After watching my Philadelphia 76ers take a tough loss in double overtime to the New York Knicks on MLK day, I started dreaming of better days. I started thinking about when this plan will come together and this team will be competing for titles. It is because I can see the potential. Watching Nerlens Noel guard Carmelo Anthony one-on-one and send his shot to half court, watching Jahlil Okafor bully Robin Lopez in the post, it got me so eager to watch this project come together. All I wanted to do was talk about how great things were going to be. So I decided to get in touch with Rafael and Pedro. I knew these guys were passionate about their squads (Rafael is a Nuggets fan and Pedro is a Lakers fan) and we all happen to be in the same position as fans, watching our teams rebuild. So I thought that it was a good idea to get us three to write about why our particular teams is set up best for the future.
Chuck: So I am here to tell you why the Sixers are set-up best for the future. Let’s start with the current roster. You have Nerlens Noel who put up one of the best defensive seasons ever as a rookie by having over 100 steals and 100 blocks. This season has been a lot of the same for Noel. He ranks in the top 20 in blcoks per game and has a defensive box plus/minus that ranks ninth in the NBA. Per 36 minutes, Noel is averaging 12 points, 10 boards, 2 steals, and 2 blocks per game. I am convinced that if he was the starting center for the Warriors he would get a lot more attention and respect around the league for his activity level, defensive prowess, and the way he runs the floor. They also have two other centers in Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid who were both the third pick in their respective drafts. Okafor has an elite offensive game that I think will be very useful for this team in an “instant offense” role off of the bench when all three centers are healthy. This is because Embiid, if he can get healthy, is a much better defender but still has a good offensive game. Also, Embiid and Okafor can’t play together because neither can guard the four. That would put Jahlil Okafor in what I imagine as a “Jamal Crawford” role with the Sixers. He would play 25-plus minutes a night and would just go out there to score. Because the man can flat out SCORE. His footwork is elite for a 20 year old. I think this is a role he can excel in when this team contends, and it would be unfortunate if he is traded because of fit, but if you can score, you can play for me. Joel Embiid is the combination of Noel and Okafor to me. He has impressive footwork like Okafor, but not as polished. He is like Noel on the defensive end because he is long, athletic, and a good shot blocker. This would make Embiid the most talented player the Sixers currently have if he reaches his potential. At Kansas, he showed what kind of player he has the potential to be. I still believe Embiid can be the best player to come out of the 2014 draft class.
Another reason why the Sixers are in the best situation of these three teams is because of the quality and quantity of their assets. Of course they have their own pick which will be in the top three, but they also have other valuable picks. They have the Lakers pick, which is top three protected, but with the way the Nets and Suns are playing, I can see that pick falling out of the top three. If it does not convey this year, it will be a valuable asset next season. Another valuable pick is with the Sacramento Kings. They have the pick swaps the next two years, which will most likely be meaningless, but the unprotected first rounder that they get from them in 2018 or 2019 is what I am excited about. If the Kings give the Bulls their first rounder this year, the Sixers get the Kings first rounder unprotected in 2018. If the Bulls do not get the Kings’ first rounder this year, then the Sixers get the Kings’ unprotected pick in 2019. Why is this significant? The 2019 season is the season after DeMarcus Cousins‘ contract expires in Sacramento. Without first round picks and being a very poor free agent destination, that Kings team could be very bad.
Another positive of the past three years of losing is the loads of cap space the Sixers have. Once they add more young players to their core, they will become a free agent destination, and having a lot of cap space will be very beneficial. Who would not want to play with a core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons (or Brandon Ingram), Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and many other high lottery picks when they are entering their primes? And don’t forget, the Sixers have 2014 lottery pick Dario Saric coming over next season as well. Saric was named the best foreign player NOT in the NBA by general managers in 2014 and 2015. He was listed ahead of Kristaps Porzingis in 2014 when Porzingis was still in Latvia I might add. Furthermore, Saric was projected as a top ten pick by Chad Ford until he announced that he would stay in Croatia for another two years. This is for your viewing pleasure.
One thing that I think gets very overlooked with the whole “tanking” phenomenon is player development. While other teams may be overpaying for average players, the Sixers are giving out small contracts to talented players that are looking to prove themselves. An example of this is Hollis Thompson. Thompson was an un drafted free agent in 2013 and has been a player the Sixers may want to hold onto long term. During his three seasons in the NBA, he has shot 40.1%, 40.1%, and 38% from three. Another good find for the Sixers has been Robert Covington. He has shown the ability to be a 3-and-d player shooting 37 percent from three a season ago and ranks ninth in the NBA in steal percentage. People laughed at the Sixers for acquiring so many second rounders, but you know what two second rounders got them? Ish Smith! I think Smith can be a quality player for the Sixers down the road, and if you haven’t seen why check this baby out.
So with the Sixers you have high ceiling players on the roster, the top foreign player set to come to the states, more than enough cap space, and high lottery picks. All of these things just give the Sixers options. What if a star player grows unhappy in another city? What if they want to get another pick in the top 5 for this draft? This team has valuable assets that other teams covet to make that kind of move. The future is very bright in Philadelphia.
Pedro: When I first got the DM a few days ago from Chuck I originally thought it was a Twitter honey trying to spit that game at me. Turned out I was completely wrong, it was just Chuck wanting to talk basketball. Chuck hit myself and Rafael up about this piece and explained what his idea was to us, I got a bit excited. We’re all writers/fans of teams in the rebuilding process (Lakers, Nuggets, Sixers) and all three of us were going to shed some light on each team’s future and why we think the team we’re writing about is going to be better off. I initially thought to just write, “BECAUSE IT’S THE LAKERS THATS WHY! DROPS MIC” and call it a day but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work.
At this point and time I and almost of all Laker Nation should be able to admit that we’re not very good right now. We have a GREAT young core but they just haven’t played together long enough to really excel as a team. I mean, just look at Kevin Durant’s and Russell Westbrook’s first couple years together. Rebuilding a team of young talent into a perennial contender is going to take some time, it doesn’t just happen overnight.
These three guys are going to be a PROBLEM when they figure it out, I’m talking a serious PROBLEM for anybody in the West and the rest of the league. I actually wrote a piece before the season started claiming that these three will eventually be the NBA’s next big three. Here you go (http://www.realballinsiders.com/the-nbas-next-big-three/) what I like about this core is that the Lakers instantly became much younger, faster, and athletic in a short amount of time. It also provided the Lakers a solid building block for the next 10-15 years.
You have your starting PG the Lakers have yearned for since the Magic Johnson and Showtime days, sorry D-Fish. Like Magic, D’Angelo is a pass first guy who happens to be able to drop 20 on you any given night. He sees the floor like a seasoned veteran and has the rare ability to pass guys open. If you don’t know what that means, then I don’t want to talk basketball with you. Russell did start off the season off kind of shaky, I blame Byron Scott but that’s just me. He has since recovered and seems to be getting more and more comfortable each night running the offense as he’s averaging 11.9 PPG, 3.8 REB’s, and 4 Assist a game. I’m a big believer in stats being a bit misleading at times and this is a perfect example of that. When Russell is out there the Lakers offense runs through him, he’s making decisions and learning from his mistakes. It’s the best way to learn if you ask me, another reason as to why I can’t figure out why Byron Scott benches him late in games when the pressures on. As you can see I’m not the biggest fan of Scott and I’ll get to him in a minute, he’s going to catch his fair share of this roast, don’t worry. Anyways, all in all I think the Lakers made the PERFECT decision in drafting Russell over Jahlil Okafor. He can pass, he has a silky smooth jumper, he can step out to hit the three, his defense is ok but that will only get better with coaching. But most importantly this guy genuinely seems to be happy in Los Angeles, he is using this year he has with Kobe to soak in as much knowledge. And let’s be honest, who else better to learn from than Bean? Not many.
Boooooooy, Jordan Clarkson was a steal and I’d like to thank the other 29 NBA teams for passing up on him. Except Boston, well you can probably guess why. This guys is SPECIAL. SPECIAL. He is lighting quick, great instincts, he actually plays defense and his jumper is slowly but surely improving. He has not disappointed since being called up from the D-League halfway through last season and has capitalized on his opportunity like no one expected. I knew the guy could hoop from his college days and even before that when he was a HS star in nearby San Antonio, Texas, but what he’s been doing this year is just blowing my mind. He is averaging 15 PPG, 4 REB’s, and 3 assist per outing but is making a bigger impact on the floor, and with his teammates, than the stat book tells. He brings this certain swagger, I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is. He plays with a HUGE chip on his shoulder every night, I’m guessing it has to do with 29 NBA teams saying no thank you. Also, I feel that Clarkson doesn’t get the respect from a lot of people outside of Laker Nation even after he made the NBA All Rookie Team. I’m no psychiatrist but I am very aware of how an athletes mind works. We find any bit of fuel and use it as motivation to keep going, something I can see in the way he plays every night. He has that Mamba-esk fire burning in his belly, it’s amazing. Plus, he has a sense of humor, did you guys see his dunk on Alex Len? If you didn’t, here you go, you’re welcome. (https://vine.co/v/ihaQvb1AZe0) After the game reporters asked him what was going through his mind when he was driving to the bucket and what came out of his mouth next was GOLD, “All I remember that is Kobe telling me I’m going to the hole like a light-skinned dude, I have to go to the hole like a dark-skinned dude. As soon as the lane opened up, that’s all I could remember.” LOLOLOL that line alone made him good in my book. Sign him to a new deal, Lakers.
Now to get to my favorite part of the Lakers rebuilding pieces, the one and only Julius Randle. This guy is a BEAST, he reminds me of a pitbull chained to a fence when he’s out on the hardwood. He is relentless, his motor never stops running. I can feel his passion for the game just oozing out of him, and I’m glad that he is rocking the purple and gold armor. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, he’s Lamar Odom 2.0 in Zach Randolph’s body. I honestly think he’s going to be better than Odom which makes me so excited. Randle outweighs Odom by about 25 pounds and by the time his career goes further along, it’s going to be more. Randle is the Swiss-Army knife that every team needs but what separates him is that man-child body of his. He is strong, so strong that Metta World Peace called him one of the strongest players he has EVER played. EVER! And Randle is only in his second season in the league. He’s aggressive on the offensive and defensive glass, he’s a pretty good passer for a big man and his jump shot is pretty solid from about 17 feet and in. I love the way he plays defense, he is intense and literally all up on you. More than anything I love the way he runs his mouth and talks that talk on the floor. He is scared of no one. I mean, did you see him get all up in Kevin Garnett’s grill and not miss a step when KG started flying off the tongue?
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VGO9vUfUUQ#action=share) That’s a 21 year old kid stepping up to one of the greatest, most intimidating trash talkers the game has or will ever see. Pretty impressive in my book.
I do think the Lakers have plenty more talent on their team but I know deep in my heart that the Lakers will only go as far as those three young guys take them. Of course, there is also Larry Nance Jr. who has been a really big surprise for me. I didn’t think he was so athletic and had the skills he has for being a man of his size. I like how he and Randle have played together on the floor together in their short stint. They seem to balance each other out and it causes the floor to evenly space for the guards. Also, Louis Williams signed for 3 years in the summer and will be a huge offense contributor for the Lakers and can help mentor the young guards in Russell and Clarkson. The Lakers have a couple nice pieces to keep building on, but that all depends if they keep drafting as well as they have been the last two seasons. Which brings me to my next point beautifully.
The Lakers 2016 1st round draft pick is Top Three protected, meaning that if they don’t get the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd pick in this year’s draft, the pick goes to the Tankers, I’m sorry, the Sixers. The way it’s looking so far, the Lakers should keep their 1st round pick this year, if not the lottery is rigged. I will personally fight Commissioner Silver live on ESPN after the Draft lottery on the terms of not letting the Lakers prosper. To be honest, whoever gets the 1st pick is the only winner. Ben Simmons is the truth and whoever lands him is in for a special treat. I don’t know anybody else in college basketball worthy of being drafted so high this year, I’m sorry, I just don’t. Plus, I’m not very big on trying to predict the future with stuff like this, I’m no good at it. That’s why I don’t try and say what’s going to happen when, it never works.
Last but not least the only thing I feel is holding the Lakers back is the coach, Byron Scott. Why is he still the coach? He doesn’t know how to communicate with the younger generation, he seems to be stuck in this old school mentality that just doesn’t work anymore. You want to know how the Lakers really start to prepare for the future? You get this guy all the way the hell out of Laker Land. I don’t see him staying past this year, so that in itself makes me happy. The second he is gone I can guarantee you that D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle will simultaneously hit the whip and nae nae in celebration, guarantee it. Scott benches Russell late in games and deprives him of valuable in game, crunch time minutes, that is not how you develop young players. And he only plays Randle 15 minutes a game just because Scott has an attitude, just ridiculous.
All in all, the future is bright in Los Angeles. They seem to be making the right decisions in roster personnel and they will always have the bright lights of Los Angeles to help recruit. Well, that’s if the rest of the NBA Free Agents stop being soft and blaming it on not wanting to play with Kobe. There’s no more excuses after this season there is no more excuses, a young team, plenty of cap space, and you got Hollywood in your back yard. You want to know what I really think keeps these big names out of LA? The fact that the lights are so bright and the media in that huge of a market will destroy you when you aren’t balling right. Most guys now a days can’t handle that kind of blow to their ego. That’s just my opinion but hey, what do I know, right? Anyways, the Lakers need to become more prominent in the FA department or else this whole rebuild is going to take way longer than expected. A couple vets on the squad teaching the young guys the ropes will greatly benefit both the Lakers brand, and their on court product. Only time can tell how long this re-construction of a franchise will take. I say two years before the Lakers are back to where we’re all accustomed to seeing them, among the elites in the NBA.
Rafael: The Denver Nuggets