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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – I know, I know, I know… the Sixers can’t even tank right! I’ve heard the joke several times, and I get it. The Sixers were supposed to lose as much as possible this year in an attempt to get a great draft pick and (maybe) Andrew Wiggins. And here they are, 3-0, screwing it all up.
I’m as surprised as you are. Even though I never believed they were likely to break the record for the worst record in NBA history (as I said here), I surely didn’t expect them to beat the Bulls and the Heat, with a Wizards trap game in the middle. I didn’t expect them to be 7th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, I didn’t expect them to be first in the NBA in pace, third in the NBA in effective field goal percentage (none of them can shoot!), or 5th in true shooting percentage.
I certainly didn’t expect Michael Carter-Williams to be playing so well that the nation is demanding a second nickname.
I didn’t expect any of this, but regardless of my expectations, I’m enjoying it, and so should you.
So to calm the nerves of the Winless For Wiggins crowd, here are some things that should make you feel safe.
Don’t Worry, They’re Still Going To Lose A Lot!
The Sixers, for a team who cannot shoot, are shooting really well. Now part of that is a better offense run by a better coach that results in more points in the lane, spacing and open three point shots. But some of it is lucky, and will come back down to Earth.
Chances are, opposing teams don’t have much tape on a lot of the current Sixers, and even less on whatever Brett Brown was planning to run. They may not be as bad as you’d hoped, but they’re still likely to lose a bunch of games.
Some Of These Guys Will Be Traded
It would seem likely that there’s a distinct possibility that three of the team’s four best players, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, will be traded at some point during this season. Though their improved play may be reason for you to want to keep them, Turner and Hawes’ impending free agency will likely be a no-no. If they keep this up, you’re probably looking at guys that could get paid $10+ million per year, and no matter how good you are (unless you have Lebron James), you don’t win many rings giving Evan Turner or Spencer Hawes $10+ million per year.
This leads us to…
Their Trade Value Improves With Good Play!
Before the season, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes’ trade value was negligible. With wins and good play, these guys will become more valuable, and it becomes more likely that Sam Hinkie is able to turn these guys into younger, cheaper assets or draft picks (paired with expiring contracts).
As for Thaddeus Young, even if they don’t trade him, even at his current level of play, he is on a fair contract. If he improves his play and continues to hit three-point shots, he could become BETTER than his contract, which is how you win.
Wins Are Fun!
That’s right, killjoy. Wins are fun.
Culture, Culture, Culture
Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown have said numerous times how important culture is in building a winner. It’s the sort of week like the Sixers had that make the team believe they’re involved in something meaningful. It makes them believe even further in Brett Brown.
Consider what Sam Hinkie said to me last week about winning:
“‘[Does he] care about winning?,” Hinkie mentioned as crucial part of any player. “Circumstances overwhelm all of us sometimes, but do you care about winning in a big way? Do you care about winning on Tuesday in Milwaukee or on a Sunday game in the Lakers whites. That, I think is pretty close to independent [of the factors surrounding a player]. And the people that struggle in the environments when it “doesn’t matter as much,” just didn’t reveal themselves as struggling when it did matter.”
Brett Brown Is A Good Coach
I mean, it took forever right! How could it take so long! Sam Hinkie has said on several occasions that he is interested in the right decision over the quick decision. Early returns say that he made the right one with Brett Brown.
“It was an interesting period. ‘It’s so important, it’s so important… do it tonight!’ It’s like, it can’t be both,” Hinkie said of the coach search. “I like to give one of the guys that works for us a speech about being married, and how important it is to find the right person. Probably the biggest decision of your whole life, and it’s like ‘make it by noon!’”
I know Doug Collins ran through his shoes and was never booed as a player, but Brett Brown is good at coaching.
Have You Seen Michael Carter-Williams?
If Hinkie can nail the coach hire, and get a future franchise point guard with two of his first decisions, that should give you some confidence moving forward, right? Clearly, it’s pretty early, but I’m not certain any of us saw this coming with MCW.
Which leads us to…
In Hinkie We Trust
I’m serious. Think about this: you know ping pong balls are a good thing, right? You see all that’s going on, right? He sees it too. He hasn’t screwed up so far, so the guy has earned and continues to earn the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe Some Of These Players Are Good
Maybe bad coaching were a problem for Turner, Hawes and Young. Maybe the Grizzlies gave up on Tony Wroten too early. Maybe MCW is really this good. There are worse things to have, going into a year when you have two first round picks and a bunch of cap space than good players.
Houston Never Tanked
Take a look at the undefeated Houston Rockets, and tell me how many of their best players were obtained by Houston with top five draft picks? Still looking? Thought so. James Harden was acquired by being at the right place and the right time and having the best collection of assets that the Thunder were offered. Young assets and draft picks, like the Sixers have. Chandler Parsons was a second round pick and is signed for much less than his value. Dwight Howard, free agent impressed by the players, smart general manager and the culture. Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin? Free agents signed to smart contracts that made their original team unable to match. Even Patrick Beverly was a scrap-heap pickup.
Is getting a world-beater with a top draft pick a great way? Yes. But the more assets they acquire, the more theoretical ping pong balls in the game of the NBA they have to play with.
Ahem, MCW Wasn’t Even The Highest Rated Player Selected This Year By The Sixers
Remember Nerlens Noel? The guy who was supposed to have the talent to be the first pick in the draft? He could be pretty good. He hasn’t even played yet.
You Haven’t Even Seen Andrew Wiggins Play
There’s Not Much To Presently Do About It
You want the coach to coach to the best of his abilities, right?
The players to play hard, right?
The Suns And Magic Are Winning Games Too
It can happen to the worst (best) of us.
Don’t forget, the Magic had a four game winning streak last year, and finished with the worst record. The Bobcats started 7-5, and finished with the second worst record. The Cavs got the first pick and selected Anthony Bennett, who hasn’t made a shot yet.
The future is bright, Sixers fans. This winning thing may not last long, so enjoy it while it does.