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March 25, 2017

Sixers Mailbag: Does LaVar Ball scare you away from Lonzo?

As the NBA schedule is winding down and the Fighting Saric’s are continuing to play good basketball, we present you with another Sixers mailbag, with questions on LaVar and Lonzo Ball, a fun NBA Draft hypothetical, the Sixers medical staff, and a potential sleeper free agent pickup for the Sixers.

Let’s get right to it.

I am still in complete awe of the LaVar-Stephen A. shouting match on “First Take” the other day. That show is pretty much everything that I don’t like about sports media, and yet… this specific segment is incredible television. There is no other way for me to put it. Holy crap:

(By the way, LaVar appeared on 94 WIP with Chris Carlin and Ike Reese on Friday.)

Like it or not, LaVar and Big Baller Brand (hate how I know what that is) are on the map at the moment. There was a great story in USA Today the other day about how LaVar completely hijacked his other two sons’ high school season at Chino Hills in California, making it almost impossible for the poor coach to do his job. His approach runs counter to pretty much everything I believe in, even if he makes a good bit of money off all of his theatrics. We finally are seeing a “Trophy Kids” parent reach the big time.

So, could he potentially make Brett Brown’s life a living hell?

I don’t think so. I hate the idea of the father becoming a bigger story than his ridiculously talented son as much as the next guy, but Lonzo’s demeanor gives me more confidence than anything. The kid seems to be completely unfazed by all of the distractions, and for that reason, I’m not out on him. If Lonzo stays level-headed, that’s all that really matters to me.

Plus, can you imagine all of the cheap content and pageviewzzz our site would get if the Sixers drafted Lonzo? Count me in!

Great hypothetical, mostly because you have the all-important variable of where the Lakers pick ends up falling next season. Would they be able to trade their Top-3 pick for a more established star like Paul George? Would their current core and whoever they can bring in via free agency (roughly $30 million in cap space) improve to the point where next year’s unprotected pick isn’t as good? When will the Lakers bros have reasons to take their sunglasses off again?!?

I’ll reserve the right to change my mind once I watch more game film on this year’s top prospects — I’m a pretty big fan of Josh Jackson, Josh Jackson’s afro and Ball — but give me the best chance at a superstar guard and a little uncertainty. With that in mind, I’ll take Fultz and have the Lakers pick roll over one more year. Swing for the fences.

(By the way, anybody else feel weird saying “unprotected pick?” OK, it’s just me I guess.)

An added benefit of the “Fultz + 2018” choice is that the Sixers could still have a seat at the head of the table at the 2018 NBA Draft as well. Sixers fans can go all-in on Luka Doncic (a strong 6’6” swingman who is dominating in Spain and the Euroleague at 17 and 18 years old!) and Michael Porter next year:

Obligatory: The Lakers stink.

It’s an interesting question, because while all of the losses were piling up over the past few years, the Sixers could at least point to an incredible infrastructure being built. There was the new practice facility in Camden, now complete and a major (and necessary) upgrade on the old place on City Line Ave. There was the commitment to analytics and (also necessary) upgrade on the information available to the team. As the front office changed hands, Bryan Colangelo certainly hasn’t run away from analytics by judging from the hires since he took over. And finally, there was the commitment to sports science and new-age training methods.

The Sixers were modernizing as an organization. When the team on the floor was finally ready to win, everything else would already be in place for them. That was the plan, anyway. It was a good plan.

Except, well, the way that the Sixers handled Joel Embiid’s bone bruise/meniscus tear doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence moving forward. Embiid is always going to be a tricky player to monitor (and regardless of the medical staff, he hasn’t come close to showing he can stay healthy), but there was two months between the last game that he played and his eventual surgery. That’s a long time, and it was noticeable how much flak that the medical staff took on talk radio in Philly this week.

If Embiid does return to the court by the summer, that means he should be back on the court by training camp. NBA organizations are always evaluating themselves, so you would hope that even if there aren’t sweeping changes with the medical staff, they are able to learn from this most recent saga.

Ingles, who took full advantage of a rash of early-season injuries in Utah, fits the bill with this Sixers core in more ways than one. He’s both a wing that can make spot-up threes (46/44/76 shooting splits this season) and is also plenty comfortable with the head coach. The Australian (for my money, Ingles is in a battle with Dellavedova for the NBA’s most Australian player) was the second-leading scorer on Brett Brown’s 2012 Boomers team at the London Olympics.

I can’t confess to watching a ton of Utah Jazz this season, though I am excited for that to change in the playoffs. This was a great video summary of all the great things that Ingles does to juice Utah’s offense.

Not exactly a speed demon, Ingles is the type of player who makes your team’s offense better just because he can consistently make good decisions quickly. That might not sound like much, but it isn’t easy to do that at the NBA level. Outside of George Hill, Utah’s highest offensive rating comes when Ingles is in the game.

The one negative is that Ingles will be 30 at the beginning of next season. A restricted free agent, I’m not going to guess the number it would take to pry him away from the Jazz, who have a lot of more important financial decisions (well, Gordon Hayward and George Hill will technically be making the decisions this summer).

But as far as vet wings go, Ingles could definitely be a nice fit with the Sixers.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann