76ers vs Thunder Preview

The Philadelphia 76ers will be taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight at 7:00 PM EST! This is a very important game for the 76ers; they’re on a 4-game skid, and this is a perfect time for them to turn it around before the end of the season. There’s also a chance they get some key reinforcements back!

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia has blown their last 4 games to the Warriors, Suns, and Bucks (twice). However, injuries have played a major role in their — quite frankly, pathetic — losing streak. As a result of the losing streak, Sixers currently hold the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. It shouldn’t be a tough turnaround, though, as Philly has the easiest remaining schedule in the NBA, according to ESPN, while the Brooklyn Nets (who currently hold the 1st seed), have to play the Bucks (twice), Nuggets, and Mavericks.

PHI Injury Report:

  • Joel Embiid – QUESTIONABLE
  • Ben Simmons – QUESTIONABLE
  • Danny Green – QUESTIONABLE
  • Tobias Harris – QUESTIONABLE
  • Furkan Korkmaz – QUESTIONABLE
  • Paul Reed – QUESTIONABLE

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City has been absolutely atrocious this season; they sit near the bottom of the Western Conference (13th seed; 20-40), and are in the midst of a 13-game losing streak. However, this is the youngest team in the NBA and one that is, thus, rebuilding. Thunder have also dealt with several injuries, and that doesn’t change tonight.

OKC Injury Report:

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – OUT
  • Luguentz Dort – OUT
  • Josh Hail – OUT
  • Mike Muscala – OUT
  • Gabriel Deck – OUT
  • Tony Bradley – QUESTIONABLE

A loss tonight would be absolutely embarrassing. Whether or not we are missing 2 guys on the injury report or all of them, we’d have to try to lose this game.

Important Information for Tonight’s Game:

  • Against? – Oklahoma City Thunder
  • When? – 7:00 PM EST
  • Where? – Wells Fargo Center
  • TV? – NBCSP

Examining the Doc Rivers Hiring

The 76ers replaced Brett Brown on Thursday, signing Doc Rivers to a 5 year deal. Their coaching search included Rivers, Mike D’Antoni, Ty Lue, and Billy Donovan. Was Doc the best option to be the next coach of the 76ers? Let’s take a look.

Correct Choice?

Doc was far and away the best choice available to fill the coaching void. One of the biggest problems with Brown was that he failed to hold players accountable, and this is a strength for Doc. He can do this while still being able to have a good relationship with players. He has coached many NBA legends including Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul, and many more, and he played in the NBA from 1984 to 1996. Rivers also has championship experience, as he coached the 2008 Celtics team that made 2 Finals appearances. The problem with Doc is that he isn’t necessarily good at making adjustments in game and in the playoffs. He deserves some blame for the Clippers’ recent choke, but certainly not all of it, as the Clips could not buy a bucket in game 7. I don’t think this will be a problem though, as the main issue with the Sixers is how their roster is constructed, which I’ll be getting to later. As I said previously, Doc was the best coach available. It was worth hiring him without making any front office changes (getting rid of Colangelo’s staff), and he is a massive upgrade even with his drawbacks.

Press Conference Takeaways

The Sixers introduced Doc on Monday to the media, and he answered a lot of questions regarding the team. First off it is safe to say that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are untouchable this offseason. Although Doc revealed that he has a say in roster construction, he had nothing but great things to say about the two, and he mentioned them as an enticing reason to sign right away, as he was prepared to take a break from coaching. When talking about Ben and Joel, Doc said, “They’ve won 65 percent of the games that they’ve played in. It clearly works when they play together. If you’ve watched my teams, I rarely say that a guy is a 1, a 2 — I don’t get lost in the minutiae. I don’t get lost in what position guys play. I look at how many points we score as a team. I don’t care how we score. My teams have always been very good offensively, in the top five overall. And we score points, and we score points in a lot of different ways.” What’s worrisome is that Doc praised how the roster is currently constructed. If he is able to use guys like Al Horford or Tobias Harris correctly then that is fine, but I doubt Al ever fits. We’ll talk Tobias in a bit. I wouldn’t rule out any trades though, as Doc was quick to dodge questions about playing Horford and Embiid together. Second off, Doc isn’t going to force Ben to shoot, but he said that he will get guys to do what it takes to win. He definitely is going to command more respect than Brett, so I can see Simmons finally taking more jumpers, but not a large amount. A final takeaway is something I already touched on, but Doc is going to improve this offense no matter the roster changes. He mentioned wanting to increase the pace, which I am happy about considering the Sixers offense was extremely stagnant last season. He can also unlock Harris if he isn’t traded. In 87 regular season games in LA with the Clippers, Harris averaged 34.6 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.5 BPG on 59.1 TS% and 42.6% from deep. This is significantly better than his 99 regular season games since with Philly, where he averaged 34.5 MPG, 19.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG on 55.8 TS% and 35.6% from 3. This drop off was mainly due to Tobias being less of a ball handler in Philly. He isn’t great off the ball, and is much more valuable with the ball in his hands, where he’s a better shooter, can get to the rim, and as Doc said, is great in the pick and roll.

Conclusion

Doc Rivers was certainly the best option out there to be the next coach in Philly. He will hold guys accountable for mistakes, he’s great in the locker room, and he will improve the offense, specifically Tobias if he isn’t traded. He is also very excited to be coaching Joel, Ben, Tobias, and he even had high praise for guys like Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, and Josh Richardson. However, he isn’t going to magically fix the problems with the Sixers, as trades that I’ve previously written about need to be made, Embiid needs to get in shape, and Ben needs to be more comfortable with taking jumpers. Doc Rivers is certainly something to be excited about, but the Sixers still have a lot of work to do.

Philadelphia Owes Jimmy Butler an Apology

When Jimmy Butler departed from Philadelphia last summer in the sign and trade that sent Josh Richardson to Philly, there was a ton of outrage from 76ers fans, as expected. I’ll even admit that I was guilty of some hate as well. Sixers fans felt betrayed by the player they had come to know and love over those 9 months or so. Immediately, Butler was called out for leaving a “winning situation” for a Miami team that was not expected to be a contender. Many fans predicted them to not even make the playoffs, while I predicted a low seed and first-round exit. Now, Butler is one game away from heading to the NBA Finals, defeating the number one seed Milwaukee Bucks, and currently up 3-2 against the Celtics, who swept the Sixers in the first round. Miami not only finished as a higher seed than the Sixers in the regular season, but Jimmy Butler was an All Star and was named to All-NBA 3rd team. He averaged 19.9 points, career highs in rebounds and assists in 6.7 and 6.0, and 1.8 steals on 58.5 TS%. Meanwhile, the Sixers got a disappointing season (an understatement) from Al Horford. Brett Brown, who is suspected to be a big reason for Butler’s departure, was just fired. Although the Heat got surprise seasons from Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson, Butler arguably had a better season than any Sixers player. His clutch ability and jump shooting was a problem in the regular season, but it has come back in the playoffs. Now to the main point of the article, Sixers fans owe Jimmy an apology. Many wanted him back, including me, but as soon as he left, Sixers fans called him out and claimed that paying him would’ve been a bad move. They were clearly wrong, and the Sixers’ front office and ownership are at fault. For whatever reason, they believed that not giving Jimmy the 5th year and keeping Brett were both more important than running it back, which was a very possible scenario. Butler chose what he believed was the best place for him to win and live with his family, as he recently had a child. He didn’t owe anything to Philadelphia, and when they chose not to reward him for being the best player during the playoff run that ended in a buzzer-beating loss to the NBA champions, he made his decision. Getting rid of him is the biggest mistake that arguably any Philly sports team has made in recent memory, or even of all time. Good luck Jimmy, and go Heat.

“Wentz” Did It Go Wrong?

17-0…17-24

*sighs*

For those who are unaware, the Philadelphia Eagles have lost to the Washington Football team. In rather embarrassing fashion might I add, squandering a 17-0 lead. Last year it was the Eagles who came out of the tunnel after halftime and rode hot handed DJAX to a eventual comeback of their own. This year, the Eagles came out hot, and lost all steam once Jack Driscoll was removed from the game.

The negatives of this game are abundant, and positives are few and far between, but, there are a few;

Jack Driscoll- The rookie tackle had a few hiccups, none resulting in anything catastrophic and all fixable mistakes. He’s a bright spot simply because once Mailatta was forced to replace him, the drop off was VERY evident. Overall, at this point Jack Driscoll is no Lane, true. I think more importantly we know he’ll be at worst servicable down the road, pending his injury diagnosis.

Defensive Line- Realistically Washington didn’t light us up offensively, Haskins took advantage of numerous short field situations. A product of our either a interception or failed 4th down conversion. The defense held up and players like Josh Sweat and Malik Jackson made some big plays, this is huge to see as they are key contributors going forward.

Wentz and DJAX are OK- As trivial as it sounds, we have to be happy two of our “projected” key contributors stood healthy. We have to assume they will move on to week 2 eager to erase the memory of the week 1 loss.

Rams are next….Let’s just say if this offensive line isn’t in tact by then, Aaron Donald may have a field day.

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Buddy Hield to Philly? Is it Realistic? How Would it Help the 76ers?

The 76ers have had reported interest in Buddy Hield for a few months now, and Buddy has also been at odds with Kings management. The Kings famously took forever to give him an extension, and when they finally gave it to him, it was much lower than expected. Kings coach Luke Walton (the NBA’s worst coach in my opinion) benched Hield this season for no apparent reason as well. Hield in my opinion should be the 76ers’ prime trade target along with Chris Paul, and let’s talk about why.

Why the 76ers Should Target Buddy Buckets

Buddy Hield would fill the shooting void left by J.J. Redick, and he would also add much needed shot creating, especially in the clutch. He can be deadly on and off the ball. Over his 4 year career, he is averaging 15.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.3 BPG while shooting 44.1% from the field, 41.1% from 3 on 6.7 attempts per game, and 86.6% from the line. 78.2% of his 3s in his career have been assisted on, and this is why the fit with Ben Simmons would be perfect. Simmons has led the league in 3 pointers assisted on in multiple seasons. Hield would also be a great fit with Joel Embiid, as he can be a ball handler in multiple lineups. Hield is being paid $23,500,000 on average over the next 4 seasons, and the contract descends in value.

Will the Kings Accept a Sixers Package?

Trade rumors around Hield have been really quiet, and only the Sixers have been connected. An ideal package for the Sixers for Hield would be built around Al Horford, draft picks, and a throw in like Zhaire Smith. However, this seems really thin and young players like Matisse Thybulle or Shake Milton could be put in. Even Josh Richardson could be included. This seems like a terrible move from a Kings standpoint, and it is, but the Kings are historically poor in terms of decision making. They also have been at odds with Hield all season long, and if there are not many suitors, the Kings could easily settle for the Sixers package. Horford is still a veteran mentor who they had interest in last offseason. Young players and picks are also always valuable to a team like the Kings.

Conclusion

As I previously stated in my first article, the Sixers have little to no flexibility in terms of free agency, and their best bet is looking into the trade market. Chris Paul and Buddy Hield are their top options in my opinion. Both would improve their shooting and play in the clutch, and both fit fantastically with the Sixers’ franchise cornerstones. The Sixers are unfortunately going to have to rely on the interests of the Kings, Thunder, and other potential suitors if they want to get these deals done.

Chris Paul to Philly? Why and if it Can Happen

According to Sam Amick, the 76ers are among the teams that have interest in trading for Chris Paul this offseason. The Bucks and Lakers have reported interest as well. If this was a year ago, I would’ve opposed a trade for Chris Paul. However, let’s take a look at why the 76ers should make it happen, and if they’ll be able to.

Why the 76ers Should Target CP3

Chris Paul is coming off his first healthy season since 2015-16, where he made his last All Star appearance before this year as well. In 70 regular season games, he averaged 31.5 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 5 RPG, 6.7 APG, and 1.6 SPG while shooting 48.9% from the field, 36.5% from 3, and 90.7% from the line. He led an OKC team that many thought would be bottom feeders to the playoffs, where they just lost in 7 games to the Rockets. In the playoffs he averaged 37.3 MPG, 21.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.3 APG, and 1.6 SPG shooting 49.1% from the field, 37.2% from 3, and 88.5% from the line. He was also the leader in points in the clutch this season, on fantastic efficiency. We saw guys like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schröder benefit from playing with Cp3. Now imagine the impact he’d have as a mentor on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. They both could learn so much about the game itself from him and it could change their mentalities. Paul also would fit seamlessly with the two Sixers stars. He’d provide an actual option to go to in the clutch, and he’d be lethal in the pick and roll with Joel. Ideally the Sixers would trade Tobias Harris, a young player, and picks to get Paul. It would be sad to see Tobias and Tisse/Milton go, but I think that this trade would put the Sixers back into contention in the East. If Paul declines, his contract is still better than Harris’. Harris has 4 years left on his max deal, while Cp3 has 2 years left including a player option.

Will the Thunder Accept a Sixers Package?

It is unclear how willing the Thunder are to part ways with Paul. It does make a lot of sense tho, as it is unlikely that they make any improvements with Gallinari heading to free agency. Paul is also at his peak trade value, not only did he have an amazing season but he also holds a player option in 2021-22. A Sixers package may make the most sense for Sam Presti. The Lakers and Bucks lack young assets and picks, and the Lakers do not have the salaries to match. Plus, they’ll also be focusing on the impending free agency of Anthony Davis, who’s likely to stay. With that being said, a package of Tobias, Milton/Thybulle, and picks might be the best option for the Thunder. Tobias is much better when he has the ball in his hands, and can be a key player for years to come as OKC isn’t much of a free agent destination. Milton or Thybulle would be fantastic young pieces, imagine perimeter stars trying to score on Dort and Thybulle. And the picks would already build onto their massive stash of draft capital.

Conclusion

A Chris Paul trade is the Sixers’ best option this offseason. It would put them right back into contention and help develop Embiid and Simmons. However, it is unclear how willing both sides would be to get a deal done.

An Overview of the Philadelphia 76ers Cap Situation

Last offseason we saw the 76ers make acquisitions such as Al Horford and Josh Richardson, and also retaining Tobias Harris. This year, the 76ers have limited flexibility. According to Spotrac, the NBA salary cap is estimated to be at around $115M in 20-21, up from $109M. However, there is no telling on how COVID-19 will affect the cap. Either way, the 76ers will not be able to do much. They have the 2nd highest payroll in the league for next season at $147.42M, trailing only Golden State. Let’s take a look at the roster, specifically which contracts are able to be moved or are locks to stay.

Locks

76ers GM Elton Brand recently dismissed any trade rumors regarding Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, “Well, I’m looking to complement them better. They’re 24 and 26 years old, respectively. You try to make that fit, as long as you can. They want to be here. They want to be with our organization. And I see them here for a long, long time.” Simmons and Embiid are pretty much the only locks to stay on the roster next season. Embiid is set to make $29,542,010 next season, with 2 years left on his deal after. Simmons is going to make $29,250,000, the first season of his 5 year rookie max extension. This amount would increase if Simmons is named to an All-NBA team for this past season, but not a drastic amount that would change anything for Philly.

Possible Departures

It’s fair to say that Al Horford and Tobias Harris have 2 of the worst contracts in the NBA. Although Tobias got paid his market value, in hindsight it was never the right move to trade for him. As for Horford, his massive decrease in production, efficiency, and defensive ability has made his contract look like a joke. Tobias will make $34,358,850, his 2nd of 5 years on his new deal. Horford will go into the 2nd year of his contract, making $27,500,000. It is really hard to see many teams willing to take on either one of these contracts, not only due to performance and lack of cap space, but also due to the eventual consequences of COVID-19. I would definitely be ok with trading Horford, but I’d give Tobias another chance. Josh Richardson may need to be moved to facilitate a trade for either players. He is making $10,865,952 next season, leading up to a player option in 21-22.

Smaller Deals

The final 6 players on the roster for next season are Mike Scott, Zhaire Smith, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, and Norvel Pelle. Marial Shayok also is under a 2 way deal. Scott is making around $5M on a one year deal, while Thybulle and Smith are making $2.7M and $3.2M respectively. Milton, Furkan, and Pelle are all making under $2M. These players are the most traceable contracts on the roster, especially Milton, who at 24 years old is making roughly $5.6M over the next 3 seasons with a team option in the final year. It’s very likely that Richardson, Thybulle, or Milton will have to be included in a Horford deal.

Free Agency Outlook

The Sixers have 4 roster spots open this offseason and one two way spot. They also have Kyle O’Quinn, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III, Raul Neto, and Ryan Broekhoff hitting free agency. It’s likely that their first round pick will fill a spot, and one of their 2nd round picks will fill the remaining 2 way slot, with the rest being sold. That leaves 3 roster spots, and the Sixers will only have a $6M exception and minimum contracts. I’d personally like to see Burks back on the exception, and any of GR3, O’Quinn, and Neto back.

Conclusion

The Sixers are in no man’s land in terms of cap space for next season. Barring any trades, they do not have much flexibility with their roster, and it will be extremely hard to create cap space. Elton Brand has his work cut out for him as he’ll need to right the front offices’ wrongs.

Sixers Draft Overview

The offseason is now here for the Sixers, as they already fired head coach Brett Brown and wait for free agency and the draft to approach them. This year’s board has a lot of potential, and the Sixers could really benefit heavily from it. This is my draft overview and my top three realistic candidates for Sixers at 21st on the draft board.

3: Jahmi’us Ramsey, Texas Tech

Number 3 is Jahmi’us Ramsey, who is a 6’4 point guard who can shoot the ball and create shots effectively. He averaged 15 PPG, 4 RPG, and 2 APG. He would provide much needed scoring and shooting depth for the bench. He can provide effective minutes when we need a bucket, and is a great leader. I think he would be great off the bench as a backup point guard. The only reason I didn’t put Ramsey higher on the list is that his style of play is a little different from how the Sixers run things, and I don’t know if he would mesh well as an off-ball point guard in some rotations.

2. Josh Green, Arizona

At number 2, we have Josh Green, who is 1/2 of the deadly Arizona guard duo this year who proved himself to be a versatile scorer and shooter. Green can score and shoot at well, and is very versatile on both sides of the floor. Green can defend very well and is a great stretch two. He can work well off the ball as much as with it, and I think that he would fit amazingly with our rotations. His three point shooting isn’t the best, but hopefully under a new coach he would strengthen his shooting. All in all, Green is a great prospect, and should be heavily considered by us at the 21st spot.

1. Tyrell Terry, Stanford

At first place, we have none other than Stanford shooting guard Tyrell Terry. Terry is a natural sharpshooter, and one of the best shooters in the draft. Terry would be an awesome offensive threat to have, and would be awesome with Embiid and Ben among others. Terry averaged 14.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 3.2 APG with 44.1 FG% and 40.8 3P%, which is great. Terry is also an above average defender, so he isn’t only a one player and isn’t a liability like our other previous sharpshooters JJ Redick and current shooter Furkan Korkmaz. Tyrell would fit amazingly, and we may even be able to trade down because he hasn’t been heavily scouted. Tyrell Terry should be the go-to pick at 21 for Sixers if available. Thank you for reading!

Hurley Happenings: New Years Resolutions for the Philly Sports World

With a New Year comes New Year’s resolutions, which most often are made by those who wish to better themselves. Since the Phillies, Eagles, and 76ers all failed to win a championship in 2019, let’s take a look at one resolution for each team, and what their goals should be for 2020 as a team. 

Eagles:

Resolution: Re-sign Malcolm Jenkins

Team goal: Win NFC East again, make the NFC championship game

After a crushing Wild Card loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, safety Malcolm Jenkins was very blunt with the media. I will not be returning to the Eagles on my current deal. “Won’t happen,” said Jenkins. 

For the Eagles, this is a problem. Jenkins led the team in tackles, combined and solo, by a considerable margin. Jenkins was top five on the team in QB hits and pressures, despite only rushing 76 times all year. Jenkins improved in his tackling and his coverage stats, all while being the leader of a defense 

Jenkins is scheduled to make around 7.6 million next season, which pales in comparison to the roughly $14 million AAV granted to top safeties around the league in the last few years. In order for the Eagles to stay relevant next season with a possibly new and improved Cowboys team under Mike McCarthy and repeat as NFC East champs, Jenkins needs to be holding down the defensive front in Philadelphia. 

Phillies

Resolution: Follow the Nationals model of winning

Team goal: Make the NL playoffs

When the Phillies signed Bryce Harper, obviously, everyone was optimistic about their chances. After Harper and the entire team underperformed, displeasure with the organization grew. 

Now, under new manager Joe Girardi and with an improved rotation and middle infield, the only real holes sit at third base and center field, with Kingrey and Haseley unproven. The addition of Josh Donaldson and a guy like Kevin Pillar or even a Billy Hamilton could absolutely boost the clubs chances. 

While the squad looks even better than it did last year, the question of chemistry remains. For the Nationals, after a terrible start to the season, outspoken veterans like Max Scherzer and Baby Shark crazed Gerrardo Parro rallied the team to a seemingly improbable WS run. In order for the Phillies to make their own run in 2020, they not only need a few talent acquisitions, but a few leader acquisitions as well. Harper and Arrieta need to step up, and the Nationals need their own Gerrardo Parra to inspire them on and off the field, and inspire the fans as well. 

76ers:

Resolution: Trade either Joel Embid or Ben Simmons

Team goal: Make the Eeastern Conference Finals

The Sixers confuse me. They have two of the most physically talented players in the Eastern Conference. Ben Simmons looks like a young Giannis on some nights, and Joel Embid has his evenings where if you squint hard enough, it looks like Shaq is playing in a Philly uniform. But on a lot of nights, Simmons goes 50% from the field and Embid takes too many jumpers and not enough post shots. Embid has been absolutely dominating for the most part, but the cohesion is off. 

So what do I propose? I think the Sixers ship out Embid. Send him to say Sacremento or New Orleans for Hield or Holiday. Get yourself a shooter than can spot up and/or create for themselves on the perimiter. This allows Embid to roam the paint alone, with the ball not sticking in Simmons hands while his defender double teams Embid in the paint. A possible addition would be to deal Richardson and clear money and get additional picks, making the deal just as valuable for a team like Sacremento who could then afford to give up Hield/Fox and some picks. 

This may all seem extreme and an overreaction. And maybe it is. However, with the current level of success for the Sixers, a change may be needed, and fast. 

2020 will be a defining year for Philadelphia sports. All 3 of these teams have high expectations and talented rosters. We can speculate all we want, but in the end championships are rare and success must be cherished while it lasts. Enjoy any playoff appearances we get, because in a flash, it can all disappear.