BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
The campaign to make Joel Embiid the first Sixers’ All-Star since Andre Iguodala in 2012 (replacement players don’t count) has been admirable, yet such strong efforts do beg the question would such a push be necessary if he was truly worthy of such an accolade.
The voting structure does not favor the traditional line-up any longer, and has eliminated the title of center completely from ballots. However, for the purpose of “fair and balanced” analysis true judgment of the newest NBA phenomenon will come only against those slated at the center position.
Oddly enough the center spot, while voided of a transcendent dominant force, is ripe with quality competition at the position. Each player impacts their respected club in different ways, and fulfill different roles predicated on the talent level of each player.
For example, Joel is required/asked to do significantly more on both ends of the court, than say Chicago Bulls center Robin Lopez (9.1 pts/7.1 rebs/1.7 blks), New York Knicks’ big man Joakim Noah (5.7 pts/8.8 rebs/blks), Washingtion Wizards center Marcin Gortat (11.5 pts/ 11.8 rebs/1.0 blks), Charlotte Hornet Frank Kaminsky (10.2 pts/4.5 rebs/0.4 blks), Cleveland Cavalier Tristan Thompson (7.3 pts/9.8 rebs/1.1 blks).
This group of bigs are not the collective athlete, defender or scorer of Embiid and are not capable or asked to carry such a load, hence a comparison is not warranted.
Players like the Toronto Raptors’ Jonas Valaciunas (12.2 pts/9.8 rebs/0.8 blks), Milwaukee Buck Greg Monroe (10.8 pts/7.1 rebs/0.5 blks), and Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic (13.2 pts/10.3 rebs/1.1 blks) are a completely different case.
Valaciunas has been effective as the Raptors third wheel at times (14 double-doubles in 36 games), and invisible at other times (10 or fewer points in 13 of 36 games). This is not the case with the 76ers’ center, who at times will force the issue. This offensive aggression with Embiid’s shot-blocking and ability to finish threw contact (14 and-1s compared to six in 11 fewer games) and he easily edges out the Raptors big.
In fact, offensive ability is what distances the Philly center from this second tier entirely. The young pup has more 20 point games (13) then Vucevic (six) and Monroe (zero) combined. A feat the former JayHawk accomplished IN 11 FEWER GAMES and significantly less minutes per contest. Both big men are better rebounders, maybe even significantly better, and but provide adequate offensive numbers.
It is difficult to overlook the gargantuan difference in offensive production, while still managing to anchor a severely inept Philadelphia squad.
The Sixer’s chances become murky when he is measured against the likes of Boston Celtic Al Horford (15.2 pts/6.8 rebs/1.9 blks), Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez (20.1 pts/5.0 rebs/1.6 blks), and Atlanta Hawk Dwight Howard (13.9 pts/13.2 rebs/1.3 blks). Offensively Howard and Horford are not the first option on their respective clubs and are unlikely to dominate a game scoring the ball. With the Hawks’ Howard it is rebounding, defense, and shot-blocking that create a problem for the 76ers’ hopeful. The three time Defensive Player of the Year began the season well, tapered off some, but appears to be back to form. Dwight’s 25 doubles-doubles, which are four times more than the six Joel offers, is also be tough to overlook.
Boston’s Horford brings defense and a winning record to the debate. The Celtic center’s blocks (7th in the NBA) come on the ball rather than from the weak-side. While not as flashy, they are a testament to him being a better defender and one of the main reasons Boston has a winning record.
The Nets’ Lopez, posts impressive offensive numbers (three games of 30 or more points), but simply does not have the impact in the wins, rebounding or defense.
It is unlikely any of these three get a nod over the still developing young big, but both Howard and Horford could receive significant consideration from the coaches and media.
Things turn from murky to downright bleak when Indiana Pacers’ big Myles Turner (15.6 pts/7.6 rebs/2.4 blks), the Detroit Pistons’ Andre Drummond (14.5 pts/13.5 rebs/1.2 blks), and Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside (17.6 pts/14.3 rebs/2.2 blks) enter the fray.
Abysmal record aside Whiteside has performed better and played more than Embiid, and should get the All-Star nod over him. The Heat center has 26 double-doubles, 18 games with 15 or more rebounds, and 16 games of 20 or more points. All more than “the Process”.
The Heat big man is first, among centers, in 2-point field goals made (7.2). Drummond is second (6.2), the Hawks’ Howard is third (5.5), with Joel (5.3) and The Pacers’ Turner (5.2) rounding out the top five. What makes that statistic so intriguing is only one of those four is shooting less than 50 percent from that range.
Yup, it be the 76er. This plays into the infatuation the Philly center has with the three ball and his lack of post play to date.
39 percent of Embiid’s field goals come inside the paint compared to 79 percent of Andre Drummond field goals, 74 percent of Whiteside’s, and 41 percent for Turner. To put that in perspective the seven footer averages 13.8 shots a game, and 5.8 are with five feet of the rim, only Turner (4.3) has a lower output.
At some point your seven footer has to play like……….well a seven footer
The production does not favor the Cameroonian, but there is one factor that will likely eliminate him completely.
That pesky thing known as availability.
As much as fans and supporters would like to ignore this, availability is in fact an ability and should be judged as such. All three of the aforementioned players have played in 35 or more games. More importantly, all three have all played with zero days rest, and put in work while doing so. Drummond (14.3 pts & 14.3 rebs in eight games), Turner (17.3 pts & 7.0 rebs in six games) and Whiteside (13.1 pts & 13.3 rebs in seven games) have provided their clubs with a dimension Philadelphia fans are still waiting on from their Twitter celeb.
Yes, Whiteside plays in Miami and doesn’t panhandle for votes. But his production is video game-esque and should not be disregarded.
Yes, Myles Turner’s Pacers have underachieved, but there is nothing that Joel has done to overtake him for an All-Star appearance.
Yes, Drummond is boring and receives little to no fanfare, but his production is certainly All-Star worthy.
All-Star games are part popularity contests, part lifetime achievement awards (Joe Dumars 1997 & Tim Hardaway 1998 selected over Allen Iverson), and part worthy participant.
It has been an eon since Philly had a player who fit in at least two of those three categories. As it stands now Embiid is more the first than the latter. Hopefully there will be a time when his worthy of both, however now is not that time.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
Everything the Philadelphia 76ers need is right before their eyes in Jahlil Okafor, and yet they continue to look away.
Sometimes the obvious can be understated, this appears to be the case with the Sixers’ and their second year big man.
The question is why, and the answer may lie with “the Answer”.
Since the trade of Allen Iverson in 2006, Philadelphia basketball fans have been searching for their next star……………..rather than their next championship.
Enter Joel Embiid, versus Jahlil Okafor.
One is considered destined for stardom and can do no wrong in the eyes of many. The other is viewed as a defensive liability and nothing more than a valuable trade piece.
The crazy thing is both are necessary building blocks, capable of bringing Philadelphia back from irrelevant-ville.
Embiid is flashy, while Okafor is boring but efficient.
Joel is raw offensively while being instinctively dominate defensively. Conversely, Jahlil is instinctively fluid offensively and at times downright tragic defensively. The Cameroon native is without a doubt a physical specimen who could possibly one day lead a club to a championship. Yet the center, much like Okafor, is not without glaring flaws.
He struggles mightily against physical centers like Steven Adams (6 for 16), Marc Gasol (4 for 10), and Tristan Thompson (8 for 18) among others. Then there are the struggles recognizing when and where the double teams are coming from, and a habitual failure to “keep the ball high”.
The 7-footer is busting with athletic ability, but is far from a fluid athlete, which is why he is often seen stumbling and struggling to stay on his feet. His passing ability, specifically from the post or when he goes left at times, can be hideous.
Therefore Joel, just like Okafor, has glaring room for improvement.
However, when the former Jayhawks’ flaws are interrupted by ill-advised three pointers, powerful dunks and ferocious blocked shots, those very flaws are viewed as manageable and tolerable.
Interestingly enough that same patience is not present when discussing or watching “Big Jah”.
Despite the former Duke Blue Devil’s flaws coming with championships on every level and a Hall-of-Fame level of consistency, for some inexplicable reason those results have been deemed inconsequential.
It feels as if fans have invested in hope and disregarded production.
Consider this while attending the University of Kansas, Embiid played in 28 games averaging 23 minutes per with 11 points and eight rebounds. Then the center injured his back. Thus ending his season and any hopes of the Jayhawks winning the National title.
Now the other third overall selection’s resume reads slightly different.
Okafor arrived at Duke University, with far higher expectations and delivered. The big man played in more minutes (30 per), scored more points (17 per) and most of all brought a title home. In fact, since 13 “Big Jah” has been winning. From tournament MVP awards to Gold Medals and finally National Championships. The forward/center has been the focal point and reason why every team he has played for has won.
Meanwhile, “JoJo” has been………….developing. The flashes that have made some very astute basketball basketball minds salivate were present even then. As a high school senior he scored more than 20 points in just three games. Joel’s high school coach Justin Harden had a grading system he used for each player. As a player still learning the nuisances of the game, the big man received an A or higher in 19 of 37 games. Not alarming and frankly to be expected, what was alarming were the 12 games he received a C+ or worse.
Now let us fast forward to the pros.
Comparing each players first 15 games, both players had five games of 10 or more rebounds. Both players had seven games of 20 or more points.
As for block shots, Embiid has 14 games with at least one blocked shot and Okafor had 10 games of at least one.
So with both players posting eerily similar numbers, why is the former Blue Devil so easily believed to be replaceable?
Because styles make fights!
For an organization fighting to justify an accepted losing culture, the crowd pleasing plays of No. 21 are too good to pass up. Even if it comes at the expense of a productive yet methodical player. As are basketball fans starved for talent, there is no way either player’s ability can be just thrown away, or even conversed about in such a manner.
Hope can be a disregard for reality in some instances. To rid itself of a productive player who is still developing, could be a death blow, considering Joel’s history.
We have seen this movie; for years we watched Allen Iverson, ignoring his shortcomings and hoping for an NBA title. Even when it was apparent even at such a tender age that Kobe Bryant (the man Philly could have drafted) had the requisite discipline and work ethic to reach the desired goal.
Years later could this be the sequel?
A player with Jahlil’s impressive (albeit brief) resume is a valuable building block, and should be viewed as such. His penchant to score at ease and put pressure on opposing frontlines in today’s NBA is a commodity, simply because it is such a rarity.
Small ball and threes are a direct result of the lack of potent and fundamental big men.
Teams that have good big men routinely make the playoffs and win games. Look no further than the Memphis Grizzlies who have won 50 or more games three of the last four seasons.
Teams with great big men compete for titles year in and year out.
Now “Big Jah” would not fall into the great category, but his offensive prowess would certainly fall within the “good” category. With over a third of his buckets (34 percent) coming within 10 feet or closer, there is little doubt that he is already the offensive paint presence many hope Embiid will become.
This is not to say the former Jayhawk will NEVER develop, in fact he has persevered through so much already it is impossible to root against him. This is merely an attempt to acknowledge that development is still ongoing and as yet to produce any sustainable hardware.
Just as it is not to say the hardware that the former Blue Devil has amassed through his ongoing development will transfer itself to the professional level.
The very patience given to Joel needs to be administered to Jahlil as well. If nothing more because BOTH resumes demand it and neither player has developed. This organization must stand pat with both players, even if one is voided of the flash that seems to blind so many onlookers.
In an age where 140 characters can be mistaken for biblical logic, it is the time spent striving and building that should be revered. That step by step accomplishment can be prolonged agony or simply a process.
Regardless, allow time to be the judge, not man.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
Jerry Colangelo is one of the wisest and most respected basketball names in the NBA. However, the guru does not boast a championship on his well comprised resume.
This for Philadelphia 76ers fans should be alarming.
Colangelo has been a part of the NBA game and its players in some form or fashion since 1968. He has presided over great draft picks, spectacular trades and multiple 50 win seasons.
Even with such an accomplished list of professional feats the lack of an NBA title, in a word, is peculiar.
How can a man who at worst can be described as competent, and at best described as dexterous, have been voided of the ultimate accomplishment?
Similar to when former 76ers capo Larry Brown came to Philly, Colangelo lends a modicum of credibility to an organization that is setting new standards of futility.
Not only is the NBA lifer without proper hardware, his teams have rarely competed for one. In the 44 years of his shot calling, the Suns have reached but two NBA Finals.
Phoenix would lose in both appearances.
In full disclosure when the former Suns owner left the organization, Phoenix had the fourth-highest winning percentage in NBA history. Yet, they had no NBA titles.
This brings us back to the 76ers and their decision (or forced hand, depending on whom you speak with) to bring the Illinois native to the team ownership table.
When the New York Knicks wanted an NBA title, the organization brought in a man, Phil Jackson, who has won one title as a
player. In addition to that title as a player, Jackson won a title in 11 of his 20 seasons as a Head Coach.
The Golden State Warriors had gone 18 years with just one playoff appearance, and 37 years without a trophy. Subsequently, Golden State hired renowned NBA legend and championship architect Jerry West.
West also has one championship as a player (despite playing in nine NBA Finals), however his championship jewelry as a member of a front office is gaudy. Not including the logo’s stint in Golden State, West has a total of nine rings as a front office executive.
While the jury is still out in regards to the Knicks and Jackson, West proved his worth almost instantly. The Warriors made the playoffs in just the second season after adding the former Laker.
In fact, West joined the Warriors officially in May of 2011 and the next season the Bay Area squad made it to the second round of the playoffs. In June of 2015 Golden State became NBA champions, ending the aforementioned 37 year championship drought.
It does not take a road map to navigate this correlation from championship experience to repeated championship success.
After all, winning an NBA title is ultimately about completing the process, playing your cards rather than an endless loop of assembling a better hand.
The city has already seen this movie in Rod Thorn and Larry Brown. Both are respected basketball names, and both arrived without World Champion in the title.
Thorn and Brown were active in free agency and in the draft room. Each man’s major blunder is well documented, but what remains unwritten are the little mistakes that led to the major failures.
In the case of Brown his refusal to trade Larry Hughes for Tracy McGrady, passing on Tony Parker and choosing Greg Buckner over Chauncey Billups in free agency were much more catastrophic than passing on Paul Pierce. Each step led to a much more disastrous walk.
Thorn often gets credit for selecting Michael Jordan third overall, but few remember the General Manager saying among other things “Jordan wouldn’t turn the franchise around” and “he is not an overpowering offensive force”
Overlooked in the Jordan draft was how the general manager selected track star, Carl Lewis, rather than selecting a legitimate player.
In Philadelphia, the signing of Nick Young and Kwame Brown were just precursors to the main dish of ineptitude known as Andrew Bynum.
The Bynum move would set the table for the ridiculousness we now endure on a daily basis in Philly.
Now enters Colangelo and his record of achievement, minus the ultimate accomplishment. Some Sixers’ fans have bought into this philosophy that your squad is either in the NBA Finals or an eighth seed. The consumption of such nonsense has forced a city once known for having an insatiable basketball appetite to go on a diet.
The former Suns head honcho was masterful in building a 50+ win (19 out of the 44 seasons of his tenure, Phoenix finished with 50 or more wins) roster and keeping his Suns routinely playoff contenders. Considering 76er fans have experienced two 50 win seasons in the last 26 years, they are ready to accept that.
This “success” will leave every 76er fan in a vicious cycle. If the belief is the team has to either be in the Finals or exit stage left in the first round. Then an experience of second round and in some cases conference final appearances will provide a false sense of “success”.
The Suns were perpetually at the party, but rarely danced.
Does the hiring of Mike D’Antoni, over say a Brian Shaw or Tom Thibodeau, give the appearance that Colangelo has simply changed dates, but still refuses to dance?
Are 50 win seasons and a once in a decade NBA Finals in Philly’s future?
The city is all too familiar with such feats. At this juncture fans should be demanding more out of an ownership that seems focused on acquiring assets yet not properly utilizing them (see the drafting of Dario Saric).
The hiring of Colangelo attempts to pacify those who cannot be swayed with catchy rhetoric and poor basketball logic.
Such a hiring slows down those who are very aware that the San Antonio Spurs championship rosters were filled with second round picks and extremely late first round picks. Or those who are cognizant that the Golden State Warriors and Detroit Pistons won titles with one superstar and a roster built on NBA retreads.
Current 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie has had an opportunity to rebuild this roster with players, and instead has chosen to secure assets. The smoke has now evaporated and the habitual 50 win genius has emerged.
With this emergence the dream of a championship seems to have been suspended, for the reality of just being good.
NBA rings are passed down from one champion to future champion. The Philadelphia front office cannot possibly expect a novice to lead novices to the promise land, can they?
Yes, there have been exceptions throughout NBA history before, but the Sixers cannot prepare to be the exception. Their focus must be linear, on being the rule.
The problem is the current leaders are unfamiliar with those rules.
The 76ers were in need of someone whose vision was constructed of remembrance and true production. Instead, they chose someone whose greatest consummation is being close.
This has left Philadelphia basketball fans believing they are closer to a championship when, in fact, they are still just as far away.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
Nerlens Noel has started slightly over 82 games in his NBA career, the equivalent of a full NBA season, and the question remains what is the frontcourt player?
On one hand, or better yet on one end, the athletic forward is a defensive force. At a wiry 228 pounds, Nerlens does more than hold his own against the behemoths in the paint. The young Sixer’s defensive progression has been stellar and provided hope for Philly fans. Conversely, his offensive growth has been, shall we say, “interesting.”
Hence the question; what is Nerlens Noel? More importantly, will he ever become a franchise player?
When the 76ers crafted a draft-night trade to obtain Noel, the hope was he would become a pillar in the new championship structure the Sixers front office was building. Three years in, the space is still there but does anyone see a sustainable beam?
Three years into the process, and a player who has displayed all the necessary intangibles to be “special” seems to still be a major question mark.
Offensively, Noel seems to struggle with identifying his strengths as a player. His confusion is illustrated by his high amount of turnovers. Last season Noel ranked sixth among power forwards in both total turnovers (146) and turnovers per game (1.9). His penchant for losing the ball also hampers any chances of scoring at a consistent clip.
In 75 games last season the former Wildcat scored over 20 points TWICE (23 against the Knicks & 30 versus the Clippers)!
Coincidently, the 76ERS' power forward had the lowest points per game average of any of the players ranked ahead of him. Now in full disclosure the Kentucky-ex is the youngest member of that turnover crew.
This season his turnover pace continues, as the forward is second in total turnovers (31) and first in turnovers per at the power forward position. At this juncture in his career, one can appreciate the offensive aggressiveness, but detest the putrid results.
On the surface drafting the next Dikembe Mutombo is not a bad thing. The problem comes about when Mutombo believes he has the offensive prowess of, say, a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Noel is a much more of a fluid athlete than Mutombo, but does not possess the offensive efficiency or production of Abdul-Jabbar, and to be clear no one ever will. Yet, the young man does have a skill set that lies somewhere in between and should be yielding better results.
A skill set comprised of aggressiveness, assertiveness and activity; while being void of great hands, touch around the rim or back to the basket awareness. Yes, Nerlens does have offensive ability; it is just not your standard 6’11 offensive ability.
The name David Robinson comes to mind at times when watching Noel on the offensive end and is often evoked on the defensive end. In fact, many of the power forward’s defensive feats rest in the same company as the Admiral.
On the offensive side both had an innate ability to run the floor, slip screens for dunks and incorporate the alley oop into a half court set. The slender forward could take his offensive game to another level if he could add the pick and pop, pull ups and a more consistent stroke at the foul line.
By no means is anyone suggesting that the Massachusetts native is the next Mr. Robinson. However, there is a chance the 2012 No.1 high school player in America (per ESPN100) could develop into a more potent offensive player. The key for him is “the jump shot”.
A consistent jump shot for a big man with the build of Noel can be the difference from being an NBA journeymen or multiple all-star performer, like former Indiana Pacers’ legend Mel Daniels or the aforementioned Robinson. Each managed to effectively use the 12 to 15 foot pull up or pick and pop.
One 12 footer a quarter would add eight more points, pushing the forward’s per-game scoring from 11 to 19. For a team hell bent on developing talent, how has this not been added to the 76er big man’s repertoire?
Why are fans still watching a 6’11 player routinely put the ball on the floor, only to turn it over or hurl up ill-advised shot after ill-advised shot? While bad shot selection is part of the growing process, through that bad shot selection is where a player develops the restraints of his offensive game.
To this point there appears to be very little gain in the pain felt when witnessing Nerlens offensive forays. The calmness of a simple jump shot could do wonders for the storms he has to play through in learning when and how to rely on said jump shot.
If Charles Oakley can develop a consistent jump shot, so can Noel.
If Marcus Camby can develop a consistent jump shot, so can Noel.
Hell, if Bill Cartwright can develop a consistent jump shot, so can Noel.
There is no secret or necessary form in acquiring this weapon, and the only requirement is that it is practiced during live games. This simple addition will create a plethora of other offensive options for the athletic big.
If the forward can become a threat to sink a jumper, opposing big men would have to step out of the paint to defend him thus making them susceptible to the forward putting the ball on the floor. This would allow his superior athletic ability to flourish as he blows by flatfooted power forwards and centers.
All of these things can be Noel’s if he would just start that process now. An elbow jumper, a pull up or pick and pop, it is that simple. Repetitiously practiced this will turn into a potent and eventual career altering weapon.
During games Nerlens often looks like a superior athlete moving at warp speed. A simple timely jump shot will manifest this superior athlete into a superior basketball player.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
The Philadelphia 76ers tried this offseason, but their attempts at Eastern Conference relevance ultimately were fruitless. When the 76ers acquired center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers many thought the Sixers would win at least 50 games and challenge for the Atlantic Division crown. However, here we sit just barely past the halfway point of the season fighting for the eighth seed, and the right to be massacred by the Miami Heat.
Not what Sixer fans envisioned when the season commenced, nevertheless 21 – 27 is where Philly rests and irrelevant is what they are.
Bynum was no doubt the straw that stirred the 76ers nectar of championship delusion, and without the big fella Philly is nothing more than a group of athletic non-clutch sporadically effort filled ballers. No more no less. So it should not surprise anyone that there record is so pedestrian.
Bynum should not have been expected to partake in more than 50 games this season, considering the Plainsboro, New Jersey native has played in an average of 56 games in his seven year career. The hope was with the center in the lineup Philly would win anywhere between 65 to 70 percent of their games, which would mean winning about 33 of those 50 games. If Philly could remain around .500 without the oft-injured center, thus 16 – 16, then 50 wins was very much attainable.
Short of LeBron James and a healthy Dwight Howard, no one player is a championship island. In order to compete for a title Philly needed/needs more than “Bad Afro Bynum”. Even with the center, Philly was no better than fourth in the East, behind the Miami Heat, New York Knicks, and Chicago Bulls. The 76ers effort in acquiring the center, while audacious, was tainted.
As easy as it was to get excited about the addition of the former Laker it is just as easy to become nauseous with the Sixers’ other acquisitions. The other pieces added to this roster were less than impressive. Only former glue eaters and Spike Eskin thought the addition of former first overall selection Kwame Brown was inconsequential. The perennial pine rider is synonymous with underachievement and aloofness on a good day, and can evoke an obscenity laced tirade from a nun on a bad day.
Simply put winning and Kwame “Eddie Mush” Brown do not go together.
The center has been a successful reminder of just how painfully inapt the Sixers front office has been in securing talent on this roster. From guard Evan Turner to the aforementioned Bynum it seems this current regime just “can’t get right”, even when aided by the most splendid of circumstances.
When the 76ers acquired the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft most thought the Ohio State product was the right selection for Philly. However, in basketball (as in life) what is right does not always mean what is best.
This is where a true talent evaluator would separate himself from the pack, say a Jerry West. It is a disregard for the obvious that enables Jerry West to select a tough nosed point guard from a tiny southern school and trade an established big man for a high school phenom. Talent is what incarcerates the mind into believing trading two first picks for a frail forward from Hamburg, Arkansas is brilliant.
Talent is rarely obvious; it is undisclosed and understated at times, but always undeniable. Conversely, average is obvious and blatant, it is where mediocrity is often excused and applauded. The 76er brass has mastered the art of mediocrity. Current General Manager Tony Dileo, who has resided in the 76ers’ scouting department for well over 20 years may have the requisite desire to win but are voided of the natural talent necessary for this effectuation.
This leads us back to the 2010 NBA Draft. Sacramento Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins and Utah Jazz forward Derek Favors would have been the riskier selections for Philly in the 2010 draft, but would have provided the bigger reward. Both players had yet to reach their maximum potential, while Turner had peaked. Most talent evaluators felt the former Buckeye garnered very little risk. Turner did everything well, but did nothing great. The 76ers decided to roll with Turner and in return have received little reward in the form of wins. Making matters worse the lusterless guard, has little to no trade value.
Oddly enough Cousins for all his strife in Sacramento would still command a high ransom should the center ever be made available.
It is this type of thinking that continues to plague the 76ers. Consider that the Miami Heat have been desperate for an inside presence since signing the big three, yet they passed on Brown
The Golden State Warriors signed Brown to a one year deal last season to provide frontcourt depth. The center played in nine games and the Warriors finished 20 games below .500. Brown’s contract expired at season’s end and Golden State replaced Brown with undersized but talented former Purdue Boilermaker Carl Landry. The new Warriors front office, advised by Jerry West, identified the talent and good locker-room presence in Landry.
The undersized center has played in almost six times more games and as a result the Warriors currently sit 11 games above .500.
Landry has been a major fixture on two playoff teams and is currently averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per. The forward was available when the 76ers signed Brown.
Those who condoned the Brown signing said the former Washington Wizard would have no effect on the roster, and he was just a back-up center, which may have been what the 76er front office was thinking when they signed Brown. The center was an example of just another move excused by those incapable of identifying talent. It is not Kwame’s fault almost every team he has played for fails to make the playoffs and look fantastically abysmal while doing so. It is also not a coincidence that when building a losing franchise Brown is viewed as a necessary foundation.
Tragically and predictably few have associated the Sixers’ shortcoming with the front office and scouting department.
Things may have been different in Philly if Bynum had played in those 50 games, but since when do the unprepared prosper.
Now the same minds who have failed to deliver a championship roster since 1983 will be entrusted yet again with the future of this once gallant franchise.
The 76ers will enter next season roughly $10 million dollars under the salary cap, and armed with four expiring deals. The future should be bright and confidence levels should be high, after all the likes of point guard Chris Paul, forwards Josh Smith along with David West, and center Dwight Howard all will be unattached this summer.
Alas this is Philadelphia. This is where second best in the form of Andrew Bynum instead of Dwight Howard is congratulated and the likes of “Eddie Mush” aka Kwame Brown are excused.
Alas this is the 76ers, a team where Dana Barros and Jrue Holiday are mistaken for All-Stars despite going unaccounted for in the most critical of moments.
There was a time when our beloved 76ers were expected to at the very least compete for an NBA title. In the eighties the Sixers won at least 64 percent of their games for seven straight seasons. In those days Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Andrew Toney walked through those doors, because championships were all that mattered.
There is a difference between not winning and not knowing how to win. The Sixers in those days did not win, while today they simply don’t know how to win.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
The Philadelphia 76ers finally decided to stomp with the big dogs. After an offseason filled with ineptitude and inconsequential moves the 76ers jumped in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and came out with Andrew Bynum.
The former Los Angeles Laker cornerstone brings to the 76ers……………………well no one knows what Bynum brings. The big can be dominating at times and aloof at other times. The Jersey native is strong and violent in the paint and will never be pushed around. Conversely, he plays at the same pace whether it is game one of the regular season or the NBA Finals the effort remains the same. There is no elevation of Bynum’s game because of the moment.
The 76ers can take solace in knowing they have attained the second best center in the league and most of all have changed the dynamics of their team. More than likely, your starters are Andrew Bynum, Spencer Hawes, Dorell Wright, Evan Turner, and Jrue Holiday. This is a far cry from the previous starting line-up of Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Andre Iguodala, Jodie Meeks, and Jrue Holiday.
The addition of the two time champion should be applauded, if not for the acquisition, then at the very least for the effort. For too long the 76ers have been treading water with the guppies instead of swimming with the sharks. This once proud organization drafted well and pursued the best. Time has forgotten that and new fans have allowed this mediocrity to continue.
This addition supplies the fans with a sense of hope, and proves that the new regime is well aware that the re-signing of Spencer Hawes alone is not acceptable.
Bynum is a player who has yet to hit the superstar level and to be fair, at this point, the center is more name than substance. However, that is the only type of player the 76ers could obtain. To be clear Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, David Robinson, Kevin Durant, Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlain and any other star you could think of were not willingly walking through those doors.
So the only way the Sixers were going to change residence from Mediocrity Township to Eastern Conference power was by taking a chance on a player who COULD be a force. A player capable of carrying the load and not being engulfed by the moment were the necessary ingredients.
Bynum is capable and has shown he can fulfill those requirements, based on his penchant for playing at the same level throughout the season. Yet the question remains, can the one time NBA All-Star carry this group of 76ers to a title?
Will the newest acquisition be the next Moses Malone or the next Jeff Ruland? Truth be told, no one knows.
Last season the seven-footer played well throughout, and even began the season with six straight games of 10 or more rebounds. In total, Bynum would tally 10 or more boards in 39 of 60 contests. The newest Sixer is an imposing figure in the paint who intimidates not just with his shot-blocking, but also with his “punish thou penetrator” philosophy. Bynum notched at least one block in all but nine of his 60 contests and of his 13 field goal attempts per game, 11 were from nine feet or closer.
The center is more laborer than levitator, which could pose a problem for the 76ers. Philly likes to get out and run. Also, Bynum is not a polished passer and nets about two turnovers to one assist per.
In addition, the big will never be mistaken for a gazelle when it comes to running up and down the court. One of the major issues with Bynum is his apparent lack of assertiveness, which is contradictory to others who say he is a dirty player. How can one not be aggressive but in the same breath be overt in displaying aggression?
It is certainly easy to shoot holes in the lack of aggression critique, but there is no doubt Bynum has some offensive deficiencies. The Lakers’ struggled with any type of pick-and-roll offense involving the big because that’s not his game. He is better suited for back to the basket play and does not fare well facing the defense.
Yes Bynum is flawed and that is why he was available. Regardless, the undeniable fact about the big man is this, he can get it done. Pure and simple the man can play and while that is evident at times, many still wonder what will it take to achieve consistency?
Philadelphia feels they can not only answer that question, but can also get the big to surpass his potential. So certain is the franchise they have ditched their long-term future by trading two of their last three first round picks in Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic for immediate recompense.
So certain is the franchise that they have mortgaged the future without a guarantee that Bynum will be in the Sixer’s future.
Sometimes the desire to be great surpasses our fear of failure. Yes losing the former Laker is a concern, but a greater concern was going another season jockeying for first to lose in the playoffs. The opportunity to grab a top player at his position, who has the potential to be a top player in the league was just too good to pass up for Philly.
However, this move alone does not make Philadelphia a legitimate championship contender. A contender steps on the court with more certainty then uncertainty. Presently construed, the Sixers are overwhelmed with uncertainty. Who will be the team’s second option? “Who will pick-up Iguodala’s passionate defense?” “How will this group adjust to being a half-court low post orientated offense?”
An opportunity to compete for a title is all Philadelphia has been asking for. This acquisition is a step in the right direction.
BY: KWAME FISHER-JONES
To say the Philadelphia 76ers are a terrible drafting team is a broad statement that can be viewed as opinion. However, if one were to say since 1979 the Philadelphia 76ers have drafted only five NBA All-Stars, that opinionated statement now becomes a provable fact.
The list of all-stars includes Andrew Toney (1983 & 1984), Charles Wade Barkley (1987 – 1992), Hershey Hawkins (1991), Allen Iverson (2000 – 2006 & 2010), and Andre Iguodala (2012). Ladies and gentlemen, that is 33 years of ineptitude being rewarded by six figure checks.
You compare that to three all-star selections by the San Antonio Spurs since 1998, four by the Los Angeles Lakers since 1997, five by the Boston Celtics since 1988, six by the Chicago Bulls since 1985 and suddenly 33 years sounds, well……..terrible.
For a franchise that managed to always find itself competing for NBA Championships to now be regulated to duking it out with the Toronto Raptors for the eighth and final playoff spot should be a hard pill for 76er fans to swallow. There has to be a reason or person responsible for such consistent and deliberate miss-fires. It is one thing to draft a player and have him sign with another team in free agency, but it is inexcusable to draft another team’s future 13th man season after season.
The NBA Draft is where championship seasons and dynasties commence. Every championship team from Bill Russell to Paul Pierce’s Boston Celtics, Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks and LeBron James’ Miami Heat has had a roster with at least two stars. One of those stars was a player the championship team drafted.
Yes free agency and trades are vital ingredients in championship gumbo but they are not the main ingredient. It is essential that your team first, draft well, than everything else will follow. There is no plausible excuse for Philly’s lack of wherewithal in knowing what player will succeed and their abysmal history in selecting similar players.
This pathological desire to be epically horrendous began somewhere during the 1986 – 1987. When the good Doctor was hanging up his Converse, someone thought three-time MVP Moses Malone for Jeff Ruland was brilliant, and the Sixers drafted Chris Welp out of the University of Washington.
Welp is the all-time career points scoring leader (2,073) in Washington Huskies history, but NBA big, he was not. Welp would tear up his knee one night in Chicago and never quite live up to “expectations.” History has been and will continue to be unkind to both Welp and Ruland who were not bad players.
Although, Ruland did have an injury history and should never have been a 76er, but that is a story for another day.
While Welp today looks like a bad draft choice, you have to dig a little deeper. If so, you will find a seven-footer who could shoot and spread the floor, which would have given Barkley and Ruland room to operate in the paint. However, his selection signified a shift in drafting college production over talent.
Injuries and poor trades began to rear their head and the 1987-88 season was one of misery and strife as Philly finished 36-46. A bad year can bring about good results in the form of a top three draft pick, which is what Philly was awarded for their injury riddled season. However, even a gift from King Stern could not rescue the 76ers from themselves.
Ineptitude had set in, and the Sixers were focused on instituting a tradition of idiotic selections. Yet, with every tradition things begin subtle, and this was no different. Injuries cost them the opportunity to see if Welp could be a player, and poor scouting cost Philly a shot at a legitimate Hall-of-Famer in the 1988 NBA Draft.
Pittsburgh’s Charles Smith was selected third overall selection by the 76ers. The former Pitt Panther was immediately traded to the Los Angeles Clippers for Hershey Hawkins who was the fifth pick in that very same draft and Kenny “Avoid the Lane” Payne in the 1989 NBA Draft.
The Hawkins pick stands out because selected right before Hawkins was a player nicknamed “the Rock” and who would go on to have a Hall-of-Fame worthy career. That players name was Mitch Richmond. The former Kansas State standout would go on and play in six straight all-star games and solidify himself as one of the best two guards in the game. While the Hawk would make one all-star appearance and never quite live up to that 36-points per he scored his senior season at Bradley.
Two years and two players who played well in college but whose scoring talent did not transfer to the league, once is an accident twice is a……well you know the rest.
Kenny Payne, who was also included in the trade for Hawkins, did nothing worth mentioning during his three year stint in Philly other then be a part of this trade.
Philadelphia later traded for Jayson Williams who was the first round selection of the Phoenix Suns in the 1990 NBA Draft, but would not appear in the first round again until the 1992. By then they were a dead team playing.
Disaster had struck and there was no way out.
Gone was Charles Barkley, who was traded to Phoenix in the off-season. Luckily the 76ers did not get a first round pick to blow in the Barkley trade. What Philly did get were three players in Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry who couldn’t find a way to help a 26 win ball club.
Just as things commenced with the horrific trade that brought Jeff Ruland to Philly and the selection of Chris Welp over Reggie Lewis and Mark Jackson things would hit an all-time high in the 1993 NBA Draft. In basketball “the non-rebounding seven footer” can be a kiss of death for an NBA club. Well the Sixers went for a peck with Welp and a French kiss with Shawn Bradley and both wound up being devastating blows for the franchise.
Frustration comes to mind when you think passing on Richmond for Hershey, Nick Van Exel for Alphonso Ford, and Tracy McGrady for eventually Tim Thomas. Confusion, the audacity, and incompetent all come to mind when Shawn Bradley is selected over Anferenee Hardaway, Jerry Stackhouse over Kevin Garnett, Larry Hughes over Paul Pierce, Clarence Weatherspoon over Latrell Sprewell, Speedy Claxton over Morris Peterson, Samuel Dalembert over Gilbert Arenas and Tony Parker, John Salmons over Tayshaun Prince, and Rodney Carney over Rajon Rondo.
What makes these selections so egregious, so putrid is the fact that each of the players the 76ers should have drafted filled a need on the team. Hershey Hawkins and Jeff Hornacek were shooting guards masquerading as the squad’s starting point guards the year the Sixers choose Bradley. Speedy Claxton was unable to play with the team’s best player in Allen Iverson because of Claxton’s height, so why make those pick.
It appears at times Philly is trying to outdo the previous season’s mistake and sadly have been uncharacteristically successful at doing so. While it is easy to call out Tony DiLeo, the Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations, that will not solve the problem. Just like Harold Katz selling the team to Ed Snider in 1996 did not solve the major issue of talent evaluation.
Sadly, the only way to resolve this issue is to literally fire everyone in the scouting department, starting with DiLeo. 22 years in player evaluation and nothing to show for it is difficult enough to swallow. However, a pattern of missing player after player and trusting the same group of scouts who have failed you pick after pick is the true reason for this call.
Any and every person who has been part of that staff exceeding four years must be replaced with the fierce urgency of now. To be specific both the college and pro scouting departments must be overhauled. Their misses have been catastrophic and frankly comical.
Another epic blunder was the drafting of Mareese Speights over Roy Hibbert and Serge Ibaka when the Sixers had every intention of going after Elton Brand in free agency. These moves aligned with a history of incompetence are too much for any coach or owner to overcome.
The last two drafts have been more of the same for the Sixers.
Last season they drafted University of Southern California’s Nikola Vucevic. The forward added absolutely nothing to the roster this season and eventually was passed in the rotation by second round pick Lavoy Allen.
Vucevic was taken 16th overall which was six spots higher then NBA All-Rookie First Team member forward Kenneth Faried and was taken a full round higher then NBA All-Rookie Second Team members forward Chandler Parsons (taken 38th overall) and guard Isaiah Thomas (taken 60th overall). Once again proving they are unable to identify talent.
For those of you who believe this current regime will be any different or perhaps they will be able to establish and sustain any type of success. Polly on this their first draft pick, Maurice Harkless, is a 6’8 wing player who is athletic but is offensively raw. Athletic swingmen were high on the 76ers draft board considering the core of their team is Jrue Holiday, Elton Brand, and Tony Battie. This would have been a questionable move if the core of the club was say Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young, and Evan Turner.
The second first round selection (via trade) Arnett Moultrie is also considered extremely raw.
Seems like the same dry pizza as the last cafeteria. To be honest it is too early to know if Harkless, Vucevic and Moultrie will break the abysmal trend and provide star powered hope to the many of dark nights casted by previous selections.
The NBA Draft is where the foundation to a championship team begins. It is where the Miami Heat grabbed an undersized shooting guard from Marquette and turned him into a two-time champion.
The NBA Draft is where a slender kid from the suburbs of Pennsylvania heads to Los Angeles and becomes arguably the greatest to ever play the position. Lastly, it is where a slick talking bald man gives Ice Capade tickets in exchange for the greatest winner the game has ever known.
The 76er seasons have crumbled so frequently because they have forgotten the importance of building that strong foundation. Hopefully this new group of owners will not continue this oversight. Hopefully this new ownership group will focus on the builders as well as the building.
BY: Kwame Fisher-Jones
He walked among giants and at times stood the tallest. His career was loved by many and loathed by most. There is no one word that can define Allen Iverson, except perhaps indefinable.
With one of the most anticipated and exciting seasons taking place, it is difficult to fathom that it has been over ten years since Allen Iverson led the Sixers on a meaningful postseason run.
It was the 2002 – 2003 season and the Answer scored over 40 points five times that year. For good measure Iverson opened up the playoffs with 55 points and 8 assists as he led the Sixers to a victory against the heavily favored New Orleans Hornets. Iverson’s 76ers would take that series in six games. Until last season, that was the last time the Philadelphia had won a playoff series and coincidentally it was the last time A.I. mattered, on-the-court.
On November 1, 1996 a six foot gladiator entered the arena and Rome would never be the same. When the former Georgetown Hoya hit the then CoreState Center everything changed! The 76ers went from nonexistent to relevant once again. The miniature dynamo brought notoriety to a team and a city that the NBA world had forgotten about. All the while “the Answer” became one of the most notorious athletes in Philadelphia sports history.
In A.I.’s first season the guard scored 40 or more points in five straight games, rocked Jordan TWICE, told Scottie Pippen to kick rocks (while dropping 44 on him) and gained the admiration of Boston Celtic architect Red Auerbach during All-Star weekend.
Who could forget Iverson’s first game at Madison Square Garden where he fouled out New York Knick' point guards Charlie Ward and Scott Brooks, in just THREE QUARTERS! The performance would give the 76ers their first win at MSG in two years.
The media is still fuming from the guard informing the imperial Michael Jordan that he did not have to respect him.
Iverson was a breath of fresh air for a new generation. A generation that did not wear dress shoes with jeans. A generation that listened to hip-hop at 7AM on their way to work.
The Answer had just begun and already the guard was legendary. Hall of Fame NBA beat writer Peter Vecsey compared Iverson’s rookie year, and its impact on the NBA, to Michael Jordan’s rookie year. One of the most exciting rookie campaigns in NBA history began with a 30 point explosion against the Bucks, and ended with A.I. scoring over 30 points in eight of his final nine games.
The rookie’s final numbers that year 23 ppg and 7 apg. In all, Iverson failed to score in double figures just three times the entire year and for good measure hung 50 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were number one in opponent’s points per game that season.
However, in typical A.I. fashion he giveth and he taketh away.
The 40 or more points in five straight games were overshadowed by each of those games ending in losses. Off the court there was the marijuana charge, the gun possession charge, the fights with Jerry Stackhouse and the civil suit regarding Iverson’s moniker “the Answer”. Before anyone got an opportunity to celebrate the guard’s outstanding rookie year, they were forced to chastise No.3 for his perceived attitude and off the court issues.
SportsCenter, in fact, led each Iverson story with “if he’s the answer I don’t want to know the question.”
Ousted was Coach Johnny Davis, and the freedom to shoot first Davis bestowed upon Iverson, and welcomed was veteran Head Coach Larry Brown. Brown had worn out his welcome with the Indiana Pacers the year before, after the club finished 39-43. Brown was compelled to right the ship and get the most out of this talented rebel.
For many this would have been an indication to slow down, but A.I. just went harder. That year the Sixers beat a Houston Rockets team that featured three future Hall-of-Fame players, swept a Los Angeles Lakers club that registered 61 wins, and defeated the eventual World Champion Chicago Bulls.
Iverson was an aberrant talent who many thought would never adhere to the fundamentals necessary to obtaining an NBA title. Yet, with the NBA reeling from another Jordan retirement and attempting to rebound (pun intended) from another asinine lockout, the league was searching for its next Jordan to lead them. Instead they got their first A.I..
The bald head that had become mandatory for any young inspiring black ball player was replaced by cornrows. Italian suits were replaced by Girbaud jeans and Tims. More importantly, the old lottery bound 76ers were replaced by the new perennial playoff bound 76ers. From 1998 – 2002 the Sixers never lost in the first round of the playoffs, despite routinely being over-matched.
In the summer of 2001, after numerous feuds with Coach Brown and a much anticipated album, Philadelphia attempted to banish the All-Star to the Detroit Pistons. Some would say 76er center Matt Geiger saved the guard by refusing to waive his no trade clause, thus negating the attempted trade. However, what appeared to be divine intervention at the time would actually prove to circumvent history and the guard remained in Philadelphia.
The 2001 season culminated with a trip to the NBA Finals against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers. The Western Conference champions were undefeated in the post season, which meant nothing to the Sixers. For one night the world belonged to the overachiever and their flag bearing Czar.
For one night A.I. was the greatest basketball player ever, for one night.
That evening David literally beat Goliath and there remains no greater vision then watching No. 3 in black hit that baseline jumper over Lakers’ guard Tyronn Lue in game one of the 2001 NBA Finals.
Los Angeles would win the NBA title in five games, however the mercurial guard accomplished something he failed to do at Georgetown, in high school, or even in his first few years in the NBA. He finally made “them” love him.
Iverson’s NBA Finals appearance would be the last time the star among stars would shine so bright, from that moment on he was never the same.
On the court the guard’s body began to let him down. The Sixer still scored but not at the pace or ferociousness that he once did. The dunks and fearless drives to the hoop became floaters and pull ups. Iverson no longer bounced back up quickly after being knocked on the hardwood instead he rolled up slowly.
Philly went from legitimate championship contenders to barely making the playoffs. Off the court it became about “practice”. The games were the subplots and fights with Coach Brown were the lead stories.
Two years after the dream NBA Finals appearance, Coach Brown resigned. Brown would land on the Detroit Pistons sidelines less than two months later, the very same Pistons who knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs.
A litany of coaches followed but none could handle Iverson the way Brown did. There was the Chris Ford fiasco, where he wanted the icon to come off the bench. The guard bulked and eventually did not play. Allen was invited to participate in the 2004 Olympics and be reunited with Larry Brown. The team was scrutinized for playing selfish basketball and managed to escape with a bronze medal. Things continued to spiral out of control for the Sixer.
The iconic 76er was eventually traded to the Denver Nuggets and when he left a little bit of Philadelphia left with him. A.I. was Philly; he was not Lansdale, Cherry Hill, or Bryn Mawr. Allen Iverson was Philly and he connected with that city and its residents the way a fictitious boxer connects with Flyer and Eagle fans.
Who can forget him sitting at the podium after winning game one of the NBA Finals with a Donovan McNabb jersey on?
He was the NBA’s begotten son. Iverson was not what the league wanted but what the league needed.
For ten years the guard stole are hearts and we forgot about trying to “play the right way” and just wanted to watch him play. Yes, the star never won a championship and in that regard he is a failure, but what he did for and to the NBA will never be forgotten.
No matter how hard the NBA attempts to distance themselves from his influence on the game.
No matter what dress codes are implemented.
No matter how many pundits sigh anytime his name is brought up.
Iverson played with a burning desire to succeed at that moment and unfortunately never grasped that it took more than a successful moment to truly be successful.
Each season since his untimely demise, the little man that captivated so many is venerated by a public request for his services. Each season a new owner or general manager offers Iverson one last chance to return to the forum he once ruled over. It is in this pursuit of the game’s most infamous enigma where we all get to take a moment and reminisce about the transcendent play of our Hercules.