A Summary of the Sixers' Likely Draft Prospects

A Summary of the Sixers' Likely Draft Prospects

For a number of reasons—the excellent post-season that just finished, the looming threat of a lockout, the relatively weak pool of talent to choose from—the 2011 NBA draft has been the least-buzzed-about draft the sport has seen in recent memory. Though there's some intrigue due to the inevitable surge of trade rumors around this time of the year (none the least of which involving our own Andre Iguodala), the lack of any real marquee names and the involvement of a whole lot of unknown quantities in this draft has taken a lot of the sizzle out of it—and that's for the teams drafting at the top. For our beloved Philadelphia 76ers, selecting this year with the 16th and 50th pick, things are even more muddled and less exciting.

All this is sort of my long way of saying "Sorry about not writing about the draft more this year, but I didn't really care all that much and neither should you probably." I will be going to the Prudential Center in Secaucus, New Jersey (the Prude, as I like to call it) tomorrow to attend said draft, but barring some sort of home-run trade-up—which is fairly rare in the NBA, especially for the Sixers—I don't expect the outcome of the evening to have a terribly large impact on the Sixers' future. Like my father has taken to saying recently, "Having the 16th pick in the draft gets you Marreese Speights." In other words, whoever the Sixers draft—especially from a historically weak class like this—is far more likely to be a role player that flashes in and out of the rotation than a legitimate building block.

Of course, every so often, the 16th pick can also get you Jrue Holiday, so it's still worth talking a look at the likely candidates for selection, and contemplating which might be the best fit for the Sixers. Here's a look at five of the players most likely to be called by David Stern with the 76ers' logo in the background tomorrow night.

Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas (pictured above):

Right now, Hamilton looks like the clear favorite to be the Sixers' golden boy on draft night. Ken Berger of CBS Sports wrote today about him going to the Sixers like it was already a done deal, and Chad Ford has had the Sixers taking him pretty much since he started doing this year's mock-drafting. The main asset Hamilton has to offer the Sixers is shooting—39% from deep in his sophomore year at Texas—which at his height (somewhere between 6'7" and 6'9") and position could be a real boon to the team if Andre Iguodala is traded and Evan Turner still needs some work on his jumper next season. Drafting Hamilton wouldn't solve the team's primary need (size/interior presence) and might make for a glut at the wing if Thaddeus Young is resigned and 'Dre sticks around, but otherwise, he's an interesting fit.

Markieff Morris, PF/C, Kansas:

Kansas prospects always seem like the hardest to gauge in terms of pro potential, because their teams are always so loaded with talent and they end up playing such a system brand of basketball. That said, many are high on Markieff Morris, who averaged 14 and 8 for Kansas last year on 58% shooting as the team's primary interior presence, along with brother Marcus, who is seen as slightly more talented and projected to go in the lottery. Markieff is known for being a good defender, something the Sixers desperately need down low, but might be a little lacking on the offensive end (though he does have a steadily improving jumper). He's also slightly undersized for a center, making it unlikely that he's the long-term solution in the middle. Kate Fagan refers to Markieff as "the safe selection," saying he "quiets those fans chanting for a rebounder," but qualifying that he "possesses, perhaps, the least amount of upside at the No. 16 spot." Probably true, but as Fagan also points out, this might not be the draft to reach for a home-run guy when "a solid single would do."

Nikola Vucevic, C, USC:

An enticing prospect for the Sixers namely due to his height—at about seven feet with a nine-and-a-half-foot wingspan, Vucevic probably the longest player in an undersized draft, and of course, the Sixers need big guys more than just about anything else. Vucevic is a solid player on both ends of the court, showing a nice touch around the basket and averaging a block-and-a-half per game in his Junior season at USC. The main drawback with him, though, is his athleticism—his vertical leap has been measured as being worse than a good deal of guards in the draft class, and his lateral foot-speed has been questioned, two qualities which set off red flags for the guy being a potential stiff. He might still be worth a dice-roll for a team that occasionally played Thaddeus Young at center last year, but the lack of athleticism hardly makes him a natural fit for a team whose identity is centered largely around young legs.

Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas:

Another Longhorn forward linked to the Sixers has been the solid Tristan Thompson, a player with good athleticism, good measurements, a good knack for rebounding and defense and a good game around the basket. Of course, you might be able to deduce from the overuse of the word "good" in that sentence that the main problem with Thompson is that he doesn't appear to be great at any one particular thing—and the last time we drafted a guy like that, at a pick much higher than #16, it turned out more interestingly than we would have liked. Still, people love Thompson's motor, and it seems fairly likely that he'd be a good bench contributor for the Sixers, maybe like a slightly less-explosive version of the Bulls' Taj Gibson, or perhaps even our old friend Reggie Evans.

Justin Harper, PF, Richmond:

Harper is getting some buzz as the sleeper pick for the Sixers, as he apparently wowed the team with his attitude in workouts, and he has a nice shooting stroke, hitting 44% of his threes last year at Richmond. He seems a little bit like the reverse Thaddeus Young—like Thad, he's a long, athletic stretch four, but whereas Thad has no faith in his jumper and spends most of his time looking for ways to the basket, Harper is all about the jumper, and occasionally forgets to attack the rim. The best-case scenario for Harper, as cited by Fagan, is that he turns into a Rashard Lewis-type, but with his Lewis-like flaws—weak defender, poor body strength, no interior game—Liberty Ballers says that in all likelihood, Harper is "not a consideration unless the Sixers get a second draft pick."

Also Garnering C
onsideration:

Donatas Matiejunas, PF, Lithuania
Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
Tyler Honeycutt, SG/SF, UCLA

Would Be Cool if They Somehow Fell to Us:

Bismack Biyombo, PF, Congo
Klay Thompson, PG, Washington State
Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
Enes Kanter, C, Turkey

Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

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Flyers, Brayden Schenn agree to 4-year contract

The Flyers and restricted free agent Brayden Schenn agreed to a four-year contract Monday morning to avoid arbitration.

According to TSN's Bob McKenzie, the contract carries a $5.125 million annual average value, which is closer to the $5.5 million Schenn asked for in arbitration than the Flyers offered. Schenn recently turned down a two-year deal with an AAV of $4.30 million, according to CSNPhilly.com Flyers Insider Tim Panaccio.

Schenn, 24, is coming off a career season in which he scored 26 goals, 33 assists and 59 points, all career-highs.

(More coming …)

Are the Eagles the most boring team in the NFC East?

Are the Eagles the most boring team in the NFC East?

If the Hinkie Era in Philadelphia has been good for one thing (it’s been good for more than one thing), it’s showing us that being the worst or least talented team is completely different than being the most boring team. Being the most boring team is far worse than being the worst team. 

What sports really boils down to is the entertainment factor. That’s it. If there’s a compelling storyline and something happening worth watching, it’s doesn’t really matter who’s winning or losing.

When it comes to the NFC East, differentiating “boring” and “worst” matters. It matters because the entire division is complete garbage. It’s unlikely that any of these four teams is going to win a single playoff game this year, let alone the Super Bowl. In fact, the NFC East hasn’t even had a repeat division champ in over a decade. It’s just a bunch of average teams fighting for a wild card spot, with an occasional anomaly like a 12-4 Cowboys season or a Giants Super Bowl victory after going 9-7.

What matters most in the NFC East, as of late, has been the stories. It’s a bit of a bummer to think about this now because, just one year ago, the Eagles weren’t just the most exciting team in the division--they were probably the most exciting team in the entire NFL. There were so many storylines: the power struggle between Chip and Howie, the explosion of the roster, the unknown surrounding Sam Bradford, the excitement of the rushing champion switching allegiances from the Cowboys, the supposed genius of the coach who we hadn’t realized the league had caught up to yet, the national pundits picking the Birds to win the Super Bowl. There were different and exciting things happening and it was just an exciting time to be a fan.

It’s crazy how quickly things change. One exhausting year later, almost no one (besides us) is talking about the Eagles. No one cares about Doug Pederson, Sam Bradford, and what’s going on at the NovaCare Complex anymore.

Which begs me to ask the question: Have the Eagles really become the most boring team in the NFC East? I really hope not, but folks, it’s not looking good.

Let’s just a quick look at some of the storylines floating around the division at the moment:

The Redskins

It might be because they’re fresh off of a division-winning season (albeit a 9-7 division-winning season), but the Redskins probably have the East’s most exciting team heading into camp.

Think about it. If anything, over the past few years, the Redskins have been fun to watch only for the fact that they’ve been the joke of the league. A totally incompetent owner wrapped up in defending his team’s racist name, a general manager being publicly accused of his affair with a reporter, and a prima donna quarterback hated by his teammates have been the sparks leading the dumpster fire.

Today, they’re compelling to watch for different reasons. They were able to pick up Josh Norman in the offseason, 2015’s best cornerback. This not only means the team’s secondary will improve in a division with some of the league’s best wide receivers, it means fans will get to watch the Norman vs. Odell Beckham Jr. rivalry unfold twice a year--a rivalry so intense it led to suspensions last season.

The team was also able to finally convince it’s delusional owner that the aforementioned prima donna quarterback was no longer worth a spot on the roster and they cut him in hopes to rebuild a healthy locker room.

His replacement, Kirk Cousins, had a pretty good final stretch of the 2015 season, putting up some pretty good numbers against a slew of teams with losing records. Because he beat a bunch of terrible teams and led his team to 9-7, Redskins management decided to hit him with the franchise tag, an action that will cost them about $20 million dollars. It makes sense. If he fails, they get to let him walk without spending anymore. If he succeeds, then it’ll be worth it and the team can work to extend him long term.

Redskins fans will be watching in hopes that all of these pieces will fall into place accordingly and carry them through an exciting season to another division title. The rest of us will be watching for the reason that it’s all likely to crash and burn. We’ll be watching nonetheless.

The Giants

As much as I hate to say it, the Giants will never be boring to watch so long as they have one player on their team: Odell Beckham Jr. I can’t stand the guy personally. Can’t. Stand. Him. I can’t stand the corny dances he does on the field before games, I can’t stand his severe lack of sportsmanship and respect for other other players on the field, I can’t stand the stupid flashy one-handed catches where it’s just as reasonable to use two, and I can’t stand his stupid face.

All of that being said, the dude is arguably the most exciting player to watch in all of football and rarely plays a game that lacks one electrifying play or another. He single-handedly saved Tom Coughlin an extra year after emerging mid season as a rookie and hasn’t really let up since. Seeing his rival Josh Norman twice a year now only increases that.

Let’s also not forget that the Giants probably made the biggest splash in this year’s free agency. The team managed to spend nearly $230 million in contracts over seven total players headlined by Janoris Jenkins, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison. This is all in addition to the signing of their new head coach Ben McAdoo, who Eagles fans shouldn’t forget was one of our top choices for Pederson’s job.

Eagles fans can appreciate the sentiment behind all of these big moves, having been wooed by the romance of a couple of supposed “dream teams” in recent years. Those who watch the Giants are excited to take a big step forward. Others are excited to see them learn the lesson that great NFL teams are rarely built through free agency.

The Cowboys

Here’s the hard part. Showing some appreciation for the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll try and keep this brief.

No matter which way you spin it, the Cowboys team has some personality that people enjoy. They have Tony Romo, the quarterback that people love to hate, Jerry Jones trying to coach the team from the owner’s box, and Dez Bryant either making ridiculous plays or throwing a tantrum on the sideline. It was a spectacle when they went 12-4 and it was a spectacle when they went 4-12.

Tony Romo is projected to be the fourth oldest starting quarterback in the league this year. He broke his clavicle twice last year and has had more back surgeries that I can count on both hands. Even so, the year before last he proved that when playing healthy and to his potential, the Cowboys can be a playoff caliber team. Everyone will be watching closely to see if that happens because, obviously, America loves when America’s team does well as much as America loves when America’s team fails.

I’ve also got to admit that I’m intrigued by the potential of Ezekiel Elliott. In the long run, he was realistically awful value at the number four pick overall given the career length of the average running back, the position’s expendability in today’s league, and the plethora of good running backs in next year’s draft, but running behind their line he’ll probably be a stud fantasy player and likely Rookie of the Year candidate.

If anything else, the Cowboys are exciting to watch for the regular suspensions being dished out to their defensive line that apparently can’t stop smoking weed.

The Eagles

This brings us to the Eagles. The most exciting things happening are Fletcher Cox’s mega-contract and the fact that Howie Roseman was able to finagle his way up the draft board to get a top quarterback coming out in Carson Wentz.

I’ll admit I’m ecstatic about the Cox extension and the bold move to get a potential franchise quarterback, but with watching Cox play being nothing new and reports surfacing that Wentz will spend his rookie season redshirted, what are Eagles fans really getting excited about right now?

Is it Doug Pederson, potentially the most boring head coach hire in the history of the NFL? Is it Sam Bradford, the quarterback who has never had a winning season yet essentially said he doesn’t want to be here if he’s not going to be “the guy?” Are fans excited about the fact the team had to fire Chip Kelly, a compelling character who once took the league by storm, and basically start from scratch?

Name one guy on the Eagles roster besides their long-snapper that doesn’t have the personality of a bathtub.

I get that it’s essentially looking like a transition year to the future and in the long run, the Eagles will probably be better off, but are they the only team that doesn’t have a clear cut guy to take in the first like five rounds of a fantasy football draft?

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles don’t get a single look on SportsCenter before the preseason. I think Jim Schwartz’s defense will turn some heads once real gameplay begins, but as of now, there’s really just not much to get excited about in the Eagles’ immediate future.

The Birds are certainly not the worst team in the division by any means. Hell, I wouldn’t even be completely surprised if they won it. But, right now, in this moment, they might be the NFC East’s most boring team heading into training camp.

Feel free to yell at me in the comments.

Inside Doop: Union limp home after brutal week

Inside Doop: Union limp home after brutal week

It’s time for the Union to get some rest — and try to forget what happened over the past few days.

On Saturday night, the Union suffered their worst loss of the MLS season just four days after getting knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup in crushing fashion.

What went wrong on the road trip? And how can they move on from such a brutal week? We’ll examine in the latest edition of the Inside Doop:

Three thoughts from the past week
1. Following last Sunday’s 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls, Union head coach Jim Curtin sort of dismissed the idea of “squad rotation” while several players praised the team’s fitness for being able to rally from two goals back to tie New York. And it was true that the Union had successfully managed busy weeks for much of the last two months. But even the most fit and deep team would have struggled with what followed for the Union, who lost in an Open Cup shootout in New England after playing 120 minutes before then leaving the country to face the star-studded Montreal Impact, who drubbed them 5-1. Curtin said he wouldn’t use the grueling schedule as an excuse, but it’s certainly obvious that it played a big role.

2. Before saying he would “tear up the tape” from the rout in Montreal, Curtin candidly stated the team was “beat by stars.” That’s certainly true as the ageless African legend Didier Drogba netted his second MLS hat trick and standout Argentine playmaker Ignacio Piatti assisted on two of those goals and also scored one of his own. Perhaps in the subtext of that statement is this: the Union don’t really have any true stars of their own (except perhaps a rising one in goalkeeper Andre Blake), and while they’ve won a lot of games this season by playing well as a unit, sometimes the talent gap can be too much to overcome.

3. There’s no sense analyzing too much of how the Impact were able to score five times in a single game. Everyone along Philly’s backline played poorly and even typically surefire midfielders like Tranquillo Barnetta didn’t do enough to slow down the Montreal attack as the floodgates opened. But the fact that it came just four days after the Union had a bad breakdown to leave a player wide open on a free kick and let New England score basically an uncontested goal is troublesome. And that came just three days after the team gave up two goals at home. In other words, you can be sure a defensive-minded coach like Curtin will work to correct some of these glaring issues moving forward. Speaking of which …  

Three questions for the week ahead
1.
For a team that’s worked tirelessly on its fitness, sometimes even training twice in the same day, this week will start in somewhat of a unique way: the Union will get Monday and Tuesday off. It’s certainly understandable why Curtin wants his players to get time away from soccer after an arduous 11-game-in-39-day stretch. But will it help reenergize and galvanize the group heading into Sunday’s home game against Real Salt Lake (7 p.m., CSN)?

2. One player to keep an eye on during this week is Maurice Edu. The Union captain has yet to play this season because of a stress fracture but recently returned to the training field. Curtin has stressed the midfielder still needs time to get his fitness back up to where it should be, but there’s no question his return would give the team a big boost at a time when such a thing is needed. Could we see him get on the field, perhaps off the bench, in Sunday’s game?

3. Two players that won’t be with the Union for most of the week are goalkeeper Andre Blake and right back Keegan Rosenberry — and for good reason. The team’s two young rising stars made Thursday’s All-Star Game and traveled to San Jose today to begin preparations for the contest that features the top MLS players vs. English Premier League power Arsenal. Seeing how the two players both perform — and how much playing time they get — in such a marquee matchup will certainly be fun for Union fans. But either way, the fact both players simply got there so early in their careers is quite an accomplishment.

Quote of the week
“We've been a group that's been together and has been a team all year, and that's why we've had some success. Tonight we were beat by stars. Drogba and Piatti were unstoppable.”

-- Union head coach Jim Curtin

Stat of the week
Saturday’s 5-1 loss was the Union’s worst since they lost by the same scoreline to the L.A. Galaxy on June 20, 2015.

Player of the week
It sort of got lost in the general frustration of the week but rookie Fabian Herbers did a lot of damage off the bench, scoring his first career U.S. Open Cup goal in dramatic fashion before getting a secondary assist on Philly’s only goal Saturday. Did he earn himself a start coming up?