Give and Go: Who are the real 76ers?

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Give and Go: Who are the real 76ers?

Each week we'll ask questions about the Sixers to our resident basketball enthusiasts and see what they have to say.

Running the Give and Go this week are CSNPhilly.com reporter John Finger, CSNPhilly.com columnist John Gonzalez and CSN producer Sean Kane. Let's get started:

What's the biggest key for the Sixers on their three-game road trip?

Finger: Aside from winning a game (or two) and getting home in one piece with no injuries, consistency will be important for the Sixers. Give the Sixers credit for competing every game. But from night to night, it's tough to know which team we'll see -- the one that got pounded by the Spurs or the one that beat the Heat, Wizards, Bulls and Rockets.

Gonzalez: Keeping Michael Carter-Williams healthy. The Sixers and their rookie point guard have been a pleasant surprise so far. But we all know the truth: Even if they're somewhere closer to average than awful on the win-loss spectrum, they're still not a good team. Good comes later -- next year and beyond -- if everything goes to plan. MCW shouldn't rush back. Sit and rest a while if that's what's needed. There's plenty of time for him and the Sixers to acquit themselves.

Kane: Playing with the same level of intensity on the road as they do at home. It's easy to compete and overcome fourth-quarter deficits with an enthusiastic home crowd cheering you on, especially for young guys only a year or two removed from college. But will that same effort manifest itself on the road? Time will tell. All three of these games are winnable. The Hawks have been mediocre, the Pelicans have been slow to mesh with all their new parts and the Mavericks have been up and down. I don't expect the Sixers to win all three games. Two out of three would be a huge accomplishment, but a more realistic goal is avoiding an 0-3 road trip.

Are the Sixers closer to the team that lost to the Spurs or beat the Rockets?

Finger:
Is in between the two an answer? The Sixers aren't as bad as the Spurs made them out to be on Monday and they aren't as good as they were in the OT victory over the Rockets. But they are very, very young and young teams pull off the Jekyll-and-Hyde bit frequently during the season.

That's not to diminish the loss or the win. The Sixers were hanging around against San Antonio before the Spurs put the pedal down. Unlike other teams, the Spurs are disciplined enough to keep teams like the Sixers from inching back into the game. Meanwhile, the Rockets got whatever shot they wanted against the Sixers. They took 41 three-pointers, 50 shots in the paint and five mid-range twos. Five! And they lost.

Gonzalez: The Sixers are exactly what they appear to be -- a team that can run and surprise you and beat the Rockets, and a team that can play terribly and get blown out against the Spurs. Depends on the night and the personnel. (It certainly doesn't hurt when a guy like James Harden is out with an injury.) At this point, we have to start considering a real possibility: What if the Sixers aren't awful? What if they're average?

Kane: They are somewhere in between. But over time they'll come to more closely resemble the team that beat the Rockets. If one thing has been made clear through the season's first nine games, it's that the Sixers are going to compete for 48 minutes (or in Wednesday's case: 53 minutes). That trait goes a long way in a league where teams put out varying levels of effort depending on the situation, and coaches like to make sure their stars are well-rested for the playoffs. If you play hard in the NBA, you're going to win some games, regardless of your talent level.

And that's where I tend to differ from the majority. There is talent on the Sixers' roster. Carter-Williams has been a revelation, Thaddeus Young is a consummate professional, Spencer Hawes is a skilled big man and James Anderson and Tony Wroten have proven they are NBA-caliber guards. That brings us to Evan Turner. This is my fourth year as president of the E.T. Fan Club. (It's been a rocky first term no doubt.) But I've long maintained that Turner can be an All-Star if he is put in the right situation. Watching Jrue Holiday dominate the offense, and having Doug Collins criticize his every move wasn't the right situation. We are now seeing what Turner can do when given the freedom to just play basketball and utilize his various talents.

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Reports: Pacers the latest team pursuing Jahlil Okafor

Another team has emerged in Jahlil Okafor trade talks: the Indiana Pacers.

The Pacers are pursuing Okafor in an attempt to add help for Paul George, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, Jeff Goodman and Chris Haynes.

Indiana would make some sense for Okafor because of their style of play. The Pacers rank 25th in the NBA in fastbreak points per game. They're 25th in speed/distance traveled on offense. (The Sixers are first.) 

And Indiana is also in the top-third of the league in post touches and paint touches per game. 

Al Jefferson, a plodding post player Okafor is often compared to, averages 8.5 points for the Pacers this season and has played in every game.

What might the Pacers be willing to part with?

Thaddeus Young would be a solid return, but it's hard to see the Pacers doing that because it wouldn't make them a better team.

C.J. Miles? Probably not. The guy's an elite three-point shooter.

Forget about Myles Turner, one of the best young bigs in the NBA. 

A trade that might make sense for both teams would be Monta Ellis and a 2017 first-round pick for Okafor. (Before you continue reading, just know I'm not advocating for such a deal, just bringing up the possibility.)

Ellis has fallen out of favor in Indiana, playing six fewer minutes per game than he did the last two years. And as a 31-year-old, undersized two-guard who's long struggled from three-point range, he's not the most efficient player. He's also owed $23 million the next two seasons.

The Sixers could use additional scoring, but could do better than Ellis in free agency. This theoretical trade would really be about the first-round pick.

If the season ended today, the Pacers (29-28) would get the 18th overall pick. In that regard, the pick coming back wouldn't be much different than what they could have received from New Orleans before the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

The Sixers seemed unwilling to take on the contracts of Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca in a trade with New Orleans because, even though they have salary cap flexibility, they don't want to limit their payroll for multiple future seasons. The same would likely be true with Ellis, even though he'd fill more of a need.

Okafor for Miles would be a good trade for the Sixers. So would Okafor for Young. But again, neither deal would make Indiana better in the short term, so it's probably a pipe dream.

The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m.

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins threatened to fight Nik Stauskas on a plane

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins threatened to fight Nik Stauskas on a plane

Apparently, DeMarcus Cousins wasn't a big fan of Nik Stauskas.

Discussing the Cousins trade on his podcast Monday, Zach Lowe recalled a story from two years ago when Cousins threatened Stauskas on Sacramento's team flight to China.

"DeMarcus Cousins ruined Nik Stauskas, or almost did," Lowe said. "The stories about DeMarcus Cousins berating Nik Stauskas, threatening to fight Nik Stauskas on the plane when they were going to China for the preseason. 

"He ruined Nik Stauskas, he ruined Sauce Castillo to the point where he just had to go somewhere else."

Lowe and guest Brian Windhorst went on to compare Stauskas to Buddy Hield, the centerpiece of the Kings' return for Cousins. Both felt the Kings did poorly in the Cousins trade, arguing the draft pick they received from the Pels was equivalent to the one they got from the Hornets (No. 22) for Marco Belinelli.

Windhorst told a story of a conversation he had recently with a personnel executive who said Hield will be a backup two-guard. 

"You know who [Hield] is very similar to in that regard?" Lowe asked. "Nik Stauskas."

"[Stauskas] had a nice stretch in the first third of the season for the Sixers (which showed) he's going to be a rotation player. I think he settles into that — his shooting has slumped a little bit. But that's an example of DeMarcus Cousins ruined Nik Stauskas, and now they're trading him for maybe an equivalent player."

The Kings are just a complete mess, which is hugely important for the Sixers, who own pick swap rights with Sacramento in the 2017 draft and also have the Kings' unprotected 2019 first-rounder (see story).

That trade continues to boost former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie's credibility and make Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Vlade Divac look like they don't know what they're doing.

"If your owner has stability and knows what he's doing and knows how to hire the right people and get out of their way, that's a (good) situation. This was created by Vivek," Windhorst said.

"And that doesn't mean that Vlade didn't make the decisions within the trade that they made with Philadelphia, but putting Vlade in that position when he wasn't ready for it — and I think everybody, including Vlade would agree — led to this.

"I just can't believe how little they got (for Cousins). You know that they've been offered so much more for DeMarcus in the past. And so not only is the recent decision to basically sell the long-term for the now, to trade Nik Stauskas so that you can sign Kosta Koufos or whatever else they did with that money, going and signing Arron Afflalo."

At that point, Lowe interjected and poured on poor Vlade, recounting the players Divac signed with the money freed up in the Stauskas heist.

"Kosta Koufos, Rajon Rondo — who might be out of the freaking league next year — and Marco Belinelli. ... That's who they traded those picks and swap rights for — those three players, who aren't going to help you win and everybody knew they weren't going to help you win. And they could have acquired two of them via free agency if they used the stretch provision and had any idea what the stretch provision was."

The Kings made their bed. Their only real chance of avoiding a catastrophic next few years is if Hield — a.k.a. Stauskas 2.0 — can pull them out of it.