There Better Be More Stuff Coming: Hoping Odd Sixers Draft Strategy is Prelude to Other Crap

There Better Be More Stuff Coming: Hoping Odd Sixers Draft Strategy is Prelude to Other Crap

It's hard not to be a little bit perplexed by the Sixers' 2012 draft
strategy. They entered the draft with two principal needs—a defensive
anchor (or at least someone who can block some shots) and a scoring
guard (or at least someone who can make some shots)—and ended up filling
neither. Instead, they got Moe Harkless, a small forward who can't
shoot, and Arnett Moultrie, a big man who doesn't block shots. What's
more, they moved aggressively to secure their bounty, drafting forward
Harkless at #15 and then trading a future first-rounder
(lottery-protected, thank God) to the Heat to get Moultrie at #27. It's
an odd way to start such a pivotal off-season in the franchise's
development.


So what's the deal? Well, personally, I'm taking the attitude that
this is the first step in what is going to be a very, very busy
off-season for the Sixers. With so many players either becoming free
agents (Lou Williams, Spencer Hawes, Jodie Meeks, Lavoy Allen) or trade
or amnesty candidates (Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, who knows who else),
we could see the biggest roster turnover for the Sixers that we've seen
in the post-Iverson era. Or, they could bring everybody back again and
hope that we were a lot closer to contending last year than we actually
were. Recent history would push me towards predicting the latter, but
Harkless and Moultrie are not the kind of prospects the Sixers would
draft if they were satisfied with their current complement of players.

Rather, the Harkless and Moultrie selections, which create even more
of an overlapping roster than we had going into the draft, would appear
to be an indicator that a major roster shakeup is in order for the
Liberty Ballers. Particularly, it would appear to indicate that the team
is going to seek some relief at the small forward position, where they
currently have a logjam of Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young
and now Harkless. (Turner can play some two and Thad some four, but both
slot far more naturally at the three.) The most obvious trade candidate
is, of course, Iguodala, whose large contract and sporadically strained
relationship with fanbase and management have had him the subject of
trade rumors for the better part of three seasons, though Turner, with
his smaller contract and less-determined ceiling, might be a more
valuable trade chip, depending on what type of return the Sixers seek.

Whoever they trade, the Sixers at least now seem to have a set
strategy in place for how they want to build this team—young and fast.
Check the ESPN draft profiles for both Harkless and Moultrie
and the same adjectives keep popping up: Long, athletic, explosive,
quick. (Both are also labeled as good rebounders, an issue which plagued
the undersized Sixers in the playoffs last year.) As successful and as
frightening as the team has been in the open court in recent years, they
should be even more irrepressible with Harkless and Moultrie flanking
our young playmakers. The team might not have drafted for need, but they
did draft for identity, and that's a consistency in front-office
planning that's been critically absent from the franchise in recent
years. It's something, anyway.

But they gotta do something more. I like the young-and-athletic
strategy, but the Sixers can't open next season with four small
forwards, no real starting two-guard and no real center. The Sixers
should have the trade assets to continue to build the team in the mold
Rod Thorn and company have started to shape it in, but they need to make
tough decisions—letting some free agents walk, parting with some
veterans—to allow the team to grow and improve as such. The front office
should be commended for not going the safe route in the draft, going
with a Tyler Zeller type who could contribute immediately but not have
much of a chance to develop into a core team piece, but being bold only
works if you're willing to go all the way with it, and if the Sixers end
up going safe with the rest of their off-season, this team could be
stuck in the middle for a long time to come.

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

Phillies sign OF Daniel Nava, LHP Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts

The Phillies made a couple quiet additions as the winter meetings ended, signing veteran outfielder Daniel Nava and lefty reliever Sean Burnett to minor-league contracts.

Nava, 34 in February, is a left-handed hitter who can play the outfield corners and first base. He came up with the Red Sox and became a fan favorite in Boston in 2010 as a 27-year-old rookie. Some Phillies fans will remember him for hitting a grand slam off Joe Blanton in his first major-league plate appearance.

Nava had a few decent years in Boston, the best of which was 2013, when he had 536 plate appearances and hit .303/.385/.445 with 29 doubles, 12 homers and 66 RBIs. 

Nava's numbers and opportunities have dropped every year since. He was designated for assignment by Boston in 2015, latched on with the Rays, signed the next year with the Angels and was traded late in the season to the Royals.

Over the last two seasons, Nava has hit just .208, albeit with an on-base percentage 99 points higher because of his 30 walks and 10 hit by pitches.

Burnett, 34, has spent five of the last seven seasons in the Nationals' bullpen. He had a 2.85 ERA in 283 appearances from 2009-12 and parlayed that success into a two-year, $7.25 million contract with the Angels. However, he barely pitched in 2013 and 2014 for the Halos because of an elbow tear. He returned to the Nats last season and allowed two runs in 5⅔ innings.

Burnett, perhaps more so than Nava, has a chance to fill a role with the Phillies if he can stay healthy. He's shown he can get outs at the highest level, posting a 2.38 ERA in 2012 with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings and a 2.14 ERA with 8.9 K/9 in 2010. That was a long time ago now, and Burnett's fastball has dipped from averaging 90-91 mph to 88.

According to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith, Burnett will receive a $1.25 million salary if he makes the team and can earn another $1.75 million in incentives based on his number of appearances.

Burnett has an opt-out date of March 26, meaning he can become a free agent a week before the regular season begins if it looks to him like he isn't in the Phils' plans.

Nava's chances at cracking the opening-day roster seem longer because the Phillies are expected to make more depth signings between now and the start of camp. They've prioritized finding some offense in the corner outfield and that could come in the form of more minor-league deals, a guaranteed contract or trade. One potential fit I examined last week was Mariners outfielder Seth Smith, a hitter more proven than Nava (see story).

These minor-league deals were commonplace for Phillies general manager Matt Klentak last offseason, when the only free agent he signed to a major-league deal was reliever David Hernandez. 

Last season, three players who were signed to minor-league deals with invites to spring training made the team on opening day: outfielder Cedric Hunter, utilityman Emmanuel Burriss and reliever James Russell.

Others, such as former closers Edward Mujica, Ernesto Frieri and Andrew Bailey, failed to make the team out of camp. Bailey eventually earned a call-up; the other two didn't.

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixer Lou Williams lighting it up with Lakers off the bench

Former Sixers point guard and Meek Mill collaborator Lou Williams is enjoying quite the run off the bench for the Lakers recently.

Over Los Angeles' last four games, Williams has posted totals of 40, 38, 24, and 35 points. 

The six-man is averaging 34.5 points per game over the stretch, and his 137 points are the most off the bench in a four-game span by any player since 1970-71, when stats were first recorded, per Elias Sports Bureau, via ESPN. Williams is now averaging 19.3 points this season, which is 4.4 more than his highest average with the Sixers.

Williams isn’t the only player who used to play for the Sixers that is playing well for the Lakers this year. Nick “Swaggy P” Young, who also comes off the bench, is averaging 13.3 points per game. Just a few weeks ago, Swaggy P stole a pass intended for Lou Williams, and then proceeded to hit a game winner against the Thunder. Swaggy P, however, is currently sidelined with a right calf strain, but is getting closer to a return.

"Lou Will" was also talked about last April during Kobe Bryant’s final NBA game, when he was beefing on Twitter with another former Philadelphia athlete, LeSean McCoy.