Sixers Mailbag #11: Who Gets Credit if Sixers’ Rebuild Succeeds?

If the 76ers rebuild proves to be successful, will Jerry Colangelo or Sam Hinkie get the credit?

This week we continue our 76ers mailbag series, where we discuss some of the pressing topics around the team.

In the 11th edition of our Sixers mailbag we take a look at who deserves credit if the Sixers turn the team around, what the chances of the Lakers pick conveying are, playing time decisions between Carl Landry and Richaun Holmes, and Jahlil Okafor‘s surprising perimeter shot.

You can read previous editions of the Sixers mailbag here. If you want to submit a question for a future mailbag either shoot me a message on twitter or send me an email.

Note: any opinions expressed here are my own opinions, and not reports or expectations based off of inside information, unless I explicitly state that a statement is based off of inside information.

Joe (@JDark767):

“What are the odds looking like of Lakers pick conveying? What teams have realistic chance of “overtaking” them, if any?”

From a purely mathematical standpoint, Basketball-Reference does a projection where they run 7,500 simulations to determine where a team will finish. They have the Lakers as having a 77.7 percent chance of finishing with the second worst record, with an 11.3 percent chance of overtaking the Sixers for the worst record in the league and an 11 percent chance of falling down from two (9.5 percent chance of finishing with the third worst record, 1.3 percent for the fourth worst, and 0.2 percent chance for the fifth worst).

In those simulations, the only team with a meaningful chance of finishing with the second worst record is the Brooklyn Nets (8.7 percent). The Suns (1.3 percent) and Wolves (0.8 percent) remain remote candidates.

Just spitballing, that seems to be what I would say as well. Minnesota is in a tailspin, but they have enough talent that I think they’re not a realistic chance. Phoenix is in a complete freefall, and they might end up finishing with a worse record for the remainder of the season than the Lakers, but that four game head start might might be too much to overcome. Brooklyn represents the best of both worlds: they’re a trainwreck, they’re playing awful basketball, and they only have two more wins than the Lakers.

Basketball-Reference also combines the rest-of-season projections with the lottery odds to project the chances that each team finishes with various draft picks. They have the Lakers at a 51.7 percent chance to finish with a top-3 pick and a 48.3 percent chance to finish with the fourth or later pick, which would then convey to the Sixers.

So, basically, a coin flip.

Jerry Walker (@JayWalker8012):

“If the Process works and the Sixers win a championship in 2018, would the Association name Sam Hinkie Exec of the Year?”

Well, he would have to still be employed by 2018. While nothing is set in stone, and I doubt even the primary players in the Sixers ownership/front office know exactly how this will shake out, I can certainly envision a scenario playing out where that’s not the case.

But even if he is still employed and in a position of power come 2018, and even if everything turns out perfectly, I really doubt he’s going to get the credit for the turnaround.

This situation is tailor-made for the narrative of Jerry Colangelo riding into the Wells Fargo Center (once a month), improving the win total, and getting all the praise from a jury of his peers that, a jury that holds Colangelo in very high regard.

And look, if Colangelo is the lead decision-maker from here on out and they do rise to prominence, he does deserve some of the credit. I’ve frequently said that getting the type of depth, role players, and cohesiveness to bump a team from 25 wins to 35-40 isn’t all that difficult, but getting the right role players with limited resources to complement superstars, which is a very necessary next step of the rebuild, to form a true contender is extremely difficult. If the Sixers navigate that stage of the rebuild successfully, whoever is the chief architect during that time period will deserve an immense amount of praise.

But navigating this part of the rebuild is extremely important as well, and perhaps the most important.

Between the amount of high-level prospects the Sixers currently have, either on the court (Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor), or hold the rights to (Joel Embiid and Dario Saric), and the number of remaining assets they have in their possession which could yield high-level talent (2016 Sixers pick, 2016 Lakers pick, Kings pick/pick swaps), along with the how well he has done in the early parts of the second round (Jerami Grant, Richaun Holmes, K.J. McDaniels) and with undrafted guys (Robert Covington and T.J. McConnell, who I firmly believe is a legitimate backup point guard), minimizing what Hinkie has done as just “tearing a team down” and “something anybody could do”, is incredibly off base, and reeks of somebody with an ax to grind.

I’ve always said the main aspect of Hinkie’s plan that I liked, besides the recognition that hitting in the draft is a virtual necessity to building a long-term contender and the realization that being at the top of the draft provides them with the best odds to do so, is how well he’s mitigated risk. The Sixers aren’t dependent on any individual player or pick working out in their favor. The flat-out fleecing Hinkie has done in the Jrue Holiday, Michael Carter-Williams, and Sacramento trades require skill, and are moves that have set the Sixers up wonderfully for the future with legitimate “optionality”.

The truth is we live in a world where nothing is ever as simple as one cause leading to one effect, but we live in a sports media landscape that has largely hitched its wagon to decisive, declarative, procedural analysis. And we do so because it sells: sells papers, sells television slots, and sells website clicks.

In reality, if the Sixers rise to prominence, both men are likely to deserve heaps of praise.

What will end up happening, however, is that whoever supported Hinkie before the Colangelo addition will be desirous to give Hinkie credit, and whoever opposed Hinkie before Colangelo’s arrival will diminish whatever impact Hinkie had on the success. Considering Hinkie’s lack of popularity throughout the league, I certainly believe that Colangelo will get the lions share of the credit if and when it comes time to determine who “fixed” the Sixers.

Patrick Kirkner (@pkirkner):

“How would you prioritize showcasing Carl Landry for a trade vs. developing Holmes?”

I don’t really think Landry is going to have much value in a trade, not with the guaranteed money ($6.5 million in 2016-17) still owed on his contract. With so many teams looking at the cap room they’re going to have with the bump in the national television deal, which could see the cap jump by increments of nearly $20 million in each of the next two seasons, many teams are going to hoard money with delusions of attracting high-profile free agents.

If Landry is traded at the deadline I think you’re looking at a mid-to-late second round pick, and that’s even if you’re able to find somebody to absorb his salary. Developing Richaun Holmes, who already looks like he’s far more valuable than the 37th pick the Sixers invested in him last June, is far more important than maximizing whatever minor value Landry would have in a trade.

Michael Hayes (@MichaelHayes302):

“Okafor’s improved shooting looks to be result of not rushing his shot. Maybe he’s just settling in to NBA spacing/timing?”

I think one element of Okafor’s game that was largely missed leading up to the draft was that he did show some signs of having a midrange jump shot at Duke.

Those signs were few and far between, on an admittedly tiny sample size, but he did shoot 44 percent on 39 shots between 10′ and 15′ at Duke. Again, really small sample size, with a very legitimate worry due to his free throw percentage, which was on a larger sample size, that threw those results into question. But he did show some touch.

I’m not sure it’s really all that much about spacing and timing. He’s still more comfortable, in game action, shooting turnarounds out of a post-up than on pure catch and shoot shots. He’ll get catch and shoot shots off occasionally, but he still has a hitch in his release, which is almost station-to-station in its form, that really slows him down. He also has a habit of preferring a one-dribble-stepback, even when it’s not necessary, which almost seems like a required part of his shooting motion, a timing mechanism or something to get him into rhythm.

The next step in his jump shot is to get rid of those hitches to quicken up his release, and thus make a defender less willing to roam off him. Despite Okafor’s efficient shooting of late (at least relative to expectations), he still provides very little gravity away from the hoop.

None of that is to say that Okafor’s results haven’t been better than expected, and I’m far more confident in him improving the jump shot going forward than I was before the draft. But I think the improvement is more from repetition than anything else, and I do think there’s still some work to be done. But it’s a great, unexpected start.

Sean O’Connor (@soconnor76):

“Assuming veteran leadership is something we need to deal with, is it worth it to get Richaun Holmes time no matter what, even if Jerami Grant almost always plays out of position?”

I would say yes. Probably

Clearly, you’re not going to maximize Grant’s effectiveness by playing him on the perimeter. That’s not only because Grant’s lack of an outside shot would clog up the paint, and not just because he’d be in position to block less shots, but also because it increases the chances he’s playing with a mismatched group of personnel: playing Grant with two other big men has proven to be a pretty poor recipe for the team’s floor spacing.

But I think developing Richaun Holmes is very important for the team. My preference would be for Holmes to be ahead of Landry in the depth chart, but if that’s not going to be the case, playing more two-big lineups, and thus limiting Grant’s time at the power forward spot, is a better option than Holmes going games without seeing action.

But I also reserve the right to change my opinion the next time a Jerami-Grant-at-the-3 lineup, and the poor floor spacing that comes with it, reminds me how frustrating that offense can be to watch.

That will wrap it up. Once again, If you want to submit a question for a future mailbag, either shoot me a message on twitter or send me an email.

Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.