January 24, 2017
Yesterday, we handed out our midseason grades for the Sixers backcourt. Today is the wings’ turn.. Because of a busy day (there is a game tonight, after all), I’m going to shift an injured big (Ben Simmons) and a player that I feel is less important to the Sixers’ long-term future (Ersan Ilyasova) into the group.
Anyway, to the grades…
Now coming off the Sixers bench, Hendo is verrrrryyyy quietly putting together a nice season. There’s nothing flashy about his game outside of the occasional highlight-reel dunk (see below), but the Episcopal product is shooting 40 percent from three, keeping his turnovers down at a career-low rate (which is important on a team that turns the ball over so dang much) and taking the toughest defensive matchup when Robert Covington is out of the game.
Of Bryan Colangelo’s three free-agent signings, Henderson has worked out the best so far. I suspected the Sixers would end up guaranteeing the second year of Henderson’s $18 million contract, and based on what he has done this season, they should.
After getting quite familiar with the Lorenzo Brown section of I-95, TLC has been firmly in the rotation since December 29th at Utah. As you know, the Sixers have won a lot of games during that time. Brett Brown believes Luwawu-Cabarrot is improving as a driver.
“He’s always had that athleticism, but now he’s learning to ‘drive his car’ in traffic,” Brown said.
TLC getting some PT as part of the Sixers’ winning is undoubtedly a positive, but the 21-year-old Frenchman is still a couple years away from becoming a solid rotation member on a good team. He’s shooting just 37 percent from the field and often makes the typical rookie mistakes on defense. On that end, the athleticism is there; he just needs to trust the process.
The potential is intriguing and he deserves to get more minutes, but the No. 24 pick from last year’s NBA Draft is still very much a work in progress.
Anyway, the offense has been straight-up bad: 37 percent shooting, 31 percent three-point shooting, and a poor assist-to-turnover rate. Fans tend to notice offense more, which is why he’s (stupidly) heard boos often. Brown believes that he could possibly have a greater offensive impact at the 4, where the Sixers simply have too many bodies.
(Anecdotally, I feel like Covington might benefit from taking a step back beyond the line like the Houston Rockets have as a team.)
Everything else has been great, though. The oft-cited stat is that RoCo ranks third in defensive real plus-minus, but he’s also tied for 10th among qualified players with a 2.7 steal percentage. And unlike, say, Nerlens Noel, those steals don’t often require much gambling. The guy just has great hands. Covington also leads the Sixers in minutes per game by a good bit, so Brown clearly trusts him.
tl;dr: Bad offense, excellent defense
If the primary goal of this season was to make sure Embiid develops, I find it hard to be critical of the Ilyasova trade. The Sixers even got a protected first-round pick down the road in that deal. Ilyasova can have frustrating nights, but the Sixers acquired him for one reason: to bomb threes and space the floor for Embiid. He’s done just that, making 39 percent from deep on a ton of attempts.
And on some level, I just appreciate how little [insert bad word here] he gives.
Ilyasova isn’t the main reason the Sixers are winning (that, of course, is the 7’2” monster that makes threes), but he has certainly helped. What the Sixers decide to do with Ilyasova when Ben Simmons returns is going to be pretty tricky, but strictly looking at his play, he deserves a high grade.
Simmons may have been out of the lineup all this time, but the man was the inspiration behind a movement, a movement he fully embraced. #RaiseTheCat
Actual Grade: Incomplete
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann