Philadelphia 76ers vs. Detroit Pistons 10/23/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Detroit Pistons looked to score a preseason win on Thursday night, when they faced the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pistons looked to control the game with their dominant front court of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, but faced a tough test from a rebuilding Sixers squad.

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Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets 10/20/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Brooklyn Nets looked to continue their strong preseason Monday night when they took on the Philadelphia 76ers. The Nets’ veteran roster looked to continue its early success against a young, rebuilding Sixers squad.

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Predicting the Good, the Bad & the Ugly for the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers could be in for a long season, but hope that some of their young pieces can develop and begin to build towards the future. What can we expect out of Philly this year?

Marcus Hayes joins tortured Sixers fan Adam Lefkoe to predict the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the upcoming year in the video above.

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Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers 10/16/14: Video Highlights and Recap

Two of the NBA‘s youngest teams squared off on Thursday night when the Boston Celtics faced the Philadelphia 76ers. Both the Celtics and Sixers were eager to improve on last year’s disappointing results, and the preseason provided valuable experience for their myriad young players.

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The Problem with Philadelphia 76ers Pursuing Michael Carter-Williams Trade

Even though Michael Carter-Williams is coming off a season in which he won Rookie of the Year for the Philadelphia 76ers, his spot in the future plans of the rebuilding organization isn’t exactly secure. While he’s filled with upside and could develop into a star point guard down the road, the Sixers are apparently trying to strike while the iron is hot. 

According to Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Philadelphia attempted to find a deal for Carter-Williams during the 2014 NBA draft, and general manager Sam Hinkie may well end up pursuing that route at least one more time: 

They tried hard during the draft, but they couldn’t draw the trove they envisioned or guarantee that the player they wanted with an acquired pick would be there, per several league sources. Expect Philly to repeat the exercise. It’s not a shot at Carter-Williams, or even a signal that the Sixers are dying to trade him. He may well end up a long-term cog in Philly.

The team knows point guard is the most replaceable position in the league today, and it will seek out any deal that adds to its stockpile of high-value draft picks.

Whether the Sixers should deal the reigning ROY is another issue in and of itself, but let’s assume they can continue stockpiling talent, working toward future success and disavowing any notion of competing in the present. While it may seem to some as though trading Carter-Williams is akin to dooming the franchise to a perpetual rebuild, that doesn’t have to be the case. 

Hinkie is just taking his strategy to an extreme. Rather than attempting a quick turnaround that gets Philadelphia into the playoffs as a low seed, he’s not settling for anything less than a team brimming over with top-notch players, even if he’s potentially putting the fanbase through years of futility in order to get there. 

It’s risky, but it could work. As Mike Sielski illuminated in a January column for The Inquirer, the strategy in Philadelphia is all about shooting for those stars, both literally and metaphorically: 

Nevertheless, Hinkie remains confident that the Noel trade will prove a smart one. He’s willing to bank that a 19-year-old can recover from knee surgery and develop into an elite center. And if he doesn’t, well, in Hinkie‘s mind, one failed draft pick won’t destroy a franchise, especially one in the Sixers’ state, just as they have nothing to lose by signing a series of John Does and seeing whether any of them might turn out to be a newly earthed diamond.

‘Nerlens,’ Hinkie said, ‘is indicative of what we’re doing here,’ and that means taking chances on players who can become superstars. It means ignoring the bunt sign and swinging for the fence at every pitch.

Isn’t that what’s happening here, too? Why settle for the reigning Rookie of the Year when you can potentially get even more by removing him from the roster?

So again, let’s assume that trading Carter-Williams is an advantageous strategy. Even if that’s the case, there’s one major problem with the team attempting to find a new home for his immense basketball talents, not all of which manifested themselves during his first go-round in the Association. 

The team knows point guard is the most replaceable position in the league today,” Lowe wrote in that excerpt given in its entirety above. 

While that’s true, it doesn’t prevent many franchises from being satisfied with their starter at the 1. Point guards may be replaceable due to the sheer depth of talent at the league’s deepest position, but how many organizations are actually willing to give up their current starter? 

Carter-Williams checked in as the No. 18 point guard in the league last season, based solely on his 2013-14 production. So while it doesn’t necessarily mean there are 17 floor generals more valuable than him on the open market, it does give a ballpark estimate for his worth at the position. 

The next step in finding a deal revolves around isolating the teams that aren’t satisfied with their current point guard situation. By my count, there are nine. 

The Brooklyn Nets have a potential All-Star running the show for them in Deron Williams, but his contract situation is quite problematic. He’s an albatross for the next few years, preventing the Eastern Conference playoff contender from making any big moves, and the Nets would almost assuredly jump at any opportunity to remove him from the books while getting back a quality package in return. The Minnesota Timberwolves may be in a similar boat with Ricky Rubio, simply because the two sides have had trouble coming to terms on a contract extension. 

Then we have the Dallas Mavericks, whose three-headed monster of Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris and Raymond Felton is a passable option when there’s so much talent surrounding it in the rotation. The Detroit Pistons and Brandon Jennings haven’t exactly been a match made in heaven, and both the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers could use a better creator at point guard. Patrick Beverley and George Hill are high-quality defenders, but they’re very one-dimensional players. 

Beyond that, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t have their point guard of the future on the roster, as Jeremy Lin has limited upside and Steve Nash is on the brink of retirement. The Miami Heat would surely love to upgrade from Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole, though the organization has also been remarkably high on Shabazz Napier. 

Finally, there’s the New York Knicks, who have an underrated Jose Calderon running the point in the present but still need to find the heir apparent, preferably one with some star power. 

Those nine teams are the only ones Philadelphia should bother contacting if Hinkie is truly sold on finding a trade. He’ll surely do his due diligence and reach out to the other organizations, hoping against hope that one is willing to add a second high-quality point guard and meet a solid asking price, but his best bets come from the aforementioned group. 

So the first problem is the limited market, due primarily to the same depth at the point guard position that makes it easier to find replacements. However, the second issue is even more troublesome. 

Which of those teams actually has something tempting enough to offer that they can pry the reigning Rookie of the Year from Philadelphia’s clutches, however loose the current grip may be? 

The Nets can offer up Williams, counting on the Sixers using their loads of cap space to absorb his monstrous contract. But what use would his new squad have for an aging floor general with a huge contract who often seems to be made of glass? By the time Philadelphia is ready to compete, there’s no guarantee Williams is anything more than a replacement-level point guard. 

In addition, there are no draft picks to tempt Hinkie with. Brooklyn already owes its 2016 and 2018 first-round picks to the Boston Celtics, and due to the Ted Stepien Rule, teams are prohibited from trading future first-rounders in back-to-back years.

So, how much use would the Sixers have for a 2020 first-round pick? Probably close to none, and that’s the earliest one they could get from the Nets. 

The Knicks are in the same boat, as are the Lakers, Rockets, Heat and Timberwolves. Los Angeles could at least offer Houston’s current first-round pick, but it’s a lottery-protected one, and there isn’t much else to give up. You’re still looking at an earliest unprotected first-round pick of 2019 for the Lakers, 2018 for the Knicks and 2017 for the Rockets, Heat and Wolves. 

Additionally, no member of that quintet has high-upside prospects it would be willing to part with for Carter-Williams. Julius Randle has to be considered off the table, New York and Houston don’t have many high-upside but unproven players and Minnesota just intentionally acquired a bevy of young players to test out during its own rebuild. The Heat have a shallow roster and can’t afford to part with any key pieces.

Strike all five off the list of options, which has now dwindled to only three teams—the Mavericks, Pistons and Pacers. Which of those teams can make a realistic offer?

All three have devalued draft picks because they’re going to be in the playoff hunt, so it all depends on what’s meant by “any deal that adds to its stockpile of high-value draft picks.” Something tells me that selections in the tail end of the lottery aren’t going to cut it, nor will a collection of anything even later in the proceedings. 

Carter-Williams may have earned his prestigious award in part due to the overall lack of elite rookies, but he still displayed plenty of promise while running the show in his first year removed from Syracuse. He has quite a bit of value to the Sixers, and there’s no reason for them to part ways unless there’s a mind-altering haul coming back in return. 

There’s already a limited number of teams that would show legitimate interest in trading for Carter-Williams, and those that might come calling don’t have much to offer. Unless the Sixers drop their estimates of the point guard’s worth, we’re left with two sides whose expectations and desires in a trade are inevitably separated by a yawning chasm. 

As it stands, Philadelphia may be able to take its pick from a selection of second-round picks, first-rounders that won’t be conveyed for at least three years and middling prospects who won’t do much to change the direction of the franchise or at least accelerate the rebuild.

It’s not hard to see the problem here. 

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New York Knicks vs. Philadelphia 76ers 10/14/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers squared off in a preseason clash on Tuesday night. The Carmelo Anthony-led Knicks looked to prove that last season’s struggles were a mere hiccup in their road to contention, but they faced a tough test from a young, talented Sixers squad.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Philadelphia 76ers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves 10/10/14: Video Highlights, Recap

The Minnesota Timberwolves looked to prove they could survive without Kevin Love when they faced the Philadelphia 76ers in a preseason clash Friday night. Led by rookie star Andrew Wiggins, the T-Wolves looked to find success against a young, rebuilding Sixers squad.

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Complete Predictions for Nerlens Noel’s Role, Statistics with Philadelphia 76ers

Now that Nerlens Noel is back at full strength, the Philadelphia 76ers‘ rebuild is officially ready to get underway. 

Although a couple of key pieces won’t be joining the fray this season, Noel will attempt to validate his status as a franchise building block when the 2014-15 season tips off.  

And with 6-1 Rookie of the Year odds, per Odds Shark, there’s no shortage of hype surrounding Noel’s highly anticipated debut. 

However, we need to maintain perspective. Noel is still just 20 years old, and his offensive repertoire is undergoing major reconstruction. 

That said, Noel’s defensive impact alone should keep him active in a Rookie of the Year race that’s expected to be dominated by Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. 

So as training camp approaches, we’re here to provide realistic expectations and a complete slate of projections for Noel’s inaugural campaign. 

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Which Philadelphia 76ers Player Will Make Biggest Leap in 2014-15?

The only way for the Philadelphia 76ers to have any chance of improving on last year’s brutal 19-63 effort is for certain players to improve in ways that many wouldn’t expect them to.

Deciding who will make the biggest leap is difficult.

The first name to come to mind is clearly Nerlens Noel. He didn’t play in one game during the 2013-14 season after recovering from a torn ACL, and he can’t go anywhere but up at this point.

That being the case, it’s unfair to say that Noel would be making a leap by having a really strong year. Sure, he’d literally be leaping for the first time in over a year, but we don’t have any NBA numbers to base his improvement off of.

There’s nothing suggesting that Noel will end up having anything less than a great rookie campaign, but it’s only right to give the preseason’s biggest leap award to someone who logged minutes last year.

A number of Sixers come to mind. Everyone from Tony Wroten to Henry Sims and even Michael Carter-Williams could end up being the right answer.

Still, though, there’s an underdog who’s going to get the nod based off his fit in the system and recent play.

That man is Casper “the Friendly Ghost” Ware.

Let’s take a look at why he’ll be the guy to elevate his career, as well as provide consistent backup play for Philadelphia.

 

Talent and Ability

Ware ended his 2013-14 season with the Sixers as an average role-player, but it’s clear he’s done nothing but improve over the offseason.

Nothing proved it more than Summer League basketball.

If we take away Ware’s two Las Vegas Summer League games—in which he saw sporadic playing time—and only look at what he did in the Orlando Summer League’s six games, then we can really see his effectiveness.

He averaged 18.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds in 29.8 minutes per game while leading the Sixers to the Orlando championship. On top of his hard numbers, Ware also shot 90.9 percent from the charity stripe to go along with 45.5 percent from the three-point line.

Take 9.8 of his minutes away, and it’s easy to see him still putting up double-digit points and a healthy amount of assists and rebounds. Combine those numbers with his defensive ability and everything begins to add up.

He might only stand at 5’10″, but there’s no denying how talented Ware really is. If he’s able to maintain his level of play, then he has the chance to help the second unit in a number of necessary ways.

 

Workload

Ware has a real opportunity to average around 20 minutes if he’s able to win the backup point-guard job over Alexey Shved.

Shved came over to Philly from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Thaddeus Young deal and brings a unique style of play. He’s a high-energy, athletic guard with a knack for scoring. He might not be much of a defender, but his 6’6″ size makes him a matchup nightmare for smaller guards—especially those at the point.

Ware’s key advantage over Shved comes at the defensive end of the floor. Few players can guard the ball for the full length of the court like Ware can—similar to the Houston RocketsPatrick Beverley—and it brings a completely different dynamic to the game. Being able to pick the ball up at the other end of the court drastically slows the opposing team’s offense down and forces them to play at your pace.

It’s a huge advantage in the NBA, in which there’s an eight-second violation and 24-second shot clock. If it takes five-to-seven seconds to cross half-court, then the amount of time to get into the offense is dramatically reduced. Add in the occasional forced and unforced turnover here and there, and you really start to see how big of a difference someone like Ware can make.

Very few teams have a workhorse coming off the bench with the ability to defend the full 94-feet. Shved will get time simply because of his size and offensive game, but it would be surprising to see head coach Brett Brown favor those traits over the defensive ones Ware possesses.

 

Heart and Work Ethic

Watch the Sixers warm-up for a game—something about Ware immediately sticks out.

How little he is.

Ware doesn’t look like he belongs in a game full of giants, yet there he is—getting the job done time and time again.

Sheer determination and effort are the only ways for him to be able to compete at such a high level. CSNPhilly.com’s John Finger interviewed Ware and Summer League head coach Lloyd Pierce about what the young point guard brings to the floor. Here’s what Ware said:

It’s been important just to get some of that NBA experience and to work on my game. Plus, it helps you develop your game and get to know the coaches on a personal level.

I have to show that I can contribute to the team, shoot and be a pest on defense—be the energy guy coming off the bench.

Coach Pierce echoed Ware’s thoughts, and provided some insight as to what his experience means for others around him:

As a coach in summer league, the one thing you want is a point guard who knows your offense. For him to be here for three or four months, he’s helped me out and he’s going to help the rest of the players that are coming into the gym for the first time to get organized. He’s been great. He’s made shots, he’s in great shape and he knows our sets.

He’s going to work and be a better shooter and to give us a spark as a point guard backing up Michael [Carter-Williams]. He’s going to work to be able to guard other point guards in the league, especially second-team point guards.

Ware only played in nine games last year, averaging 5.3 points, 1.1 assists, 1.0 rebounds and 0.9 steals. An inconsistent workload and only 12.9 minutes never truly gave him the chance to shine among a squad full of young talent.

It seems clear that he has done enough over the offseason to distance himself and be looked upon as a reliable player off the bench.

A role like that will do wonders for both Ware and the Sixers moving forward.

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Breaking Down Philadelphia 76ers’ Shooting Guard Position for 2014-15 Season

After a 19-63 season, it’s hard to say the shooting guard position was anything but a complete and utter failure for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Gone are the two men who played the majority of the minutes at the 2 last year—James Anderson and Evan Turner. 

The 25-year-old Anderson—the 2010 Big 12 Player of the Year and former All-American—signed a one-year deal over the summer with Lithuanian League champion Zalgiris Kaunas after being waived by the 76ers in June. He had his best year as a pro in Philly, averaging over 10 points a game in 62 starts.  

Turner, the much maligned 2010 No. 2 pick, never lived up to his lofty draft status. At the trade deadline’s 11th hour back in February, Turner and forward Lavoy Allen were dealt to the Indiana Pacers for Danny Granger and a second-round pick. He signed with the Boston Celtics in July. 

With Turner never fulfilling his promise as a potential franchise cornerstone, the shooting guard position is one in which there is no discernible direction, let alone a future franchise player. Anderson was nothing more than a temporary fill-in, a journeyman holding a spot for someone who’s a more permanent fit. 

For a team whose history boasts the likes of Hal Greer, Andrew Toney and the incomparable Allen Iverson as notable names from backcourt’s past, who will be next in line to stand alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid when the 76ers are ready to take the next step?

 

Influx of New Faces

With all the roster trimming 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has done in the last 12 months, he focused most of his efforts on improving this once-proud position. 

Philly drafted K.J. McDaniels in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft, and he should be an immediate contributor on the perimeter. 

Alexey Shved was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Luc Mbah a Moute in exchange for Thaddeus Young. 

Second-round pick Jordan McRae would have been in the mix as well had he not signed a deal with Australia’s Melbourne United in August. Veteran Jason Richardson, a reliable three-point shooter who’s had a productive career at the 2, is listed on most depth charts as a small forward—if his balky knees and $6.6 million expiring contract actually see the court this year.

He missed all of last season nursing a knee injury.

The influx of new guards will be a welcome addition to a team lacking any noticeable depth in the backcourt. There are plenty of holes and opportunities for new guys to carve out a place on the team beyond this season. 

 

Looking Ahead

According to both ESPN and Rotoworld, there are four names to keep an eye on as contributors at the 2: Shved, Elliot Williams, McDaniels, and Tony Wroten—the explosive yet inconsistent scorer who logged the most minutes there out of this group last season.

Williams averaged just 17 minutes per game during his 67 appearances last year. He averaged six points and shot just 29 percent from three-point range. 

The remaining three years on Williams’ contract are not guaranteed. He can be waived at any time, but given the team’s thin roster and dearth of talent in the backcourt, he has as good a chance as anyone to make the roster—albeit in a reserve role. 

Out of the top-20 five-man units the 76ers deployed last season, only five had a positive plus-minus during their time on the court. The second-most successful lineup consisted of four players still on the roster (a feat in itself): Carter-Williams, Williams, Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims.

In a minuscule sample size (28.7 minutes) they had a plus-10 rating, per 82games.com. They were also one of only three units to have an effective field-goal percentage over 50. If head coach Brett Brown and Hinkie believe that lineup can improve with increased playing time and continuity, it could bode well for Williams. 

The Russian-born Shved has shown flashes during his nascent NBA career but has lacked the consistency to force his way into significant playing time, even with a franchise like Minnesota which was plagued by injuries. A playmaking 6’6″ guard, he struggled often during his two NBA seasons. He saw a decline in minutes last season, playing just 10 a game, down from 23 the year before.

He shot just 32 percent from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. 

Shved is a project for Hinkie and Brown and will have a chance to prove his worth this year before the organization makes a decision on his $4.1 million qualifying offer in 2015. 

This leaves us with the two players who will share the majority of minutes at the 2: Wroten and McDaniels

Wroten started 16 games last season but spent most of the year as the scoring punch off the bench. He’s explosive as a slasher and ball-handler, with per-36 numbers of 19 points, four rebounds and four assists. He lacks a consistent outside shot—just 21 percent from three-point range last year—and is a work in progress on the defensive end, but he has legitimate upside.

He impressed all summer during his run in the Seattle Pro-Am thanks to his ridiculous handle.

Wroten can also log minutes at point guard, which will be needed with Pierre Jackson lost for the season and no reliable depth beyond Carter-Williams and Casper Ware. 

McDaniels is the real intriguing prospect who projects to be a long-term fixture at the position. While at Clemson, he led the entire ACC in blocks and won Defensive Player of the Year. At 6’6″ with a long reach, he looks to be a perfect fit in Brown’s scheme.

He’s a fantastic athlete and should fit in nicely on the defensive end alongside Carter-Williams, Noel and Embiid. The 76ers finished dead last in team defense last year, having given up 109.9 points per game. 

Offensively he runs the floor well and can finish, but his three-point shooting was a pleasant surprise during summer league, shooting over 50 percent from long range. Already a stout defender, if McDaniels can keep his shot consistent, he could step in immediately as an effective 3-and-D player. And since Philly also finished dead last in offensive rating, McDaniels‘ emergence would be huge. 

McDaniels and Wroten, with some seasoning and maturity, could become two key players on this team in the not-so-distant future. In the meantime, they’ll share the backcourt load with Carter-Williams through the growing pains of the upcoming season. 

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference. Contract information courtesy of Sham Sports. Follow Stephen on Twitter for more hoops discussion. 

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