The Sixers Will Need More Luck Than They Deserve at the Lottery Tonight

The Sixers Will Need More Luck Than They Deserve at the Lottery Tonight

Tonight will be a fateful night for a number of teams at the 2013 Draft Lottery in New York, as David Stern will dramatically unveil a series of envelopes containing logos from crappy teams until just three lucky franchises remain, who will get to pick from the cream of the crop from this year's class at the draft on June 27th--thus setting off a series of crackpot conspiracy theories about how the system is rigged and how Patrick Ewing really should have gone to the Golden State Warriors back in '86.

In all likelihood, the Philadelphia 76ers will not be one of those teams. Their strong (and by strong I mean not always embarrassingly weak) end to the season meant that they climbed out of the league's bottom ten, and actually needed a strong surge from the Toronto Raptors to even finish with the 11th-worst record, meaning that ten teams have better odds of being selected in the lottery than they do. As Enrico recently broke down for you guys, the Sixers have no better than a 1.2% chance of nabbing any of the top 3 picks, and just a 0.8% chance of getting #1.

History is not on their side here--the '99 Hornets were the most recent team to grab a top three pick with odds that bad, grabbing franchise point guard Baron Davis, and you gotta go back to the '93 Magic for a team who got the #1 overall pick with a slot as low as the Sixers, when they landed Chris Webber back in '93. (Longtime Sixers fans will no doubt recall the team earning the #2 pick in that draft, with which they selected the immortal Shawn Bradley.)

And you know what? That's OK. The Sixers already cashed in at the lottery once in recent years, when they landed the #2 pick despite only having the sixth-best odds, drafting Evan Turner with the pick. Not only has Turner not panned out for us as we'd hope a second-overall selection would, but the more spiritual and/or superstitious contingent of the Liberty Ballers fanbase could reasonably argue that the karma we used up getting that pick ended up biting us in the 'fro with the whole Andrew Bynum debacle. Lucking out a second time (with even-worse odds) could result in the Wells Fargo Center being attacked by a rove of ice zombie Hip Hops at the season-opener next year.

Besides, this really isn't the draft for pushing our luck like that anyway. The consensus top guys--Kentucky big Nerlens Noel, Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, Georgetown swingman Otto Porter--are all guys with question marks or limited ceilings, lacking the slam-dunk obviousness of a Blake Griffin or an Anthony Davis. Chances are pretty good that at least one of those teams in the top three is going to look back in anger at this lottery night, while at least one team who missed out is gonna be secretly thankful not to have the pressure. Besides, finishing with the #11 pick gives our new guy Sam Hinkie a chance to be a little creative, rather than just taking the guy everyone agrees is best. Don't you want to see what our GM can do?

Don't get me wrong, I'll still be rooting for Stern to skip from the Raptors to the Blazers when drawing teams out of his envelope tonight. But it's almost certainly not gonna happen, and that's cool. I'm weirdly optimistic about our chances at hitting at #11 anyway.

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

Phillie Phodder: Aaron Nola's health, Roman Quinn's status, closer job

READING, Pa. — Perhaps the most important issue facing the Phillies as they get set to open spring training is the health of pitcher Aaron Nola.

It won’t be possible to fully gauge the right-hander’s condition until he starts firing pitches against hitters in a competitive situation in February and March.

But less than a month before camp opens, Nola is optimistic that the elbow problems that forced him to miss the final two months of the 2016 season are resolved.

“I feel like the injury is past me,” he said during a Phillies winter caravan stop sponsored by the Double A Reading Fightin Phils on Tuesday night. “I feel back to normal.

“My arm is all good. One-hundred percent.”

Nola, 23, did not pitch after July 28 last season after being diagnosed with a pair of injuries near his elbow — a sprained ulnar collateral ligament and a strained flexor tendon.

Nola and the team opted for a conservative treatment plan that included rest, rehab and a PRP injection. The pitcher spent much of the fall on a rehab program in Clearwater that included his throwing from a bullpen mound. He took a couple of months off and recently began throwing again near his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“All through the rehab, I had no pain,” Nola said. “Probably in the middle of the rehab, I started feeling really good. Towards the end, I started upping the intensity a little bit. I knew after I took two months off I was going to be good. I started back up, throwing after Christmas and it felt really good when I cranked up. I’ve been throwing for a few weeks now. No pain, no hesitation. Not any of it.”

The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft with the hopes that he would be a foundation piece in the rotation for many years. Nola ascended to the majors in the summer of 2015 and recorded a 3.12 ERA in his first 25 big-league starts before hitting severe turbulence last summer. He had a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts of 2016 before injuring his elbow during his final start.

Nola said he would report to Clearwater on Feb. 1. He does not expect to have any limitations in camp.

Manager Pete Mackanin is eager to see what Nola looks like in Clearwater.

“There's a part of me that’s concerned,” Mackanin said. “When guys don't have surgery and they mend with just rest, that makes me a little nervous. I don't want that to crop up again because then you lose a couple years instead of one year. But I defer to the medical people and believe in what they say and how he feels.”

Mackanin said he expected Nola to be in the five-man rotation along with Jeremy Hellickson, Jerad Eickhoff, Clay Buchholz and Vince Velasquez to open the season. Mackanin also mentioned Zach Eflin and others as being in the mix. The Phillies have some starting pitching depth and that’s a plus because pitchers' arms are fragile. Nola was the latest example of that last season. He said he’s healthy now, but he'll still be a center of attention in spring training.

More seasoning for Quinn
Mackanin acknowledged that the addition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunders probably means that Roman Quinn will open the season in Triple A.

“I don’t think it’s in our best interest or [Quinn’s] to be a part-time player at the big-league level, so I would think if things stay the way they are and if Saunders is on the team, I think it would behoove Quinn to play a full year of Triple A,” Mackanin said. “We have to find out if he can play 120 or 140 games, which he hasn’t done up to this point. We hope he can because, to me, he’s a potential game changer.”

Morgan to the bullpen?
Mackanin suggested that lefty Adam Morgan could be used as a reliever in camp. The Phillies have just one lefty reliever (Joely Rodriguez) on their 40-man roster. If Morgan pitches well out of the bullpen, he could be a candidate to make the club. Non-roster lefties Sean Burnett and Cesar Ramos could also be in the mix.

Another chance for Gomez
Jeanmar Gomez saved 37 games in 2016 before struggling down the stretch and losing the closer’s job. Hector Neris finished up in the role.

So how will competition for the job shake out in Clearwater?

“I wouldn’t say it’s wide open,” Mackanin said. “I’m going to give Gomez every opportunity to show that he’s the guy that pitched the first five months and not the guy that pitched in September.”

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

PFF ranks Eagles' front seven as the second best in NFL

At times during the 2016 season, the Eagles' defense looked like the best unit in the league. And at other times … it didn't. 

By the end of the season, the Eagles averaged out to be a middle-of-the-road defense. And the way ProFootballFocus ranked it makes sense.

PFF ranked the Eagles' secondary as the absolute worst in the league, but in it's list of front sevens, released on Tuesday, the Eagles came in at No. 2 behind just Seattle. 

Here's what PFF said about the Eagles' front seven: 

"It was a difficult decision between the Eagles and the Seahawks for the No. 1 spot, as this front-seven propped up a hodge-podge secondary to form one of the league’s most effective defenses for a good portion of the season. Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox finished with the third- and fourth-highest pass-rushing productivity marks at their respective positions. Philadelphia’s front-seven also features a budding star in second-year linebacker Jordan Hicks, who led all players at the position with five interceptions."

Graham received the highest grade among the Eagles' front seven with a 93.3, while Connor Barwin received the worst at 42.1. Graham was the only Eagles player to make the PFF All-Pro team this year. To prove that stats don't always tell the full story, Graham finished with a half sack more than Barwin (6½ to 6). 

While the Eagles' cornerback trio of Leodis McKelvin, Nolan Carroll and Jalen Mills ranked 79th, 107th and 120th out of 120, respectively, their players across the front seven were much, much better. 

Hicks was ranked as the seventh-best middle linebacker and Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks were both top-10 outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses. Graham was the top-ranked 4-3 defensive end and Cox was the fifth-best interior lineman.