Motiejunas to Detroit

Earlier today, news broke that Houston had traded Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to Detroit for Joel Anthony and a top-8 protected 2016 first round pick. Houston then sent Anthony along with Denver’s 2017 second round pick to Philadelphia for the rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum.

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons should have just stopped while they were ahead. After ripping Orlando off in Tuesday’s trade for Tobias Harris, Detroit had long-term starters at all five positions and adding in Motiejunas only creates a logjam in the frontcourt.

Furthermore, Motiejunas is coming off a serious back injury and is a restricted free agent after this season. At that point, after only two months of playing for them, the Pistons will have to decide whether or not to shell out a significant amount of cash to keep Motiejunas around for years to come.

It’s not like Motiejunas is a bad player. The seven-footer is capable of shooting threes, having shot nearly 37% from downtown last season on 1.9 attempts per game. He’s a useful player to have around as he provides flexibility as a stretch big man.

The problem isn’t Motiejunas; it’s the price the Pistons had to pay for him (and also Thornton, who was a throw-in, even though he had some nice moments early in the season).

That first rounder would have been another cheap player to add to their core, but instead, they’ll likely be forced to pay a ton of money to keep Motiejunas in restricted free agency after the season.

It wasn’t an awful idea for Detroit to acquire someone like Motiejunas, but there were certainly cheaper ways to do so.

Grade: C-

Philadelphia 76ers

Sam Hinkie has done it again. Hinkie managed to insert himself into yet another trade, allowing him to acquire his one-hundredth second round pick, an important milestone for him.

Maduabum isn’t an NBA prospect, so the trade is really just Philadelphia taking on Anthony’s salary in return for that second round pick. Even better, the Sixers save about $1.5 million because they’re now over the salary floor thanks to Anthony.

The best thing of all is that Anthony’s $2.5 million salary in 2016-17 is fully unguaranteed, giving Hinkie flexibility that will allow him to make advantageous trades in the offseason.

This deal isn’t important enough to warrant effusive praise for Philadelphia, but it did a good job in using its excess cap space to scoop up extra assets.

Grade: A

Houston Rockets

This trade was a coup from Daryl Morey. He managed to turn a couple of unused players he was unwilling to pay into a first round pick. Sure, it’s not going to be a high pick, but even a pick in the teens is plenty valuable, especially since the draftee will be on a dirt cheap rookie contract.

The Rockets also managed to escape paying the luxury tax by giving the Sixers a second rounder, saving them millions of dollars.

Foisting a couple of unwanted players onto Detroit and receiving a first round pick and millions of dollars in savings in return is a job well done by Houston.

Grade: A+

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Notes From Knicks-Sixers

Last night, I watched the sloppy Sixers-Knicks game in its entirety. Here are a few observations from the game.

First off, the viewing experience of watching the Knicks on MSG is made five times as enjoyable thanks to Walt Frazier’s entertaining phrasing. According to this article from ESPN, Frazier acquired his massive vocabulary by reading the New York Times’ Sunday Arts & Leisure section and writing down whatever words that caught his eye. After he wrote down the words, Frazier then studied how each was used in a sentence using a method he calls “linking and thinking.”

Anyways, last night, Frazier produced a few classics in “shaking and baking,” “wheeling and dealing,” and “moving and grooving” before moving on to more eclectic ones, such as “swooping and hooping,” “hanging and banging,” and “slamming and jamming.”

Carmelo Anthony looked awful last night. Even in a game against the sorry Sixers, he’s just been off. Anthony missed layups and chucked up badly off-target three-pointers. He finished with twelve points off of sixteen inefficient shots in a subpar game. I don’t know if this is a trend (I sure hope not), but it’s something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.

In last year’s draft, Nik Stauskas, a shooting guard, was taken by the Kings 8th overall. He started exactly one game for them, the season finale against the Lakers. Over the summer, Sacramento traded him to Philadelphia in a salary dump so they could open up extra cap space to sign the eight superstars who were all lining up to come play for the Kings.

Putting aside the hilariously lopsided deal, that put Stauskas in Philadelphia, on a team that didn’t care about winning whatsoever. The trade allowed him to play more minutes which would give him a larger opportunity to work through whatever issues he’d dealt with in his rookie season. Accordingly, his playing time has increased by nine minutes per game.

He didn’t have a big game or anything last night, with four shot attempts over twenty-four minutes, but one thing I noticed was his lightning-quick release on his three-point jumper. It was almost Curry-esque.

Last of all, let’s talk about Young Kristaps, who put up seventeen points, ten rebounds, and four blocks over thirty minutes in a customarily spectacular game.

Despite his height, Young Kristaps has a lovely jumper he used twice from three-point range, nailing both shots. Nothing about his shot seems forced; it’s natural and he’s able to smoothly catch the ball and rise up for a graceful shot.

Young Kristaps had a couple of impressive passes last night. Early in the game, he reached around his defender to deliver a nice pass to Robin Lopez for a layup. Later on, Jose Calderon and Young Kristaps ran a pick-and-roll. Calderon passed it to Young Kristaps as he came around the screen, and Young Kristaps started to drive towards the basket, but instead hit Calderon with a behind-the-back pass. He had another fine pass to Calderon where he spotted that the point guard had a step on his defender and lofted the ball over to him for an easy layup.

I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far into the article without mentioning a single one of Young Kristaps’ thunderous dunks. He had one where he drove lefty into the lane on Nerlens Noel and rose up for a tomahawk slam and another where Derrick Williams lobbed the ball up to him from behind the three-point line for a monstrous alley-oop.

Young Kristaps blocked four shots last night, but we’ll focus in on one. In the middle of the opening quarter, Isaiah Canaan drove to the basket with Young Kristaps moving along with him. Now, one of the concerns about Young Kristaps before the draft was that he was too thin to survive in the NBA. Although that’ll go away as he gets older, it was a problem in this case as, on his way to the rim, the 6’0″ Canaan rammed into the chest of the 7’3″ Young Kristaps, pushing him back. Despite this, Young Kristaps’ arms are some long enough that he was able to envelope Canaan, blocking the shot with ease.

Along with collecting four blocks, Young Kristaps picked up only one foul. This is a marked departure from Summer League, where across four games and 82 minutes, he picked up seventeen fouls, including a game with seven fouls in only 22 minutes. Working on his trouble with fouling was a high priority for Young Kristaps entering the season.

The problem was that Young Kristaps was often committing fouls due to his aggressiveness on defense. To measure the worth of his aggressiveness on defense, I used Young Kristaps’ SB/F (steals+blocks/fouls), a new statistic I made up to measure whether or not a player’s tenacity on defense is a positive, was a .647 during Summer League. So far this season, he’s improved it to a .881.

Using statistics from basketball-reference.com, there have been 276 games played so far this season, with roughly 2208 steals, 1435 blocks, and 5741 personal fouls across all 276 games. That works out to a league-average SB/F of .634, so, to my surprise, apparently Young Kristaps was roughly average during Summer League and has been exceptional so far this year.

Now that Young Kristaps can play aggressive defense while still staying on the floor, that combination, along with all of his other talents, makes it look like he’ll be a star.

Thanks to Young Kristaps, for the first time in a decade, Knicks fans, there’s a reason for hope.

I noticed I wrote “Young Kristaps” a lot this article, so here’s a quick explanation for why I call him that, rather than Porzingis. In the 2015 NBA Draft Diary, I wrote:

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 7.20.14 PM

That’s it. Maybe as a compromise with myself I’ll alternate Young Kristaps with YK. I guess we’ll figure it out.

Super-duper quick pick for Thursday Night Football: Detroit +2 over Green Bay. Neither team makes me feel any good about betting on them, but Detroit’s been playing better lately so that’s as good a reason as any.

Welcome to the Suck Bowl

The NFL has the Super Bowl. The NCAA has countless bowls, covering an eclectic array of classics like the Cotton, Orange, and Rose, and shameless advertisements including the GoDaddy, Hyundai Sun, and Nova Home Loans Arizona. The NBA? Well, it has the Suck Bowl.

Tonight in Philadelphia, two team with a combined record of 2-32 will square off. In one corner, there are the Lakers, whose Stone-Age coach’s stubborn dismissal of common sense has them at 2-14. In the other, there are the Sixers, whose New-Age general manager’s continued plea to “trust the process” has the team at a dismal 0-18.

These are two teams heading in similar directions, but it’s always intriguing to map out how each got to where they are.

Let’s begin with the Lakers, a team that is dysfunctional enough that it allows Kobe Bryant to airball at least four shots a game and whose coach, Byron Scott, recently said: “Our guys get along. They just don’t trust each other”. And no, I’m not sure how that makes any sense, but remember, this is the same guy who seemingly believes that two and three are equal, based on his insistence that his team not shoot too many threes.

Anyways, way back in 2012, the team traded for stars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. The team was expected to be great; however, Mitch Kupchak, the team’s general manager, apparently forgot that defense is as important as offense en route to a disappointing 45-37 season.

Despite their final record, the Lakers were still in the playoffs as the seventh seed, so there was still hope for their season. Then they got whipped by the Spurs by an average scoring margin of 18.75 over a four game sweep.

In the offseason, Howard fled to Houston, ending the team’s hope that he would be its bridge from Bryant into the future. Instead, the Lakers extended Bryant’s contract by two years for 48.5 million dollars, condemning the team to mediocrity or worse for the foreseeable future.

The next season, Los Angeles went 27-55 and Bryant played in a mere six games due to injury. There was a bright side to the team’s awfulness: a high draft pick resulting in Julius Randle, a power forward out of Kentucky. In addition to Randle, the Lakers nabbed Jordan Clarkson, a guard, at 46th overall.

In the 2014-15 season, the Lakers went 21-61, the franchise’s worst record throughout its entire history. Adding to the dismal display, Randle broke his leg in his NBA debut, immediately ending his season, and Bryant again suffered through various injuries, playing only 35 games. However, Clarkson had a sparkling rookie season, excelling in March and April once he received playing time, with averages of 17 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists over the last two months of the season.

Another ugly season led to another high draft pick, and with the help of some luck in the lottery, the Lakers were able to draft D’Angelo Russell, a star point guard, at #2 overall.

That’s where the team stands. It’s got an aging star who’s not a star any more (and is retiring after the season) and a couple of young studs. The team sits at an ugly 2-14, but there’s plenty of hope for the future.

In Philadelphia, there’s also hope, but the team took a far different path to get it.

The story of the present-day 76ers team began in 2013, when Sam Hinkie tore down the team to tank for a high draft pick. The team finished 19-63, but only got the third pick in the draft, with which they took Joel Embiid. Later on in the first round, the Sixers traded its 10th overall pick to Orlando for the 12th pick and a 2017 first rounder (which led to some hilarious awkwardness as I discussed here), and selected Dario Saric, who can’t come to the US until at least 2016.

After another horrific season at 18-64, the Sixers again had the third overall pick, and again took a big man, this time taking Jahlil Okafor out of Duke.

As Philadelphia stands now, it has a ton of solid players on its roster, from Nerlens Noel to Robert Covington to TJ McConnell to Nik Stauskas to Tony Wroten to Isaiah Canaan to Jerami Grant. It has a wealth of future draft assets (as Business Insider details here). It even has a couple of 2014 first-rounders coming in the future when Embiid finally makes his debut and Saric comes over from Turkey.

It’s clear that Hinkie is pushing all his assets into the future while imploring the team’s fans to “trust the process” and, despite the agonizing state of the present-day team, the plan is nearly guaranteed to work. Zach Lowe wrote over the summer that “if Philly is really willing to do this for five, six, or seven seasons, it almost cannot fail. It will either land a superstar or draft so many good players that they will gather a solid NBA team.”

Until that glorious future, however, Sixers fans are stuck with the current team. Despite its numerous quality players, it’s winless at 0-18. The team isn’t as bad as it record shows, though, as Philadelphia has had a lead in the fourth quarter of each of its last five games, only to fritter it away, resulting in agonizing loss after agonizing loss.

Tonight’s game against the Lakers is especially important, because, if the Sixers lose, they’ll set a record for the worst start to a season in NBA history. Luckily, Philadelphia is favored by 1.5 points, but if they lose again tonight, another shot at a victory may not come for a while.

Will the Sixers Win Before the Warriors Lose?

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Warriors are favored in 65 out of their remaining 67 games. The only two games the Warriors are the underdogs in are its road games at San Antonio. That’s it.

The first of those two games is in the middle of March, the Warriors’ 68th game of the season. Now, Golden State will almost certainly lose before then, but the question is: When?

The Warriors don’t face a tough game until December 5th, the team’s 21st game of the season, when they’ll play the Raptors on the road. Even then, they’ll still be heavy favorites against a Toronto team that just lost Jonas Valanciunas to a hand injury.

It’s worthwhile to note that the Raptors gave the Warriors a serious scare when the teams last played, on November 17th. In that game, at Oracle Arena, the visitors barely lost by a score of 115-110.

Assuming Golden State gets past Toronto, the toughest game the team will face until Christmas is a road matchup with the Pacers. On Christmas Day, the Warriors will host the Cavs, which could be a challenging matchup. However, due to the league’s best home-court advantage, Golden State is still likely to cruise to a victory.

We need to fast-forward almost a month, to January 18th, for the next serious threat to Golden State’s perfect record. They’ll play Cleveland on the road to begin an imposing weeklong stretch that includes road games in Chicago and Indiana and a home game against San Antonio.

If I had to bet, I would guess that the Warriors lose their first game of the season during that stretch, between January 18th and 25th. I have to agree with ESPN: the Warriors don’t look like they’ll be losing any time soon.

However, although the Warriors have been dominant through the first month of the season, they still have a close competitor in making history and it’s not who you might think.

The 76ers are almost as bad as the Warriors are good, with an 0-15 mark to start off the season. They’re four losses away from passing the atrocious 2009-10 Nets for the worst start in NBA history. This could be the most riveting storyline of the next month or two: will the Sixers win before the Warriors lose?

Now that’s a far more compelling question. The next good chance Philadelphia has for a win is in a week, when they’ll play the Lakers at home on December 1st. However, if they can’t end the streak then, they’ll only have one quality shot at a victory in the next month, when they play Brooklyn in the Barclays Center on December 10th.

After that, the next solid opportunity the Sixers will have for a win is a couple of road games against the Kings and Lakers on December 30th and January 1st, respectively. If Philadelphia still doesn’t have a victory after that, well, they’ll have to wait more than a month for another winnable game, when they host the Nets on February 6th.

I think the losing streak will end against the Lakers next week. It’ll actually be quite dramatic. Assuming the Sixers lose their next three games, they’ll sit at 0-18 heading into the game. To avoid the ignominious accomplishment of owning the worst start in NBA history, that Lakers game will be a must win.

To answer the original question, it seems as though the scheduling gods want Philadelphia to win before Golden State loses. However, if the Sixers keep on losing and the Warriors keep on winning, each team setting a new record each and every game, an amazing game will be set for January 30th.

On that date, the Sixers could be 0-45 and the Warriors could be 46-0 when the two teams meet for the first time this season for a game in Philadelphia. Although the odds are a million to one against it, if Philadelphia managed to get its first win by handing Golden State its first loss, well, that would just be awesome.