Michael Carter Williams notched his first career triple-double this week and has been pretty fantastic so far in his rookie campaign. What does his play mean for this season and the future of the organization moving forward?
His play means that there will actually be something fun about this season. I'm only half-kidding. I thoroughly expected MCW to have some serious growing pains this year but he's played excellent in just about every game. He's very willing to get to the rim (don't get me wrong, I loved Jrue but getting him to drive was like pulling teeth), and the jump shot is really coming along nicely. Credit Brett Brown and the coaching staff for helping him grow his outside shooting ability.
For the future, it's humongous. I think the Sixers have a point guard who can command this team for the next 8-10 years. Not that they'd give up on him after a year, but him standing out this year will allow them to use their two likely lottery picks on other needs. A two guard who can shoot and a complimentary forward to Noel come to mind. This team could be dangerous rather quickly.
Speaking of pretty fantastic, Evan Turner is putting up career-best numbers and seems to have finally made the jump his fourth year in the league. What's changed for him?
I think getting the monkey that was Doug Collins off his back was huge. I really don't know what it was, but there was obviously something Collins saw in Turner, whether it was his demeanor or on the court play that he just hated. Evan spent forever coming off the bench with no faith from his coach. That can really hurt a player. Brett Brown has come in and essentially let Turner be thee guy for the Sixers right now. It's paid off. All nice things said, they'll eventually trade him. No doubt in my mind.
According to NBA stats, the 76ers are the best clutch scoring team in the league. In the last five minutes of games within five points Philly averages a league best 14.4 points. How has such a young team been able to perform so well late in games?
Again, it's coaching. There seriously could not have been a better guy for this situation than Brett Brown because the guy actually is there for his players unlike Collins, who just yelled and clapped for 48 minutes. He's instilled a lot of confidence in his players, and in turn they trust their own ability to get the job done. He also does a tremendous job drawing up plays in late game situations. I highlighted his play calling skills a little more here.
With the early season success, was there terror from the fan base that the team was tanking all wrong?
Yes. Most probably would've been blowing a gasket for the first seven or so games, and I sort of understand that. There may have been a night or two where I woke up in a cold sweat because the Sixers had to take Montrezl Harrell instead of Julius Randle because they won too many games. But everyone needed to understand how long this season truly is, and that there was plenty of time for everything to implode as it should. You can't tell players to lose, you can only put them in a position to do so. Hinkie has done that here. Come February this team will probably look like a barren wasteland. I think many (including myself) lost that at one point.
It appears as if things are leveling off somewhat in terms of wins and losses but the team still stands second in the pretty horrible Atlantic Division, do you foresee this team actually challenging for a playoff spot?
No, absolutely not. I get how tragically bad the Atlantic Division is. It looks like my Jewish recreational league right now. That said, there is no way in hell the Sixers make the playoffs. I still struggle to believe New York and Brooklyn are going to actually be this bad for 82 games, but if there was ever a chance of this team making the playoffs Hinkie would blow it up. And hell, value for Turner and Hawes are sky high right now. Do whatever you can to position yourself for the draft and the future.
Assuming this season plays out as a rebuilding year, who are the untouchables on the current roster and what player(s) might be most likely to be dealt?
The only people on this team who would be untouchable are Carter-Williams, Noel, and Tony Wroten. Wroten is the best. Everyone else can go. Right now, I'd say Spencer Hawes is probably the team's biggest asset. There's never been a contending team that has said 'Man, we just have way too many competent big men.' Hawes is averaging a double-double and shooting over 45% from three this year. Teams would be licking their chops to get a guy like that to come off the bench for them in a stretch playoff run. That said, I fear Hawes may not be able to keep up this production. He's got a tendency to start off every season en fuego, then either cool off or get injured. They should move him while value is high, and there's no better time than the present.
We watch the Bobcats all the time and know the experience of taking in every game of a challenging NBA team can be....challenging. Should this game get ugly from either side, what's something Charlotte fans can look for from Philadelphia to keep things entertaining?
You can look for Tony Wroten to do lots of wonderful things and you'll probably fall in love. The guy plays hard on both ends, and has a tendency to be a little flashy with the passing. Which could either leave you in awe, or in tears laughing. Although Gerald Henderson does seem to do enough bad passing for both teams...
Anyway, expect a handful of acrobatic, contested layups for Michael Carter-Williams, and lots of threes from "Wight Howard", Spencer Hawes. Should be a fun one. Or just god awful. The good news is we'll all find out together.