By: Kwame Fisher-Jones
The phrase “The 76ers need a shooter” has overtaken “Trust the Process” as the most flawed and asinine rhetoric in Philadelphia. It is illogical for a team comprised of so many holes to waste a top five pick, a top 10 pick or any type of a first round pick on a player who is incapable of creating their own shot.
Shooting is a skill which can be developed and refined over an NBA career. From Derrick Rose to Paul George, if committed, that facet of the game can be added to one’s repertoire. However, the ability to create your own shot and get buckets is a talent that cannot be taught. At this point in the process the 76ers need a talented player not a skilled one.
When a team is routinely drafting in the top five it is often littered with issues. In the case of the Sixers those issues range from the problematic to the insurmountable. This is largely in part due to a reluctance to embrace the obvious, and a penchant to unsuccessfully “outthink” the room (see one Sam Hinkie).
The 76ers truly have no inclination as to what type of NBA player former first overall pick Ben Simmons well become. Placing that aside, there is the whole Joel Embiid and the big man’s shall we say “questionable” injury history. At the center’s current playing rate it will be eight years before Embiid plays the equivalent of a full NBA season. So why would anyone even consider passing on a playmaker (De’Aaron Fox) for a shooter, (Malik Monk) who struggles to create their own shot is beyond comprehension.
Has the local basketball world forgotten the travel miles of Eric Gordon, the brief career of Jonny Flynn, and the virtual irrelevance of Danilio Gallinari and Wesley Johnson just to name a few. Are we still acting as if the Los Angeles Lakers would not trade D’Angelo Russell for Devin Booker on site? People we ALL know how the first round shooter movie ends.
Or has the denial stemming from the precision that the Golden State Warriors have displayed, led the Philly hoops community to forget just how necessary a playmaker is? Are the city’s championship dreams being driven by a cat who was drafted seventh overall, took four years and ran through 40 plus teammates before becoming an All-Star?
Teams that are building a formidable championship foundation do not draft the Malik Monks of the world. Just as teams with downtown parade aspirations do not pursue the J.J. Redicks of the world. Shooters are the rims on a classic car, the heels on a pretty woman or the garnish on a $100 steak dinner. In layman terms, they are the last thing you notice on a finished project.
The NBA has been and always will be about players who can create their own shot. Show me a championship team and there is certain to be at least one great isolation player. The list of NBA Finals M.V.Ps is ripe with players deemed “poor college shooters”. Just as teams that frequent the lottery are ripe with the selection of players who are unable or incapable of ending their lottery frequency.
O.J. Mayo was a much better shooter then a frail defensive stopper coming out of UCLA named Russell Westbrook. No way could an up and coming Milwaukee Bucks or Sacramento Kings squad afford to pass on the sweet stroke of Jimmer Fredette. Especially for a small forward who shoots 25 percent from three and is more athlete then polished shooter. Six seasons later Fredette can be found at a local Wal-Mart and Kawhi is shooting 46 percent from 10 – 16 feet and 38 percent from three. By the way that 25 percent Leonard shot while at San Diego State is exactly what Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox shot last season, just saying.
The selective memories pushing the shooter agenda are completely dismissing that most if not every NBA player is capable of developing a jumper once they are in the league. But more importantly the league has always been unkind to the lone jump shooter. The attempt to justify such a move with “it will create space” for an oft-injured center and a “hasn’t taken the floor yet” franchise player will in time prove to be a fireable offense.
Remember when Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was ranked higher than Portland Trailblazers guard Damian Lillard coming into the 2012 NBA draft, based solely on Beal’s shooting ability. Yes Beal has been a good pro, but how much better would the Wizards be with Lillard and John Wall in the backcourt. Or perhaps Otto Porter for a gazelle disguised as Giannis Antetokounmpo for that matter.
The bigger point is athletes and scorers can morph into shooters. If those examples don’t do it for you we can move forward, because it gets better for those bad college shooters. Demar DeRozan shoot 16 percent from three while attending USC and John Wall shot a blistering 46 percent while in a Kentucky Wildcats uniform. Meanwhile, space creators like Nik Stauskas and Trey Burke are struggling for their NBA lives.
If Philadelphia had any idea what type of professional last year’s first overall selection Ben Simmons was going to be, it would……………………no, no no it wouldn’t. This is not the time to be impartial, indifferent or hopeful as a fan. This is the time to DEMAND our team get it right! The 76ers’ front office CANNOT waste a top 10 pick or even a first round pick on a shooter! As much as one wishes the absolute best for Malik Monk and any other highly touted shooter, that hope should not be confused as a wish for an acquisition of said players.
Pause and revisit the wretchedness of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James’ jump shot their rookie year. In the process (pun intended) do not forget about Kemba Walker or everyone’s favorite 76er Allen Iverson. Does anyone recall Walker’s 27 percent from three after his freshman year or Iverson’s 23 percent after his? Yet, somehow each player managed to curve out a pretty dominant offensive game.
The difference being every player named had a playmaking ability that could not be coached, only cultivated. That is what Philadelphia needs and that is what Fox brings. This is not to say Fox or any other player who may struggle from outside 10 feet will be great. It simply should put an end to the ridiculous notion that a player who does not shoot well in college will not shoot well in the pros.
Special always finds a way, and those players named managed to be special without being refined. The 76ers have to focus on special and not shooting, or the clubs front row lottery seat will remain in bullseye view.