The 76ers are 5-4 in their last 9 games and if they hadn’t simply given away a game in Denver last Thursday that record would be even more impressive. Collins & Co. have won 6 games overall in March – their highest monthly win total since December. There are a couple of reasons for the improved play of the Sixers over the past month, but none have been a big factor than Damien Wilkins.
The 33-year old Wilkins has had a resurgence that is reminiscent of the Jason Richardson we saw in the first month of the year. Damien’s play of late is both unexpected and more so untimely. Whether it is a case of veteran savvy coupled with intense mental fortitude or variance, DW has been managed to produce at a level far above even he likely thought possible — 18 points; 5 boards and 4 dimes last night.
Over the last 10 games, Wilkins is averaging 13.4 points per night to go along with 3.3 assists. In the Sixers winning month of March, Wilkins has scored 12.5 ppg. on a 57 TS% in 27mpg. For comparison, over that same time period, Jrue is scoring 18pts on a 50 TS% on 38mpg. Wilkins doesn’t bring much value in passing or rebounding and he turns it over a bit much for how little he has the ball but he has managed to be well above replacement level recently on offense. Defense is still something that he has a bit of value, but that is mostly because of whom his peers are on the 76ers. In reality, even with his improved play Wilkins is only the 7th best defensive player on the 76ers.
While his small window of great play is all well and good for Damien Wilkins, his improvement has had directly negative consequences for the team in winning games (If you believe in tanking, which many of us here at Phialdunkia do.). A veteran should both be there to right the ship and when necessary, be there to make sure it sinks. Wilkins has failed miserably as of late in that regard.
At training camp prior to this season Wilkins was in a battle with rookie Devin Searcy for the Sixers final roster spot. When it was announced he had made the team, it was because Wilkins added veteran leadership to a young squad and as Collins said, “I trust him.” Back in November, no one, not even Wilkins himself, could have dreamed that he would be starting for the Sixers this season. Now, he contributing for this team nightly and there is every reason to believe that Wilkins will be back on the 76ers next year.
A veteran’s minimum is the most he can get and the front office isn’t cognizant to the fact that for a few more dollars, far more productive players can be had. Wilkins is very similar to Juwan Howard in the sense of neither player should be in the League as long as they have.
Wilkins has managed to do exactly the opposite recently of what was needed for the Sixers to secure a high Lottery pick and will likely be rewarded with another $1,000,000 contract from the team. If the plan is to tank next year, I am on board with his return. If not, the team will have better opportunities to bring in veteran minimum type players than Damien Wilkins.
Lastly, while everyone should be able to appreciate the professionalism and effort he has shown in this season of resounding disappointment, we all recognize that his small resurgence has hurt the future of the 76ers and for that, he can’t be forgiven.