Back on the Chain Gang: Ten Personnel Questions Regarding the Sixers This Off-Season

Back on the Chain Gang: Ten Personnel Questions Regarding the Sixers This Off-Season

With the new proposed CBA seemingly poised to pass with overwhelming numbers, it looks like this Friday will finally represent the beginning of what should be the most rapid-fire free agency period in NBA history. While the Sixers haven't been predicted to be one of the big movers and/or shakers in the off-season brouhaha, there are still plenty of questions facing the team that will need to be answered post haste, as they figure out what group of twelve players they're planning on trotting out when the season starts shortly after Christmas. Examples, you ask? Well, let's deal with ten of 'em.

1. Will the Sixers re-sign Thaddeus Young and/or Spencer Hawes?

All signs seem to point to them at least trying to retain both of their restricted free agents—Kate Fagan of Philly.com has all but promised that Thad will be back in a Sixers uni, and it seems highly unlikely that Hawes will find a team significantly more invested in his still largely unproven skills than the dismally size-depleted Liberty Ballers. The one wrinkle in this is the recently reported interest in Young from the Denver Nuggets, who have oodles of cap space (especially if big man Nene departs for lower altitude) and a run-and-gun offense in which Thad would certain thrive. If the Nugs can creep up into the double-digits in their yearly offer to Young, it might price the Sixers out of the discussion (for better or worse), but for now, you have to assume both players well end up back in the Red, White and Blue.

2. Will the Sixers amnesty any of the players on their roster?

One of the most intriguing wrinkles in the soon-to-pass CBA is the added Amnesty Clause, which allows teams the opportunity to waive a player in order to get their contract off their books, still paying the player the majority of their salary but having it not count against their cap space. Sixers fans understandably salivated at such news, thinking it might be an opportunity to get out from under the bloated contract of Elton Brand (2 years / $35 million), but think again: The team was reliant enough on Brand as a leader and consistent post threat last year that management (especially smitten coach Doug Collins) would never consent to his waiving, not to mention that the team is hardly flush enough in cash to afford paying a player tens of millions to play for another squad.

More likely an AC candidate is superfluous swingman Andres Nocioni, but even the nearly $7 million remaining on his contract isn't so toxic that the team can't swallow it for one year. More likely, the team will buy out Noc and allow him to maybe find a contender more in want of his services, while retaining the Amnesty Clause for more urgent use in a later season. (With this team's front office, you can never be too careful.)

3. Is Andre Iguodala still on the trading block?

Iguodala spent much of the pre-draft off-season representing one-half of many rumored trades—to the Clippers for Chris Kaman, to the Warriors for Monta Ellis, etc.—none of which, obviously, ended up coming to fruition. Now that the off-season is officially back on, it wouldn't be impossible to see 'Dre go back on the block, but so far, it's been quiet on the wires regarding the Sixers' most diverse and important player. With the shortened season and a lack of training camp, you have to think that the Sixers aren't going to make too many boat-rocking moves unless an opportunity they can't pass up presents itself, so in all likelihood, 'Dre will be starting the season as a Liberty Baller. Whether he ends it as one as well may end up being a question for a trade deadline column, however.

4. Who's the team looking at in terms of big men?

Well, nobody particularly sexy, so cross high-profile free agents Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol and the previously-mentioned Nene (all of whom should demand contracts far beyond the team's capabilites) off your wishlists right now. The team is mostly looking at veteran big men who can ably back up the likely returning Hawes and push rookie Nikola Vucevic for rotation minutes without costing too much or demanding too many years in the process. So think Kwame Brown, Erick Dampier, maybe returning European baller Bostjan Nachbar if we're lucky. Of course, there's one name floating around out there familiar to Sixers fans, who might be available to fill that role as well...

5. Holy crap, might the team actually end up bringing back Samuel Dalembert?

Hopefully not—you have to think that one of these contending teams in need of size and defense will overextend for Dalembert, a free agent after spending last season with the Kings, and price the Sixers out of the discussion. Still, Philly's been mentioned as a possible landing spot for the polarizing big man, especially if they end up amnestying Nocioni. So, suffice to say, the sooner the Sixers fill this role with someone who isn't Slammin' Sammy—a guy so frustrating to watch that most Sixers fans will always believe we won the Hawes trade just by getting rid of him—the easier we'll all sleep at night.

6. What else might the team be looking for in free agency?

Well, assuming Young and Hawes are retained, probably not much. The team could maybe use more of a pure point guard to back up Jrue Holiday, but with Lou Williams and Evan Turner capable of splitting the role (and Andre Iguodala assuming some of the responsibilities to begin with), the guy probably wouldn't see much more playing time than Antonio Daniels did at the end of last year. Most of the roster spots are already spoken for anyway, and young'ns like Vucevic and Craig Brackins should hopefully be pushing for the few remaining. Don't expect too much beyond one or two further veteran guys at the minimum, Dairus Songaila-like filler.

7. Is there a chance of Lou Williams getting traded?

A chance, but not a good one. Rumors were floating a week or so back that the team might be shopping Sweet Lou—his contract is hefty for a career backup, and it's hard to see exactly where he fits into the Sixers' long-term plans—but almost as quickly as they appeared, those rumors were shot down, and now it seems probable that just like the rest of the gang, Lou will back in tow for '11-'12.

8. Are the Sixers going to be involved in the sweepstakes for either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard?

I'm not even gonna answer that.

9. Whither Jason Kapono?

J-Kaps is already in the talks with a couple teams closer to contention—the Lakers, the Heat, the Knicks, etc.—to hopefully get one of their remaining roster slots at a veteran's minimum. Hopefully for Kapono, he'll be able to fulfill his role of Guy Who Stands in the Corner and Hits Wide-Open Threes When Asked more ably than he was in Philly, but regardless, he's no longer our problem—JK's days in Philly are almost certainl
y over. Bad news for the Kings, good news for the rest of us.

10. Can the Sixers take advantage of Ed Stefanski now serving as Toronto's VP of Basketball Operations the same way the Phillies have abused Ed Wade in Houston?

Only one way to find out: Call up the Raptors and offer them Brackins, Marreese Speights and Nocioni's expiring for Andrea Bargnani. We don't even necessarily want Bargnani, but it's just dumb enough a deal for the Raptors to make that we'll know for sure if Stefanski will be a Wade-esque resource for us north of the border. And then, the pillaging can begin.

Some impressive numbers for Joel Embiid's All-Star campaign

Some impressive numbers for Joel Embiid's All-Star campaign

Tonight, the All-Star starters will be announced on TNT. It is unlikely the East's starting five will include Joel Embiid -- he was only third among frontcourt fan voting at last check, and coaches and media will likely go with a safer choice (i.e. one that doesn't rank only eighth on his team in total minutes played) anyway. But I think we're officially at the point where it's absurd to think of JoJo possibly not getting considered at all, so before the reserves are announced a week from tonight, here's some numbers that tell the partial story of Embiid's dominance in his rookie season: 

107.1: The Sixers' overall defensive rating, tenth best in the NBA. 

99.3: The Sixers' defensive rating with Embiid on the court, first-best in the NBA. 

99.7: The Sixers' overall offensive rating, worst in the NBA. 

105.0: The Sixers' offensive rating with Embiid on the court, 15th best in the NBA. 

7.7: Embiid's block percentage, highest in the entire NBA. 

15.4: Embiid's assist percentage, third-highest on the Sixers (behind their two point guards).

10: Embiid's current streak of consecutive games with 20 points or more, longer than any Sixer since Iverson. 

7: Number of games where Embiid has shot more than ten free throws. 

4: Number of games last season where anyone on the Sixers shot more than ten more free throws. 

68: Embiid's (positive) plus-minus for the entire season. 

224: The Sixers' (negative) plus-minus for the entire season. 

42.5: Embiid's defensive FG% at the rim, highest for any center in the league. 

28.2: Embiid's scoring per 36 minutes, seventh best in the NBA. 

1: Number of other rookies who have ever scored at that rate before (Wilt Chamberlain). 

10: Number of wins the Sixers had all of last year. 

12: Number of wins, after last night's season-highlight win over the Raptors, that they have this year with Embiid in the lineup.

Eagles Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

Eagles Stay or Go Part 4: Chase Daniel to Dillon Gordon

In the fourth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 4 is Daniel to Gordon.

Chase Daniel
Cap hit: $8M

Roob: Carson Wentz’s backup had a heck of a year — completed all his passes, passer rating of 118.7, averaged 16 yards per attempt. Project that over a full season and Chase Daniel is going to Canton. OK, so he threw only one pass. But that’s two straight years Daniel has been perfect. Last year, he was 2 for 2 for the Chiefs. Most importantly, Daniel has a $7 million base salary in 2017, and that makes him the 25th-highest paid quarterback in the NFL in 2017, and the sixth-highest paid Eagle. The numbers are ridiculous, but Daniel is clearly a good influence on Wentz, a valuable mentor. He’s a solid backup, but that contract is just way too lucrative. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I know fans don’t understand why Daniel is getting paid this much money to be a backup who doesn’t ever play, and at times I have trouble figuring it out myself.  But here’s the reason. When Wentz arrives to the facility during the season at 5:15 a.m. and starts watching film, he’s not watching with Doug Pederson or Frank Reich or John DeFilippo. He’s watching it with Daniel. So while it might not make sense to pay a backup quarterback this much money, don’t think of Daniel as a backup quarterback. Think of him as an asset to the franchise quarterback. Then it doesn’t sound quite as bad. 

Verdict: STAYS

Anthony Denham

Roob: The Eagles must like Denham because he had two stints on the practice squad this year and they re-signed him to a futures deal when the season was over. But barring an injury, there just isn’t room on the roster for another tight end.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Denham is a tight end who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2016. Maybe he’d have a shot to make the roster if the Eagles aren’t able to bring back Trey Burton, but I don’t see that happening. They’ll bring him to camp and let him compete and maybe get another year on the practice squad. 

Verdict: GOES

Jon Dorenbos
Cap hit: $1.08M

Roob: Assuming he’s healthy, Dorenbos isn’t going anywhere. Rick Lovato did a nice job filling in at the end of the season, but until Dorenbos decides he wants to pursue magic full-time, there’s a spot for him on this roster.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: During last year’s training camp, I watched Dorenbos walk along the sideline, shaking hands and kissing babies (not literally). Then I looked on the field and saw his “competition” snapping footballs repeatedly to a goal post. That’s when I realized Dorenbos wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And now he has a new contract. He’ll end up playing more games as an Eagle than anyone in the history of the franchise. 

Verdict: STAYS

Zach Ertz
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: Even though he had the second-most catches in the entire NFL over the last 10 weeks of the season, a large segment of Eagles fans have decided Ertz is to blame for everything that went wrong with the Eagles this year. Never mind that he got off to a good start on opening day, then suffered a very serious rib injury, then came back after missing just two games, then after getting healthy finished the season with 67 catches for 685 yards and four TDs in the last 10 games. Not the last one or two or three games. The last 10 games. With a full offseason and preseason with Wentz, I fully expect Ertz to finish 2017 well over 1,000 yards. 

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: I don’t understand the Zach Ertz hate. He isn’t Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce. So what? He’s a really good tight end. Now, I understood why some people questioned the non-block play. I was one of them. But look at the numbers. Here’s a list of tight ends who had more receiving yards than Ertz in 2016: Kelce, Greg Olsen, Jimmy Graham, Kyle Rudolph. Not bad company. And some look at his production and say, well, it all came in December. Maybe there will be a year in which his late-season production finally helps the Eagles with a playoff push. And he just signed a new contract, so he’s here for a while. 

Verdict: STAYS

Najee Goode
Unrestricted free agent

Roob: Goode, an unrestricted free agent, is a capable special teamer and emergency backup linebacker, but he would earn $775,000 even on a minimum-wage deal in 2017, and considering the Eagles’ salary cap crunch, they may elect to replace him with a rookie late-round pick or undrafted guy who would earn about $300,000 less. Based on ability, he would stay. But those mid-career veterans with high minimum salaries who don’t play much on offense or defense can be tough to keep around.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: In each of the last two seasons, Goode has managed to be on the team after missing out on the original 53-man roster. Maybe that’s a possibility for this season, but first the Eagles need to re-sign him. It might be time to move on from Goode and find a younger linebacker/special teamer. 

Verdict: GOES

Dillon Gordon
Cap hit: $543M

Roob: Gordon is an intriguing prospect. Like Jason Peters, he was a college tight end who moved to offensive tackle soon after arriving in the NFL. He’s big and strong and athletic, he’s just very new at offensive tackle. The Eagles liked him enough to keep him on the active roster all last year, and I’m guessing they see him as enough of a prospect that they’ll keep him around for at least another year. Especially with so many question marks at offensive tackle.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: Gordon was on the Eagles’ roster for the entire season and was inactive in all but one week. He was a college tight end who came to Philly and is learning how to play offensive tackle. (Peters once made the same transition.) Gordon is crazy athletic for his size and the Eagles thought enough of him to put him on the active roster instead of risking losing him by placing him on the practice squad. He’s a project, but one worth keeping. 

Verdict: STAYS