I'm pretty sure the only front office to ever embrace tanking as much as the 2011 Bobcats front office did is this year's Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are on a crash course for the lottery and have no intentions of changing course. I got in contact with Sean O'Connor of Liberty Ballers to give us some insight into the Sixers.
Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams made a huge splash at the beginning of the season and while he hasn't completely fallen off, we haven't heard much from him lately. Does he still look like a high quality NBA player? Is he a rookie of the year candidate?
Between the knee infection and the Sixers' predictable fall-off, obviously his season is going to get lost in a series of other storylines. And no one could keep up near quadruple-double numbers. But MCW has settled in to be, at least in my eyes, a better than league-average point guard. You could have told me that before the season, and I'd have probably laughed in your face, pointing you out to others for the sake of embarrassment.
His shooting still concerns everyone. His shot mechanics looked improved before the knee infection, which sidelined him for about two weeks. Since then, he hasn't been bashful about shooting, but his percentage have dropped pretty dramatically since a solid start to the year. As a believer that point guards or other primary ball-handlers need to be at least shooting threats to be super-effective, I'm still concerned long-term about that. But his defense and court-vision are fantastic. I'm generally excited about his future.
Also: only Trey Burke can really be considered competition for the ROY right now. I'd give it to MCW, but I'm biased, and Burke's effectiveness I think is overstated just because Utah's other point guards just vomit all over the court whenever they've played.
Before the last draft I'm pretty sure everybody expected Nerlens Noel to be the number 1 overall pick until his knee injury. Instead he fell all the way to 6 and was traded to the Sixers. He appears to be taking the season off to recover, what are the expectations when he comes back?
Interestingly, Nerlens Noel has been coach Brett Brown's pet project. Throughout his knee rehab, the team has worked on trying to rebuild Noel's shot from the ground up. I don't expect immediate results on that end, and he'll never be much more than a rim-runner if the shot doesn't pan out. But if you project as well defensively as his college stats would indicate, and I'm a believer, then just that may make him the best prospect in this draft down the line.
Are Sixers fans embracing the tanking that Sam Hinkie has brought to the team as much as your fellow Liberty Baller Michael Levin is? Has Hinkie worked on getting a restraining order on Levin yet?
On an almost-every-week basis I put together a Tank Watch (I'm shameless)! Most fans that read Liberty Ballers seem to understand and embrace the intentions, although more mainstream ones don't seem to be as happy to lose. I can't say I blame them; I was one of them once. Losing sucks. But LB has embraced it pretty much as a whole among the staff. No expectations can be fun for a while, though several losing years in a row can change that philosophy (hi, Bobcats fans!)
As for Levin, he can embrace the unembraceable. I suggested Kendall Marshall get one once Hinkie signed him; I'm convinced Hinkie and our D-League team originally claimed him partially because he's a legit prospect, but mostly to troll Levin. He actually suggested at a blogger meetup that he'd leak rumors that the team would sign Marshall.
There are a lot of players on the Sixers who are probably not part of their future, is there even the slightest chance they keep a Thaddeus Young or is everybody above the age of 23 gone?
I'm going to give the easy/ cop-out answer: it depends. Young is fantastic and could help a contender now, and he could catch a great return that would make a deal worth it. But even he's still 25 and getting better. If a deal comes that would make the team better down the road I think Hinkie pulls the trigger. That goes for the other "vets" as well.
The guy we see involved in the most trade talk is Evan Turner, what are the Sixers looking to get for him?
Whatever he can, so long as it has any future value. Here's hoping he can sucker a GM into giving up something significant based on Turner's raw stats and doesn't look much deeper.
Okay, last question. Philly is currently the 3rd worst team in the NBA. What do they do to take their tanking to the next level?
Their differential indicates they're more likely to fall off than improve, but they have too many wins right now that, if they sustain their current pace, to end up losing most games. So the best plan would be to let it ride I'd they want to drop down to number 2, or if they're gung-Ho for the top pick, trading Young and Hawes would go a long way toward sinking to the bottom. At that point, the tank would be SO on.
If you're interested you can follow Sean on twitter at @soconnor76. You can find his and other Sixers opinions over at Liberty Ballers.