Photo by Wayne Terry, TPL

I am sure most people who read this have had some experience in their professional careers with the insanely exciting Annual Objective Setting and Review process.  For those of you that haven’t, there is typically some variation of goal setting at the beginning of each year at the individual, department and corporate levels.  At the end of the year, you will typically fill out a self-assessment and your manager will fill out their assessment and you will sit down to review.  I have seen various forms of this in my career, but typically, each version includes categories like “Does Not Meet”, “Meets”, and “Exceeds” where you and your manager can rate your performance for the previous year.

After the Sixers’ first 50-win season since 2000-2001, I have been thinking a lot about what that kind of process might look like for this year’s team. So, I thought it would be a fun exercise to take that “slant” for my first article with Sixers Front Office.

THE CORE

Ben Simmons

Photo by Wayne Terry, TPL

Does Not Meet

  • Ben comes back with same jumper (elbow flared out, shooting on his way down)
  • Ben is not any more aggressive in looking for his jump shot
  • FT% is the same or lower than last season
  • Continues to turn the ball over as a result of telegraphing passes when he goes into “I’m not going to shoot” mode

Meets

  • Improved jump shot (elbow in, shoots at apex)
  • Takes 4-5 mid-range jump shots each game….with confidence
  • Takes 40% or more of his shots outside of 10 feet (shot 25% outside of shots outside of 10 feet last season)
  • Develops a pull-up jumper when driving from the top of the key area.
  • All Star

Exceeds

  • Extends range to 3 point line (two 3’s per game at 30% or better)
  • Adapts game to be as effective on and off the ball (so he can be paired with Markelle)
  • All Star Game Starter
  • All Defensive Team
  • All NBA Team

Summary

I expect Ben Simmons to build significantly on his ROY campaign in 2018-2019. His court-vision, passing ability, and feel for the game are truly elite. As he looks to take the next step in his career, I really think he needs to develop as a scoring threat. He is way too talented to not have a more dynamic ability to score. Teams adjusted to his one-dimensional “getting to the rim” approach towards the middle of last season, and he definitely hit a mini-slump there for a while. Brett and the coaching staff made some nice adjustments to counter this, and it was effective, but there were too many games where he was invisible in the 4th quarter (specifically in the final 5 minutes). I harped all season on the fact that Ben was very ineffective in the halfcourt, and that it would catch up with them in the playoffs. As you remember, it did…in a very aggravating way.

The debate over whether he is actually left handed is a real one. I agree with Chris Webber, in that I believe Ben is truly “amphibious.” I think he is neither right nor left handed, which might be both a good and bad thing. To me, the key for Ben Simmons is his jump shot. As I have previously tweeted, I think Ben’s ability to develop a jump shot is the most important thing in all of Philadelphia sports right now (not hyperbole). This is not to diminish the significance of Carson Wentz’ health (a close 2nd). But, without a more dynamic Ben Simmons, the good teams will always be able to make adjustments that neutralize this Sixers team. As an analogy, imagine a boxer that has amazing speed and an amazing jab, but only throws an occasional power punch. He can probably win many fights against mid-level opponents by scoring points with his jab and elusiveness, but eventually, he will face elite fighters that can corner him and make him stand toe to toe. When that happens, he will have a lot of trouble winning fights if he can’t at least mix in a few power punches to keep his opponent honest.

If Ben comes into this season with a more refined offensive game, it will open up the floor for everyone. He should have been an all-star last season, but I was glad he didn’t make it. I think the hungrier he is, the better. I fully expect him to be an all-star this season, and I think he will be a starter if he comes out of the gate aggressively and with an improved jumper. Also, if he can get to the line more frequently and knock down more of those (56% last season), he can easily be a 20 PPG scorer in this league. If he extends his range to the 3-point line, look out NBA (and NBA Twitter).

Joel Embiid

Photo by Wayne Terry, TPL

Does Not Meet

  • Continues to plays recklessly (takes unnecessary risks chasing balls, etc.)
  • Higher turnover % than last season (15.6%)
  • Little to no improvement dealing with double teams (which are inevitable)
  • Shoots lower FT% than last season (77%)

Meets

  • Plays 70+ games
  • More refined post game (improved drop step, turn around, baby hook, etc.)
  • Shoots 35% from 3 – he shot under 31% last season
  • Develops a pull-up jumper when driving from the top of the key area.
  • All Star Game Starter
  • All Defensive Team
  • All NBA Team
  • MVP consideration

Exceeds

  • Shows more explosiveness (catches more lobs, quicker first step)
  • Averages 25 PPG
  • Shoots better than 50% from the field
  • Shoots better than 80% from FT line
  • Shoots league average or better from 3 (36.2%)
  • Lead league in blocks per game
  • DPOY
  • All NBA 1st Team
  • MVP Finalist (top 3)
  • Bring back the cornrows

Summary

We all love and adore Joel Embiid. He is a perfect fit for this team and this city. Brett hugging and kissing him after the Miami series almost made me cry. What star athlete goes around the city playing pick-up ball with random dudes in the off-season? He is my favorite athlete since Allen Iverson, but like AI, he can be maddening at times. I always loved when AI would dive after a loose ball or dart into the lane and draw a foul. But, ironically, with Joel, who is a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier than AI, I hold my breath every time he hits the floor or gets tangled up with someone. I want to keep him in bubble wrap as much as possible, but we all know that will never happen with JoJo. I am not saying I don’t want him to be aggressive. I just want him to show a little more control and not dive head first into the stands while chasing a loose ball in the first quarter of a game against Atlanta in December.

So, as you can see, my goals for Joel are largely centered around him staying healthy. If he does, and just doesn’t regress offensively, the Sixers will easily be a top 3 team in the East. If he can also do a better job of protecting the ball, it will help immensely. As he settles in and gets more experience, he will likely cut down on the unforced mistakes. Spending this summer working with Drew Hanlen again might legitimately put him in the MVP conversation. One thing is certain with Joel though, he will be entertaining as hell this year.

Markelle Fultz

Does Not Meet

  • Drew Hanlen can’t fix his jump shot (we all hold hands and have a good cry)
  • Averages fewer than 20 MPG (because of his ineffectiveness)

Meets

  • Averages > 20 MPG
  • Effective scorer off the bench
  • Shoots close to or at league average from 3 (36.2%)
  • Shoots 70% or better from FT line

Exceeds

  • Averages 17 PPG or more
  • Shoots better than 80% from FT line
  • Shoots league average or better from 3 (36.2%) – on three or more 3’s per game
  • Leads guards in blocks per game
  • Wins MIP award
  • 6th man of the year finalist (top 3 in voting)

Summary

My primary goal for Markelle Fultz is just to get healthy (mind, body, and spirit). I was very vocal on Twitter last season regarding the mystery around his injury. This was primarily aimed at the organization and the GM because of how Sam Hinkie was crucified for not sharing enough information.

Truth be told, I was not a huge fan of the trade up to get Fultz last summer. It wasn’t because I didn’t like his talent level or his skill set. I just thought it was a lot to give up for a two spot jump in a deep draft. If that pick ends up at 2 or 3 this coming summer, it could look a lot worse. That said, I am definitely someone who believes in taking calculated risks if you really like a player. And, honestly, if Sam Hinkie made the same move, I would have felt a lot more comfortable with it. I just never thought Colangelo did enough due diligence on things. It seemed to be an optics move by him – to show that he was in charge and not just going to keep compiling assets. Either way, I am happy that we have Markelle here now, and I am really impressed with how hard he is working and the maturity he has through all of this.

I am looking for Markelle to become an effective scorer off the bench this year. Ideally, he will lead our bench in scoring and serve as a secondary ball handler to Ben Simmons at times. I think we would all be ecstatic with league average shooting from 3 and around 70% from the FT line this season by Markelle. I included some BHAG’s (Big Hairy A$$ Goals) for Markelle, which include winning the Most Improved Player award and leading guards in blocks per game. I think he has the ability to do both.

Dario Saric

Does Not Meet

  • Regresses from 3 point line vs. last season (39.3%)
  • Assist/TO Ratio lower than 2.0

Meets

  • Shoots 40% from 3
  • Assist/TO Ratio above 2.0
  • Continues to be the heart & soul of the team

Exceeds

  • Top 10 3-point shooter
  • Shows more consistency on pull-up jump shot (26.9% on Pull Up Jumper last year)

Summary

Dario is like my brother from another mother (who happens to be Croatian). I love his energy and his versatility. He really gave this team whatever it needed last season. When Joel was out earlier in the season, Dario became the #1 scoring option. He showed that he could handle the ball, shoot from distance, get to the line and create for others when called upon to do so. As much as he is loved, I think the Homie is a bit underappreciated as a player. I think players like Dario are the guys that help teams win titles. He has no ego and is a TRUE team first guy. Personally, I think he is too good a passer to be turning the ball over as much as he did last season. I would like to see him improve in that area this year. I would also like to see him improve on attacking closeouts.

KEY ROLE PLAYERS

Robert Covington

Does Not Meet

  • Can’t hold off Wilson Chandler for starting SF role
  • Shoots lower than league average from 3 (36.2%)
  • No improvement attacking closeouts or finishing at the rim

Meets

  • Shoots 38% or better from 3
  • Becomes respectable at attacking closeouts and finishing in transition
  • All Defensive Team

Exceeds

  • Shoots better than 40% from 3
  • Leads league in steals per game (was 9th last season)
  • DRTG under 100

Summary

Rock has become kind of a polarizing figure after the Boston series when he became almost unplayable due to his invisibility on the offensive end of the court. He’ll likely never be more than a 4th option on any team, but if he doesn’t continue to grow his game on that end, he will really make me think about his long-term role on this team. Defensively, he is an elite wing and will likely end up on an All-Defensive team again. But, if he can improve offensively, or at least become a more consistent 3-point shooter, he will give the Sixers a real shot at coming out of the East this season. It will be interesting to see how things evolve with Covington throughout the season. I am more of a middle of the road guy when it comes to Cov, but I lean towards the optimistic side with him. I think he was limping to the finish line last season, and I think he will come back stronger and will look better coming out of the gate this year.

JJ Redick

Photo by Wayne Terry, TPL

Does Not Meet

  • Loses a step/Regresses offensively (shoots below 40% from 3)
  • Shoots below 85% from FT line

Meets

  • Simple – Replicates production from last season

Exceeds

  • Shoots better than 42% from 3
  • Better clutch-time shooter (looked up his clutch stats, and he was well above league average during Garbage and Normal time, but close to league average during clutch time)

Summary

It is pretty clear that the Sixers brought JJ back to be a leader and to stretch the floor. I personally think he is a little overpaid for his on-court production, but it is hard to devalue his other contributions. And, given the FA landscape this summer, I am more than okay with bringing him back on his current deal.

Wilson Chandler

Does Not Meet

  • Plays like a guy on the last year of his contract (forcing shots, etc.)

Meets

  • Similar production to Ilyasova offensively, but with better defensive production
  • Shoots league average from 3 (36.2%)

Exceeds

  • Shoots 38% or better from 3
  • Has DRTG below 105
  • Plays more clutch-time minutes than Covington

Summary

Honestly, I am just hoping Wilson Chandler gives the Sixers a consistent second unit option on the wing. The Sixers did not really have that for much of last season, and it hurt them in the playoffs. My only fear is that he plays a little selfishly at times due to being on expiring contract, but I really don’t anticipate that this will happen – just something to keep an eye out for.

TJ McConnell

Photo by Wayne Terry, TPL

Does Not Meet

  • Regresses in any area (he cannot afford to if he wants to earn consistent minutes)

Meets

  • Similar production to last season (providing energy and grittiness off the bench – he definitely will)

Exceeds

  • Comes back with a consistent jump shot and takes the majority of the back-up PG minutes this season
  • Goes back to White Chocolate buzz cut

Summary

TJ is much like Dario in terms of his energy and ability to fill a utility player role. He is the kind of guy you love, but at the same time, you know his limitations. That said, I think we might have taken Boston to 6 or 7 if Brett would have gone to him sooner and stuck with him longer in that series. He essentially shut down Rozier when nobody else could. I think TJ is the most likely Sixer to earn an “Exceeds” rating this season.

THE ROOKIES

Zhaire Smith

Does Not Meet

  • Unable to break the regular rotation before the all-star break (fewer than 10 MPG)
  • Doesn’t show progression throughout the season in all facets of his game

Meets

  • Becomes a solid role-player off the bench before the ASG (averages more than 10 MPG)
  • Shoots 30% or better from 3
  • Shows the ability to match up with elite guards like Beal, DeRozan, Klay, etc.

Exceeds

  • Shoots better than league average from 3
  • Becomes major role player down the stretch and into the playoffs (more than 15 MPG)

Summary

Zhaire has shown some nice flashes in Summer League these past few days. I personally think he will shoot significantly better from three than people expect. He will give the team a much needed defensive presence on the perimeter this year, but don’t underestimate his ability to impact the game on the offensive end (on the break and in halfcourt sets). I am more bullish on him than I should probably be, but I get like this with rookies and sophs. If all goes well, he will be playing significant minutes in the playoffs this season.

Landry Shamet

Does Not Meet

  • Shows inability to get shot off at the NBA level

Meets

  • Shows versatility and ability to play both PG and off the ball
  • Can defend backup guards effectively

Exceeds

  • Shows ability to step in and play 12-15 MPG if someone gets injured
  • Shoots better than 40% from 3

Summary

My goals for Landry this season are to show his overall versatility when given minutes. I think he will struggle to do both early on, but I think he will show significant improvement throughout the season. If TJ is dealt, I expect Landry to step in and take some minutes at the point.

Shake Milton

Does Not Meet

  • Does not make the roster

Meets

  • Develops his game in the G-League and is able to get some minutes here and there with the Sixers

Exceeds

  • Supplants TLC, Korkmaz, or Justin as a rotation guy
  • Shoots better than 40% from 3 (shot 43% at SMU last season and for his career)

Summary

I think Shake Milton is a perfect Brett Brown type of player. Like, Shamet, he is also versatile and can shoot the three effectively. He reminds me a little of Josh Richardson, and that might be his upside (which would be awesome). I think he has a sneaky chance to be a consistent rotation player – ahead of TLC and Korkmaz this season – if his back injury is not serious. I think he is just a more dynamic player than both of them.

ROTATION GUYS

Amir Johnson

Does Not Meet

  • Doesn’t win Hustle Award in 2018-2019

Meets

  • Same production as last season

Exceeds

  • I don’t even want to say it, but….can give effective starter’s minutes if Joel misses any time.

Summary

Just do what you did last season.

Furkan Korkmaz

Does Not Meet

  • Does Not Win League MVP (haha)
  • Can’t stay on the court enough to contribute (many DNP-CD’s)

Meets

  • Becomes a solid role-player off the bench (fills the Marco Belinelli role)
  • Shoots league average from 3 (36.2%) or better
  • Can at least stay in front of players enough to stay on the court

Exceeds

  • Becomes as fun or more fun than Dario during halftime/post-game interviews
  • Shoots better than 40% from 3
  • Becomes the team’s best shooter off the bench – earning him some clutch-time minutes from time to time

Summary

As my man @VoteTheProcess brilliantly tweeted last Friday night, Korkmaz has put the league on notice after his 40 point explosion in the Vegas Summer League. My hope is that Furkan can fill the Marco Belinelli role this season, but I don’t think he will quite get there. I still think he needs more time to develop physically. He has a nice stroke, as displayed in the first summer league game last week. But, my expectation is that he will be a situational type of role player that gets inconsistent minutes for most of the season. He cannot defend at all, and that will limit his opportunities.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot

Does Not Meet

  • Looks the same as last season (like just another guy with no distinctive role or skill set)

Meets

  • Emerges as 2nd unit 3 & D wing that can carve out a role as a key reserve

Exceeds

  • Beats out Zhaire for minutes all season because he is locked in defensively and is shooting the 3 with some consistency
  • Consistently shows the cutting ability he flashed in summer league 2 years ago with Ben Simmons

Summary

Someone once told me you never make money in the stock market, because if the price goes up, you’ll hold the stock for fear of selling too early. And, if the price drops, you will hang on until the price goes back up, which often never happens. I feel like this when it comes to TLC. I bought a lot of TLC stock last summer, and I held on too long. He is just not consistent enough on either side of the floor. I still like his potential, but I am in hold mode and looking to sell until I see him demonstrate some growth and consistency.

Justin Anderson

Does Not Meet

  • Doesn’t evolve his game enough to be consistent role player on this team

Meets

  • Establishes himself ahead of TLC and Furkan in terms of getting minutes

Exceeds

  • Shoots above league average from 3
  • Is a consistent 2nd unit player on the wing all season

Summary

Nobody loves Justin Anderson more than Brian Jacobs. He took the Justin fan boat on its maiden voyage when he arrived in Philly in early 2017. Personally, I wasn’t very excited about the trade at the time, but I have actually come around on Justin. In fact, I was really hoping he would get a chance to play more down the stretch last year (after his injury). He stepped up and shut down D-Wade for a few stretches in the Miami series, and that has resonated with me. If I can find someone to buy my TLC stock, I will cash it in and buy as much Justin Anderson stock as I can afford with it. It is a bit of a stretch, but I think Justin could even be a spot starter if needed this season.

Jonah Bolden

Does Not Meet

  • Can’t get off the bench (DNP-CD’s)

Meets

  • Establishes himself ahead of Amir and Bjelica for minutes

Exceeds

  • Emerges as legitimate rotation player by the end of the year that can challenge for a starting role

Summary

Athleticism and ability to switch and cover multiple positions is the intrigue, but I don’t expect much from Jonah this year. He will need a year to adjust to the NBA if he is even on the final roster.

Nemanja Bjelica

Does Not Meet

  • Can’t fill Ilyasova’s role effectively

Meets

  • Shoots it at > 40% from 3
  • Finally gives the team someone that will put opposing players in headlocks when needed

Exceeds

  • Embraces the moniker “Professor Big Shorts”

Summary

He is here for his shooting. Make sure that shot is wet.

HOW DOES IT ALL TRANSLATE?

Team Goals

Does Not Meet

  • Fails to build on last year’s success because of immaturity of young guys
  • Bench is ineffective again (like early part of the last season)

Meets

  • Young guys take the next step in their development
  • Top 3 seed in the East
  • Eastern Conference Finals
  • Possibly add a key piece via trade (without selling the farm)

Exceeds

  • Brett Brown wins COTY
  • Top 2 seed in the East
  • Win the Eastern Conference
  • Win the whole f’ing thing (Jake Taylor voice)

Summary

The Sixers have become MUST SEE TV. The team’s success will ultimately depend on Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid’s development and health. Markelle Fultz is the wild-card, and I think it’s wise to be bullish on his prospects for this season. I think bringing back JJ and Amir was a good idea. I liked what both of them provided last season, and I think they are both on good “bang for your buck deals” now.

The bench is going to be another wild-card this year. The Sixers will need some rookies and sophomores to step up and give them some effective reserve minutes. I think ownership really wants to strike, so I am fairly confident that there will be a significant in-season move. Personally, my main focus is on the development of Ben, Joel, Markelle, Dario, and Zhaire. I am not concerned with adding another star right now. I think the window is wide open, and there is no reason to rush through it. Brett just needs to continue to build the culture like he has since Hinkie hired him in 2013.

Hit me up on Twitter (@vinfosh) and let me know what you think about my objectives.  I will aim to do mid-year reviews at the all-star break (because I believe in periodic check-ins and transparent feedback with direct reports).