3 Biggest Mistakes Philadelphia 76ers Made This Season
I realize this may sound delusional, but bear with me.
I'm having a hard time finding mistakes the Philadelphia 76ers made this season, both on and off the court.
Yes, I realize they went 19-63 and at one point in the season lost 26 straight games. Yes, I realize they finished with the league's worst plus/minus (minus-10.5), even worse than the Bucks. Yes, I realize the on-court product was ugly and inefficient most of the time.
But what did anyone expect?
This was the contract everyone entered into when the team traded Jrue Holiday to New Orleans on draft night and moved on from Doug Collins' antiquated techniques and vehement disgust with all things analytical. A new era of 76ers basketball was upon us, and it was made clear that there were going to be bumps in the road.
There were a few pleasant surprises along the way. Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th pick in last year's draft, is the front-runner for NBA Rookie of the Year. He won Rookie of the Month four times. There are only two players in the NBA this season who averaged at least 16 points, six rebounds and six assists: Carter-Williams and LeBron James.
Just ignore his shot chart for a second and let that sink in.
Tony Wroten proved he deserves to be on the roster next year. Henry Sims came out of nowhere and showed flashes. Nerlens Noel recovered from his ACL injury and is ready to compete for next year's Rookie of the Year.
That brings us to this year's draft—the moment we've all been waiting for—where the 76ers have two lottery picks at their disposal. That's two more talented pieces to add to the Carter-Williams/Noel nucleus.
Do you see how people in Philadelphia are actually looking forward to the 76ers' future now?
It may be difficult to sell that message to season-ticket holders who spent their money on a 19-win team, but you would be hard-pressed to find one who doesn't think this season was a necessary sacrifice. This organization is trying to build a winner for the long haul, it isn't trying to sneak into the eighth seed and get swept by whatever team LeBron is on for the next five seasons.
The city has bought in.
76ers owner Josh Harris said last week that this season was a success, and frankly, I would have to agree.
That being said, there's a few things that could have made one of the wackiest and free-wheeling seasons in 76ers history even better.
Acquiring Byron Mullens
Just when we thought Sam Hinkie could do no wrong, he goes out and trades for three-point black hole Byron Mullens at the trade deadline.
In the deal, the 76ers acquired Mullens and a 2018 second-round pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for one of the 76ers' many second-round picks in the 2014 draft.
According to ShamSports.com, Mullens has a $1 million player option for next season, should he choose to activate it.
We know what Mullens does. He takes a lot of three-pointers. He doesn't make a lot, but he sure takes a lot, which isn't great when you're a career 31 percent shooter from deep.
He's a 7-footer who averaged two rebounds per game this season.
The organization had one goal at the trade deadline: to get as much value as it could for its veteran assets (Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner), whether it was draft picks or developmental players with potential (Henry Sims). Mullens is neither one of those things.
At the end of the day, his presence on the 76ers roster has zero effect on anyone's excitement about the future of this franchise. He's merely taking up a roster spot.
I've already spent too much time talking about Byron Mullens.
Not Getting More for Evan Turner
Well, if the above photo doesn't perfectly encapsulate the Spencer Hawes/Evan Turner tenure in Philadelphia, then I don't know what does.
It was essential to rid the team of these two players by the trade deadline. Hinkie didn't want them. They weren't his guys. They aren't anyone's "guys," come to think of it.
Spencer Hawes is a slightly more polished Byron Mullens. He's a 7-footer who plays away from the basket—a career 36 percent shooter from beyond the arc—and averages six boards a game for his career. He's up to 245 pounds, but he can still get bullied down on the block defensively. He lacks the explosion and athleticism to really be a dynamic shot-blocker and help defender.
Every 76ers fan should be ecstatic at the team's haul from the Hawes deal. The Cleveland Cavaliers sent Philadelphia two second-round picks, Earl Clark (who was immediately bought out) and Henry Sims.
You had me at two second-round picks. Throw in Henry Sims, who might actually be something, and you have an excellent return for the impending free-agent center.
Evan Turner is another story.
Simply trading Turner was reason enough for some 76ers fans to rejoice, but I can't help but think the team should have gotten more for him.
At the deadline, the 76ers traded the former second overall pick and F/C Lavoy Allen to Indiana for Danny Granger (who was immediately bought out—notice a theme here?) and a 2015 second-round pick.
Maybe it was timing. The entire league knew the 76ers were dumping assets like they were on Wall Street, and teams weren't going to be strong-armed for a shooting guard who can't shoot. If he was traded on draft night last year, the result might have been different.
Maybe it was his $8.7 million qualifying offer next year. The Pacers will have to make a decision on guard Lance Stephenson this offseason. He's currently making $1 million and is in line for a nice raise after his marked improvement this year. Turner is an insurance policy for them, but other teams didn't have that need.
But maybe, just maybe, the 76ers didn't get a lot back for Turner because he isn't very good and the rest of the league knows it. He never lived up to his billing as the second overall pick, and it didn't take long for Philadelphia fans to realize it. Pacers fans are finding that out now as he puts up seven points and three rebounds a night.
Not Finishing with the Worst Record
For all the national attention the 76ers received this season in their passionate pursuit of the league's worst record, there was a team perpetually trapped in basketball purgatory who actually lost more games than them. And they weren't even trying.
The Milwaukee Bucks are constantly striving for an eighth seed, bless their hearts.
They locked up Larry Sanders to an extension that pays him $11 million a year until 2018, per ShamSports.com.
They signed free-agent O.J. Mayo for $24 million because when you're a team flush with cap space, why wouldn't you throw O.J. Mayo $24 million to shoot 40 percent? I mean, they essentially drew the blueprint for being an irrelevant, borderline playoff team in today's Eastern Conference.
Then they kept losing. They were devastated by injuries. Larry Sanders played 23 games. Khris Middleton was their second-best scorer behind Brandon Knight.
We know that they aren't guaranteed the first pick, but all the ping-pong balls count.
All that puts the 76ers in the unenviable position of being the team with the second-best chance at landing the first overall pick in the draft.
Unfortunately, history hasn't exactly been kind to the team in this position, per The700Level.com:
In fact, in the last seven drafts (dating back to 2007), only once has a team finished with the second-best lottery odds and actually ended up in the lottery, when the Wizards were awarded the third pick in 2012. Here’s how those seven teams with the second-worst records ended up faring:
2007: Boston Celtics, 5th pick (traded to Sonics, selected Jeff Green)
2008: Seattle Supersonics, 4th pick (selected Russell Westbrook)
2009: Washington Wizards, 5th pick (traded to Timberwolves, selected Ricky Rubio)
2010: Minnesota Timberwolves, 4th pick (selected Wesley Johnson)
2011: Cleveland Cavaliers, 4th pick (selected Tristan Thompson)
2012: Washington Wizards, 3rd pick (selected Bradley Beal)
2013: Charlotte Bobcats, 4th pick (selected Cody Zeller)
Nothing higher than the third pick for the second-worst record in the league? That's not what we all signed up for. The fanbase didn't buy into this long-term rebuild for a shot at the fifth pick in the draft.
Which brings me to my final point. Iverson needs to be the team representative on lottery night. That's too much good karma. How can Milwaukee compete with that?
I trust that Hinkie will make it happen.