Weekly Sixers Roundup: Debating The Process

T.J. McConnell receives more national love, more columns debating the merits of the Sixers rebuild, and and updated power rankings highlight this week's Sixers roundup.

Sixers center Jahlil Okafor is one of the cornerstones of the Sixers' rebuild | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sixers center Jahlil Okafor is one of the cornerstones of the Sixers’ rebuild | Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Every week we’ll collect some of the stories being written about the Philadelphia 76ers. You can check out previous roundups here.

This week saw more debate of “The Process”, some attention directed towards surprising rookie point guard T.J. McConnell, and the signs of the potential for an implosion with the Sacramento Kings.

Let’s get started.

First, we’ll start off with a couple of debates on “The Process” that Sixers GM Sam Hinkie is using to rebuild the team. First up is NBA.com’s Ian Thomsen, who wrote a pretty complimentary piece about the Sixers rebuild going against the trend of the NBA, but showing progress.

“For all of the criticisms of the 76ers methods, their program makes ruthless sense. A recent online poll of Sixers fans at philly.com found that 65.3 percent still believe in GM Sam Hinkie’s plan of sacrificing the short-term to the pursuit of long-lasting investments in talent. The only reason Hinkie was able to turn the draft picks of 2013 and ’14 into Noel and Embiid and Saric was because they were not instantly available to play as rookies. The Sixers’ patience gave them access to superior talent. And then last June Okafor fell to them because the Lakers went for a sexier point guard with more star power in D’Angelo Russell.”

That relatively positive article was in stark contrast to one written by Seth Partnow for SI’s “The Cauldron” blog. In the article, Partnow discusses how he believes some of the small details, not the overarching philosophy, could be the Sixers’ downfall.

“Okafor, in particular, might learn some bad habits just to get by as a post scorer, and that could limit him later. It’s no accident he shot 38.6 percent from the floor in preseason, with his offensive game limited to isolation postups where he received the ball as much as 18 feet from the basket and was forced to batter his way through packed defenses to get shots up. A proven floor general would be better able to reward him with accurate passes when he does successfully rim run in transition or duck into the post from the weakside in the half court. Without that positive reinforcement, will he learn to keep making those movements?

It’s unlikely that the Sixers’ grand experiment will ever be repeated. It takes a very unique combination of owner patience and fanbase tolerance. But if it fails, it won’t necessaarily be because it’s a flawed plan. It more likely will be due to the accumulated small failures of its execution.”

On a topic related to “the process”, Nylon Calculus had an article related to “draft busts”, and how much missing on a draft pick sets a franchise back. While it’s too early to say whether any of the Sixers top selections will be busts (Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor certainly don’t look to be headed that way, and Joel Embiid, while he obviously has that potential to not provide value because of his injury, is still too early to label with certainty), it’s a topic that is interesting to a Sixers franchise staking so much of their future on the draft. Their conclusion: it doesn’t set a franchise back that much.

“Think Denver in 2002 and 2003. The Nuggets famously missed with their #5 pick in ‘02, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, only to be awarded the #3 pick in 2003. It took a master stroke of overanalyzing by Detroit for Carmelo Anthony to fall into the Nuggets laps in the next draft, but he did, and it started the streak of ten consecutive playoff appearances by the Nuggets.

A more long range example is of the 1992-1996 Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota had a pick in the top five following each of those seasons, but really only hit it big on one of the picks. In consecutive drafts, the Timberwolves selected Christian Laettner, Isaiah Rider, Donyell Marshall, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen (who was flipped on draft night for Stephon Marbury).”

Undrafted rookie point guard T.J. McConnell continues to get national attention for his surprising play. First up was a statistical spotlight from, once again, Nylon Calculus, who highlights the impact McConnell has had with his teammates while he’s been on the court. The second McConnell piece comes from HoopsHabit, who makes the case that McConnell could be this year’s version of Robert Covington, a player who came in with little fanfare but could end up being a long-term piece on a very team-friendly contract. Finally, Gordie Jones wrote a really nice article on McConnell’s basketball family over at CSN Philly, which includes a family member who was an Olympian and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

With a few weeks now in the books, power rankings are starting to come out. The surprise? Many don’t have the 0-8 Sixers ranked last.

In terms of rookie rankings, NBA.com updated their rookie ladder, where they have Jahlil Okafor ranked second, behind Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns. Ananth Pandian wasn’t quite so nice over at CBS Sports, where he ranks Okafor 4th, although he is in the “studs” category.

Sixers (and Devils) owner Joshua Harris owns a private helicopter. His helicopter was parked in a soccer field waiting to pick Harris up from a Devils game, causing a youth soccer game to be canceled. Seriously. Harris, who has an agreement with the school to use the field for his helicopter, apologized for the incident, and offered friends and families of those affected to be his guest at an upcoming Devils game as a sign of good will.

Mike Sielski ran a piece on the Sixers rebuild where Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil said some things defending the team. The biggest attention grabber? “I’m like, ‘Have you guys lost your [expletive] minds?'”.

The Kings. Oh, the Kings. The Kings are of particular interest to Sixers fans since the Sixers own the right to swap first round draft picks with the Kings the next two years, as well as a future first round draft pick that could end up being unprotected. If there’s one team you want to be dysfunctional, it’s a team that you can potentially get up to three first round picks from over the next few years. And dysfunctional the Kings are.

Following numerous reports about a players only meeting, The Big Lead came out with a scathing report that alleged, among other things, DeMarcus Cousins went on a profanity laced tirade against George Karl, that GM Vlade Divac is asking his players whether he should fire Karl, and that the decision to draft Willie Cauley-Stein and sign Rajon Rondo in free agency was, at least partially, influenced by Vivek Ranadive’s desire to woo Kentucky head coach John Calipari to be the team’s next head coach. Because, you know, using the #6 pick in a draft to try to entice a coach who you have little chance of luring is how you want to run your franchise.

This led to USA Today to report that George Karl could be fired as early as this week, to Ken Berger of CBS Sports saying that both Karl and Cousins could be out, and to SB Nation’s Tom Ziller to speculate on whether it’s time to move on from DeMarcus Cousins.

Finally, I teamed up with PhillyVoice’s Rich Hofmann to talk about Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, and the start to the Sixers season on our latest edition of the Sixers Beat podcast.

Happy college basketball day.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine’s new Sixers Post. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.