67RIEFNS No. 22: Disappointing second-year players looking for redemption


The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

What do Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward, DeMar DeRozan, Joakim Noah, Mike Conley and Dirk Nowitzki have in common?

None of them made the All-Rookie first or second team despite the advantage of being a top-10 pick.

They – and others like them – turned out just fine.

The transition to the NBA from a lower-level is difficult. The competition is tougher, the season longer. We sometimes lose grasp of that, because the exceptions – the rare few who make it look easy – hog most of the attention. The quiet majority gets ignored.

Every year, players who struggled as rookies figure out how to play at this level. It’s difficult to predict who that will be, but it happens again and again.

The 2013 draft class, especially its top 10, had a historically difficult time making the NBA jump. That leaves a lot of candidates for breakthroughs.

Don’t close the door on Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or C.J. McCollum – top-10 picks who failed to make even the All-Rookie second team.

Bennett had surgery to help his sleep apnea, and he looked much better in summer league. Porter also had a strong summer league, though he’ll likely begin the season playing out of position. Len just can’t stay healthy, but the big man always looked like a long-term project. McLemore hasn’t lost his raw athleticism and talent. Caldwell-Pope, coming off his own dominant summer league, will have a huge role in Detroit. McCollum, with Mo Williams in Minnesota, is in line for a bigger role, too.

I don’t know which of the bunch will “get it” this season, but the odds are at least one will. The mystery – and fun – is seeing whom.

Younger brother of Sixers’ Joel Embiid dies


Arthur Embiid, the younger brother of Sixers rookie Joel Embiid, died in Africa on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

From The Associated Press:

Coach Brett Brown, general manager Sam Hinkie and forward Luc Mbah a Moute — like Embiid a native of Cameroon — skipped the team’s exhibition game Thursday night against Boston to be with Embiid at his home in Philadelphia. Assistant coach Chad Iske coached the team in Brown’s absence.

“We’re all a family here,” Iske said. “Obviously, everybody’s thinking about Joel and his family at this time. Our hearts and prayers are with him.”

Arthur Embiid’s exact age is unknown, but Joel, who turned 20 in March, is the oldest of three children born to Thomas and Christine Embiid in Cameroon.

And from Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com:

In a text from Embiid’s agent, Arn Tellem, “Joel is devastated.”

“We obviously consider members of our organization as a huge family,” director of public relations Michael Preston said. “When something of this nature occurs, it trumps a game. Our hearts, prayers and thoughts go out to his entire family.”

Embiid was selected by Philadelphia with the third overall pick in this year’s draft, and is expected to miss the majority of the upcoming season after undergoing foot surgery this summer.

Michael Carter-Williams says he was told injury could cost him 50 games


Michael Carter-Williams had shoulder surgery May 6.

That was seemed strange considering the point guard had played in all the 76ers’ late-season games, but that fact also made the injury seem minor.

So, it was surprising when Carter-Williams wasn’t ready to play late in the summer. And it was surprising he wasn’t cleared in time for training camp. And it was surprising to hear he could miss the start of the regular season.

But we probably should have been operating on a different timeline.

Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News on Carter-Williams:

He said Monday he was told his recovery period would be 6 to 9 months. Carter-Williams has been able to do a lot of drills with the team since training camp, but is still not allowed to play during contact drills.

Brett Brown said yesterday that the 2- to 4-month recovery period initially reported was not correct.

“I heard somebody say 2 months. I don’t know where that information came from. That’s inaccurate,” the coach told reporters

No wonder the 76ers couldn’t trade Carter-Williams. A 6-to-9 month timetable would keep Carter-Williams out until sometime between November and February – or five to 50 games.

Obviously, that’s a significant difference, but it’s at least encouraging that Carter-Williams has not yet missed more time than expected. Setbacks are always troubling.

I’m looking forward to seeing Carter-Williams back on the court, but the tanking 76ers would do well to remain patient. They need Carter-Williams healthy in a year or two much more than they need him on the court this season.

Report: Sixers ‘tried hard’ to trade Michael Carter-Williams


Michael Carter-Williams is the reigning Rookie of the Year, and won the award fairly easily.

Part of that was due to a relatively weak draft class, and it certainly didn’t hurt that he was allowed plenty of time to develop on a team where winning wasn’t exactly the priority. But his averages of 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game were impressive nonetheless, and should have been considered a nice start to a potentially long career with the Philadelphia franchise.

The team, however, may not have viewed things the same way.

Always looking to improve its wealth of assets and flexibility for the future, the Sixers reportedly were shopping Carter-Williams pretty hard in advance of this summer’s draft.

From Zach Lowe of Grantland:

They tried hard during the draft, but they couldn’t draw the trove they envisioned or guarantee that the player they wanted with an acquired pick would be there, per several league sources. Expect Philly to repeat the exercise. It’s not a shot at Carter-Williams, or even a signal that the Sixers are dying to trade him. He may well end up a long-term cog in Philly.

The team knows point guard is the most replaceable position in the league today, and it will seek out any deal that adds to its stockpile of high-value draft picks.

It depends heavily on what may have come back in return, of course, but this move may very well have been viewed as unconscionable by the team’s fan base.

Most sticking with the Sixers through these dark times are pleased that the team finally has a long-term plan in place, even though it involves brashly exploiting the league’s rules, which are on the verge of being changed because of this strategy. Stockpiling first round draft picks and taking time to develop players that can be future cornerstones of the franchise is one thing, but when you have a talent like Carter-Williams who showed so much promise in his rookie season, hitting the reset button after you’ve already succeeded in choosing wisely at a key position would be anything but well-received.

The shoulder surgery may have had something to do with the offers not coming in as strong as the Sixers were seeking. But it may turn out to be a blessing if Carter-Williams continues to improve upon what was largely a stellar rookie season.

67RIEFNS No. 12: Michael Carter-Williams’ development


The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Just 27 players have averaged 16-6-6 in a season. Most of them – by a 2-to-1 margin if you count players not yet eligible but who are locks – are Hall of Famers.

Michael Carter-Williams joined the exclusive 16-6-6 club last season.

Is he a future Hall of Famer?

The 76ers point guard stands out in two ways among the 16-6-6 group:

1. He’s one of only three to hit those marks as a rookie. The other two, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson, rank among the greatest of all-time greats.

2. He has the lowest PER – 15.5 barely above league average – among the 92 16-6-6 seasons in NBA history.

Why was Carter-Williams’ PER, which I think fairly accurately represented his performance, so low? For one, he barely met the thresholds, averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 points per game. He also shot relatively inefficiently, 41 percent from the field and 26 percent on 3-pointers. The 76ers played at the NBA’s fastest pace, giving Carter-Williams plenty of opportunity to accumulate stats.

But even if Carter-Williams was only a tick above average, that’s pretty good for a rookie, and he deserved his Rookie of the Year.

Carter-Williams went No. 11 in the draft – directly behind two other point guards (Trey Burke and C.J. McCollum) who are shorter and less athletic than him. Playing at Syracuse, Carter-Williams showed flaws with his jumper and protecting the ball, and that’s why – despite his higher upside – he slipped behind safer options.

In year one, Carter-Williams showed enough refinement that it’s worth betting on his upside. Just how high that upside is and how close he’ll come to meeting it remain big questions.

Only Giannis Antetokounmpo among potential starting point guards is taller than the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams. He uses his length well defensively to collect steals, and his potential as a stopper is high. He also sees over defenses, finding opportunities to pass or get to the rim himself.

But his jumper remains suspect, and he hasn’t completely eliminated the turnover concerns. There’s also the possibility his production was somewhat empty on an awful Philadelphia team.

For someone who accomplished so much as a rookie, Carter-Williams could see his career could go a number of directions. His second season should give us a better idea what’s next for the 76ers point guard.