Enough Wheeling and Dealing, the Sixers need to Start Showing Progress

Former Sixers point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point Isaiah Canaan. Photo from Spin.com

Former Sixers and new Milwaukee Bucks point guard Michael Carter-Williams takes the ball to the bucket against new 76ers point guard Isaiah Canaan in the Sixers Wednesday night loss to the Bucks . Photo from Spin.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the Philadelphia 76ers have traded 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, what’s next?

If you look at it from the viewpoint of Sixers management,Williams struggled with his outside shooting, clashed with head coach Brett Brown and wasn’t part of the Sixers’ grand vision of success.

More importantly, the Sixers got a possible top-five lottery pick from the Los Angeles Lakers in the dealConsidering the fact that the 76ers are in constant rebuilding mode, this is a good thing. Right now, the Sixers are 12-44 and will have someone hanging out in Secaucus, N.J. and looking for a magic NBA Lottery ping-pong ball.

While being in a position to land high-end draft pick is a good thing, it’s also a huge risk. For every Kobe Bryant, there’s someone who turned out to be a wasted pick. Moving forward, the Sixers and general manager Sam Hinkie had better hope that their next pick is the real deal, is ready to play upon arrival, and that there’s light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel because there’s only so much more rebuilding the fans can take.

I remember people telling me two years ago that it was necessary for the 76ers to unload point guard Jrue Holiday, who was coming off an All-Star year in 2013, by the way, to get some younger impact player.

The Sixers came away with Nerlens Noel, who didn’t play last year because of an ACL injury, and Carter-Williams, who was the 11th player taken out of Syracuse. At the time, we all gushed over Carter-Williams’ athleticism and his upside as a 6-6 point-guard.

While we all knew that Carter-Williams was a poor shooter, he played well enough to be the league’s best rookie. He averaged 15 points and 6.3 assists per game, shot at 40 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point range.

Before he was traded to Milwaukee, Carter-Williams shooting percentage fell to 38 percent and he was averaging just 25 percent from behind the three-point line. Yet, he was still averaging 15 points and seven assists per game.

The Sixers pulling the trigger on Carter-Williams is an example of how the 76ers and its brain trust, a title I use loosely, might not know what they’re doing. While they got rid of Carter-Williams, who could have been worked with, their two most recent lottery picksNerlens Noel and Joel Embiid were drafted when they had both had leg problems. The big question for these guys is will they eventually be good enough to make the Sixers a consistent winner.

So far, the reviews on Noel’s rookie year have been predictably mixed. The 6-foot-11 is one heck of a defensive player who really needs to develop his offensive game. He is averaging 8.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

Noel’s defensive skills landed him a spot in the NBA Rookie game during All-Star Weekend.  He is averaging 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. According to Basketball Reference.com, the last rookie to accomplish that was Hall-of-Famer David Robinson.

Offensively, Noel needs work, lots of work.  He needs to develop some moves in the low post and he also needs to put on a few pounds, especially if he’s going to float between playing the power forward and center spots.

Meanwhile, at this year’s trade deadline, Hinkie was reportedly willing to part ways with Embiid, who has yet to put on a Sixers uniform and has supposedly put on a few pounds.  

For all of his reliance on basketball’s version of sabermetrics and his endless search for the bigger and better deal, Hinkie is going to have to put a team on the floor that’s going to develop into a consistent winner.

Before investing their dollars for season tickets, fans at the very least have to see some tangible progress. If you play for the lottery too many times, you’re not winning…and you wind up being the East Coast version of the Los Angeles Clippers of the Donald Sterling years

And besides, if fans want fantasy basketball, they can get that anywhere on the Internet.

Feets Don’t Fail Me Now: Sixers Gamble On Injury Prone Draft Picks

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

PHILADELPHIA-Last Sunday I was a guest on 94 WIP-FM with Ricky Ricardo and we were discussing the NBA Draft and the possibility that the 76ers would draft Kansas’s 7-foot center Joel Embiid who has a stress fracture in his right foot.

A fan called the show and vented his spleen about how felt it would be idiotic for the Sixers to take draft another big man in the draft with a damaged leg. It was to the point where the caller was breathing to the point where it sounded like he was hyperventilating.

While there are bigger things than basketball to be that upset, the sentiment among fans is certainly understandable given how the 76ers franchise seems to be enamored with big men with leg and foot problems.

The Sixers made the injured Embiid the third pick of the draft much to the chagrin of Sixers fans, who are wondering what are general manager Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown trying to do? This guy has the same fractured navicular bone that ended the careers of Bill Walton and Yao Ming.

During the last three years, 76ers fans have been enduring big men with leg problems. Last year, the Sixers drafted Nerlens Noel, who did not get any playing time with the team because he was rehabbing the ACL in his left knee.

And speaking of big men with bad feet, the Sixers fans are still smarting from the “thievery” of one free agent center Andrew Bynum whose bum legs prevented him from putting on a Sixers uniform. That was a true embarrassment for the franchise considering the huge welcome for him by thousands of 76ers fans at the National Constitution Center in 2012.

Meanwhile, Hinkie has been telling fans to patient with the team. On one hand that’s understandable, the Sixers rebuilding process is going to take some time. Hopefully, fans won’t have to experience another 19-63 season.

I know a large number of fans are upset about the team picking Embiid because of his injured foot and they should be given the team’s recent history of injuries. They are also ticked off about acquiring 6-10 Croatian power forward Dario Saric, who will spend the next two years playing for a pro team in Turkey.

The bottom-line here is that the gambles this management team is making had better pay off into the team being a contender for an NBA title or Hinkie and Brown will be run out of town quick, fast and a hurry.

If Embiid and Noel become the forces in the low post the Sixers think they can become with a mature Michael Carter-Williams at point guard and Saric is the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, Hinkie and the Sixers will be hailed as geniuses who will never want for a steak dinner or alcoholic beverage in this town again.

The seasons, like last year, that they will have tanked will be looked upon as a fond memory, especially if there’s a parade down Broad Street in the next five or six years.

Now if those injuries keep bothering those guys to the point to where they are missing a significant amount of games, every columnist in this town (including yours truly), sports talk radio host and fans on the various social media platforms, will never let the Sixers hear the end of it.

It will go down in the lore of bad moves personnel moves by Philly sports teams like the Phillies trading pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, the Eagles drafting combine workout wonder Mike Mamula who turned out to be a bust or the Sixers drafting Charles Shackleford over Brad Daugherty.

 

Sixers Hope Bold Moves on Draft Day Will Lead to Future Success

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday Sun

The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel in the deal that Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Sixers acquired Nerlens Noel in the deal that sent Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans.

PHILADELPHIA—When the 76ers announced they had traded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the No. 6 pick, 6-foot-10-inch center Nerlens Noel, I thought it was the dumbest move they could have made.

Why, after all, why would you trade an All-Star for a player who’s never played a minute in the NBA? Also, especially in light of the Andrew Bynum debacle, why would you trade for a guy with a busted knee?

Noel, who looks like he needs to spend some time in the weight room, averaged 10 points and 9.5 rebounds per game during his first (and only) year at Kentucky.  Until he injured his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last March, he was projected to be the Number One pick.

Now mind you, Noel’s condition isn’t as degenerative as Bynum’s, but the idea of bringing in a guy with a bum knee does not engender much confidence from the Sixers fans that hooped and hollered at the Bynum trade, only to find that he was a dud.

Add to this, Noel isn’t expected to be back on the court before December if his rehabilitation is successful. By then, the Sixers will probably be in a familiar position: on the outside looking in as other teams compete for playoff spots.

To be fair, because the Sixers were going to be a young team whether GM Sam Hinkie had decided to build around Holiday or not, fans were going to be asked for their patience. The performance of a rookie is one of the NBA’s great unknowns.

But there are some bright spots…such as they are…

The biggest bonus of this trade is that the Sixers are approximately $15 million under the salary cap for this season. It’s expected that Hinkie will try to move other players like Evan Turner to clear even more space.

Also, to replace Holiday, the Sixers drafted Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who at 6-6 will be bigger than the some of the people that will be competing against him on both sides of the ball.

Sixers No.1 Draft choice Michael Carter-Wiilliams led Syracuse to the 2013 Final Four.

Sixers No.1 Draft choice Michael Carter-Wiilliams led Syracuse to the 2013 Final Four.

his final year with Syracuse, Carter-Williams averaged 11.8 points per game, 7.3 assists and nearly five rebounds per game. He was one of the big reasons the Orange was able to make a Final Four run in 2013.

Unlike Holiday, who still managed to average 17 points and seven assists with a bunch of mediocre to bad players, Carter-Williams will probably have some guys around him who can put the ball in the bucket so that he doesn’t have to score as much.

Despite starting for just one season, Carter-Williams broke the single-season school record for steals and finished his career with 292 assists, second only to Syracuse legend Sherman Douglas’s single-season number of 326 back in 1988-1989.

Looking at the numbers, the upside for Carter-Williams is pretty good. Having played in what is formerly the Big East Conference, Carter-Williams has had his share of high profile, high-pressure games.

The question is how all that will translate when it comes to the pro game. Some fans are still smarting from Turner’s lackluster play despite being the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft.

Despite my initial criticism and the praise these moves have received from some people, we have no idea of how this is all going to turn out.  If by some miracle, everything the Sixers are doing somehow translates into the team making some noise and winning a title, Hinkie will never have to buy a drink in this town again.

But if it’s the same old Sixers, a bad to mediocre team that is a sure first-round knockout if it makes the playoffs at all, folks will look back on the Holiday trade as the impetus needed to come to the Wells Fargo Center with torches and pitchforks.

Well, look at it this way…the Sixers have a couple of No. 1 draft picks next year and the experts are predicting a much deeper draftee class in 2014. Hope they have their shopping lists ready…