May 12, 2016, 4:57 pm
The 1972/73 Sixers went a franchise worst (and NBA worst in an 82 game season) 9-73. Seemingly setting their goals high, the 2015/16 Sixers went out in search of setting a new franchise worst record. Unfortunately, they stumbled into a 10-72 record. Hoop Ball’s Post-Mortem series takes a look at what continues to go wrong in Philly.
Trust the process. In theory, trusting the process made sense. Toiling in mediocrity, Sam Hinkie and the Sixers decided to blow it up following the 2012/13 season. The Sixers took tanking to new depths, making a mockery of the league while doing so. They put together a roster designed to lose and acquired as many draft picks as possible in an attempt to find a franchise player to build around. In today’s NBA, it is almost impossible to win without a superstar. Unfortunately, the Sixers had horrible luck in the draft lottery, as well as with the health of their young building blocks. The Sixers underestimated the amount of luck necessary to put together an elite team from the ground up, and overestimated their chances of getting lucky in the draft lottery.
In early April, the Sixers stopped trusting the process. GM Sam Hinkie stepped down, but it is widely believed that he was pushed out. Coming this far, only to give up halfway doesn’t seem like the right move, but it’s the move the Sixers elected to go with. They brought in Bryan Colangelo to be the President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, in an attempt to put an end to the embarrassment the Sixers franchise has become.
As for the team itself, they managed to win 10 games this season, avoiding the worst three-year stretch in NBA history. Their 47 wins since the start of the 2013 season was one more than the 46 wins that the Dallas Mavericks managed between 1992 and 1994. Maybe the Sixers are better than we thought!
The on court product was once again an embarrassment, ranking dead last in offensive rating, 26th in defensive rating, 27th in effective FG%, and 29th in turnover percentage. They scored an average of 97.4 points and gave up an average of 107.6 points. They were the worst rebounding team in the league, which isn’t a good thing when you constantly put up bricks. Hey, at least they finished 9th in treys, 10th in steals and 3rd in blocks!
Overall, the roster was just not NBA worthy. Designed to lose, it was full of one-dimensional players unworthy of NBA playing time. The current regime has their work cut out in getting this team back to respectability.
Over his three seasons as bench boss of the Sixers, Brett Brown has compiled a 47-199 record and .191 winning percentage. Despite the dreadful results, he is still widely respected around the league. This is because the results have less to do with the coach and more to do with the embarrassing roster – a collection of young castoffs, D-league players, and undrafted players who simply just aren’t NBA caliber – former GM Sam Hinkie provided him with. Now unfortunately for Brown, he has lost his safety net with Hinkie gone. With Bryan Colangelo (and to a certain extent, Jerry Colangelo) now in charge, there is always the threat of the incumbent Head Coach losing his job. Mike D’Antoni – a favorite of the Colangelo’s – was brought in as an assistant Head Coach and will naturally be the replacement if they elect to move on from Brown. Brown’s future with the Sixers is certainly in jeopardy and he will be on the hot seat to begin next season.
The roster that Brown was given was full of one-dimensional players that would be impossible to tailor both offensive and defensive systems around. But even then, Brown’s offensive philosophy is very fantasy friendly. He bring a pace and space approach – the Sixers have been no lower than sixth fastest paced team during Brown’s tenure – focused on spread pick and rolls and the three-point shot. It is extremely fantasy friendly as a fast pace means more opportunities to score, assist and grab rebounds. Unfortunately, the Sixers roster is incapable of taking advantage of the extra possessions the pace brings.
Brown’s defensive approach is also fantasy friendly. Brown expects his team to be aggressive, pressure the ball handler, deny penetration and protect the rim. The Sixers ranked 10th in steals and 3rd in blocks over the course of the season even with the roster they had. Keep an eye on the Sixers’ roster moves this offseason, as any athletic, defensive minded players would thrive in Brown’s system.
ADP: 29 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 30 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 64/73 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 47/57 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 67
After beasting over the final couple months of the 2014/15 season, Noel entered the 2015/16 season as a bright young star with an incredibly high ceiling in fantasy, and his ADP reflected that. Now although Noel’s season from a fantasy standpoint was a disappointment – he failed to meet the high expectations, he still saw some improvements in his game. His overall numbers diidn’t compare very well to the numbers over the final couple months of the 14/15 season, but he still averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks on 52.1% shooting from the field. He improved scoring output, his FG%, PER, TS%, RB%, AST% and USG% from a season prior, and saw his rebounds, assists and steals stay constant. Sure, his defense and rebounding numbers took a slight dip, but that has more to do with his switch to power forward. Noel played center his entire life, but saw himself shifted over to power forward to make room for Jahlil Okafor. Without much of a jump shot, his shift over to power forward limited him offensively, and move him away from the basket defensively.
But he is still a fantastic young player who is athletic, a leader, brings constant effort and toughness, has elite rim protection, is a very good passing big man and can finish around the basket. His intangibles didn’t wane even as he was struggling. Eventually, Brett Brown switched Noel back to center and he once again saw his game flourish as a result. On the season, Noel improved his efficiency from 16 feet in, but saw his efficiency decrease outside of 16 feet. But even though he improved from five feet to 16 feet out, his efficiency is still too low and has definite room for improvement. He needs to spend the entire offseason working on his jump shot.
The arrival of Joel Embiid and the possible jump to the NBA of Dario Saric is sure to pump the brakes on Noel’s upside in fantasy, but that just means you can take advantage of it come draft day. Noel struggled and still put up early-to-mid round value. With the move back to center and an expected improvement in his offensive game, he should still be extremely valuable in fantasy with elite defensive production even if he sees a slight decrease in minutes.
ADP: 86 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 103 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 81/83 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 58/62 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 67
One of the waiver-wire darlings of the 2014/15 season, Covington didn’t sneak up on anyone during his 2015/16 season. Despite having a wildly inconsistent season that ended early due to an injury, he still managed to exceed his ADP. His averages of 12.8 points,1.4 assists, 2.1 FTM, 38.5% shooting from the field, 35.3% shooting from deep, and 79.1% shooting from the free throw line were all down from a year ago. But despite his shooting struggles, his averages of 6.3 rebounds, 2.5 treys, 1.6 steals and 0.6 blocks were all improvements from a year prior. He isn’t a very good defender, but he is a very capable defender who didn’t let his shooting struggles affect him on the other side of the ball. He also improved his rebounding numbers drastically as he continues to try to round out his game.
Unfortunately, his shooting let him down significantly as he shot just 35.3% from deep even though 3PTA account for 67.7% of all his FGA. He is too good of a shooter – easily the best on Sixers – to not have those numbers turn around next season. The poor quality of teammates surrounding him didn’t help as he was often the primary focus of the opposition’s defense. But his shot selection also left much to be desired and definitely contributed to his struggles. He continues to work to improve his defense and could arguably be the best two way player on the Sixers today. As for his fantasy prospects, it is very encouraging that he even he struggled so mightily shooting the basketball, he was still a mid-round value. Expect his shooting numbers to improve, making him a must-own three-point specialist that will also contribute in boards, steals, blocks and points.
ADP: 91 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 85 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 161/182 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 82/100 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 53
The third overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, the rookie proved to be as good a scorer, if not better than, as expected. Simply put, Okafor is a fantastic offense player even though he has yet to develop a good hump shot. His footwork, power and finesse around the basket make him a very difficult player to cover. Not only was he a beast with his back to the basket, but he showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and drive by bigger and slower defenders. He put up very impressive averages of 17.5 points, 7.0 boards, 1.2 assists, 0.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks on 50.8% shooting from the field and 68.6% shooting from the line over 30 minutes per game. He scored 20+ points on 23 different occasions and posted 11 double-doubles. Those number would have surely been higher had it not been for a shin injury and a knee injury that ended his season early.
Although he performed very well, the storyline for the Sixers this past season was how Okafor and Noel were unable to perform well next to each other. Their skill-sets overlapped and the presence of each player clogged the lane up for the other. Unfortunately, that issue will only magnify with the expected return of Joel Embiid and the possible jump to the NBA of Dario Saric. For Okafor to continue his development and ensure a starting job next season, he must improve his rebounding, jump shot and defense – Coach Brett Brown specifically said he wants to see Okafor improve defensively. On the season, Okafor shot only 37.9% on jump shots, a number that has to improve. If Okafor is able to add a mid-range jump shot to his arsenal, he will be better equipped to receive playing time next to players like Noel who can score only around the basket. He is a natural scorer who should be taken in the middle rounds of next season’s draft, with the upside to become one of the best scoring big men in the NBA.
ADP: N/A (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 140 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 94/129 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 99/142 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
Despite playing well down the stretch of the 2014/15 season, the Sixers elected to not bring Smith back for the 2015/16. But sitting at 1-30 behind the train wreck of Isaiah Canaan at point guard, the Sixers decided to trade for Smith and bring him back on Christmas Eve. Of course the results weren’t always there for the Sixers even with Smith, but they were a much better basketball team than the dreadful team that started 1-30. With Smith running the offense, the Sixers had an offensive rating of 102.7 and scored 101.1 points per game, improvements from the abysmal 94.8 offensive rating and 91.4 points per game prior to the Smith trade.
A journeyman who showed flashes prior to this season, Smith averaged 14.7 points, 0.9 treys, 4.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks on 40.5% shooting from the field, 33.6% shooting from deep and 66.9% shooting from the charity stripe over 32.4 minutes in 50 games with the Sixers. He was fantastic and was one of the lone bright spots in yet another lost season for the Sixers. His arrival was welcomed with open arms by Nerlens Noel, as was struggling mightily prior to the arrival of Smith. Smith and Noel have great on court chemistry, particularly in the pick and roll, that leads to Noel playing his best basketball with Smith on the court. What Smith lacks on the defensive end, he makes up with his great rebounding for such a small player, and playmaking ability. For Smith to take the next step as a player, he really needs to find a consistent jump shot as it would make him a much more dangerous player. The entire summer should be spent working on the three-ball and mid-range jumper. Whether the Sixers bring back Smith is still unclear, but he has proven to be a good enough player to find a consistent role somewhere. Although his best role is probably off the bench. His fantasy value for next season will depend solely on his landing spot – a starter’s gig would put him firmly on the standard league radar, while a bench role would make him an option.
ADP: N/A, Total Value: 138/146 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 146/163 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
In his second full season in the NBA, Grant once again left us wanting more despite putting his athleticism and defensive ability on display. His averages of 26.8 minutes, 9.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.6 blocks, 41.9% shooting from the field and 65.8% shooting from the charity stripe were all career-highs. He is a superb athlete who often guards the opposition’s best offensive threat. Unfortunately, he is a terrible shooter who isn’t much of a threat offensively. He improved around the basket, but regressed on his three-point jump shot, going from an already bad 31.4% to an abysmal 24%. He converted on 50.7% of attempts within 10 feet, but saw that efficiency drop to a remarkably low 23.6% outside of 10 feet. He has tantalizing fantasy potential because of his ability to rack up the defensive stats, but his offensive game is severely limiting his potential. He needs to spend all offseason in the gym working on nothing but his jump shot. He will surely be on the standard league radar next season as a defensive specialist. But his offseason work and improvements on his shooting will dictate whether he is must-own status or just an option.
ADP: N/A, Total Value: 131/148 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 157/184 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 81
McConnell managed to play in 81 games in his rookie season despite being an undrafted free agent out of Arizona. He isn’t a very good athlete and he doesn’t do anything on the court that stands out, but his heart, grit and toughness helped carve him a role with the Sixers this season. The 23 year old averaged 6.1 points, 0.4 treys, 2.6 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.2 steals on 47% shooting from the field over 19.8 minutes. He won’t burn opposing defenses, but he shot 58% at the rim, 50% from mid-range, and 34.8% from deep. He can create for his teammates, he’ll battle for rebounds with the bigs, and he’ll provide tough defense. He’ll never be a flashy player who will put up big numbers, but Brett Brown loves him and he’s a player any teammate would love to have. Heading into next season, he needs to improve his overall offensive game and definitely become more of a threat from deep. He’ll likely always be a bench player and won’t be on standard league radars unless there are injuries in front of him.
ADP: N/A, Total Value: 294/312 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 187/217 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 36
At age 32, Landry was brought in as a nine year NBA veteran to provide leadership to a very young Sixers team. He is a solid pro who provided the Sixers with what he always provide on the court – effort, rebounding, finishing around the basket and solid spot-up shooting. Despite missing the first two months due to offseason wrist surgery, falling out of the rotation mid-season, and playing limited minutes for the majority of the games he played in, Landry averaged 9.8 points, 0.2 treys, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 assists on 55.6% shooting over 15.8 minutes. He is what he is at this point in his career and can provide late-round value with consistent minutes, although the days of him playing a consistent role are likely over. But Landry is a capable mid-range shooter who has the ability to extend his shot to be consistent behind the arc (he connected of 6-of-13 attempts from deep this past season) and extend his playing career.
ADP: 133 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 140 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 173/173 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 190/195 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 77
Canaan was a disaster as the starting point guard for the first two months of the NBA season, forcing the Sixers to move him to shooting guard and go out and acquire Ish Smith to run point. Canaan is a small player who is a below average defender, has poor ball-handling skills and can’t create for his teammates – he averaged 2.0 assists as the starting point guard. His only real above average skill is three-point shooting – he averaged 2.3 treys on 36.3% shooting. But even then, he didn’t shoot above 40% from deep in any month this season despite threes accounting for 67.2% of all his FGA. The move to shooting guard could theoretically help him extend his career, as he can focus on spotting up from three instead of running the offense, but he is too small to defend opposing shooting guards. Simply put, Canaan is just not a very good basketball player. He needs to take his only above average skill and turn it into a major strength this season if he is going to have any value in both real-life and fantasy next season.
ADP: N/A, Total Value: 179/189 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 201/209 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 77
Thompson’s real-life and fantasy value is directly correlated to his three-point shooting. When he was connecting on around three treys per game, as he was in the middle months of the season, he was providing late-round value. But when he connects on less than two per game, his value drops into the 200s. He can’t do much else on the basketball court besides spot up and hit threes – he averaged 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals and 0.3 blocks over 28 minutes. Now although he improved his threes per game from 1.6 to 1.9, his 3PT efficiency dropped from 40.1% to 38%. The increase in treys was a direct result of his 3PT attempt rate rising from 52.9% to 57.6%. Simply put, he isn’t a very good player. Luckily for him, he plays on a historically bad team and receives playing time. If he wants to continue to receive playing time, he needs to improve upon his three-point shooting and become a three-point specialist. He should not be on any fantasy radars heading into next season.
ADP: 143 (Yahoo! 9 cat) & 140 (ESPN 8 cat), Total Value: 213/221 (8/9 cat), Per Game Value: 236/260 (8/9 cat), Games Played: 73
Following an abysmal rookie season with the Kings, Sauce Castillo found himself traded to the Sixers as part of a package that was nothing more than a salary dump. His overall numbers of 24.8 minutes, 8.5 points, 1.5 treys, 2.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals, and 0.3 blocks on 38.5% shooting from the field and 32.6% shooting from deep don’t stand out, but they represent improvements across the board from his rookie season. When looking at the season as a whole, Stauskas was a draft bust and didn’t return the fantasy value his owners expected on draft day. But following a cold start to the season, he picked it up as the calendar turned to 2016, even providing mid-to-late round value over the final several weeks of the season. The problem with Stauskas is that 59.6% of his FGA come from deep, yet he is only shooting 32.6% from beyond the arc. He has yet to develop into the sharpshooter he was expected to be, but his shot profile represents that of a sharpshooter. He’s still young and has plenty of time to improve, but if he wants to stay in the league long-term, he most definitely needs to improve upon his inconsistent three-point shot. He also needs to work on contributing in other facets of the game, so he remains valuable even when his shot isn’t falling. Expect him to be better next season and provide late-round value for long stretches of the season, but he is still too inconsistent to waste a draft pick on.
ADP: N/A, Total Value: 281/295 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 268/289 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 51
Drafted in the second-round of the 2015 draft, Holmes contributed early and often during his rookie season, showing an ability to finish around the basket. Unfortunately, whenever it seemed as though Holmes was gaining momentum and confidence, he suffered an injury causing him to miss multiple games. Injuries marred an otherwise successful rookie season. But with Joel Embiid expected to be ready for next season, Dario Saric possibly making the jump to the NBA, and Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel already ahead of him on the depth chart, Holmes needs to make considerable improvements in the off-season if he is too see any significant playing time next season. He needs to specifically improve as a rebounder and on his poor three-point shooting. He likely won’t have any fantasy value next season, unless he finds himself on another team.
ADP: N/A, Total Value: 379/390 (9/8 cat), Per Game Value: 284/303 (9/8 cat), Games Played: 17
After informally announcing his retirement last summer, Brand signed with the Sixers in early January and made his season debut in early March as an emergency big man off the bench. He didn’t provide any fantasy value, but his leadership and veteran presence was worth more to the Sixers and their young core than anything he could have provided on the court. Brand will never provide any fantasy value again, but if he decides to continue his playing career, expect him to once again be a leader and extension of the coaching staff in the locker room.
The four franchise building blocks – Noel, Okafor, Embiid and Saric – are all big men that don’t fit Brett Brown’s offensive scheme. The Sixers need to move one of them for a guard/wing and draft another guard/wing with their lottery selection. The Sixers need to find more NBA quality two way talent to pair with their young building blocks. But most importantly, they must not rush the rebuilding process by trying to put together a winning team as soon as possible.