Anthony Bennett, we hardly knew ye. Apparently the Sixers are indeed in on the three-way deal sending Wolves star Kevin Love to Cleveland, but while they will be giving up Thaddeus Young as previously reported, it appears that the #1 overall pick out of UNLV will not be picking up a connecting flight out of St. Paul International to PHL after all.
As @JerryZgoda 1st reported, Minny's Luc Mbah a Moute, Alexey Shved and Heat '15 1st-rounder go to 76ers for Thad Young. Deal done Saturday.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 22, 2014
Never was Anthony Bennett going to Sixers in any Thad Young deal. Always destined to play with Andrew Wiggins in Minny as part of Love deal.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) August 22, 2014
Well then. Obviously it's not quite as sexy a return as Bennett would've been--though once again, Bennett was coming off one of the worst rookie seasons in history and there is a very good chance he'll never be a good pro--but it's more than "nothing," which is what we were primed to get in the off-season when Thad opted out of the final year of his contract and signed elsewhere in free agency.
The obvious prize of the deal is the Miami pick. The selection, coming from the Cavs via the LeBron James sign-and-trade four summers ago, is top-ten protected, though it's not likely to fall in the top ten anyway. Without LeBron--back to Cleveland, if you haven't heard--the Heat might not be an elite team anymore, but they still have Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng and a pretty decent supporting cast. An injury or two (or a better-than-expected Eastern Conference) could push Miami back in the pack a little, but considering coach Eric Spoelstra won 47 games in 2010 with Jermaine O'Neal and Michael Beasley as his 2nd and 3rd best players, I don't see it getting much higher than the low teens even in their worst-case scenario.
In any event, Our Dark Lord Sam Hinkie loves himself some first-rounders, and even if the 2015 pick only lands in the 20-25 range, that could be enough for Hink to grab a future contributor in next year's decently deep class. It also ensures Philly will have a first-rounder next year in case of the improbable nuclear scenario of the Sixers actually making the playoffs, thus transferring the 1st-rounder to Boston (via Miami, coincidentally) in the process. And for those of you keeping score at home, this now gives us five total picks in next year's draft, giving us yet another chance to restock our Summer League team with what should soon become a June dynasty in Orlando.
There's value with Mbah a Moute, as well. Not so much on-court, mind you--despite being one of the league's most skilled and versatile frontcourt defenders, Mbah a Moute is such a negative on offense that he's proved virtually unplayable over his last few NBA stops. He'll get a shot at minutes on these Sixers, unless we buy him out or find some way to redirect him, but without a reliable three-point stroke or anything resembling a post game, he's a spacing killer that a team without a lot of floor-stretching to begin with can't really afford.
That said, there are locker-room considerations with Luc Richard. The Cameroonian prince (really) is a trusted friend and confidant of our own prized big man Joel Embiid. In fact, Mbah a Moute was the player who discovered Embiid at a camp when he was high-school age, helping to bring him over to the U.S. and starting him on his path to the NBA. Having such a mentor around for Embiid is probably a good thing, and at the very least it'll give him someone to talk to and goof around with on the bench, where both Embiid and Mbah a Moute figure to spend a good deal of time this season.
The part I'm most interested in with this deal, though, is Shved. On paper, the Russian wing is just about exactly what the Sixers need: A two-guard with good size (6'6") and decent athleticism, who can both shoot and make plays off the dribble. The problem is that Shved the player hasn't exactly been following the script through his first two years in the Association--after a pretty good start to his NBA career (which got him invited to the Rising Stars Challenge two seasons ago), Shved hit a rookie wall and has yet to really recover. His numbers last year--four points and one assist a game on 32% shooting--were positively Bennett-esque, and after having spent over a half-decade playing professionally in Russia, he's already 25 years old, to turn 26 early in the '14-'15 season.
So what would be different on the Sixers? One thing, really: Opportunity. Though Shved's numbers for his career have been pretty terrible, they have been better the more minutes he's played, to an almost shocking degree:
One potentially interesting thing about Shved for Sixers: His numbers get way better the more minutes he plays. pic.twitter.com/lC8vnbD2E7— Andrew Unterberger (@AUgetoffmygold) August 21, 2014
That's a pretty small sample size way up top, obviously, and there's other statistical noise in there (including some chicken-or-egg stuff about him getting the minutes when he's already playing well), but 13 and six on 43% shooting (35% from downtown) in 16 games of 30-something minutes is a little encouraging, anyway. It should be pretty clear at least that this guy wasn't meant to play just ten minutes a game, at the least, and the numbers would certainly suggest that as the Wolves lost faith in him, his performance declined accordingly. On the Sixers, who have only the withered Jason Richardson and the third-to-final pick of the 2014 draft Jordan McRae to give him competition at the two-guard spot, Shved should get more minutes that he has in his pro career to date.
He may also be helped out by playing alongside Michael Carter-Williams, a pass-first point guard that should alleviate his ball-handling responsibilities and get him some better looks than he saw in Minnesota. If you're wondering why that would be any different than what he had in Minny with Ricky Rubio, an MCW-like dynamic passing point who couldn't shoot a lick, the answer is that he barely ever played with Rubio--Shved was used more as the backup PG on that Wolves team, and Shved saw fewer than 100 minutes on-court alongside Rubio all last season. In 2012-13, when they played over 300 minutes together, the Wolves were +4.2 points per 100 possessions, when the team was -2.5 for the season.
If not MCW specifically, Shved should just be better off playing with a first unit (even that of the Sixers) than he was playing off the Wolves' deplorable bench. The Wolves had one of the worst benches in the league last year, without a single regular sub who improved the team's offensive rating when he entered the game, and only one who had a PER of league-average (Gorgui Dieng, and that was mostly due to the success he had starting in the final 18 games of the season). Shved certainly wasn't blameless himself for Minny's bench struggles, but he should benefit to escape them, anyway.
Mostly, Shved just seems like a Hinkie guy, with the size, the active hands (1.4 steals per 36 minutes last year), the versatility (Shved can play some point, and could probably handle the three in some small lineups), the open-court athleticism, and the generally high IQ. He's even been pretty good at corner threes for his career, shooting 17-41 on the NBA's most efficient jumper. though the less said about the rest of his performance behind the arc, the better. He doesn't have the wingspan of a typical Hinkie favorite, but otherwise, he mostly fits the profile.
He'll get a chance, anyway. If there's anything left for Shved to show as an NBA player--any of the promise we've seen from him in international play, or at moments in the preseason or during his rookie year--he should show it on these Sixers, where he is disturbingly likely to begin the season in the starting five, and should almost certainly get career-high minutes regardless. It's something of a prayer, but he's an upside play, like Bennett, although with a significantly-lower ceiling at this point. And if he's just not an NBA player, eh, he'll help us lose some games for draft positioning, and his contract expires at the end of the season.
In the meantime, a fond farewell to Thaddeus Young, whose tenure on the Sixers should end at a minute past midnight tonight. We'll have more on the seven seasons he spent as a Sixer later, but suffice to say, he was a great Sixer and a consummate professional that no one who's ever played with or covered has ever had a bad word to say. He ends with averages of 14 points and six boards a game on 50% shooting with a 16.8 PER, in the Sixers' all-time top ten in offensive rebounds (1027, 8th) and steals (708, 9th). He will be missed, and we wish him nothing but the best with Bennett and company in Minnesota.