As a reminder, this Philadunkia question and answer series is “loosely based” on ESPN.com’s highly successful, NBA related series of posts titled “5on5″. Our version of this genre of posts will ask 4 Philadunkia scribes to answer 4 topical, hot button questions about our Philadelphia 76ers.
Now you’re probably asking, “Why not simply stick with the “5on5″ format that ESPN.com uses?”
Well as any great hoops coach will tell you — playing 4on4 is the best way to truly learn the game of basketball.
After the jump, Philadunkia scribes Jeff McMenamin, Carey Smith, Michael Kaskey-Blomain and Tyler Cook will examine four hot topic questions surrounding our 76ers.
1. At this point in the season (34 games in), do the Sixers have more or less wins than you expected?
Smith: I predicted 11 wins for the 76ers in 2014-15, so I believe they are right on or close to the pace I forecasted for this team back in early November. We are less than half way through this season and Hinkie is not done tinkering yet, so I expect that this roster could get worse before the trade deadline passes and that would hopefully produce a complete nose dive by this team. I expect they will finish right around 11 wins and that should secure the most lottery pingpong balls come June. I don’t think Hinkie will allow himself to get out tanked by a 69-year old, 1st time NBA front office executive who is influenced by Eastern philosophy; loves the grateful Dead and goes by the nickname the “Zen Master”.
Kaskey-Blomain: Before the season started, I thought that the Sixers would be bad, but I did not expect them to break their own mark for worst record of all time (9-73). I had their win total pegged somewhere between 12-15, so their 5 wins after 34 games is around what I expected. The season is a little less than half way through, so if they continue at their current pace their win total will be in the low double-digits, as expected. As the season wears on and the players become more familiar with each other they may even be able to pull out a few additional wins. Wins are secondary to player development for the Sixers this season, so their low win total should come as no surprise.
McMenamin: I marked the Sixers for 10 wins on the year back in October, I’d be lying to say that five wins at this point in the season (including two over the Heat and Cavs) was expected. The addition of Robert Covington has given the team more balance on offense, and they’ve collectively gotten better on defense. With 48 games left, the team should definitely avoid setting the NBA’s all-time worst record. They’ll likely hover in the 12-15 range by season’s end.
Cook: At this point in the season, 34 games in, I think the Sixers have about as many wins as what people expected. They are currently 5-29 and just recently came off an impressive win against Cleveland. Most of these wins however are coming on nights where teams are resting injured starters for example their first win against Minnesota where Ricky Rubio was hurt. Same case goes for their win in Cleveland with arguably the best point guard in the game Kyrie Irving and LeBron James sidelined that night. I think a 5-29 record is about where this team should have expected to be 34 games into the season. Rebuilding should be the only thing on everyone’s mind.
2. Of the current crop, which players do you think have a realistic shot at being part of the franchise’s future?
Smith: I think a number of the current 76ers will be back on the roster in 2014-15 — Noel; Embiid; Covington; MCW; Sims; Grant; Aldemir and Luc. However, I only see three players on this roster (as it stands right now) who I think will be part of the franchise’s long term future. Those players are Embiid, Noel and Covington. The rest of the roster is not all that impressive. Yes, guys like MCW, Sims and Wroten do some things well, but each has glaring holes in their game that I am not sure can be fixed/developed. They are nice players on a team that is built to lose, but they are not great players and you can’t build a title contending roster with/around players of this caliber. In short, outside of Embiid, Noel and Cov, I don’t see anyone on this roster that would be difficult to replace.
Kaskey-Blomain: While several players currently suiting up for the 7-6 won’t be back with the team after the season, several players currently on the Sixers roster have a realistic shot at being part of the franchise’s future. Although he has yet to play a game professionally, Joel Embiid is obviously an enormous part of the plan moving forward. If his play even remotely matches the hype that has been built around him then the Sixers really might have found themselves something special.
Although he may never be an offensive go-to guy, Nerlens Noel has already demonstrated that he can be a game-changer on the defensive end, and he figures to be part of the team’s future as a paint protector. Although K.J. McDaniels has had his ups-and-downs this season, it is difficult to imagine the Sixers letting him walk this summer considering the potential he has shown on both sides of the ball; he will likely be around for a few. It may be a little too early to make a definitive decision on Robert Covington, but if he can continue to shoot the long-ball at the rate with which he has been, he will likely find a future with the franchise, as the team could always use a quality shooting option.
The two guards are probably the most difficult to determine. Carter-Williams will likely be with the team, at least for the next couple seasons, as they continue to see if he can develop into the lead man on a contending team. Despite his drives and ability to get to the basket, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Tony Wroten moved.
McMenamin: There are a few players on the roster who’ve shown that they deserve to be around next season, if not longer. Joel Embiid obviously goes without saying, but of those who’ve actually played this season, K.J. McDaniels, Nerlens Noel, Tony Wroten, Robert Covington and Henry Sims are at the top of my list. McDaniels has already out-performed his 32nd selection in last June’s NBA draft. He sits fifth on NBA.com’s rookie ladder and has shown athletically and defensively what he’s capable of on any given night. Noel is actually ahead of McDaniels in the rankings, but it’s to be expected. Noel was the lottery pick in 2013, and after missing last season with a torn ACL, he’s shown flashes of brilliance in his rookie year. He leads all rookies in rebounds and steals and is second in blocks. He’ll need to continue to work on his offensive game, but he’s helped the Sixers defense tremendously this season.
Wroten leads the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game and can really bring a spark off the bench in the future. He’s really getting a grasp of running the offense compared to last year. He’s had 12 games of seven assists or more this season through 34 games. He had six such games all of last season. A lot of this could be contributed to both Michael Carter-Williams’ injury to start the season, as well as the addition of Covington. Covington has averaged 12.1 points a game with the Sixers, including 2.2 three-pointers made per game. According to basketball-reference.com, 92.7 percent of Covington’s looks from beyond the arc are assisted. Whether it be from Wroten or Carter-Williams, he gives them a dimension they didn’t have from deep to start the season and he’s been a major factor in all of the Sixers’ five wins.
Lastly, Sims has had a solid season as well. Although he’s statistically under-performing his 11.8 points and 7.0 rebounds from a year ago, Sims could be a viable bench big for the Sixers in the future. He has a nice mid-range game and solid defensive/rebounding instincts which can give the Sixers a different look to look for on the bench next year.
Cook: As I look through the current players on the roster I think that Tony Wroten has hands down had the best season out of anyone on the team. Numbers don’t lie and he is leading the team in points and offensive production. He is a prolific shooter and has the ability to spot shoot and score off the dribble. There are talks of him being traded but that just goes to show you that other organizations want him on their team. He must be an asset with potentially a long career left for the third year guard out of Seattle. K.J. McDaniel’s is another player that is having a decent year. He plays well on the defensive side of the ball and often takes the ball strong to the rim on offense. He also cause havoc on the board offensively and defensively. These are the two players I could see the Sixers actually keeping for their future roster.
3. Based off of what you have seen so far this season on top of his Rookie of the Year campaign last year, do you think Michael Carter-Williams can be the team’s point guard of the future going forward as they build themselves back into contention?
Smith: That’s a very difficult question to answer. My gut reaction is to say, “No, MCW is not the PG of the future for the 76ers”. The list of issues in his game is simply too long — broken jumper; turnover prone; can’t guard the ball; etc. But then I ask myself, “Is there a better option available?” Unless Hinkie is going to go out and sign a veteran point man, I don’t think so.
Nearly every point guard coming out of college these days has the same issues as MCW as they are all products of the grassroots basketball circuit that stresses a style/brand of basketball that is not conducive to the NBA game. If you trade MCW and draft another point guard who spent 1 or 2 years in college, he better have identical size to #1 and a better skill set; but his perimeter jumper had better be like “water” (as the kids say). Otherwise you will have set this franchise back two years. Again, unless Hinkie signs/trades for a veteran lead guard who can hit the 3-ball, I think we are stuck with MCW for the next couple of years.
Kaskey-Blomain: Carter-Williams is an interesting case, as he does some things really well, and some other things, well, pretty poorly. His shaky shooting and propensity to turn the ball over are extremely worrisome, especially from the point guard position. It has been somewhat difficult to judge Carter-Williams fairly as he has been surrounded with inferior talent throughout much of his professional play. Could the reigning Rookie of the Year be the guy with an improved case where he isn’t asked to do so much? Maybe. Carter-Williams still has time to develop, and he will benefit from an entire offseason to work on his game, which he was robbed of last year. But, if he is unable to improve upon his shot, and take better control of the ball, he will not be able to reach his potential as the lead guard on a contending team.
McMenamin: I’ve never been sold on MCW. Quite frankly, I’m testing the trade waters again before the deadline this year, and again before the draft this summer. He’ll never be a consistent shooter and his tendency to turn the ball over hasn’t changed since his days at Syracuse. I’d say at this point, start looking into other options to run the point. It’s a replaceable position in today’s NBA and there are better options out there.
Cook: There is no doubt that last season was a stand out season for the Rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams. As the franchise moves on though is MCW the answer and long-term solution? I think the answer right now is, “Yes.”. MCW has had his ups and downs this season. He is averaging 14 points a game with 7 assists. Decent numbers in this league. The one thing about MCW is if things don’t work out in Philly his stock is relatively high and Sam Hinkie could benefit down the road by possibly trading the young point guard. Only time will tell if MCW can fulfill the point guard duties for the Sixers, but as of now he is the only solution.
4. Considering the rumors that have begun to circulate, do you think Tony Wroten will be a Sixer at the end of the season?
Smith: No, I don’t think he will be here at the end of the season and I am okay with that idea. I love how hard TWroe plays and I find him highly entertaining to watch, but between Europe, Australia, college and the D-League there are a thousand guys in the basketball world who can score the ball at the rim; shoot 20% or worse from three; turn the ball over regularly and play no defense like Wroten does every night. So if in the next month, I can move Wroten for a valuable “asset”, I do so without hesitation. Besides, Jordan McRae (22 ppg.) who was the NBL player of the month for December down in Australia and is a front-runner to be the league’s MVP, is being groomed to take the SG spot here in Philadelphia next year. Thus, Tony will not be missed at all.
Kaskey-Blomain: I do not expect Tony Wroten to be a Sixer by the season’s end. For all the good he has demonstrated this season – an uncanny ability to get to the basket, a willingness to pass – his erratic play, poor shooting, and turnover tendency take away from him as a player. He doesn’t have a true position with the team; too erratic for point play, not a solid enough shooter for the shooting guard spot. His skill-set is also somewhat similar to that of Michael Carter-Williams. So while he has an excellent ability to get to the basket, on a building team like the Sixers, he is not indispensable. He may be bested suited for a bench role somewhere where he can come in and provide some instant offense. If contenders come calling, looking to add an offensive option for the playoff push, I expect Hinkie to be ready and willing.
McMenamin: I’m not so sure how far the trade talks got with Wroten, but I think he’s a guy the Sixers are holding onto for a while. For reasons I already mentioned above, Wroten has clearly shown development from last season and Brett Brown has recently been very high on the former Washington product. Sam Hinkie loves him because of his contract and the city of Philadelphia loves him for his toughness. Let the wrecking ball continue to grow. He has an elite skill of getting to the rim and drawing fouls, his court vision has grown and his shooting mechanics at least show that there’s room for growth in that department. He would be a great sixth man off the bench for this team as it continues to grow.
Cook: It’s hard to speculate whether you will be seeing guard Tony Wroten in a Sixers jersey at the end of the season. He has had a great season so far this year; actually the best numbers of his career has come from these first 34 games. He has caught the attention of the Sixers organization and also those outside the Sixers organization. Right now he is the best player on that Sixers roster. Sam Hinkie knows that and treats every player as an asset to this team. The question is whether Hinkie will trade Wroten when he is hot or wait. Certain teams with playoff potential like the Clippers have been interested. Teams like these love to sign bench players with scoring potential going into the playoffs. Hinkie would be smart to start wheeling and dealing at that time for the future of his team. So to answer the question I highly doubt Wroten will be in Philly by the end of this season.
Jeff McMenamin is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @Sixersblog.
Michael Kaskey-Blomain is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @therealmikeKB.
Tyler Cook is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @ .
C. Smith is the Editor of Philadunkia.com. You can follow us on Twitter @philadunkia.