Sixers player evaluation: Dorell Wright

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Sixers player evaluation: Dorell Wright

Dorell Wright

Position: Small forward

Status: Unrestricted free agent

Signature game of 2012-13
Wright played some of his best basketball toward the end of the year, posting double-digit points in each of the Sixers’ final five games (three of which were wins). His best overall outing, however, came in late December against the Grizzlies in Memphis. Wright scored a season-high 28 points, hitting 8 of 11 from the field (including five three-pointers to shoot a sizzling 72.7 percent from the field) and 7 of 8 free throws. Wright also added six rebounds and two blocks in the road win.

Wright in 2012-13
It was a tough year for Wright. When he was with the Warriors back in the 2010-11 season, he led the NBA in three-pointers made and attempted. And in two years with Golden State, he started all 143 games in which he appeared.

He wasn’t nearly as successful or valued with the Sixers. Wright started only eight of 79 games in his first season in Philadelphia. Wright shot 37.4 percent from three-point range, which was better than his career average of 36.7 percent. But his field goal percentage dipped to 39.6 percent, by far his worst mark over a full season since entering the NBA.

As a result, Wright’s minutes per game also dropped. He averaged 22.6 minutes, the least he’s played since his final season with the Miami Heat in 2009-10 when he started only one of 72 games.

“I call it the NBA. It’s a roller coaster,” Wright said in mid-March. “Sometimes there are going to be highs and sometimes there’s going to be lows. The thing about it is you beat the lows and try to have as many highs as possible. I understand it. I’ve been through a lot with ups and downs as far as playing time and my efficiency and things like that. So I just have to go out there and continue to play hard and whatever happens, happens.”

Wright’s efficiency rating was 161st in the NBA. While not great, it was 56 spots better than often-useless teammate Nick Young. There are several reasons for that, including Wright taking 1.6 fewer shots per game than Young (while averaging just 1.4 fewer points). Wright is also a better rebounder (he averaged 3.8 per game) and he plays some defense.

Prospectus
It wasn’t a good season for Wright. He certainly regressed. But there was a faction within the Sixers' organization that believed Wright underperformed because, at times, he was forgotten or marginalized.

As with others who have played for head coach Doug Collins, Wright periodically fell out of favor and ended up buried on the bench for long stretches of games. During one span from late-January to late-February, Wright played 16 or fewer minutes in 10 of 16 games. And in six of those outings, Wright played single-digit minutes or not at all.

Wright made $4.1 million on a one-year deal with the Sixers. It’s hard to imagine him commanding much more than that on the open market this offseason considering his unspectacular recent production. The question is whether Wright can return to form, or at least improve his shooting, if he’s afforded more consistent playing time under a new coach.

On Dorell Wright
“I’m going to continue to stay positive. I played for Pat Riley. He was always trying to test you on the mental approach to the game and made sure you stayed strong mentally.”

--Dorell Wright, March 12, 2013

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.8 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).