Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors with a feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow. Last time, we spoke about the Warriors with Nate Parham, who is the managing editor of SB Nation’s Golden State of Mind. Click here to see the entire Top Bloggers series.
Hoops Rumors: I see that Liberty Ballers is planning a lottery watch party. That sounds like a fun idea that speaks to the unusual position the Sixers have put themselves in. What’s it like writing about a team that’s so much about the future and so little about the present?
Jake Pavorsky: It can be as weird and challenging as it is entertaining. Obviously, the current results don’t really matter at all, so it allows us to have a little more fun with our content then we usually would if the team was good. You can’t be serious all the time about a team that might win two games in a month. The Sixers’ terribleness also allows us to shift some of our focus on the draft and draft prospects, and people have responded well to that type of content because the team’s future is riding on some of these yet-to-be-drafted guys. With all that said, it would be nice for the team to actually be good or show improvement so we don’t have to take just about every game with a grain of salt.
Hoops Rumors: Jerry Colangelo seems to have made only a few tweaks so far. Are you surprised by this? What do you think the moves, or lack there of, say about Colangelo’s vision for the team?
Jake Pavorsky: I think Colangelo’s vision was always going to be shaped in the summer leading up to next season. He’s not going to handle another season of mindless losing, and Philadelphia has the cap space and other assets to swing some deals via free agency or trade. I don’t really have an idea for what Colangelo wants this roster to look like next year, but my hope is that he signs some quality veteran role players that can help in the short term while focusing on building the core of the team around their draft picks. The last thing I want to see from the Sixers is throwing max contract money to guys like DeMar DeRozan or Harrison Barnes.
Hoops Rumors: The Sixers could have as many as four first-round picks from this year’s draft plus Dario Saric and Joel Embiid take the floor for the first time next season. How pivotal do you think the next 12 months are for this rebuilding effort?
Jake Pavorsky: I think these next 12 months really determine whether or not these three years of misery were really worth it. Joel Embiid is the one guy who I think can really turn things around for the team, because the superstar talent is absolutely there. I know that’s hard to say that about a guy who hasn’t played in two years, but people outside of Philadelphia are going to be stunned at how good he is if he ever gets on the floor (which I think he will in October). But once you get Saric here, Embiid playing and your three first-round draft picks from 2016 on the team, that’s the core of the team. There’s no more waiting games. Now they’re gonna have to make it work.
Jake Pavorsky: I just can’t see it. Noel is completely useless as a floor spacer and as a defender out on the perimeter, and if he can do anything, it’s block shots and throw down lobs. He’s not going to be able to do either if he’s on the court with Okafor. Jahlil is a very complicated fit. His iso-heavy tendencies make it hard for Philly to effectively pair him with anybody, and Noel has struggled with him on the floor. You can’t put Okafor at the five because he’s a horrendous rim protector and can’t play the pick-and-roll, so they’ve tried moving him to the four. He’s shown some decent range, but he’s struggled with smaller and faster power forwards. I think the best thing for this team to do is find a floor-spacing power forward (possibly Dario Saric) to start with Noel, and then bring Okafor off the bench to feast on bad second-unit bigs.
Hoops Rumors: We recently posed this question to our readers, so we’ll ask it of you: Can Ish Smith be the point guard of the future in Philadelphia?
Jake Pavorsky: Definitely not. He was good last year and a lot of fun when they first brought him back, but he doesn’t have the tools to be a good starting point guard. He’s a very mediocre shooter and has been forcing up his own shots a little too much these days. Smith is also a pretty atrocious on-ball defender, getting beat on a consistent basis. What I do like about him is that he gets the Sixers playing at the high tempo Brett Brown is looking for, and he’s a pretty good passer. I might be willing to give him a one- or two-year deal despite T.J. McConnell‘s strong play, but I don’t expect Smith to have a big, long-term role with the Sixers.
Hoops Rumors: How do you think the NBA should resolve situations like the one that cost the Sixers the rights to JaKarr Sampson when the three-team trade with the Pistons and Rockets fell apart?
Jake Pavorsky: It’s unfortunate, but I’m not sure what there is for the NBA to do there. Technically, cutting Sampson was a separate move that had no real connection to the Donatas Motiejunas trade, although it did. If the league were to develop some sort of contingency rule for a situation of a failed physical, that would be nice, but I don’t see it happening. Situations like that don’t arise all that often. Guess it’s just the Sixers’ luck.