Numbers of Note from the Sixers' pre-season

Numbers of Note from the Sixers' pre-season

We're over halfway done with the Sixers' exhibition season, and while it's not necessarily worth going too deep into the analysis for each and every game at this point--especially when they lose by 56 combined points over the course of two contests--there are definitely some trends still worth noting. Here's some of the numbers, good and bad, that have stood out most to me across these five games, that tell us most about how this Sixers team has been doing, and how they might do once the season tips off in earnest two Wednesdays from now.

Michael Carter Williams: 25 assists, 7 turnovers. MCW's shooting/scoring numbers have been predictably erratic this pre-season--about 8.5 points a game on 39% shooting and 30% from deep, which is probably even a slightly optimistic projection for his numbers in the season to come--but his passing numbers have really been quite impressive. Through the first three games, he had racked up 16 assists to just one turnover, and though those numbers have evened a little in the last two games, a 25:7 (about 3.5:1) assist/TO ratio for a point guard is still very respectable, and shows how reliable Carter-Williams can be as the team's primary ball-handler and decision-maker.

(I've generally been quite impressed with MCW this pre-season, his on-ball defense and his creating for others really standing out in most of the games. I certainly don't think he'll help us win games right away, but i could see him being a very solid game-managing PG for a better Sixers team a couple years down the road.)

James Anderson: 11 threes in 23 attempts. Projected as our starting two to start the season, James Anderson has excelled in the most important area for his position and role--three-point shooting, rightfully expected to be a major weakness of this team going into the season. JA has provided a very good J-Rich facsimile through five pre-season games, hitting nearly half of his attempts from downtown, and nailing at least two in every game so far. He runs to the right spots, and the ball is delivered--usually from MCW, who's done a nice job of spotting him in the half-court--he doesn't hesitate.

Still only 24 and with some additional complementary scoring skills, if his shooting stroke remains this steady, Anderson could be a really nice asset for this team--either as a role player going forward, or as a trade chip at the deadline or in the off-season. Here's hoping he doesn't go the way of Maalik Wayns once the season starts.

Tony Wroten: 28 free throws in 36 attempts. I'm not even as concerned with the number or percentage of FTs converted for Wroten--though the 78% he's been shooting for the line is certainly well above the 58% he shot his one full year in college, which is good to see. Far more important, however, is the number of FTs attempted--36, over seven a game, in only about 24 minutes a game. That's good foul drawing by just about any standard, but for the Sixers, it's practically Chamberlain-ian--by contrast, Jrue Holiday led the team last year in FTAs a game with an impossibly meager 3.1 a game, in nearly 38 minutes a contest.

Wroten's aggressiveness, particularly in transition, appears to be his most valuable attribute to this Sixers team that has so badly struggled to earn free points at the line these last few years. That quality alone should assure that T-Wrote gets plenty of minutes in the rotation this year, even if the second-year Washington guard remains pretty raw in some other areas.

Tony Wroten: 15 assists, 18 turnovers. Of course, if you were thinking that maybe he should be starting at point guard over Michael Carter-Williams...maybe think a second time on that. As good as Wroten has been pushing the ball and getting to the line, he's been just as bad when it comes to decision-making, especially involving his teammates. The Sixers' game against the Celtics was the only time this pre-season that Wroten racked up more assists than turnovers, and yesterday, against the Bobcats, he gave the ball away a team pre-season-high six times.

Wroten's combination of questionable passing instincts and poor outside shooting--he did manage to shoot 4-8 from deep against the Thunder, but has gone 1-12 on treys in the four other games--means he might never be a starter in this league, but if he can keep the mistakes down and the aggressiveness up as a change-of-pace guard off the bench, he could still be a real contributor this year and beyond. Coach Brett Brown will have his work cut out with T. Wrote this year, for sure.

Evan Turner: 79 points.. ET is gonna be the unquestioned first scoring option for this team this year, and as disastrous as that recipe has been sporadically throughout his first three years in the league, the pre-season returns thusfar have been surprisingly undismal. ET's averaging nearly 20 a game in pre-season minutes--though Coach Brown has occasionally been leaving him in there for a full 36--on about 47% shooting, also averaging nearly eight free throws a game, which again, Wilt Chamberlain. He's been aggressive getting to his spots, he's shot and maneuvered with confidence, he's still grabbing seven boards a game, he's conducted himself as a leader off the court...it's been a pretty impressive pre-season showing for the Extraterrestrial.

Of course, the better and more professional Evan looks on the floor this season, the more likely it is that Brown and Sam Hinkie and company will be grooming him for a mid-season trade--not to mention that with Evan, we've learned that the bottom could always fall out at a moment's notice, meaning we probably shouldn't let ourselves get too accustomed to this Evan who looks like a truly competent scoring threat. Still, it's always fun to watch ET succeed, and if he can continue to play his way off this crappy Sixers team in the regular season, it'll bring a big ol' smile to my face with every drained off-balance 16-footer.

The Sixers in the first half against the Charlotte Bobcats: 28 points. Of course, if the Sixers do start trading Evan and their other veterans, prepare for some truly abysmal basketball. As bad as the pre-season has occasionally been with Evan, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes in the lineup, without them yesterday in Charlotte, the Sixers barely even registered as a Summer League team, and played accordingly, making the Bobbers look like the '01 Lakers by comparison.

I think the lesson here with MCW, who went 4-12 with five assists, five rebounds and three TOs against Charlotte, is that he's more useful the more talented players he has on his team to work with, and when he's gotta run the show on his own, it's not gonna end pretty. Maybe that's the point of this tanktastic season, anyway, but I hope he doesn't have to play too many games like this in the pros--his psyche might not survive until the days where we could actually use him to be good.

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Cubs 4, Phillies 1

BOX SCORE

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs continue to dominate the Phillies with extra-base hits and terrific starting pitching.
 
They beat the Phils for the second day in a row Saturday. The final score at Wrigley Field was 4-1. Right-hander Kyle Hendricks went the distance for the win. The Phils scored in the ninth inning to avoid a shutout.
 
The Phils have been held to two or fewer runs 18 times and one or fewer 11 times. They are averaging just 3.22 runs per game.
 
The Cubs, who lead the majors with 33 wins, have stroked nine extra-base hits in the first two games of the series and four of them have been homers. The Phils have just three extra-base hits, all doubles. One was a misplay by the Cubs’ outfield.
 
The Phillies are 1-4 on this six-game road trip, which started in Detroit.
 
The Phils have lost six of their last eight games and are now just three games over .500 at 26-23.
 
Starting pitching report
Eickhoff was not nearly as efficient as he was in his previous start when he threw just 85 pitches in seven innings in a 5-0 win over Atlanta. This time, Eickhoff threw a season-high 109 pitches over six innings. He gave up eight hits, four for extra bases and four runs. He walked one and struck out seven.
 
Eickhoff was tagged for three extra-bases hits in the first inning, a home run and two doubles. For the season, Eickhoff is 2-7 with a 4.07 ERA.
 
Hendricks held the Phillies to five hits, three of which were singles. He was not overpowering, but his command was exceptional. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven while throwing just 104 pitches.
 
Jon Lester held the Phillies to one earned run in 6⅓ innings Friday.
 
Bullpen report
The Cubs didn’t need one. Andrew Bailey and Elvis Araujo pitched scoreless ball for the Phillies.
 
At the plate
The Phillies had just five hits. Ryan Howard returned to the starting lineup and went 0 for 4 to drop to .154.
 
The Cubs, who hit three home runs Friday, got their power game going early as Dexter Fowler led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo homer against Eickhoff. Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist both doubled in the inning as the Cubs went up 2-0 in the first. Heyward doubled home a run in the second inning.
 
Up next
The Phillies and Cubs close out the series Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75) pitches for the Phillies against right-hander John Lackey (4-2, 3.83).
 
The Phillies return home Monday night to open a 10-game homestand that will see Washington, Milwaukee and the Cubs comes to town.

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

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USA Today Images

Police: Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones shot and killed in Dallas

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans rookie Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot after breaking down the door to a Dallas apartment, authorities said Saturday.

Officers were called early Saturday and found the 23-year-old player collapsed in an outdoor passageway, Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said in a statement. Dejean-Jones was taken to a hospital where he died.

A person living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, Black said. The man retrieved a handgun and fired when Dejean-Jones began kicking the bedroom door.

Dejean-Jones was from Los Angeles and it wasn't immediately clear why he was in Dallas.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life (and) who had such a promising future ahead of him," the Pelicans said in a statement.

In his only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

He was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone. He also played at Southern California and UNLV.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

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USA Today Images

Stanley Cup: Offseason moves send Sharks to final after missing playoffs

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- After watching the San Jose Sharks miss the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade, general manager Doug Wilson set out to remake the team last offseason.

Individually, none of the moves sent shockwaves through the NHL. The Sharks hired a coach who made the playoffs once in seven seasons as an NHL coach, traded a first-round pick for a goalie who had been a backup his entire career, added two playoff-tested veterans for depth at forward and defense and signed an unheralded Finnish rookie.

Together, the additions of Peter DeBoer, Martin Jones, Joel Ward, Paul Martin and Joonas Donskoi to a solid core that had underachieved proved to be the right mix to get the Sharks to their long-awaited first Stanley Cup Final appearance.

"I thought this team has a lot of the pieces of that puzzle," Martin said. "Doug did a great job bringing guys in that he did, to make that push for it. I don't think many people would have guessed that we'd be here right now, but I think we believed."

The players all said the disappointment of blowing a 3-0 series lead to Los Angeles in 2014 and then missing the playoffs entirely last season served as fuel for this season's success.

DeBoer also credited former coach Todd McLellan for helping put the foundation in place that he was able to capitalize on. The Sharks became the second team in the past 10 seasons to make it to the final after missing the playoffs the previous season, joining the 2011-12 Devils that pulled off the same trick in DeBoer's first season in New Jersey.

"Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different," DeBoer said. "The additions that Doug made, it just came together. I inherited a similar team in New Jersey when I went in there. First time they missed the playoffs for a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like I was with this group ... they're embarrassed by the year they just had, and they're willing to do and buy into whatever you're selling to get it fixed again. I think I was the benefactor of that."

The transition from McLellan to DeBoer wasn't seamless. As late as Jan. 8, the Sharks were in 13th place in the 14-team Western Conference and seemingly on the way to another missed postseason.

But with Logan Couture finally healthy after being slowed by a broken leg early in the season and the move by DeBoer to put Tomas Hertl on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, the Sharks rolled after that and made the playoffs as the third-place team in the Pacific Division.

In-season additions of players like depth forwards Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling, physical defenseman Roman Polak and backup goaltender James Reimer helped put the Sharks in the position they are now.

"With the new coaching staff we needed to realize how we needed to play to win," Thornton said. "Once that clicked, and that probably clicked maybe early December, I think after that, we just exploded. I think that's really when we saw the depth of this team. Everybody plays a big part."

That has been especially true in the playoffs when longtime core players like Thornton, Couture, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau got the support that had often been lacking during past postseason disappointments.

Jones has posted three shutouts in the playoffs, including the Game 7 second-round clincher against Nashville and back-to-back games in the conference final against St. Louis. He has proven more than capable of being an NHL starter after serving an apprenticeship as Jonathan Quick's backup in Los Angeles.

Ward scored two goals in each of the final two games of the conference final and has 11 points this postseason. Donskoi exceeded expectations just to make the team as a rookie and has solidified his spot on the second line with five goals and nine points.

Martin's steady play has allowed offensive-minded defenseman Brent Burns to roam at times and given San Jose a strong second defensive pair that had been missing in previous seasons.

Zubrus and Spaling played a big role as penalty killers and on the fourth line, while Polak has been one of the team's most physical players.

"Doug did a great job this summer, this season," Couture said. "A lot of credit needs to go to him for the guys he brought in."