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.

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

Report: Lonzo Ball, Sixers considering pre-draft workout

It may be time for Sixers fans to start setting money aside for some Big Baller Brand gear.

Sources tell ESPN's Chris Haynes that Lonzo Ball is considering working out for the Sixers, who hold the No. 3 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

"A final decision will be made once Ball's agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN," Haynes writes.

Haynes also states that the main concern between Ball and the Sixers would be how the former UCLA point guard would fit in on a team that plans to feature 2016 No. 1 pick Ben Simmons as the primary ball handler.

This news comes after Ball declined to work out for the Boston Celtics, who own the top pick in June's draft.

"We don't deal with [Ball's camp] all that much," Celtics president Danny Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub radio during The Toucher and Rich Show Thursday. "They didn't show up at the combine, which is very common — many of the top 10 or 15 players don't show up for the combine. ... We just tried to get him in for a workout and they politely said no."

Ball's father, LaVar, has previously stated several times that his son would only work out for the Lakers, who will select at No. 2. Plus, Lonzo Ball has said he would rather be drafted by the home state Lakers instead of going at the top of the draft.

"I'm a family dude," Ball said during an interview on ESPN last month. "All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me."

Even with all the pre-draft posturing and the outspoken nature of his father, Ball has proven to be a top-tier talent. The 6-foot-6 Ball averaged 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a freshman at UCLA as he was named a consensus first-team All-American.

We previously looked at how Ball would blend with the Sixers, which one analyst called a "perfect" fit.

The Sixers may be having similar thoughts.

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

500 plate appearances in, Tommy Joseph an above-average offensive 1B

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph is making the Phillies' situation at first base quite tricky.

Joseph on Thursday continued building on his red-hot month of May by going 2 for 5 with a game-tying homer in the seventh and a walk-off RBI single in the 11th inning of the Phillies' 2-1 win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's hit .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

That'll hold off the eye-popping production of Rhys Hoskins for now (see Future Phillies Report).

Extending it further, Joseph has played 148 career games with 499 plate appearances in the majors. That's just a bit less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. He's provided above-average offensive production from first base.

Most Phillies fans know Joseph's story — big-time catching prospect acquired from the Giants in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, series of concussions, position switch, hot start to 2016 at Triple A, promotion, production.

It was a long, winding road for Joseph, and when he was asked Thursday if he expected to be this solid 500 plate appearances into his major-league career, he brought up health.

"My goals were to be healthy, to be able to play in 162 games and that's all I really want to be able to do," Joseph said. "That's something I haven't been able to do in my career and it's something that I'm looking forward to. I'm looking forward to the challenge to go through the mental challenge and the physical challenge and I'd say that's my No. 1 goal, that's my only goal. Because if I'm able to stay healthy and stay on the field then I'm able to enjoy this great game and getting to share it with my teammates."

As for the May adjustments, Joseph said the standard things about communicating with hitting coach Matt Stairs, working in the cage and staying consistent with his approach. His timing wasn't there in April but it's certainly been there in May.

"There's no telling what clicks in a guy, it's just a matter of making a minor adjustment sometimes, possibly getting better pitches to hit," manager Pete Mackanin said. "There's no telling what it is, but he just looks a lot more comfortable at the plate."

Bullpen bouncing back
It's been completely overshadowed by the Phillies' recent skid but the bullpen has pitched very well of late. The unit that was overworked and criticized in April has combined to allow just two earned runs in its last 22 2/3 innings. On Thursday, six Phillies relievers — Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez — pitched six scoreless innings.

Neshek made the play of the day, diving and landing on his head to snag a pop-up bunt attempt before turning and firing to first base for the double play.

"I said early on that I think it's one of our strengths," Mackanin said of the bullpen. "And after today you can see why I have a lot of confidence in them."

Neshek, who has pitched in the postseason for four different teams, said Thursday that he thinks this is one of the best bullpens he's ever been around. It's not lip service, either. The unit was terrible in April, there's no getting around that. But some of that really did have to do with the overuse. Setup men were entering in the sixth inning. Opportunities for holds and saves were few and far between. Roles were not defined.

Stuff-wise, repertoire-wise, there is a lot to like about the Phillies' bullpen. Neris, Benoit and Neshek all offer vastly different looks and have track records of success.

While Neshek didn't totally endorse Benoit's comments from a few weeks ago that everything would settle down once the relievers knew specifically which inning they'd pitch, he did say that he too feels most comfortable coming in during a hold opportunity.

"I think my numbers show that I'm best in those situations, coming into a hold opportunity when we're ahead," Neshek said. "We haven't had much of those lately."

The horrendous start to the season for the Phillies' relievers will skew their stats all season long, but it's nice to see that at least one aspect of this team is starting to get into a groove.