Sproles trade doesn’t make much sense for Eagles, anybody

Sproles trade doesn’t make much sense for Eagles, anybody

Well, I hope everyone is happy. The Philadelphia Eagles finally added a coveted, overpaid, aging veteran during this free agency period, sending a fifth-round pick to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for running back/all-purpose weapon Darren Sproles.

This is a swap that would’ve been fresh and exciting maybe two years ago. Now, Sproles is about to turn 31 and is coming off one of the least productive seasons in his nine-year NFL career.

Sproles ran 53 times for just 220 yards (4.2 AVG) and two touchdowns in 2013, although the ground attack wasn't what he was known for. The '05 fourth-round pick still managed to reel in 71 passes, but for only 604 yards (8.5 AVG) and two touchdowns. His return numbers were as bad as they’ve ever been—21.3 on kickoffs, 6.7 on punts, zero scores. He also lost two fumbles.

The playoffs weren’t significantly better. In two games, Sproles carried seven times for 31 yards (4.4 AVG) and posted nine receptions for 63 (7.0 AVG) with zero TDs. Including the postseason, he broke 40 yards receiving just once in his final 11 games as a Saint.

Simply put, Sproles lost the explosion that once made him a special player. Look no further than his kick return to set up the Saints’ game-winning score in the Birds’ first-round playoff exit. If Sproles had that enormous of a hole to run through two years ago, nobody catches him, yet Cary Williams was able to corral him by the collar.

Sure, Sproles will catch a high number of balls out of the backfield, which is not an altogether useless skill, but so could a well-placed bucket.

At this point, you might be thinking to yourself, ‘So what, it was only a fifth-round pick.’ I’ll take the pick, thank you. That was Earl Wolff last year, who looks like a potential starter at safety.

In this year’s draft, it could be more. Thanks to a record number of underclassmen entering the selection process, this is a considerably deep draft. There is talent to be found in the fifth round—including at running back, potentially.

Wouldn’t you much rather have De’Anthony Thomas out of Oregon for that pick, somebody who already knows Chip Kelly’s offense, isn’t in his 30s and would have more than one year remaining on his contract?

A fifth-round pick is far from guaranteed to be an NFL player, but neither will Sproles anymore soon enough.

Sproles is entering the final year of his deal and is scheduled to make $3.4 million.

Sproles’ presence could mean the front office is ready to act on a Bryce Brown trade this offseason. Brown didn’t appear to be a great fit for Kelly’s scheme, and if they get the pick back that was exchanged for Sproles, the whole series of moves is something of a wash.

Still, it cannot be understated that Sproles is 31, on the final year of his deal and fading. Brown will be 23, is under contract and has flashed Pro Bowl potential.

Is this trade the end of the world? No, in fact my guess is Sproles will be at least serviceable in his role in Kelly’s offense. With all that talent surrounding him in the league’s No. 2 offense, there will be opportunities to make plays.

Yet given the Eagles’ approach to the rest of this offseason so far—avoiding expensive, big-name players as deftly as LeSean McCoy eludes Louis Delmas in the snow—it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this. There’s been so much talk of a plan that relies on building through the draft, yet the front office is shipping off a valuable pick for somebody who probably won’t even be here a year from now.

Call me a curmudgeon or a hater, but this is a baffling trade. Maybe the Eagles can squeeze the last drops of football out of Sproles. Then again, it’s not like the offense even needed him. Weird move, giving up a draft pick for a beat-up rental at the club’s strongest position.

>> Eagles acquire Darren Sproles from Saints [CSN]

Joel Embiid: All-Star voting 'shows fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad'

Joel Embiid: All-Star voting 'shows fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid didn’t earn enough overall votes to be named an All-Star starter, but he has no disappointment about the outpour of fan appreciation he received during the campaign.

“It shows that the fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad,” Embiid said after shootaround on Friday. “The fans are going stick up for who they love, and I love that.”

Embiid finished third among frontcourt players in fan votes behind only LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, which counted for 50 percent of the votes this season. He made a late push after trailing Kevin Love for third place in the second return of votes last week.

“They’re behind me and they want me to succeed,” Embiid said. “That’s what I took from it.”

Embiid ranked fifth in media votes (25 percent), but there was a drop-off in the player votes (25 percent). Embiid was eighth among players, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony and Love.

Embiid is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. He is under a 28-minute restriction this season and sits out one matchup of each back-to-back series. Veteran Gerald Henderson believes Embiid’s lack of games was a factor the player votes.

“I feel like since all the players vote, it’s probably important for you to play consistent and let all the players see night to night how good you are,” Henderson said. “I think that’s the difference. You’ll see Joel’s numbers are better than a lot of guys, but because some guys have been doing it year after year consistently and guys have seen how good they are, it helps them. I think if Joel continues to play like he’s been playing, he’ll earn everybody’s respect.” 

Embiid saw the competitiveness of the frontcourt race as a sign the league should revert back to the previous voting format which included centers. He has been advocating for that the entire season as he’s faced high-caliber players on the court.

“There’s a lot of talented big men in the league, especially at the center position,” Embiid said. “That’s something the NBA should think about, putting the center back on the All-Star ballot.”

Part of Embiid’s All-Star push centered around his opportunity to land a date with an unnamed celebrity if named a starter. So what happens now if he gets in as a reserve next week from the coach’s votes?

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure that out.”

In spite of battling illness, Embiid plans to play Friday in front of the home crowd that was behind him during the voting process.

"I feel pretty sick still but I’ll be fine," he said. "I've been coughing a lot, sneezing, headaches, sinuses, can’t really breathe. But I'm fine."

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright remembers facing Joel Embiid's Kansas team, and he's shocked by the improvements Embiid made while sitting out the last two years.

"Could you imagine not playing for two years and getting better?" Wright said Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. "We played against him in college and he was not close — he was good, but not close to the player that he was at the start of this year. 

"What [the Sixers'] staff did while he was out is incredible. I don't know what other pro athlete has done that or could do that — not play and improve drastically.

"He's a unique force. We haven't seen a guy that's got this will defensively and ability defensively and then the skill level and mobility offensively. I've heard some people compare him to (Hakeem) Olajuwon. He's far more mobile than Olajuwon. Olajuwon, offensively, had his set of skills, which [Embiid] will develop. But the mobility he's got far exceeds Olajuwon. He's exciting. ... It's nice to feel this vibe with the Sixers right now."

Wright was also asked if he, as a coach, would want a player on a minutes restriction participating in the All-Star Game.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I think that it's such an accomplishment for Joel Embiid. It would build his confidence so much to be on the floor with those guys and realize he's earned this. And to have that a part of his psyche going into the next season — 'OK, I've already been separated during the regular season with those guys, I belong with those guys.' So next year I'm thinking, 'I wanna beat these guys, I wanna be better than these guys.' 

"I think it'll be great for him. I think it's awesome ... what Brett Brown and his staff have done with this guy."

As lucky as good?
With a national championship and another No. 1 ranking this season, it would be understandable if Wright was feeling himself right about now. 'Nova is 17-1 and back atop the AP poll after a brief stint at No. 3.

National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart is leading the way for the Wildcats with 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. A lot of Villanova's success this season is owed to Hart's decision to return for his senior year, so Wright has no issue admitting there's been some luck involved in the Wildcats' recent success.

"It's a tremendous advantage and it's really been probably the most important factor in our success the last three, four years," Wright said of 'Nova's senior leadership Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad.

"A lot of it is, on Villanova's side, luck. Josh Hart could have left last year. He just looked at it and kind of said, 'I could be maybe a late first-round, early [second-round pick]. I'd rather come back and get my degree.' 

"Having people that make that choice, you're lucky. If we lose him last year, we're a lot younger team this year. Daniel Ochefu the year before was faced with that decision. He stayed. 

"So when you get those guys that decide they're gonna stay, you catch a break because they're invaluable, a senior of that level. Daniel's playing in the NBA now. So we had a guy for a year that was an NBA player. And we have that with Josh this year. Kris (Jenkins) is developing into one, Darryl (Reynolds) has a chance."

Villanova, which destroyed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday, hosts Providence Saturday at noon.