All posts by Jeff Berest

I'm your resident stereotypical Philadelphia fan. I've forgotten more about sports than you'll ever know. @jeff_berest

The Midseason Bizarro NBA Awards, Part 1

Happy New Year everyone. As of tonight, 2015 is now upon us. We’re over one third of the way through the NBA season and this is when many experts examine some of the awards races throughout the league. It’s always fun to debate which players are likely to take home these awards at seasons end, but I thought it would be more fun to pick who’s winning each award based on the complete antithesis of the usual qualifications. Welcome to the Bizarro NBA Awards race!

Most Valuable Player

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers

This award is not an indictment on the talent that Kobe Bryant possesses, because he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and the second best shooting guard to ever lace ‘em up. But Kobe takes home the award based on his awful performance thus far into the season. This isn’t entirely his fault because he is playing with the likes of Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill, Ronnie Price, Wes Johnson, and others in the supporting cast who really have no business sharing the court with Kobe, let alone being in the NBA.

It’s like the Lakers are this huge Hollywood movie project. They’ve got all the greatest special effects, good editing and sound mixing, and the film sets are brilliant and massive. But the Lakers didn’t allocate enough in their total budget to make good casting hires. They signed on Mark Wahlberg, the star, but they didn’t have enough money left over to sign any other big names. So they had to hire Mark’s brother Donnie and a litany of other D-list celebrities to play fifteen different roles. The final product just isn’t going to hold up.

kobe vs wiggins

Ridiculous Lakers analogies aside, Kobe’s shooting percentage is way down (37% overall and 27% on threes). With his shooting percentage down, there is also a higher focus on his typically questionable shot selection. There have been many a night so far this season where Kobe will take around30 shots and have very little return in scoring. At this point it’s hard to argue that Kobe is helping this team more than he is hurting it (did you see the Lakers dominate Golden State without Kobe??). By having him out there on a nightly basis, the Lakers have a chance to finish outside the top five of the lottery at seasons end. This is a horrible thing for LA because their first round pick will be given to Phoenix if this comes to fruition. It’s not like Byron Scott or the Lakers front office are going to tell Kobe to sit out the season so they can keep their draft pick, but honestly that is the best course of action. Kobe is not only hurting this team with his overall performance, but he will be hurting the future of Lakers basketball if he is able to regain form and win pointless games for this team down the stretch. If Sam Hinkie was the general manager of the Lakers, Kobe already would’ve been dealt for a 2018 second round pick and the right to swap second rounders in 2019. Bob Dylan once said “the times they are a changing”. However, Ron Burgundy nor Mitch Kupchak ever heard that song.

I’m sorry Kobe, but someone has to take home this award and you’ve been pretty bad this year. But it’s not your fault…

Defensive Player of the Year

The entire Timberwolves team

It’s almost unquantifiable how awful the Timberwolves are on the defensive end; luckily for us sports are all about statistics and we can quantify exactly how awful they really are. The Timberwolves love not playing defense almost as much as ownership loves rehiring Flip Saunders to be their head coach. They’re letting opponents shoot over 49% from the field including over 37% from long distance, as well as surrendering over 109 points per game. You’re just not going to win many NBA games when your opponent is making half of their shots every night and you have to rely on Shabazz Muhammad to lead your team to over 110 points. The Timberwolves are like a hockey team who goes down 1-0 in the first period and then inexplicably decides to pull their goalie for the rest of the game to try and catchup. I mean this is the team that gave the Sixers their first victory of the season; they are no world beaters. The reason I couldn’t zero in on just one winner for this award is because the T’Wolves are so bad at defense collectively, I think it would be unfair to leave anyone out of the spotlight. Flip Saunders the president of basketball operations should tell Flip Saunders the head coach that this team needs to play a little more defense. Or the T’Wolves should just start playing defense like the guys from BASEketball…

Congratulations Minnesota you are the first team to win an individual award!

Rookie of the Year

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

It may be a slightly unorthodox move to give Rookie of the Year to a player that is inactive and hasn’t suited up all year, but this is the bizarro world and giving awards to unqualified recipients is not only accepted, it is encouraged. Normal statistics like points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks are overrated. We should be deciding awards races by how well a person tweets or does the Shmoney dance. Luckily, we have a rookie right in our midst that is absolutely stellar at both.

Andrew Wiggins will likely win the actual ROY award because he can do things like jump really high and occasionally score over 20 points in a game, but we need to measure ROY by more intangible attributes. Joel Embiid has been more entertaining so far from the sidelines than any other rookie has been on the court. Another reason why I personally want to give Joel this bizarro ROY award is because he is also acting as a beacon of hope for my beloved 76ers. He hasn’t even played in an NBA game and yet I can’t stop thinking of how amazing he is going to be. For example, I frequently wake up from nightmares induced from watching the previous night’s Sixers game. When this happens I always head over to my computer and watch Embiid highlights from his time at Kansas to calm me down and ease me back to sleep. This one is a favorite highlight of mine…Dream Shake forever y’all

We don’t know what the future holds, and yes there is always the possibility that he doesn’t live up to the hype. But right now he is carrying a tormented franchise every night while wearing a killer suit at the end of the bench. I think that is significant enough to garner him some credit for this fake award I’m handing out.

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of the Midseason Bizarro Awards. Follow me @jeff_berest for more of my NBA musings and general nonsense and follow @DRosesAndThorns for all your latest NBA/Chicago Bulls news and opinions.

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One is Better Than None

For some reason, Madonna’s hit song from 1984 was running through my head after the Sixers had won their first game to quietly evade history: “Like a virgin, touched for the very first time.” It kind of perfectly encapsulates the season thus far. The Sixers are a team without any experience, and a large bulk of the players on the team had never even won an NBA game before Wednesday. And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t have any qualms comparing my team to a Madonna song.

I know we shouldn’t be celebrating a team that had lost 17 straight games and who narrowly avoided one of the more embarrassing records in NBA history (18 straight losses to begin a season). But sorry I’m not sorry. This win actually felt great as a long suffering Sixers fan. It just felt like a huge chip had been taken off the city’s shoulder. Of course we understand the long term goals of the Sixers and there is virtually no difference between starting 1-17 and 0-18 but as fan you really start to feel and empathize with these players. Regardless of how much talent they lack, they give 110% night in and night out because most of these guys are just trying to stick around in the NBA for more than a couple months.

Michael Carter-Williams is a guy you have to feel for. He’s a true NBA talent and if you watch you can sense the mounting frustration that piles on him every day. He’s going to incur a lifetime of putrid NBA basketball games before the Sixers final roster is complete in a few years. They say in sports there are also moral victories; I think this win belongs in that category as well for MCW. It was also great to see this team get a win because they have been close so many times and the streak needed to end.

This is typically how I am forced to watch Sixers basketball:

Wednesday’s game against Minnesota could also be described as one of the worst basketball games ever played. The first half ended at a paltry 34-32 and there were more turnovers in this game than in a Dutch bakery. But that was actually a perfect recipe for the Sixers to finally chalk one up in the win column.

The Sixers had given up a double digit lead in the first half and I kind of thought the inevitable was going to happen: the T’Wolves would regroup and take out the Sixers. There are certain things you can count on in life; death, taxes, and the Sixers losing in terrible fashion. My expressions during this game were varied. I started out hopeful, then sank into despair, and this finally turned into ecstasy.

There were some unlikely heroes. How about Robert Covington? If you don’t know who Robert Covington is, I’m not going to crucify you because I didn’t know who he was until a few weeks ago. But he’s actually a pretty accomplished NBA D-League player (huge oxymoron), so he was a perfect fit for the Sixers. He came into the game in the fourth quarter and was unconscious and knocked down some critical three point shots for the Sixers. The Sixers were holding a six point lead inside one minute and to tell you the truth I kind of expected them to lose still. Somehow, Mo Williams was going to hit a three with MCW in his face and then steal the inbounds and do it all over again like he was a reincarnated Reggie Miller. But for once the Sixers held on and I couldn’t be happier.

Since I started this piece on a bit of a pop-culture kick…

The Sixers represent Happy Gilmore, the most unconventional golfer of all-time. The Sixers are the most unconventional team ever assembled in the NBA. Unconventional in terms of assembling a team with no talent or chance of winning games, when all other teams are trying to do the complete opposite. Happy’s final putt kind of represents this Sixers-TWolves game. The Sixers are looking at this huge obstacle (setting a bad record) in front of them. Happy’s shot takes all kinds of twists and turns, and the crowd is just in this awkward gaze. This is similar to watching the Sixers; many times I catch myself with just a stunned look at watching the reckless abandon and complete lack of basketball IQ they play with. Then finally when the putt sinks you can’t help but to feel overwhelmed with joy and amazement. I had to kind of pinch myself after the Sixers game had ended to make sure they actually won. I couldn’t help but to get up off the couch and celebrate, also because I don’t know how many more times I’ll be able to do that this season.

This win will likely amount to nothing, and when they play the Thunder on Friday they will most definitely get blown out. However it was fun to bask in this win for about 48 hours and I know Brett Brown will be giving this speech in the locker room before the next game.

The Trade Machine Diaries, Part 2

The ESPN Trade Machine has been a great innovation for avid basketball fans like us. If only real trades were able to go down so easily and without everyone’s consent like in your 2K franchise. I tried my best to come up with 15 realistic trades with all 30 teams involved. So when I say “go” everybody grab a dance partner and make a trade…go!

(Disclaimer #1: because you can’t swap draft picks in the trade machine, I ad-libbed and traded picks based on what I thought was fair value. Disclaimer #2: You may or may not be aware that I’m not a real NBA GM, so what I thought was fair value is subjective. Enjoy.)

If you missed Part One of the Diaries, check them out here.

Philadelphia 76ers/Los Angeles Lakers

Philadelphia sends Tony Wroten to Los Angeles for Wayne Ellington and their 2015 second round pick

As good as Tony Wroten has performed in a Sixers uniform, the fact remains that no one player is safe on a team that is winless through its first 12 games. If you ask Sam Hinkie to weigh Tony Wroten against a second round pick that is likely to be in the top 38, he’s going to choose the draft pick every time. It’s nothing against Wroten; Hinkie is all about collecting future assets. The Lakers probably shouldn’t deal this pick because it seems like this year’s draft is going to be a relatively deep one. Lin and Nash are out the door this summer and Wroten has proven to be a valuable commodity. He’s explosive, can get to the basket at will, and might be a player who can build on his recent success. If the Lakers figure Wroten is better than anyone they’ll get at the top of second round, it makes perfect sense to pull the trigger. Tony Wroten is an obvious upgrade at PG compared to whatever the Lakers have lined up for 2015.

Toronto Raptors/Golden State Warriors

Toronto sends Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes, and a second round draft pick to Golden State for Andre Iguodala

It’s been no secret that Andre Iguodala is unhappy with Steve Kerr and his new role off the bench for the Warriors. If the Warriors really want to make a commitment to Harrison Barnes, trading Andre Iguodala would be a good indication. It may not be the most basketball savvy move for Golden State, but their payroll could use the relief. They receive the expiring deals of Landry Fields and Chuck Hayes, which would benefit them in the offseason. They’ve already committed a ton to David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry, so this type of “salary shedding” deal is necessary for the Warriors. Messing with your teams chemistry while you’re winning isn’t generally a good thing to do, but adding Iguodala for almost nothing makes the Raptors a legit contender to make the Eastern Conference Finals. Terrence Ross is not yet the model of consistency at the SF position, and adding Iguodala, an all-around player and distributor, will help DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Jonas Valanciunas.

Memphis Grizzlies/Utah Jazz

Memphis sends Kosta Koufos and a (top 22 protected) first round pick to Utah for Rudy Gobert

In this scenario Memphis is preparing for life after Marc Gasol. The smart money has Gasol leaving for a huge deal elsewhere (MSG?) in the offseason. Utah has an excess of big men, which is a very valuable commodity these days. Utah cautiously chooses to keep Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors over Gobert. In return, the Jazz gets a protected first rounder and the expiring contract of Kosta Koufos. Rudy Gobert is hardly a finished product, but Memphis could do worse on short notice.

Milwaukee Bucks/New Orleans Pelicans

Milwaukee sends Jared Dudley to New Orleans for John Salmons, Jimmer Fredette, Jeff Withey and a future second round pick

Milwaukee has certainly over performed thus far into the season. The Bucks really don’t rely that heavily on Jared Dudley as is, but now with players like Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, emerging even more, it’s harder to justify giving extended minutes to Jared Dudley. Of course veteran leadership is important for a team like the Bucks, but who actually believes that Dudley is an integral part of this Bucks team? New Orleans is a rising team in the West but their second unit could use some improvements. They really lack depth overall when Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and “the Brow” leave the court. Dudley isn’t the most prolific scorer, but he can at least give the Pelicans a little spark when the starters are on the bench.

(GIF via Tumblr)
(GIF via Tumblr)

Los Angeles Clippers/Denver Nuggets

Los Angeles sends CJ Wilcox and Ekpe Udoh to Denver for Nate Robinson

Right now the Clippers backup point guard is Jordan Farmar. Farmar isn’t the player he used to be when he played with the Lakers championship teams. A bonafide contender like the Clippers should make finding a replacement for Farmar a top priority. At this point, the Nuggets will probably be selling most of their assets, and luckily for Lob City, Nate Robinson is on the block. Besides Jamal Crawford, there isn’t much scoring out there for the Clippers second unit. Knicks fans will begin to pine for the old days when Crawford and Nate were wearing blue and orange. There will be more than enough buckets out there for the two of them when CP3 and JJ Redick leave the game.

New York Knicks/Oklahoma City Thunder

New York sends Iman Shumpert, Samuel Dalembert and Arnett Moultrie to Oklahoma City for Kendrick Perkins and a lottery protected first round pick

It’s entirely possible that Iman Shumpert is not part of the Knicks’ future. Shump is a talented young player but who knows if Phil Jackson has eyes on other potential talent at the two guard spot in free agency. They receive Perkins’ expiring contract as well as a future first rounder from OKC. No, you did not read that incorrectly: for once the Knicks would be receiving a first rounder instead of giving one away. For the Thunder, this could be a last ditch effort at trying to keep Kevin Durant from fleeing to DC. Russell Westbrook, Durant, Serge Ibaka, Shumpert and Steven Adams could contend for the title.

Orlando Magic/San Antonio Spurs

Orlando sends Andrew Nicholson, Dewayne Dedmon and a second round pick to San Antonio for Austin Daye, Jeff Ayres and a future first round pick (top 22 protected)

The frontcourt in Orlando is quickly getting very crowded. The Magic drafted Aaron Gordon fourth overall this year and have big plans for him. They also signed Channing Frye to a four year contract (a questionable signing to say the least) and currently have other bigs on the roster like Kyle O’Quinn and Nik Vucevic and wings in Tobias Harris and Mo Harkless who can play the four as well. The Spurs are the team that would recognize Nicholson withering away on the Orlando bench. This doesn’t really affect Tim Duncan, since he’s immortal and will probably continue playing well into his 50s. But honestly, you’d have to think he only has one or two years left in the tank. Nicholson is kind of a speculative, buy low prospect for the Spurs. They’ve done it before with guys like Danny Green and Boris Diaw. No doubt, if Nicholson were to dress in a Spurs uniform he’d be a solid contributor. Meanwhile, the Magic grab another future asset.

Dallas Mavericks/Washington Wizards

Dallas sends Charlie Villanueva to Washington for Drew Gooden

Hey, these guys are still getting paid to be in the NBA! Finally we’ve reached the end. Sorry that this trade is anticlimactic but those are the breaks of trying to force a deal with every single NBA squad. Some of these trades are bound to be duds.

Follow @jeff_berest for more of my NBA musings and @DRosesAndThorns for more Bulls and NBA coverage.

The Trade Machine Diaries, Part 1

The ESPN Trade Machine has been a great innovation for avid basketball fans like us. If only real trades were able to go down so easily and without everyone’s consent like in your 2K franchise. I tried my best to come up with 15 realistic trades with all 30 teams involved. So when I say “go” everybody grab a dance partner and make a trade…go!

(Disclaimer #1: because you can’t swap draft picks in the trade machine, I ad-libbed and traded picks based on what I thought was fair value. Disclaimer #2: You may or may not be aware that I’m not a real NBA GM, so what I thought was fair value is subjective. Enjoy.)

Atlanta Hawks/Phoenix Suns

Atlanta sends Pero Antic and a future second round pick to Phoenix for Gerald Green

Right now Atlanta has a decent squad, I think ownership’s main focus is just getting into the playoffs and trying to generate some extra revenue as honest as that sounds. (Editor’s note: the Atlanta Hawks are likely to change owners in the near future after this summer’s very weird scandal). Paul Millsap and Al Horford are a great frontcourt and Jeff Teague is really good at times. They could use another scorer out on the wing though. Kyle Korver can fill it up, but it’s hard to get any consistency out of him; DeMarre Carroll is also a really nice role player. But Gerald Green can be asked to score 15-20 points a night for the Hawks, which is something they lack out of the two or three spot. The reality of this trade is that both Green and Antic are expiring deals, and the Suns might have a real concern about trying to resign Green, if they actually want to keep him. The Suns also just gave PJ Tucker and a new deal and drafted TJ Warren in the 1st round this year. Green is definitely expendable.

Boston Celtics/Sacramento Kings

Boston sends Rajon Rondo to Sacramento for Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, and a future top three protected first round pick

This would be a perfect move for both teams. Danny Ainge should really be on the phone 23 hours out of the day trying to get rid of Rondo before he becomes a free agent. If the Celtics get absolutely nothing for Rondo, they are insanely stupid. We know Sacramento is willing to make a splash, and this move might actually make them a contender to get into the playoffs. Celtics would get young assets and a future pick. The Kings would get a true facilitator and someone who could make DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins even better (that’s a scary thought for the Western Conference).

Brooklyn Nets/Indiana Pacers

Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett and a second round pick to Indiana for David West

It’s crazy to think that last year we thought the Brooklyn Nets would be able to compete with Miami for the Eastern Conference title. Oh, how quickly things can change in the NBA. I don’t think anyone still believes they can compete, but the reality is that the Nets are still probably bound for the playoffs. Deron Williams has been playing much better than last year, and Joe Johnson is still a very gifted scorer. If Brook Lopez can stay healthy they still may have a slim shot at making the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers could easily be sellers come the deadline and David West could be the first guy they relieve themselves of. The Nets could really use an upgrade from the walking dead that is Kevin Garnett. West is a proven guy come the postseason and could really complete this Nets squad and make them a headache for other teams in the playoffs. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, and David West is a pretty formidable foursome. Pacers meanwhile acquire Garnett’s expiring, and could use the extra cash to put more pieces around Paul George upon his return. Also, losing West will clearly help the Pacers lose more games and yield them a higher lottery choice.

Charlotte Hornets/Detroit Pistons

Charlotte sends Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller and PJ Hairston to Detroit for Josh Smith

This trade I admit is a little bit of a stretch, but it also makes sense for both teams. It’s not a secret the Pistons and Stan Van Gundy have become very disenchanted with Josh Smith. It’s also obvious watching Josh Smith play that he is simply not a small forward. This trade would send Smith to the Hornets where he could play power forward for them and stretch the floor creating space for Al Jefferson. The Hornets have invested a lot in Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker this offseason, if Charlotte doesn’t make the playoffs it would be a huge disappointment for the front office. Adding Josh Smith would really create an offensive juggernaut, if they can become a cohesive unit before season’s end they would have a real shot at a playoff series victory. In return Detroit gets a few young assets including MKG and Cody Zeller. Kidd-Gilchrist might benefit from a change of scenery and Zeller is a fundamentally sound scorer who could develop under great tutelage from Stan Van Gundy. Detroit also sheds Smith’s bounty of a contract. It may be a long shot, but this deal has me pining for a Josh Smith/Al Jefferson frontcourt.

(Editor’s note: If SVG pulled this off, I would move to Detroit and join a Van Gundy cult. Josh Smith’s contract, style and attitude are terrible. I would rather have MKG or Noah Vonleh than him on my team).

Center swap? Highly unlikely, but Portland would love it.
Center swap? Highly unlikely, but Portland would love it.

Chicago Bulls/Portland Trail Blazers

Chicago sends Joakim Noah to Portland for Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright and a future first round pick (lottery protected)

I realize this move may be unpopular with the (D)Roses and Thorns faithful, but just hear my explanation before you excommunicate me. Derrick Rose’s and Pau Gasol’s health is a real concern, it doesn’t really seem like the Bulls are going to be able to make a real run at the title as is. Noah is almost 30 and has been banged up himself; if a willing suitor comes along looking for a center the Bulls would really have to consider. Noah has a costly contract, and the looming Jimmy Butler deal is not going to weigh favorably on the Bulls salary cap. This trade enables the Bulls to take on three expiring deals and a future first rounder. Even if you swap Robin Lopez for Noah, I don’t think this necessarily takes the Bulls out of playoff contention if they’re close to getting a spot at the deadline. Thibs will for sure get the most out of his players, this includes Robin Lopez. The Trail Blazers will get a legitimate defensive stopper to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge. Noah will help the Blazers get past the first round in the playoffs once again, and potentially win another round. Noah’s passing ability will also make Aldridge and Dame Lillard better as well. The Bulls have certainly gotten the best years out of Noah; the Blazers are hoping for a couple more.

(Editor’s note: NOOOOOO STOP IT)

Cleveland Cavaliers/Minnesota Timberwolves

Cleveland sends Dion Waiters to Minnesota for Corey Brewer and a second round pick

The displeasure that LeBron James shows for Dion Waiters is painfully obvious, and as we all know, LeBron is the real GM of the Cavs. So GM LeBron decides he’s had enough of Dion and sends him to a city that’s even colder than Cleveland. It’s a disappointment for the Cleveland front office that this is all they’re receiving for the former #4 overall pick Dion Waiters. But they’re clearly “all in” this season, and if swapping Corey Brewer for Dion Waiters will make them a better team and more formidable in the playoffs, this a deal they have to do. The Timberwolves on the other hand get another young Cleveland asset, and they are hopeful they can squeeze any remaining potential Waiters has out of him–but with Flip Saunders calling the shots that’s pretty doubtful. Eventually Waiters will hook on somewhere that utilizes him properly. He can really be a spark off someone’s bench where they ask him to be a pure scorer when he’s in the game. It won’t be in Cleveland and it certainly won’t be in Minnesota, but the kid has talent.

Miami Heat/Houston Rockets

Miami sends Norris Cole to Houston for Clint Capela and Nick Johnson

This trade is really simple for both teams. Listen, I can’t be expected to produce blockbusters every time. Houston isn’t necessarily desperate for a PG, but they could really use an upgrade for their second unit. That is something Norris Cole has proven he can do for the last three seasons. Isiah Canaan has been a good surprise for Houston, but he can’t be expected to deliver in the playoffs. Norris Cole could really be a valuable piece for Houston come April. Miami has really gotten a steal in Shabazz Napier. Between Napier and Mario Chalmers, the Heat are pretty much set at PG. Trading Cole for some young assets like Clint Capela and Nick Johnson isn’t too shabby of a deal.

PART 2 OF THE TRADE MACHINE DIARIES

Your 2018 Eastern Conference Champions…

This article is dedicated to myself for giving my heart and soul to the Sixers even though I’ll be getting nothing in return for a couple years. Also, to the recently released Sixer Chris Johnson, because we all know he never had a shot…pour one out for the homie.

Flashback to Draft Night 2013

The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off an abysmal and disappointing season which ended in the firing of head coach/broadcaster extraordinaire Doug Collins and the release of President and acting GM Rod Thorn. We legit had Thorn running this team in the front office and Doug Collins slowly dissipating any chemistry left on the floor. What’s even more absurd is that as a fan, this duo was actually creating a sense of optimism for the franchise the previous two years. Seems silly right?

Oh yeah, one more thing. We had that whole Andrew Bynum trade really not work out in our favor. We dealt our franchise player (if you can call Andre Iguodala one) as well as the walking double-double Nikola Vucevic. I absolutely was in love with Vucevic when he was a Sixer, such a rare type of talent at the center position, and Doug Collins didn’t even put his ass on the floor during the playoffs. Sorry, just letting out some frustration. I think throughout this article you’ll notice I will do that. As a Sixers fan releasing pent up negative energy in a healthy way is step one in the twelve steps to admitting you’re a Sixers fan.

To sum this digression up: Andrew Bynum while with the Sixers played 0 games and averaged 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 blocks per game. In comes the dark and mysterious figure that is general manager Sam Hinkie. To be honest, I knew very little about Hinkie when he was hired as GM. I knew he came from the Rockets organization and he was very into analytics. He also wasn’t Rod Thorn so Hinkie had that going for him. I was on board.

So back to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Typically an NBA franchise that has recently fired their head coach hires a new one before an important event like the draft. But obviously the Sixers are no typical franchise with Hinkie at the helm. Sam Hinkie legitimately didn’t care who the future coach would be; this draft was all his. Now obviously the Sixers ownership is involved, but they have basically given Hinkie the only keys to the castle. He makes every decision and the only one that he answers to is god; and even god is like “dude, whatever you gotta do to make this Sixers team competitive is alright with me…”

The Sixers roster before the draft featured a bunch guys with mediocre skills. It was non-descript to say the least. But we had one silver lining and that was 23 year old All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. He seemed like a legit building block and a guy Hinkie would be able to put pieces around and go forward wi…..and he’s gone! While everyone was salivating at the prospect of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel playing alongside each other in New Orleans and blocking around 35 shots a game, Hinkie was behind closed doors dealing for the injured Kentucky product (Noel) as well as a future first round pick.

There was a lot of discrepancy in the reporting of this deal during draft night. While all of the facts were being sorted out, the Sixers were on the clock and had selected Syracuse point guard and future rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, aka MCW, aka “the Sultan of Steals”, aka “the Prime Minister of Passing” (none of these other nicknames have stuck like MCW unfortunately). After the selection of MCW this basically confirmed that Jrue Holiday was on the move. I had trouble wrestling with this new direction Hinkie was steering us in. But the team was going nowhere and had zero shot of winning anything with just Jrue Holiday, and while the concept of bottoming out and possibly getting Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker was appealing, it was a long way away from next year’s draft.

MCW-and-Noel

By the end of the night I was on board and fully immersed in what I refer to as “Hinkieball”. It’s like “moneyball” except completely different and not involving baseball. Hinkie had completely changed the course of the franchise for the better in about 15 minutes. 15 minutes! That’s a fourth of an episode of Homeland! Hinkie moved Jrue Holiday for what would have been the #1 overall pick if healthy (Noel) and a top three protected first rounder next year from the Pelicans in addition to completely overhauling the cap situation. At the end of the 2013-14 season they had an astounding $36 million available. Teams would kill for a cap situation this good. Literally, Mitch Kupchak would go out on a murdering spree in LA right now to give the Lakers just half as good a cap situation as Hinkie has gotten for the Sixers.

So finally the 2013-14 season is upon us. Sixers fans are ready for the tanking extravaganza to begin. We have our several boxes of tissues to wipe away tears that we were to experience in the upcoming months. We also have our slop buckets to collect all the vomit induced from the sickening feeling of watching Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes take a combined 50 shots a game. I actually want you to keep reading so I’m not going to go into actual detail about the Sixers 2013-14 season.

2013 sixers

Here are the highlights:

  • We beat Miami in the season opener and MCW locked up the rookie of the year award on day one of the season. (Editor’s note: also this. Fuck this.)
  • Sam Hinkie acquired every second round pick in the next three NBA drafts at the trade deadline.

…..and that’s about it.

Also just for a good laugh here are some actual guys who appeared in a Sixers uniform last season.

  • Daniel Orton
  • Lorenzo Brown
  • James Nunnally
  • Adonis Thomas
  • Darius Johnson-Odom

Those five guys could play against you and some friends in pickup ball at the local JCC and you’d probably only lose by a couple buckets.

Finally, last season was the most awkward I have ever felt about the game of basketball in my life and I wouldn’t wish that kind of suffering upon any of my enemies. It was just weird watching a bunch of not-quite fringe NBA players play bad basketball and hoping that they lose night in and night out. It’s hard to sit there and root for your team to lose, but that was truly the only way to get better. It was also the first time as a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan where losing was not only tolerated but encouraged. It’s crazy to think that this little middle-aged white guy from Houston had completely mesmerized a city that is known to have no patience and is absolutely heartless when it comes to their sports teams’ successes or failures. (Obligatory cliché “snowballs at Santa Claus” joke).  But for real, we threw batteries at J.D. Drew for saying he didn’t want to play here. We’re the craziest fan base in the whole world and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.

Anyway we won 19 games last season and finished with the second best odds at landing the #1 pick in June in addition to the Pelicans pick, which ended up being #10 overall. This was going swimmingly for Hinkie and the front office. Sixers fans could finally see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. We ended up landing the third pick, which locked us in at getting Wiggins, Parker, or Embiid. All three of those guys would excite the fan base and reinvigorate the team. Then the Joel Embiid injury threw the whole top of the draft for a loop. Was there a real possibility that the Sixers would take a flyer on an injured big man and sit him for the entire season? I truly couldn’t fathom going through another year like the last.

So obviously and without hesitation, Sam Hinkie took Joel Embiid and put a dagger through the heart of every Sixers fan. To add insult to injury, he traded for Dario Saric and stashed him away overseas, thus twisting the dagger that he had already thrust inside us. What everyone wanted to believe was a one year rebuilding plan ended up being a multiyear process. After hundreds of expletives hurled by me at friends, family, religious statues, and TV media personalities, I finally began to cope with what was going on with my beloved Sixers franchise. In one year Sam Hinkie had gathered a pretty impressive stock. Four top twelve picks (MCW, Noel, Embiid, Saric), approximately $35-40 million in cap flexibility, and the likelihood of gathering another top three pick in 2015. He also acquired Joel Embiid’s Twitter handle, which has been All-Star caliber. The dude hits up Kim Kardashian and Rihanna on Twitter just because. As far as I’m concerned, Joel is the man and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

This brings us into the present and the 2014-15 Sixers squad. It’s definitely been easier to mentally prepare for this current season then it was for last. I’m used to seeing just terrible basketball run across my TV screen, but now it’s being brought to an all-time low. Last year, miraculously we won 19 games. This was largely due to having a combination of Turner, Hawes, Thad Young, and MCW. After Turner and Hawes were dealt at the deadline the team began to plummet down the standings. Not because they were great players, but because instead of acceptable NBA players taking 15-20 shots each a game; those shots were replaced by the likes of Casper Ware and Byron Mullens. This year, the Sixers have no decent veterans who can average 12-15 points a game. This is the reason they are without a win 10 games into the season.

Reasons-The-Sixers-Will-Still-Be-Terrible-Justin-Ford-USA-TODAY-Sports
via Rantsports 

This was the Sixers 2014 opening night starting lineup:

  • PG Tony Wroten
  • SG Chris Johnson
  • SF Hollis Thompson
  • PF Nerlens Noel
  • C Henry Sims

Seriously, this is no misprint. These guys can all call themselves NBA starters. I mentioned above that Chris Johnson was let go, and this is no accident, he really is a dreadful player. Johnson was brought into training camp one week before the season started. The Sixers roster is so pitiful this year, that Brett Brown legit had no other options at the two guard spot but to start a guy who just joined the team a week ago.

This whole scenario is so so sad. The Sixers are not guilty of tanking, as much as obliterating any chance possibly winning basketball games. The Sixers are comprised of MCW, Nerlens, and the longest list of D-list celebrity NCAA players who you may or may not remember when they were on a team that was a 12 seed in the tournament. However, second round pick K.J. McDaniels has been a true bright spot for the team and could actually be an integral part of this Sixers team in the future. Early reports on Nerlens Noel are good as well. He obviously needs to develop his body and gain weight and muscle, but his defensive skills are evident and he and Embiid in the frontcourt are not going to be a friendly sight for opponents in the future.

But why be on board with Sam Hinkie and the direction the franchise is going? Is it because we have no other choice and that believing in something is better than not believing at all? I think that’s true for the most part, but I also do personally believe in this plan. Having beyond awful basketball for the next two to three years is a fair sacrifice so that the Sixers are able to prosper for the next ten years after. I also believe in Brett Brown as a head coach. He’s coaching a bunch of college level guys and trying to get them to play together and improve on a night-to-night basis. His record as a coach is not even close to a direct correlation for the caliber of coach he will become when there is finally a real NBA team in front of him. Right now it’s really no fun being a Sixers fan. But if I had the chance to go back to draft night 2013 and stop Sam Hinkie from trading Jrue Holiday and dismantling the franchise I love so dearly; 100 out of 100 times I’m letting him dial up the Pelicans and make that deal.

Keep calm and Hinkie on my fellow Sixer fans, greener pastures are coming.

@jeff_berest