Sixers-Bulls

Three weeks into a new NBA season, we have a taste for who the Sixers are — even with their opening-night starters only having played 6 games together thus far. Armed with some understanding of who the Sixers are as they embark on a six-game road trip, it’s time to answer some mailbag questions.

The Obligatory Ben Simmons Questions

Ever since the start of this drama, I’ve been in the boat of “He’s under contract for four years, the league knows he’s valuable, hold him until the right deal is there”. That line of thinking has not escaped me. I would let Simmons sit as long as it takes to find an All-Star caliber player coming back in the trade package. If that takes a whole season, and a top-3 pick results from Simmons missing the entire campaign, so be it.

Representatives of various fanbases have gone back and forth with me about his value. But, they’re also fans of teams that would love Simmons. You can’t tell me he’s only worth your end-of-bench role players and then cook up graphics depicting him as a cornerstone of his new franchise. The bottom line is that he’s 25-years-old, physically versatile, and very athletic. Simmons is an All-NBA defender whose offensive impact is understated because he’s not a star-level scorer. You don’t put a time limit on a trade market for a player that adds such value to your team. 

I don’t know that there is a realistic time frame. Morey said he was willing to wait four years. And given the team’s chemistry and success thus far, why shouldn’t I believe him? December 15th is significant because it also means that the Sixers can send out a guy like Danny Green if his money makes a deal work. Once that day comes, you may see the trade buzz grow. But if Morey and company don’t think they’re getting a “difference-maker” back, then that date — and any other date, for that matter — is irrelevant.

Danny Green’s Usage

In a word, yes. Simmons led the team in assists to Green last year, with 64. The importance of spot-up shooters having strong chemistry with their point guards is often underrated. For 3-and-D wings who are neither elite shooters nor bare-minimum creators, pass placement and consistency of vision from the point guard is critical to sprucing up that role player’s value.

But, usage accounts for more than just shots. It factors in free throw attempts and turnovers, as well. Green’s usage being down this early in the season is likely more about sample size than anything else. He’s also missed three games in the early-goings. Those games he missed mostly coincided with the team’s high-usage players (Embiid or Harris) being unavailable. Beyond that, his minutes are mostly tethered to those of Curry, Maxey, Milton, Harris, or Embiid. So, he hasn’t really been in positions of high-usage this season. Conversely, there were a few games last season in which Green had to take on a heightened role within the offense due to the team’s being under-staffed as a result of the health and safety protocol. Those outlier games of elevated role might’ve skewed his usage a bit, as well. 

Ultimately, the usage will probably normalize as the season goes on. But, I certainly think Simmons’ absence plays a role into how viewers perceive him as impacting the game. It’s worth noting that even with Simmons out of the picture for now, Green is still shooting a tick below 40 percent from deep and attempting almost 8 threes per 36 minutes. Those numbers are within a finger-tip of their values from last season. So, his offensive production is unchanged, comparatively speaking, even if it seems like he’s had a slow start to the season.

A Tangible-Rich Trade Package

Given Simmons’ age, contract length and floor-raising nature, Maxey’s emergence, and Thybulle’s defensive prowess, that tangible value should get you a “difference-maker” (as Morey would say) in return. The value of upcoming first round picks depends on how bullish you are on those drafts. It also depends on what you’re sending to Philly and whether those are the Sixers’ own picks. 

The one thing I would say about Thybulle’s trade value and standing is that consistent cutting and off-ball spacing are really the only improvements he’s made on offense over the first three seasons of his career. He’s an All-NBA team defender, but probably a smidge overrated as an on-ball defender. Given those evaluations, unless he’s settling for a reasonable number, I don’t know that the Sixers are constructed so well elsewhere that his specialized nature is worth committing inflated money to in free agency. So, there might be a decision to be made about how valuable Thybulle is to the team in the long run.

Tobias Harris’ Value, In Context

I don’t really get the Harris naysayers. People like to judge him on whether he makes shots in the last two minutes of close games. That’s a binary way of evaluating a player without using context. He’s been excellent since Doc Rivers came to Philly. This season, the three-point touch has been slow to come. But, Harris is hitting better than 60 percent of his twos and averaging a shade below 20 points per game thus far. Beyond that, he’s sporting an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.42:1 this season. That’s very good for a forward. His assist percentage is 22.6 thus far, as well. So, Harris has really stepped up his playmaking. Perhaps the unfavorable judgment is bred from playoffs past. But aside from the final three games against the Hawks, Harris was fabulous in the playoffs last season.

I genuinely don’t know if he can be the second best player on a championship team because he has never been in that spot for a team that had enough of a supporting cast to get as far as the second round, anyway. But I would venture to say that most teams don’t have a third best player as good as he is.

The People Want More Bball Paul

It’s going to depend on matchups. Reed has exhibited some excellent discipline on defense in the early stages of this season. But, he still has some unpredictable habits on offense. Coaches don’t like ‘unpredictable’. If Rivers feels like he can’t trust Reed, he won’t play him. There will be games in which he doesn’t really have much of an option, and Reed will be given a short leash. But until Reed smoothens over some of those loose cannon traits, that least is going to remain short. 

As for asking Doc about it, he’s not typically responsive to that type of questioning. I like to pose it as going small, and he’ll angle it as a function of matchups. So, it’s up to Reed to refine his game. Players like Reed aren’t typically going to be empowered to play through mistakes on playoff contenders. So, it isn’t just Rivers and the Sixers who have a low risk tolerance in that regard.

Not Another vinfosh Bit

Jason Blevins, of course. Mike Kaye has developed me some. Kevin Kinkead has been a great resource for getting experienced perspective, as well. But I would also add that I think I’ve mentored myself some, as well. I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve learned from them. I changed my own behaviors and ways of thinking to better fit the business. Instead of concluding that I wasn’t fit for this business, I stayed resilient and decided to put effort into improving as a person so that I could have a chance in this business. In many ways, I’ve taught myself a lot. So I’ve been my own mentor, to an extent.

Basically, anyone but Twitter user vinfosh.

From The DMs

These last two come courtesy of direct messaging on Twitter.

Logan: “Would you include maxey for a Dame package?”

This one is getting increasingly difficult to answer. On one hand, Damian Lillard is a superstar. But at this moment in time, his name holds more value than his game does. Perhaps it’s the new ball (something that a lot of players who are struggling have brought up). But what if it’s not? What if the years of carrying the Blazers are finally taking their toll on him?

By the way, Maxey has been incredible in his second season. He’s averaging 17 points with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.13:1. Beyond that, he’s hitting almost 55 percent of his twos (85th percentile) and 39 percent of his threes (72nd percentile). So, he’s scoring efficiently and has sneakily grown as a playmaker. As for the defensive side, Maxey is probably already a better defender than Lillard. To top it off, Maxey has multiple years remaining on his rookie deal.

Lillard’s shotmaking prowess and closer DNA is such a perfect fit on this team that I’d still probably do the deal. But, it’s not the laughable conversation it was three weeks ago.

Tre: “With Maxey’s recent emergence, would Morey be more inclined to trade for a perimeter scoring wing now?”

I think he would be inclined to regardless of Maxey’s emergence. Their scoring depth on the wings is Green, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Tobias Harris, Georges Niang, and Isaiah Joe. Outside of Harris, those players are either inconsistent or too specialized in what they do. It’s obvious they need another wing who can score, and perhaps even create their own shot from time to time.

Keep an eye on Terrence Ross. I’ve heard there’s some mutual interest there. But, Ross would more likely come via buyout than trade. While the buyout market has been fruitless after the dynamite the Sixers got in the second half of the 2018 season, the Magic could certainly be a candidate to buy some veterans out as they inevitably fall towards the cellar in the East.