NBA Reflections…

The Kentucky Derby likes to bill itself as “the greatest two minutes in sports”.  Given the hype leading up to the race and then the 7-hour pre-race TV extravaganza on Derby Day, you might think it was the most anti-climactic two minutes in sports.  But, then, there is the NBA Draft Lottery.  Finally, last night, the Lottery passed into history like a bad case of constipation.  It did not produce anything near 2 minutes of excitement or wonderment, but it finally gave us the NBA Draft order for about 5 weeks hence.

In case you have been in a sensory deprivation chamber, the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery and the speculation has already begun that they will try to convince Anthony Davis that he and Zion Williamson along with Jrue Holiday can form the nucleus of a young team that will be championship contenders very soon.  That is surely not a bad start – assuming that Davis is open to such an overture.  I think it is more interesting to ponder what the Pelicans might do in the event that Davis tells them that he has had it in New Orleans and that he wants out ASAP.

  • If I were the Pelicans’ GM in that circumstance, I would get the best deal I could get for Davis out of a competition among the Lakers, Knicks, Celtics, Clippers – and anyone else who might throw an offer into the pot.
  • THEN – I would also trade that overall #1 pick the Pelicans “won” last night for more young players plus picks NEXT year and build around Jrue Holiday who is signed through the end of the 2021/22 season.

Speaking about NBA teams that might be looking to redesign their roster, there is a lot of chatter out there now about the Sixers going through a shake-up.  The logic train here goes like this:

  • The Sixers bench is not very good and not deep at all.  If they are going to be a serious playoff contender, that must change.
  • Three starters – Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and JJ Reddick – will hit the free agent market this summer.
  • AND – there are plenty of folks who are begging to fall out of love with Ben Simmons.

The issue with Simmons is very basic; he cannot shoot outside 6 feet from the basket and opposing defenses have taken note of that inability and they just don’t guard him when he is even 15 feet from the basket.  That allows teams to play “5-on-4 defense” much of the time against the rest of the Sixers on the floor.  When Simmons is effective offensively, he is down on the low post where his 6’ 10” frame makes him a mismatch against opposing guards who are not that big.  The problem there is that the Sixers offense also relies on Joel Embiid to work in that confined area of the court and Simmons’ presence there adds another defender to that phone-booth sized area of the court.

Lest this sound totally negative, Ben Simmons’ performance in just about every other phase of the game is more than acceptable.  He is a better-than-average defender and he is an excellent passer; he needs to develop a 15-foot jump shot.  The problem is that just about anyone who watched him play last year recognized that he needed to do that in the off season, but he didn’t do it.  His shooting this year is no better than it was last year, and some have attributed the lack of improvement to a lack of commitment on Simmons part.

If that is indeed the case, the Sixers’ “Process” did not work out well at all.  In fact, before “The Process” began in Philly, the Sixers drafted good players who hung around in the league productively for a good while such as:

  • 2004:  Andre Iguodala (started for the Warriors last night)
  • 2005:  Lou Williams (averaged 20 points per game with the Clippers this year)
  • 2006:  Thabo Sefolosah (came off the bench for the Jazz this year)
  • 2007:  Thaddeus Young (12 points and 7 rebounds per game for the Pacers)
  • 2008:  Marresse Speights (10 years as a journeyman center around the NBA)
  • 2009:  Jrue Holliday (see above)
  • 2010:  Evan Turner (came off the bench for the Blazers this year)
  • 2011:  Nickola Vucevic (15 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Magic)
  • 2012:  Maurice Harkless (came off the bench for the Blazers this year)

And then “The Process” began:

  • 2013:  Michael Carter-Williams – – not a good shooter
  • 2014:  Joel Embiid – – an excellent player when healthy
  • 2014:  Elfrid Payton – – traded for Dario Saric
  • 2015:  Jahlill Okafor – – cannot even pretend to play defense
  • 2016:  Ben Simmons – – can’t shoot
  • 2016:  Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot – – bench player
  • 2016:  Furkan Korkmaz – – 6 points per game off the bench for Sixers this year
  • 2017:  Markelle Fultz – – can’t shoot
  • 2018:  Mikal Bridges – – the jury is still out
  • 2018:  Landry Shamet – – traded away to the Clippers

The listing here from 2013-2018 only represents the first round picks the Sixers had.  Over that period, they also had 20 second round picks.  “The Process” indeed amassed picks; the problem is that way too many of those picks turned to dust.

One rumor out there is that the Lakers might offer to trade LeBron James for Ben Simmons.  [Evidently, LeBron does not have a “no trade clause” in his deal with the Lakers.]  That deal makes little to no sense from either side of the table.

  • LeBron James’ career is on the downward arc; he is in win-now mode; the sixers roster does not look like a “win-now roster”.
  • LeBron James – like Ben Simmons – plays a part of his game on the low post where he and Joel Embiid will create a crowd in a phone booth.
  • With LeBron James comes a ton of drama.  Philly fans may not put up with that drama nearly as well as fans in Cleveland, Miami and LA have in the past.
  • Ben Simmons lack of shooting ability paired with Lonzo ball’s lack of shooting ability would create a Lakers’ backcourt that will drive a coach to drink.

Finally, with the PGA Championship starting tomorrow, here is a comment from Jimmy Demaret – a three-time Masters champion in the 1940s and 50s:

“Golf and sex are the only things you can enjoy without being good at either of them.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

 

 

2 thoughts on “NBA Reflections…”

  1. In defense of the 76ers, three years ago they managed to win only 10 games. Even with all the issues you listed, they are a considerable improvement over that team.

    1. Doug:

      Yes, they are better than a 10-win team. In fact, only the 1973 version of the Sixers was a worse team for the entirety of the NBA’s existence. The fact is that the team that emerged from “The Process” is merely a “Good Team”. Lots of other “processes” have and will produce “good teams”; ought not “The Process” do better?

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