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.

5 potential candidates for Temple's head coach job

5 potential candidates for Temple's head coach job

The reality is still setting in for Temple fans as Matt Rhule, the beloved leader of the school’s football team who helped bring the program out of the doldrums and give it a sense of legitimacy, is no longer an Owl.

He’s now a Bear. A Baylor Bear, to be exact. 

Rhule on Tuesday morning accepted the head coaching position at Baylor University, a cold reminder in so many ways that college sports is a business (see story).

He reportedly received at seven-year deal after accumulating a 28-23 record in four seasons at the helm of Temple’s program and leading the Owls to this season’s AAC championship, the first conference title for the program since 1967 and just its second ever.

But Temple athletic director Pat Kraft and his administration have no time to let reality sink in. Their reality is that the search for a new coach has already begun.

So that begs this multi-million dollar question: Who are the candidates to take over for Rhule?

Kraft didn’t get into specifics when he met with the media Tuesday at the Liacouras Center, but he did share some of the criteria he’s looking for in a new head coach.

"It has to be a good man," Kraft said Tuesday. "You've got to be able to recruit this area. You've got to be really strong there.

"This is not just and X's and O's job. This is bigger. It's a vocation almost. It's about working with some really, really good young men and continuing to bring in really, really good young men.

"To find someone that dynamic is important. But at the end of the day, we just have to find the right fit for us. I think that comes with the evolution of our program and where we are and where we are on the national stage. That's important to the program. You need someone who's engaged in the community in the Philadelphia market. It's a competitive market."

So with that in mind, who are some candidates who could fit what Kraft is looking for? Let’s take a deeper look.

(Author’s note: I’d like to stress none of the following is sourced information from anyone within or close to the program. The following are people who I believe could be a fit based on what Kraft said on Tuesday.)

Joe Moorhead – Offensive coordinator, Penn State
After the incredible season the Big Ten champ Nittany Lions have put together, Moorhead was going to be a hot name in coaching circles no matter what. And now his popularity gets kicked up to another level with a local opening.

In his only year with the reins of PSU’s offense, Moorhead has masterminded a prolific attack that averages 36.7 points per game (third in the Big Ten, 25th in the nation) and he has worked wonders with sophomore QB Trace McSorely, who averages 258.8 yards per game through the air and has thrown 25 TDs compared to just five interceptions.

Moorhead does have head coaching experience, as he led FCS Fordham’s program from 2012 to 2015 (and beat the Owls in 2013 at the Linc.). After inheriting a 1-10 team, Moorhead compiled a 38-13 record at Fordham and turned the Rams into a FCS playoff regular.

So he has the local ties with PSU and has undoubtedly recruited this area during his time at Fordham and has familiarity with it. And he has a very good reputation.

But he has a really good thing going at Penn State right now. Is it something he wants to leave after just one season? Or can he bide his time in Happy Valley and wait for a Power 5 job to open up?

Al Golden – Tight Ends coach, Detroit Lions
You knew this one was coming, so let’s tackle it now.

Golden, the Owls’ head man from 2006-10 before he left for Miami, checks all the boxes on the list of things Kraft said he wants in a head coach. He obviously knows the area and how recruit it. Rhule is a disciple of Golden, so the transition would be almost seamless.

And Golden deserves another shot to be a head coach at the collegiate level after he walked into a no-win mess at Miami with sanctions the program dealt with from a booster scandal years prior. Golden went 32-25 with the Hurricanes, but that’s not good enough when you’re Miami.

This may not be the time for a return to Temple, however. He was the right coach at the right time in 2006 and was basically a miracle worker with some things he pulled off on North Broad Street during his tenure with the Owls.

But this is a much different job than it was in 2006. It’s in a much better place, thanks in large part to the work Golden started a decade ago. Kraft and his team now have some clout when it comes to finding a new head coach and may want to go with one with a bit more on his résumé.

That’s no disrespect to Golden in any means, but this just doesn’t feel like the right fit right now.

Phil Snow – Defensive Coordinator, Temple (for now)
Rhule and Snow are very close, so the odds of Rhule trying to entice Snow to Baylor are high.

And rightfully so. 

Look at the job Snow has done at Temple, leading a ferocious defense that’s produced stars such as current NFL players Tyler Matakevich and Tavon Young. This season, Snow’s group finished eighth in the nation in scoring defense with just 17.2 points allowed per game. That group was second in the nation with 145.2 yards allowed per game through the air. Only Michigan was better.

Snow has been well traveled throughout his career with stops at Boise State, Cal, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, Detroit with the NFL’s Lions, Eastern Michigan and now Temple.

Snow is tremendously well-respected by his players and his peers. 

But would the 60-year-old Snow want to be a head coach at this point? It’s a question to ponder. And imagine what he could do with the type of talent pool Baylor and Rhule will be able to recruit from.

Ed Foley – Tight Ends coach, Temple
Speaking of tremendously well-respected, Foley has been at Temple for nine years now and has served on the staffs of Golden, Steve Addazio and Rhule. He’ll get his chance to run the show for at least a game, as he’ll be the Owls’ interim head coach for the Military Bowl against Wake Forest on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Foley is as good of a guy as you’ll find in the college ranks. Anyone will tell you that.

But Foley’s only experience as a head coach at the college level came from 2004-05 at Fordham. When Foley came to Temple in 2008, it marked his first experience as a college coach at the FBS level.

Foley has seen it all while at Temple and has even spent time as the Owls’ recruiting coordinator, which will certainly stick out to Kraft when going through his list of candidates.

But this doesn’t feel like a fit for the long term. A more experienced head coach seems like more of a fit right now. But if the players rally around Foley, who knows? Anything is possible.

Charlie Strong – Former head coach, Texas
Now this is a mighty interesting possibility.

Strong was recently canned at Texas after going 16-21 in three seasons. Before that, he did a great job at Louisville, where he went 37-15 in four seasons.

He has a heck of résumé with coaching stops at Ole Miss, Notre Dame, South Carolina and numerous years at Florida before he went to Louisville.

He’s a man of values and can be demanding of his players. That’s just his style.

Strong may not be familiar with this area, but he’s dealt with all the muck that comes with coaching Texas, so the competitive Philadelphia market wouldn’t be anything new to him. And when it comes to recruiting, his name carries weight. He’s had to fight for some big-time recruits in the hotbed of Texas, so he would do just fine here.

And to think the former Texas coach going to Temple would be a step back is inaccurate. This is not the Temple of old. There is legitimacy here now and Strong would add a whole new dimension of legitimacy to the program.

The question is whether Strong would want to come to North Broad Street. He got a massive buyout (reportedly around $11 million), so he may not want to coach again right away. But if he does, he’ll have offers from other schools, which means the Owls will have to pay up for his services. But the investment could be worth it.

Doug Pederson indicates Lane Johnson will start at RT when he returns

Doug Pederson indicates Lane Johnson will start at RT when he returns

Talk about too, little too late.
 
Lane Johnson is due back in two weeks, and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson on Wednesday for the first time seemed to indicate that he’s leaning toward getting Johnson back at right tackle as soon as he returns.
 
Johnson, the Eagles’ best offensive lineman the first month of the season, was suspended by the NFL for 10 games for a second positive test for a banned substance. By the time his appeal was heard and rejected, it was after the Eagles’ loss to the Lions.
 
Johnson hasn’t played since.

The Eagles face the Redskins at the Linc and Ravens in Baltimore the next two Sundays. Johnson is eligible to return to the NovaCare Complex the day after the Ravens' game, which would be Monday, Dec. 19.
 
The Eagles then face the Giants three days later on a Thursday night at the Linc and finish the season on Jan. 1 at home against the Cowboys in a game that will likely have no meaning for either team.
 
Previously, when asked about Johnson, Pederson was non-commital about playing him. But on Wednesday, he seemed to indicate he would move him back to right tackle for the Giants' game.
 
“Listen, he was a big part of our success early in the season,” Pederson said. “So I wouldn’t hesitate to put him back out there.”
 
The Eagles, 5-7 after a 3-0 start, are on the brink of playoff elimination and could well be eliminated by the time Johnson returns.
 
Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai started the first six games after Johnson’s suspension before getting hurt. Left guard Allen Barbre started the last two, with Stefen Wisniewski moving into left guard.
 
Even though Pederson indicated Johnson would return to right tackle as soon as he gets back, he did qualify the statement.
 
“He comes back on a short week, too, against the Giants, in a couple weeks,” he said. “Got to see where Big V is at coming off an injury and see where that’s at. 
 
“We’re beginning the conversations right now. When he does return, we’ll have to see. We still have some games. Have to get through these two games.”         
 
Johnson, the fourth pick in the 2013 draft, started 44 of a possible 48 games his first three seasons, missing only four in 2014 during his first NFL suspension.
 
After the Lions game, he said he hoped the Eagles had meaningful games remaining when he got back.
 
The Eagles are 3-1 this year with Johnson and 2-6 without him. In his four NFL seasons, the Eagles are 27-22 when he plays.
 
“Stay in shape and hopefully the team is good enough to stay in playoff contention,” he said in the visiting locker room at Ford Field back on Oct. 9. 
 
“Come back and I’ll be fresh and we can make a run for it. That’s the best-case scenario. We’ll see what happens.”