Opening Statements 10: Wizards at Sixers — The Battle for I-95 | Wizards Blog Truth About

Opening Statements 10: Wizards at Sixers — The Battle for I-95

Updated: November 16, 2016

Washington Wizards vs Philadelphia 76ers

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. It’s rarely supposed to be like this.

Mired in a swampy 2-7 start, with quality wins over Atlanta and Boston but nothing else to show for their toil, the Washington Wizards are fending off familiar demons. Bradley Beal is injured, missing games for a hamstring issue that I can’t convince myself is half as serious as some are breathlessly proclaiming it to be. Marcin Gortat is apologizing for a true, too-candid statement about the team’s dismal bench play. And about that bench play … Andrew Nicholson, arguably the team’s second-biggest free agency splash, is racking up DNP-CDs after what appears to be a massive summer whiff by the patron saint of fucking up and living to tell about it, Ernie Grunfeld.

Some bright spots have emerged, too. Otto Porter is having an almost convincing “breakout” season. Tomas Satoransky is for real, and should be able to find 20-plus minutes per game even when John Wall and Beal are both healthy.

The Wizards battle the eternally embattled tonight: the Philadelphia 76ers, just a couple of upstart kids spurred on by a coach with a thick Maine accent tinged with Australian inflection. The Wizards, 2-7, aren’t much better by record than the 76ers, who are 1-9. I’m sure there is an explanation. What’s that? We have a Ted Leonsis quote? Let’s run it.

Oh, definitely man. Great insight on the election too.

Joining TAI today is my friend, Alex MacMullan (@AMacMull) from Hoop76, a Philadelphia 76ers TrueHoop blog.

#1) With Joel Embiid looking every bit the potential star he was drafted to be, should the Sixers have any regrets in the 2015 draft? (#3, Jahlil Okafor)

The Sixers should have regrets about the Okafor pick regardless of Embiid’s health. Aside from the fact that many players selected after Okafor would be better fits on the Sixers roster with or without Embiid (Porzingis, Winslow, Myles Turner, Devin Booker … it hurts typing this) Okafor is simply not very good. He doesn’t rebound or protect the rim, has been worse than advertised at passing out of the post/double teams, doesn’t set good picks, and holds the ball too much on offense. He’s showed himself to be a player that could only succeed on a very very specific roster surrounded by shooters with a unicorn stretch 4 that hits 3s and also blocks shots (maybe the Blazers? Knicks next to Porzingis if they improved their wing shooting? Not sure there is anyone else). What I do know is that it’s not working here in Philly.

#2) Concoct a Nerlens Noel trade between the Wizards and Sixers. No third parties allowed.

Hmm … sure you don’t want Okafor instead after my glowing review? Assuming Okafor isn’t moveable something clearly has to give. But I can’t stress enough how difficult it is to gauge Nerlens’ value. It is difficult to deny his talent defensively when he is given the opportunity to play at center. We’re talking about a guy who finished in or near the top 10 in the NBA as a rookie in Block Percentage (9th), Steal Percentage (6th), Defensive Rating (8th), Defensive Win Shares (11th), and Defensive Box Plus/Minus (4th); he pretty much single-handedly made the Sixers defense respectable in 2014-15. But, of course, he missed 2013-14, was forced out of position in 2015-16, and hasn’t played this year—partly due to injury and likely partly due to protest regarding the Sixers big man logjam. Given he is also set for a pay increase as an RFA and Philadelphia’s lack of leverage, most Sixers fans recognize that if a Nerlens deal goes down we should expect less than what might otherwise be considered “full market value” for his talent. With the additional disclaimers that: (1) I haven’t considered how these proposals affect  future cap implications/holds and only checked that they pass the trade machine; and (2) I’m operating under the premise, given the question posed, that the Wizards would be interested in Noel despite having laid out significant cap money to bigs, here are two hypotheticals:

A. The simplest deal: Otto Porter for Nerlens straight up. Can’t say I’ve watched a ton of Otto this year but the numbers, which may be slightly skewed by the explosion against Boston, indicate he’s improving. The Sixers need wings and Otto could fill that role. If the teams made the deal sooner rather than later both would have a chance to try their return out before deciding if they wanted to commit significant RFA money to each in the offseason.

B. More Prospects: Tomas Satoransky and Kelly Oubre for Nerlens Noel and OKC’s Top 20 Protected 1st Rd. pick (recently acquired in the Jerami Grant deal, turns into two successive second round picks if it doesn’t convey in year one). I propose this one carefully as no one knows better than Sixers fans how attached one can grow to prospects with potential. Conor Dirks can attest that I’ve been driving the Satoransky hype train since about a year after the Wiz drafted him. I have an affinity for guards with the potential to be super subs capable of running the point or going off ball, and Sato fits that bill. Of course, as Nik Stauskas has shown, sometimes the jack of all trades master of none thing fails miserably, so Sato is a much bigger question mark than Noel moving forward. Also been a longtime admirer of Oubre, who has a ton of talent but is far from developed. I’d be very happy with this return, even if it meant even more waiting and hoping for young development.

Ed. Note: I can confirm that Mr. MacMullan is indeed the #NumberOneSatoranskyBoy.

#3) The Sixers are bad again, but are they more fun to watch than the last few years?

Unequivocally, yes. I probably sound crazy but for me, watching Embiid is already worth every bad loss we’ve endured over the last few years. His potential feels unlimited and his production in his limited games with restricted minutes is pretty much unprecedented for a rookie (on a per 36 basis).

#4) The Sixers are bad again, but are they meaningfully worse than the Wizards?

This one is the hardest to answer without the benefit of being a Wiz fan. If we are speaking about right here, right now in this moment, they are meaningfully worse if one of your top priorities as a fan is ensuring you see a team capable of being competitive every night. A veteran John Wall surrounded by Beal (hopefully healthy), Gortat, Porter, Morris, etc. should provide that. There are nights where the Sixers have no hope of winning from the tip. If the ultimate goal is building a contender, both teams are miles away from that right now and I’d probably argue the Sixers are “closer” given (a healthy) Embiid, Simmons, Dario, whatever they trade/keep of Nerlens/Jah—trade only for Jah, their 2017 pick, the Lakers 2017 pick, and the Kings unprotected 2019 pick.

#5) The Sixers are bad again, so why replace Hinkie with Colangelo?

I’m the wrong guy to ask. I’m as pro-Hinkie as it gets. I will fly a Hinkie flag at the parade if a team built from the foundation he began to lay wins a championship some day.


Conor Dirks on EmailConor Dirks on FacebookConor Dirks on GoogleConor Dirks on InstagramConor Dirks on LinkedinConor Dirks on Twitter
Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.