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.