Last April when Sam Hinkie “resigned”(was bullied out) and eventually replaced by special adviser(the Montgomery Burns of the NBA) Jerry Colangelo’s son Bryan I really thought the Sixers would revert back to their old ways overpaying average players in order to win as quickly as possible. I cursed the move and dreaded a future of 40 wins seasons and early first round exits.
Three months into the Colangelo era and it feels like Hinkie is still running the show. The team isn’t rushing to be a playoff team. They drafted the three best players on the board at their pick, all of which have very high ceilings. They didn’t take the four year college player who is ready to make an impact in year one. They took a 19 year old with elite potential and two international players who are raw, but have the ability to be key role players in the NBA.
Philadelphia is better now than they were a year ago, but they aren’t going to the playoffs, they will have a high lottery pick(can swap with Kings and own Lakers pick if outside the top 3 as well) and will have a ton of cap space in next year’s free agent market in what will be a much more attractive team next summer.
The Sixers won the first overall pick in the lottery and made a pretty obvious pick in Ben Simmons. Outside of his jumpshot he was clearly superior to Brandon Ingram in every facet of the game. Simmons looks like a 19 year old version of Magic Johnson. He already has an NBA body and has complete control when the ball is in his hands in transition.
The scary thing is Simmons is so far away from his ceiling right now. His jump shot is still developing, he’s a little careless with the ball and is just starting to figure things out on the defensive side of the ball. All three areas shouldn’t be concerns long-term, but it’s important to understand the player Simmons is now will be unrecognizable to the player he will be five years from now.
The other two first rounds picks Bryan Colangelo made are what really impressed me, and dare I say, were very Hinkie-like. The Sixers had the 24th and 26th overall picks and passed on more NBA ready prospects like Brice Johnson, Tyler Ulis and Malcolm Brogdon and instead took two international prospects that will take much longer to develop, but have a much, much higher ceiling.
The first of those two picks was Timothe Luwawu from France. I ranked him 13th overall on my big board so seeing him go to the Sixers 24th overall was outstanding value in my mind. He’a an athletic wing who can shoot. He’s 6’7, 205 pounds with room to add to that frame. He’s a good outside shooter(37% in 2015-2016 for Mega Leks), but not much of a shot creator. He really slows down with the ball in his hands, but that’s okay because Ben Simmons is going to find his teammates open shots. The Sixers need long, athletic wings who can stretch the defense by hitting outside shots. That’s exactly what Luwawu will bring to this roster. Great fit and great value.
The second of these two Hinkie-esque picks was Turkish star Furkan Korkmaz. I ranked him 28th on my board so the value wasn’t exceptional here in my mind, but I get the fit and reasoning. He’s another long wing at about 6’7 who can shoot from deep. He shot 42% from three this past season overseas in 19 games at about 9 minutes per game.
Korkmaz is going to be stashed in Europe for at least one year. He’s 185 pounds soaking wet right now and will turn 19 years old 13 days after this article is posted. He reminds me of Evan Turner with a really good outside shot. He’s never going to be great around the rim because of his frame, but he does a lot of things well and can play either wing spot and defend either too. He’s not going to be an elite scorer, but he will solid shooting wing who will benefit from being Simmons’ teammate.
That’s what these two picks were about, finding wings who can compliment what Simmons does best and that’s create for his teammates. The Sixers have several wings who need to prove themselves this year before getting long-term commitments from this front office. Guys like Nik Stauskas, Hollis Thompson, Jerami Grant and Robert Covington. All have shown some potential, but none have proven they belong on a good NBA team for years to come.
The Sixers can let their situations play out for a year or two before bringing Korkmaz and Luwawu over to add to that competition.
I thought this would be the point where the Sixers new front office set up would whore themselves out in order to win 40-45 games, but again they made three signings that made me feel good about the future of this franchise. The first move was bringing in the right type of point guard to play with Simmons. Since Simmons is such a great ball handler and passer, you don’t need a floor general at that position. What they need is someone who can play at least okay defense and hit the outside shot. That keeps the smaller guards with quicker hands away from Simmons when he drives and forces more frontcourt players to play help defense.
The Sixers signed Jerryd Bayless to a three year, $27 million deal, which in this new market is a bargain. Bayless is coming off arguably his best season where he averaged 29 minutes per game, scored 10.4 points per game, shot just under 44% from deep on 4.4 attempts per game and only committed 1.4 turnovers per game.
I see no reasons why those numbers would drop this season. He was on a young team last season going through some major growing pains. In Philly he will handle the ball less, get more open looks and probably play about the same number of minutes.
The next signing was Sergio Rodriguez, a point guard from Spain who was originally drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 2006. Rodriguez signed a one year, $8 million deal. He played four seasons in the NBA before going back to Spain to play for a prominent team there in Real Madrid. He never averaged more than 16 minutes or 7 points per game in the NBA.
He’s used his time playing in Spain to improve his jump shot and has become a real magician with the ball. He’s a good pick and roll point guard to pair with all the bigs the Sixers have. He’ll see a lot of minutes when Simmons is resting on the bench, but I don’t see why they both can’t be on the court at the same time as well. He’ll compete for point guard minutes with Bayless, T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall.
The lastest signing in free agency was Gerald Henderson, former Bobcat/Horner and Blazer. He’s going to be the starting shooting guard and most likely their best perimeter defender for the next two years(signed a two year, $18 million deal). He’s long, physical and can still score in double figures pretty consistently. He took on a bench role last season with Portland, but he had averaged at least 28 minutes and 12 points per game in the four previous seasons with Charlotte.
He’s not deadly from deep range, but very capable. His career three points percentage is 32% but he is coming off his best shooting season where he made over 35% of his long range attempts.
The Sixers now have depth on their roster. They are lacking in All-Star talent(that will change as Simmons, Okafor/Noel and Embiid develop), but they now have more capable players of scoring double digits consistently than they have since they traded Jrue Holiday.
This was supposed to be the first year the Sixers ending the tanking and get out of the Eastern Conference basement. It’s a good time to as they can swap picks with the Kings in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft. They also own the Lakers first round pick in 2017 if it falls outside of the top 3. So basically the Sixers could win enough to pick closer to the edge of the lottery but still potentiall get two top five picks.
It’s fun to be a Sixers fan again. You have a young team that will shoot a ton of threes, but also has a ton of size and two promising versatile point forwards in Simmons and Dario Saric. Plus if you want them to get a high draft pick, you can root against the Kings instead of the Sixers.