Opening Statements: Wizards vs Sixers, Preseason Game 1 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards vs Sixers, Preseason Game 1

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Updated: October 6, 2015

Washington Wizards vs Philadelphia 76ers

With mostly the same players, aside from an aging, one-year mercenary future Hall-of-Famer, the previously reluctant Wizards of Randy Wittman aim to turn a new leaf this evening. They don’t exactly know what’s under the leaf and at times said leaf will feel like it weighs 200 lbs. But the eye test and good ol’ fashioned data has revealed that a change was necessary, and that change hinges on playing faster with the fastest guard with the ball in the league, attempting more shots from distance that count for 50 percent more than closer attempts, and playing just a bit smaller to facilitate Speed-&-3 ball.

The new-look, same-face Wizards will face-off against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first preseason game tonight. Philly’s leaves have been continually turning over the course of an unheard, unseen, and unfathomable experiment for the past three seasons. The Sixers are also well ahead of any team already thinking about future seasons before the imminent season even begins. They are probably the only ones in the tanking race right now, although teams like Portland and Denver are within sight. Crazy, just a tad, that Philadelphia has spent so much effort on a rebuild with so much third-tier talent when the constant reality in sports is that directions can change and plans can come crashing down so swiftly, so authoritatively. We are still dealing with humans, right?

With that I introduce another human who is most definitely not a human-bot hybrid tasked with making slideshow lures such as “16 NBA Player Yoga Pants Accidents That You’ve Got to See to Believe” that you’ll end up biting on anyway. And now you’ve got a hook stuck in your cheek.

Alex MacMullan (@AMacMull) is a friend of TAI’s @ConorDDirks bot; author for the ESPN TrueHoop Sixers blog, Hoop76; and coupletime contributor to #content at Truth About It.net. Alex stops by today to answer a couple questions about the 76ers for tonight’s game. Let us go, henceforth.


Teams: Wizards vs. Sixers
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN, NBATV
Radio: I guess.
Spread: There are no spreads in the preseason, you junkie.


#1) The Sixers drafted Jahlil Okafor third overall; they acquired Nik Stauskas and Carl Landry; they inked Kendall Marshall (a John Feinstein fav!), and added some other future picks and randos like Pierre Jackson. How would you grade Philly’s Summer?

@AMacMull: I felt that the summer was a mixed bag. There were some very encouraging highs and some deeply depressing lows. I’d give the front office a B-plus, but the offseason as a whole a C-minus. I’ll explain the disparity….

As much as I’d like to say otherwise, Joel Embiid missing another season is the biggest news of the 76ers offseason. I may be more pessimistic about the whole thing than most, but my outlook on Embiid moving forward is now officially “Anything we get from him is a bonus.” After seeing Noel miss a year and come back as a ROY contender in his first season on the court, 76ers fans were very optimistic—perhaps too optimistic—about Embiid doing the same despite a much more complicated injury. That optimism is shot now.

The Okafor pick was the result of another turn of events that was not entirely in the 76ers control. For the second straight year Sam Hinkie was left to draft the member of the first tier of draft prospects that the teams with the first and second overall picks had passed on. While most of the city wanted D’Angelo Russell leading up to draft day, this one burned a lot less than missing out on Andrew Wiggins did in 2014, especially after seeing Russell’s less than inspiring summer league performance. It’s also important to remember that at draft time there were concerns about Embiid’s health, but the seriousness of the Embiid setback was not known. Drafting a third big man in three years was a lot less difficult to get on board with once Embiid officially became a long-term question mark.

The highlight of the summer, especially for those of us that “Trust the Process” was the Kings trade (Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, a first round pick—likely in 2018 and unprotected after just one year, with the 76ers getting the right to swap first rounders with Sacramento in 2016 and 2017 for 76ers second round picks Arturas Gudaitas and Luka Mitrovic).

It was a great reminder of the potential benefit of all that cap flexibility Hinkie has been hoarding since he arrived. People make fun of/criticize the 76ers for not stuffing their roster and (salary cap space) with veteran players that will help them “compete,” but when Vivek and Vlade decided they were really ready to do something stupid in the name of cap relief, the 76ers were the only team capable of accommodating their stupidity and extracting way more than anyone could have expected from Sacramento. Of course, it will take until at least the end of this year to really know how big of a heist that trade was, but given that the 76ers gave up absolutely nothing in the process, I’m pretty confident it was a positive move no matter what comes of the assets they got back.

#2) Guard play. Of all the moves and maneuverings over the past couple of seasons, from the outside it still does not seem like the Sixers ‘really’ have a promising guard prospect in the pipeline.

Names like Isaiah Canaan, Tony Wroten, JaKarr Sampson, as well as the aforementioned Marshall, Stauskas, and Jackson, literally litter the roster with options. Am I forgetting anyone? What cream if any will rise to the top? And is there concern over not having a better point guard to develop with bigs Okafor and Nerlens Noel (and maybe Joel Embiid one day)?

@AMacMull: I’d have to respectfully disagree on this one—with emphasis on the word prospect. I’m fairly amazed at how quickly many have given up on the idea that Nik Stauskas might be a really good NBA player some day. I completely understand that statistically his rookie year, on the whole, was unimpressive. But honestly, unless he was an absolutely transcendent player, it is difficult to see how he could have succeeded in that nightmare in Sacramento. He had three coaches over the course of the year. The Kings drafted him a year after using another lottery pick on a player that played the exact same position as him. Boogie Cousins is also a volatile star player to play alongside. Stauskas was not given regular playing time. The list goes on…

Additionally, taking a look at his splits two trends become clear: (1) He improved as his rookie year went on; and (2) he was a lot better in games where they actually gave him significant minutes. (Sample No. 1: 34.9% FG and 24.1% 3P in November, versus 45.5% FG and 47.1% 3P in March; Sample No. 2: 4.0% FG and 5.3% 3P in games where he played less than 10 mins, versus 52.4% FG and 62.5% 3P in games where he played at least 30 mins.) Neither of these trends are surprising, but both are encouraging. Hollis Thompson and Robert Covington could also develop into rotation players on a playoff team. So, while the 76ers are missing the John Wall-type guard cornerstone, they may be on track in filling out the supporting roles of their future backcourt rotation.

#3) A casual Sixers fan I know has expressed excitement that this will be “the last year of tanking.” But what say you?

@AMacMull: If “tanking” means being really bad and not doing too much to improve in the short term I’ll say … we’ll have to wait and see what is available to them. I think that the front office and ownership has probably reached a place where they feel they have collected a enough assets to make a significant move. If a disgruntled star player decides he wants a change of scenery, the 76ers could put together an attractive offer. If the right player is available in the draft when they pick, it could accelerate the rebuilding. Of course, as this offseason showed, the 76ers don’t entirely have control over what players are available to them. So while having more to offer might make them bolder in looking to make improvements it won’t change their patient approach or their aversion to making improvements that only help in the short term.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.