McGregor Has Zero Chance of Beating Mayweather

As the so-called megafight approaches, there is still a minority fiercely supporting McGregor with prophecies of an upset.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has amassed a professional boxing record of 49-0. Conor McGregor has never fought a single professional boxing match. These are facts. Here’s another: McGregor has zero chance of beating Mayweather in their boxing match to be held August 26th, at the T-Mobile Arena of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Some more facts: Mayweather/McGregor is scheduled for 12 rounds. That’s 36 minutes of action. UFC fights max out at 25 minutes if the fighters go the distance, something McGregor has done just once (but he did win.) (But he really lost.) It’s one thing to question the stamina of a professional boxer who is a power puncher and, therefore, has rarely had to go the fully scheduled time. But even those guys still train a lifetime for the labors of a boxing match. Conor McGregor has only just begun conditioning his body to go 12 rounds. Floyd Mayweather Jr. started in the womb. For the second time: Conor McGregor has never “squared up” (as I channel my inner northeast Philly hoodlum) in a professional boxing match.

Manny Pacquiao, Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Arturo Gatti, Jose Luis Castillo. These boxing stalwarts could not defeat Floyd. How then, my mind wonders, does one expect McGregor to meet an opposite fate? How is this not as silly a notion as Derrick Rose saying last summer that the addition of himself and Joakim Noah to the Knicks made them a superteam compatible with Golden State? At least with that, Rose and Noah were all-star talents at one point, and they were now (then) coupled with all-stars Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. If Phil Jackson wasn’t such an ignoramus, and Carmelo accepted playing the 4, and Kristaps moved to the 5, and Christ himself turned back the clock on Rose’s basketball life to 2011, and Joakim Noah earned a SINGLE CENT of the $17 million he was paid, then, maybe, we could see the inklings of a superteam, during a mid-January game against the Brooklyn Nets. Because Rose, Melo, Noah and Porzingis have, at one point or another, played to the level of a member of a superteam. The point is, it’s straight blasphemous to suggest McGregor could have more success than some of the best boxers of the 21st century, when he has never shared their experiences. For the third time: Conor McGregor has never participated in a single professional boxing match, ever.

In 1971, Wilt Chamberlain challenged Muhammad Ali to a boxing match, and Ali accepted, the two setting a date of July 26th in the Houston Astrodome. But the fight was called off, as Ali destroyed any confidence Chamberlain irrationally had, replying to all matters Wilt with one word, “TIMBER!” The man with enough confidence to double down on a claim of having sex with over 20,000 women, realized his foolishness in challenging the greatest boxer in the world. He finally understood that just because he was a professional athlete, that didn’t mean he could waltz into a professional boxing ring. UFC and boxing are different sports, that share some similarities. For the fourth time: Conor McGregor has never competed in the sport of professional boxing.

Michael Jordan wasn’t able to swallow his pride the way Wilt Chamberlain was. No, the Jump Man had such little self-awareness, that he figured it would be okay to just pick up baseball, a sport so difficult that having success 30% of the time is considered all-star level play. The result was pathetic: in 127 games, Jordan had a batting average (.202) that makes Mario Mendoza look like a competent baseball player. By the time Jordan smartened up and returned to basketball, it was too late, he had already embarrassed himself. It took a full season for Jordan to realize that baseball, while also a professional sport, is different than basketball. For the fifth time: Conor McGregor has never had a professional boxing bout.

So my question, now, to you: are you going to be a Wilt Chamberlain or a Michael Jordan? Are you going to come to your senses, secure your credibility and realize that the fighter Vegas listed at +900 has virtually no chance to win this fight? Or will you go on, letting your hate for Mayweather (which is a sentiment I share with you!) cloud your judgement? This one is easy: Floyd Mayweather is the greatest boxer in the world, and Conor McGregor? He’s never fought a professional boxing match.

Early Questions Facing the Eagles

The 3 Biggest Questions for the Philadelphia Eagles

After a solid offseason, the Philadelphia Eagles are preparing for Training Camp. But there’s uncertainty abound in a division full of contenders.

Who isn’t getting invited to the Carson Wentz Fargo camp out next year?

Every time I attended a sleepover as a kid, there was always one person that ruins the whole thing. They order porn on your parents’ cable account, eat all the skin (and only the skin) off the fried chicken or won’t put the online NHL play to rest. 4 a.m. on a pull out couch, in a basement lacking air conditioning, and you can’t sleep because Corey keeps triggering Doc Emrick: HE SHOOTS HE SCORES!!! It takes only a glance and a roll of the eyes between the others in attendance to reach an agreement: let’s never invite this guy anywhere again.

Out of those attending Carson Wentz football vacay, I wonder who won’t be invited back next year? Maybe Alshon Jeffery, for sitting out of any sort of physical activity, sucking the fun out of something potentially great. Possibly it is Jordan Matthews, who is to blame after Wentz threw him an Xbox controller, and Matthews let it go right through his hands destroying the “R” AND “L” triggers as the controller struck the wall. Or perhaps it was Nelson Agholor, who was so good at hide-and-go-seek due his ability to be virtually invisible to other football players, that the others had to submit a missing person’s report to the hard working gentlemen of the Fargo Police Department.  

In all seriousness, this receiving core has a lot to prove. All of them. Alshon is on a one-year, “prove you can stay on the field” contract. Torrey Smith’s contract provides the Eagles an out after this season. Nelson Agholor’s season could dictate whether or not he needs to make a LinkedIn profile and put out resumé feelers. It’s bittersweet: with so much on the line, Wentz’ pass catchers should be giving it their all. At the same time, their very situations create doubt over their ability to contribute.

One thing is for sure about this unit: if they don’t come to play, there could be major turnover in the receiving core.

Will the secondary play improve?

I’ve never eaten sushi. I have no idea how it’s made, what it should look like or how it should taste. But if I walked into a kitchen to see someone melting silly puddy in the microwave and pouring battery acid into a bowl, and I asked, “What are you doing?” to which said person responded, “Making sushi”, I’d be able to conclude, “That’s not how you do that.” I imagine an alien life form, with no prior football knowledge, would respond the same way to an Eagles coach telling them last season, “Those cornerbacks out there, they’re playing defense.”

Despite solid safety play from leader Malcolm Jenkins and first year Eagle Rodney McLeod, the Eagles pass defense was again one of the worst in the NFL. Pro Football Focus ranked the unit the worst secondary in the league. Returning are Jalen Mills (impressively bad some games with flashes of starter potential in others) and Ron Brooks (coming off season ending injury). Gone are team leaders in snaps at cornerback, Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll. The additions? Sidney Jones (who figures to be out until at least October, if he doesn’t redshirt all together), Rasul Douglas (who may not be fast enough to cover NFL WRs), and Patrick Robinson (who will be playing for his fourth different team in as many years.) Doesn’t sound to me like the Eagles should expect a significant upgrade in cornerback play.

This defense has a ton of talent, with one of the best front seven in the league and a safety duo that could be elite. But it can only go as far as the secondary will take them, which is why the Derrick Barnett pick was so maddening to me: it isn’t so much that I don’t like Barnett, I just would have much rather selected any one of the 3 cornerbacks that went after him in the first round, Gareon Conley (not totally fair as his name was yet to be cleared when the Eagles picked), Tre’davious White (solely for the sweet name) or Adoree’ Jackson (who will be a stud.) I’m tired of this team plugging the second most important defensive position with journeymen or late round picks. I’m tired of watching opposing quarterbacks sling deep balls at the Linc, only to see Eagles defensive backs trailing 20 yards behind.

If the Eagles are to make any serious noise in the NFC, they HAVE to improve their pass defense.

Is Doug Pederson an NFL Head Coach?

His job title says so, but I’m not yet convinced he’s up to the task. I don’t doubt Doug’s knowledge from an offensive standpoint, I just don’t know if he’s the guy to lead an entire team. He’s done some pretty bonehead-esque things. May I call your attention to Sunday, October 30th, 2016?

The Eagles were leading the Dallas Cowboys by 7, when they found themselves at 1st and 10 on Dallas’ 32-yard line. Doug Pederson, in a playcall maybe more atrocious than the Ronnie Brown disaster on the goal line a few years before, decided he was going to call a wide receiver pass, with JOSH HUFF slinging the ball. The idiocracy continued to unfold, when 2 downs later, the Eagles dialed up a screen pass for negative 6 yards. That was the play call sequence. For a team up 7. On the opposition’s 32 yard line. In the 4th quarter. Needing only a field to win the game. Ok so just kick the long field goal right? Caleb Sturgis hit a 55-yarder earlier in the game! But Doug punts. The defense, and time management that would make only Andy Reid proud, blew the game for the Eagles as time winded down and the result was an overtime loss to the team’s biggest rival. How could an NFL head coach screw up a situation that my 1-year-old goddaughter could have managed? Run. Run. Run. Kick. Win game.

Doug has a lot to improve upon if he wants to be a respected coach. Fans should be looking early on to see if Pederson has improved his in-game management skills. God Bless Andy Reid and the product he gave me during my early years as an Eagles fan. But I don’t want another Andy Reid, and I definitely don’t want a head coach that’s, at his peak, best suited as a coordinator.

Sixers Starting Lineup, Rotation, and Dario’s role (Hint: He’s Not Starting)

Many have debated what the potential starting lineup and rotation for the Sixers could look like at Opening Tip for the 2017-2018 season and with good reason: between the additions of JJ Redick, Amir Johnson and Markelle Fultz, as well as the return from injury of Ben Simmons and Jerryd Bayless, this is almost an entirely new rotation for Brett Brown to work with (something he’s pretty accustomed to over the last 4 seasons, with the Sixers having the roster turnover of an NFL team.) Before diving into the starting lineup and rotation, I think it’s important to project exactly who will be on this roster come game 1 of the regular season. Below are the players I expect to either:

  1. be a lock for the regular season roster (starters and rotation guys)
  2. be kept on the roster in a reserve role or relegated to the G-League (limited minutes/games, if any)
  3. be cut from the franchise
  1. The locks (12) (barring a trade)*:
  • Guards and Backcourt players: Jerryd Bayless, Markelle Fultz, TJ McConnell, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick
  • Forwards and Wings: Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
  • Big Men: Richaun Holmes, Amir Johnson, Jahlil Okafor (GRRRROOOSSSSS)
  • Unicorn: Joel Embiid
  1. The Reserves (3):
  • Justin Anderson – Anderson is definitely a contender to be cut, but being recently acquired for Nerlens Noel, I feel the front office and Brett Brown would be willing to give him more time to carve out a role on the team.
  • Furkan Korkmaz – Korkmaz will likely begin the season as “inactive” status, giving him an opportunity to get tic in the G-League rather than be buried on the Sixers bench and receive no playing time.
  • Jonah Bolden – I’m not necessarily sure Bolden makes the roster this year, but given my affection for his potential, obviously I can’t imagine him being cut. Instead, I expect the Sixers to let him return to the Serbian League and try again next offseason, while they hold his rights.
  1. Those (the one) looking for another job:
  • Nik Stauskas – Again, this could go either way between Stauskas and Anderson. But I do expect one of them to be cut and Anderson is the more versatile and athletic of the two. Sorry Nik, but I’m done watching you brick 3 PTs.

*I’m excluding factoring in trade possibilities for this exercise, and judging based simply on who is good enough to remain on the team, and who is facing being cut or relegated to the G-League.

On to what will likely be the most disagreed upon notion I scribe in this article: the starting lineup at opening tip. I expect it to look like this:

  • Guard: Markelle Fultz – Role: Off-ball scorer, secondary ball handler
  • Guard: JJ Redick – Role: 3PT Threat
  • Forward: ….. ROBERT COVINGTON, GET OVER IT – Role: Defensive versatility
  • Forward: Ben Simmons – Role: Initiator, primary ball-handler
  • Center: Joel Embiid – Role: Versatile offensive star, defensive anchor

Four of these are easy, right? Fultz, being the reigning first overall pick of the draft and a seamless fit off-ball next to Simmons, is expected to start. If not, you can catch the next installment of the Purge film series titled “The Purge: Wells Fargo Center.”* If you would like to understand why JJ Redick will start, you can read this article that I wrote; Or, you can just know that he’s making $23 million this season, so yeah, he’s a starter. Ben Simmons will be the team’s primary ball handler, making him perhaps the most important starter in terms of how the offense will operate. And Joel Embiid would start on any team in the league at this point.

The controversy is over whether Robert Covington or Dario Saric should be starting. And yes, I say Covington. I’m not saying Covington is a better player than Saric; it simply comes down to fit. For starters, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons serve a similar purpose on the court: long, athletic rebounders who excel at initiating the break and running in transition. The similarities don’t stop there. This notion that Dario is going to improve his 3PT% is completely unproven at best. (HE SHOT 31.1% FROM THREE. HORRIFIC. FG% = 41.1%) That would put two forwards on the floor who have yet to prove they can shoot the ball. Considering that between the Turkish Basketball Super League, Olympics and NBA, Saric has played more games in the last two years than most professional basketball players, it’s certainly plausible his poor shooting is due to fatigue. Saric is finally getting some time off, and I expect it to do wonders for him, so I am high on him. But he hasn’t been consistent enough to be a starter, and he needs touches to contribute; touches that would be taken from more reliable scoring options in Embiid, Fultz and Redick. I haven’t even gotten into his struggles on the defensive side of the ball, where he doesn’t exactly have a position or role. Put plainly, he’s still developing and learning in the NBA. Robert Covington is the opposite of all of that.

Covington doesn’t need a ton touches to contribute, and he’ll be happy to defer to superior scorers. Covington will be used to set off-ball screens for Redick and Fultz, and spot up in the corner. That’s mostly it on the offensive end. And while Covington has struggled from deep in his own right (33% from 3PT this past season), he improved as the season progressed and has a career average of 35.4%, right on par with the league average for this past season of 35.8%. That’ll do just fine for your FIFTH SCORING OPTION in the starting lineup. On the defensive side of the ball, Covington is one of the better wing/perimeter defenders in the entire league. Say what you will about the politics of NBA award voting, finishing 4th overall in Defensive Player of the Year voting is impressive for a guy who just 3 years ago was playing ball for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the D-League. And he has something to show for it, leading the league in tipped passes.** Robert Covington is what is referred to as a glue guy, players who enable everyone around them to do what they do best. Guys like Joe Ingles on the Jazz or Jae Crowder on the Celtics or Draymond Green on the Warriors. No, Covington couldn’t even sniff future Hall of Famer Draymond Green’s jockstrap; but he is important to what the Sixers want to do on offense, and critical to what they want to do on defense. It is the reason Bryan Colangelo needs to stop dicking around and wasting time and financial resources, and extend Rock.

Dario Saric currently provides the Sixers much more value as a sixth man than a starter. Being similar to Simmons in role, Brett Brown can stagger their minutes allowing the Sixers to run their offensive system uniformly across the rotation. Sixth man isn’t Dario’s future, starting is.*** I enjoy Dario Saric as much as anybody, but again, it simply comes down to fit and consistency, both of which apply more so to Covington than Saric.

With the starting lineup and sixth man wrapped up, I see the 2nd unit being somewhat of a rotating door throughout the season, looking like this:

  • Guard: TJ McConnell
  • Guard: Jerryd Bayless/Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
  • Forward: Dario Saric
  • A mixture at Center/Traditional 4 of: Jahlil Okafor/Richaun Holmes/Amir Johnson

And finally, the reserves being Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz. Korkmaz is a promising player, but again, with the new 2 way contracts that allow a player to spend time in the G-League and limited time in NBA, I don’t think we’ll see a ton of Furkan this season.

Let the debate begin.

*We, as Sixers’ fans, cannot allow any scenario in which we are again devoid of seeing a highly drafted player in the starting lineup to begin the season. And don’t give me Jahlil Okafor, he never carried the same excitement or anticipation as Embiid, Simmons or Fultz.

**Okay, I’ll admit I’m making a bit of a stretch here arguing the value of tipped passes.

***The reality is, being a guy who likely sees himself as a starter and feature player, Dario is no lock to remain a Sixer, as disappointing as that may be.

Summer League Game 2 Recap

Last night’s Sixers vs. Utah Jazz Summer League matchup play was pretty insignificant for most of the game (I literally fell asleep sitting up in the 2nd quarter, 9 o’clock starts are killers); that is until Markelle Fultz went all regular-season-caliber play against the stiffs of Summer League. Fultz’ performance was modest for the first 3 quarters, before exploding in the 4th quarter. The Jazz worked their lead to 24 in the 3rd quarter but by the time the 4th quarter started, their lead dwindled to 14. And then, Markelle Fultz happened. Fultz went off in the final period of play, scoring 13 and dime-ing 30 cents in assists. His play helped the Sixers’ pull within 1 point of the Jazz before the closing sequences in the final seconds resulted in fouls and the Jazz finishing on top 100-94. Some things of note from the game and around the interwebs:

  • Fultz finished with 23 points, 5 boards and 5 assists in 26 minutes of play, and shot an impressive 4 of 8 from 3PT territory. I’m not going to fall in love with the stat line for the same reason I couldn’t remember the game’s final score: it’s summer league and the stats are skewed because the competition is weak. What I will fall in love with is the bag of tricks Fultz utilizes in order to score the basketball. He scores in all different ways, from stepbacks to deep threes to crafty drives.
  • Fultz’ spin move is a thing of beauty: 

  • Fultz was engaged on defense, showing effort on and off the ball. But he still had mental lapses that are going to take time and coaching to overcome. If you watched the game, you probably remember a point in the 1st in which Dante Exum called from a screen on Fultz, and you stood up screaming, “GO OVER!” Fultz went under, and the result was a pretty effortless conversion on a Dante Exum 3PT. Fultz athleticism and 7’0” wingspan suggest he can be an above average defender if he’s willing to put in the work, but expect JJ Redick and Fultz to get toasted by opposing backcourts early on this season.
  • My prospect crush, Jonah Bolden, showed he should be starting these summer league games. He continued to flash tremendous athleticism and a willingness to shoot from three. Maybe too much willingness, as he went 1 for 5, and now a combined 2 for 9 this summer session. But part of that could be the transition from the Serbian league 3 PT distance to NBA distance. Either way, I can watch him any night of the week when he’s making plays like this:

  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot had a solid night, and was much improved shooting the ball compared to Monday’s game, going 3 of 4 from downtown. I’m loving TLC’s potential coming off the bench as an athletic slasher.
  • Joel Embiid used a curse word in casually expressing his distaste for WWE Superstar-in-waiting LaVarr Ball. It was mildly comical, producing one of those laughs that isn’t actually a laugh but instead a thrust of air through the nostrils. But if you woke up only to the social media reaction to it, you would have assumed JoJo somehow preemptively won the Sixers the 2017-2018 finals.  

  • Vegas sets the Sixers’ wins O/U at 40.5. In this East? Give me the over. #playoffs

Furkan Korkmaz Dunks as Darth Vader for Some Reason

The best thing you’ll see today. You can find anything in the dark depths of YouTube.

Korkmaz signed with the Sixers yesterday, with the Sixers buying him out of his Anadolu Efes contract for $1.3 million after taking him in the first round of the 2016 draft. Korkmaz averaged 10.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this past season, and was awarded the Best Young Player in the Basketball Champions League.

Korkmaz weighs less than me, and he has 7 inches on me. Needless to say, it might be some time before you see Korkmaz impacting the Sixers. All signs point to G-League for Korkmaz’ early career on American soil, especially given that Korkmaz projects to be a shooting guard, wing type player in the NBA and the Sixers are already rostering JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nik Stauskas (maybe not for long) and Justin Anderson (maybe not either.) But that’s fine: Furkan is only 19 and still filling out. There’s no reason to rush the young, athletic, promising wing. He’s flashed an impressive ability to play above the rim as well as 3 PT shooting, shooting nearly 50% on threes.

As far as I can tell, it is still unclear whether or not Korkmaz will play in tonight’s summer league matchup, or at all during either the Utah or Vegas summer leagues. You can check out his Draft Express profile here.

UPDATE:

The NBA Could Learn from European Football

On Bill Simmons’ podcast Monday, he had Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey as a guest. One of the more innovative minds in the league – and huge influence on Sam Hinkie – Morey is somewhat of a revolutionary in basketball circles. Morey and Simmons got into discussing various issues with the NBA calendar, and Morey talked briefly about adopting a scheduling framework similar to European football. While it’s a radical idea on the surface, I think it’s a worthy notion to delve into.

If you know how the leagues, cups and tournaments (and scheduling in general) work in European football, skip the paragraphs in italics. If you’re unfamiliar with how things work in soccer in Europe, here’s a quick, loose, probably not entirely perfect description:

With Europe being continent of many nations, there are many world-class soccer leagues in various countries throughout. It would be like if Pennsylvania, New York, California, Texas, Florida, and pick any other state you feel like, had their own basketball leagues, all with NBA-quality talent. So in England, there is the Premier League (Paul Pogba and Jamie Vardy.) In Spain, there is La Liga (Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.) In Italy, Serie A (Leonardo Bonucci and Gianluigi Buffon.) In, Germany there is Bundesliga (American stud, Hershey native, and Savior of American Soccer Christian Pulisic.) These leagues host the players that you hear of when the World Cup comes around.

The leagues in each country a) have their own regular season, b) participate in “cups” (AKA tournaments; think an NBA March Madness in the middle of an NBA regular season) and c) name a champion. So for example, in England’s Premier League, they have Premier League play, which is the equivalent to the NBA regular season, consisting of 38 games. During that League play, they also have breaks in which the teams prepare for a “cup” and then participate in the tournament to crown a winner. After the FA cup, the teams of the Premier League resume regular season play pursuing a championship. But it doesn’t stop there. After the major leagues finish their season, the top 4 teams of each league qualify for the UEFA Champions League. The top 4 finishers of the Premier league begin tournament play against the top 4 finishers of La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, etc.

One of the biggest problems fans currently have with the NBA is that it is top heavy: if you aren’t a fan of the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers, you’re likely heading into next regular season thinking, “What’s the point? No one is beating Golden State.” Playoffs come around and the brooms come out. These past playoffs, the Warriors swept their first three playoff challengers and we definitely did not need a best-of-7 series to see that the Portland Trail Blazers were not beating the Warriors in any scenario short of adding the T-1000 from Terminator 2 to their roster. Finishing in the middle of the pack is basketball purgatory because a) these teams are likely not able to find the star needed to put them over as late in the draft as their picks will be and b) these teams are typically not desirable destinations to top-tier free agents or already have loads of salary committed to the players already on their roster. Or worse, you end up like the Utah Jazz, who just lost All-Hair, All-Star Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics in free agency.

The result can be a regular season that is far too long and entirely too laborious to get through, poor entertainment value early in the playoffs, and seemingly nothing to play for if you are not one of the elite 4 or 5 teams in the league. But what if those middle of the pack teams had more to play for? If the NBA adopted a schedule similar to that of the soccer leagues in Europe, those teams would have a lot to play for.

Now introducing a list of schedule changes to fix the NBA’s problem of monopolized wins that no one of NBA importance will ever see:

 

  1. Cut out the preseason. These guys aren’t transitioning from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 or learning an offensive playbook. This would enable the season to start earlier. A huge loss for the degenerate gamblers out there that want to lose their money on only football in the fall. An earlier season means more nights off during the week, as the amount of days between games increases. More days off eliminates the need for players to sit games out, and gives players more of a chance to recuperate and play at their highest level.
  2. Play 65 games overall, because… it’s less than 82.
  3. The first half of the season is 40 games.
  4. After those 40 games, all 30 teams enter a bracket where seeding is awarded according to how you finished in your conference. Call it the Craig Sager Cup – I know, I’m pandering here. But it gives the tournament meaning and appeal. The tournament is single game elimination exactly like the NCAA tournament, creating much more variance, as it takes only a single off night for Golden State or Cleveland to be knocked off. Players get salary bonuses according to individual performance as well as team success in the Craig Sager Cup, incentivizing tournament play and creating a more competitive environment.
  5. Following the Craig Sager Cup is perennial disappointment, All-Star weekend.
  6. Once All-Star weekend concludes there is a week off before regular season play resumes and the final 25 games are played.
  7. The top 2 teams from each conference (this past season would have been GS, SAN, CLE and BOS so that’s who makes it in this example) enter the Champions League.
  8. The 3 through 8 seeds in each conference enter a best-of-3 series tournament to grant them a spot in the Champions League. With 12 teams competing, only 4 gain entry into the Champions League – 2 per conference. Obviously, this means that the #3 and #4 seeds would get a bye. The bracket for each conference would look like this:Screen Shot 2017-07-05 at 2.57.49 AM
  9. Stay with me.
  10. Say for example’s sake, that the two teams advancing from each conference to the Champions League were in the East, Washington and Toronto, and in the West, Houston and the Clippers; GS, SAN, HOU & L.A. would play a round robin in which each team plays each other 3 times. These aren’t best-of-3 series, just 3 games. The East teams do the same.
  11. The two teams (per conference) with the best record after their 9 games played go into a best-of-5 series, or the Conference Finals if you will. Again, this creates variance.
  12. The winner of each Conference Finals plays in a best-of-7 Championship, or the NBA Finals.
  13. The bottom 14 teams, during all of this, play in the Lottery Tournament. It is double  elimination and the spot in which a team finishes dictates their lottery odds. So if, say, the Sixers were to win the tournament, they wouldn’t be guaranteed the No. 1 pick, just the best odds of obtaining it in the lottery. The Lottery Tournament would eliminate tanking, because teams would rather be mediocre than suck eggs. (In the current system, being mediocre is the worst possible outcome for a team. Yes, worse than sucking eggs.)
  14. Trades can happen:
    1. In the off season
    2. Before the week of the season that marks about ~25 games played point
    3. The single week off following All-Star Weekend

Summer League Game 1 Takeaways

Last evening was the debut of Markelle Fultz in the Utah Jazz Summer League against the Boston Celtics (I don’t even know what the score was. I never remembered to look at it. Summer League basketball.), and I’m already dreaming of playoffs. While playoffs may/may not be an expectation of the Sixers depending on who you ask, I have no doubt that Fultz will transition very smoothly to the NBA. He flashed a variety of tools to score, shooting 6 of 16, 3-4 FTs, (not a great percentage, but I’m okay with the guy being rusty considering it has been 5 months since he’s last played competitive basketball) for 17 points, with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks. Fultz would have had even more assists if he had guys around him who could, you know, shoot. I was really impressed with the way Fultz used multiple ways to score, including a sweet hesitation up-and-under, or as Kevin Durant put it:

Sorry Kev, we’re not all 6’10” world class athletes.

Here it is:

Fultz also did this:

And this:

It was really exciting to watch… except for when pretty much anyone else had the ball. Summer League basketball is painful at times. Especially when some guys are hoping and praying they can show enough just to make the league. The result is Larry Drew II going 150 m.p.h., somehow maintaining within the same 3 foot radius and then bricking a fade away jumper as the shot clock expires. G-League players withstanding, there were other notables from the game:

  • I believe Jonah Bolden is going to be a very good player. Many analysts, whose basketball eyes are far better than mine, have already called him the steal of the draft simply due to the fact that had he remained at UCLA instead of playing Euro Ball in the Serbian League, he would have been a first round pick. Bolden had 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist and 4 blocks. While only shooting 1 of 4 from 3PT land, he showed a willingness to shoot the deep ball, which I love to see from a guy who is 6’10”. Bolden flashed 3 PT shooting in his Serbian League tape:
    • giphy
  • There’s something unsettling about having to watch Aaron Harrison playing basketball in a Sixers’ uniform.
  • St. Joseph’s product Isaiah miles had himself a day, with 10 points and 7 rebounds in only 15 minutes, including 2 3PTs.
  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot didn’t shoot it great, to say the least. I’m looking at the box score on NBA.com, and I can’t believe my eyes. It says he went 1 of 9 from deep, that can’t be right, can it? Sheesh.
  • It is disappointing Ben Simmons isn’t taking part in Summer League basketball.
  • Sixers are back in action on Wednesday at 9 p.m., playing host Utah Jazz. If you can’t find it, it’s because it is on TCN while the Phillies make a mockery of baseball on CSN. But Nola looks good!

J.J. Redick and Spacing the Floor

At exactly 4:07 pm yesterday, July 1st, used-to-be L.A. Clipper J.J. Redick tweeted, “Trust the process” and the word was out: Redick will be taking his silky smooth shot to the City of Brotherly Love. The 33-year-old Duke graduate, the recipient of a lucrative 1-year, $23 million deal, has Process Trusters elated as they play over in their head the musings of a near future Marc Zumoff call: “Simmons driving. Kicks to Redick. J.J. from three…. GOT IT!”

Redick is one of the most prolific 3PT shooters in NBA history, with a percentage that ranks him 14th all time. What may entice the Sixers even more regarding Redick is his ability to sling it from 3PT territory in catch-and-shoot scenarios, with Redick’s percentage in those situations jumping up to 44.9%(!!!) for this past season, good enough to rank 5th best in the league amongst players taking at least 3 catch-and-shoot 3PTs a game. J.J. worked hard to get those looks, running in and out of screens non-stop in the Clippers motion offense. CBS Sports’ James Herbert remarks of Redick, “He is the kind of player who can transform an offense with his ability to use screens and knock down 3s on the move.” And transform, he will.

With Joel Embiid abusing the paint like it owes him money, teams direct a lot of attention his way when he’s fed the rock down there. Don’t take my word for it, just take a peep at some of these in-game situations in which team’s give JoJo more attention than a TSA agent gives a guy in a Grateful Dead shirt flying out of Denver:

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Teams are able to put so much effort and manpower into slowing Embiid down because the Sixers deficiency in the shooters department. Or to put it another way, Nik Stauskas and Robert Covington* hanging around the 3PT line aren’t scaring anyone. But if you sleep on J.J., he will punish you. Look at John Wall’s body language on this play once he realizes he hit the snooze button on Redick:

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Redick’s presence alone is going to do tremendous things for the Sixers ability to space the floor. That opens up the paint for Embiid, but it also will have an impact on the other guys on the squad as well. With a pass-first ball handler in Ben Simmons, the fear is that his lack of shooting ability will hamper his ability to create, as teams will sag off him and challenge him to hit mid-range jumpers, all the while clogging the lane as other defenders treat [insert Sixers backcourt player here] like one of those fans “randomly” plucked from the crowd to hit a $50,000 half court shot. “Yeah.. we’re REAL scared you’re gonna hit this..” But defenders simply can’t leave Redick alone. In addition to making defenders stay honest, Redick is always moving, diverting attention away from the ball handler. Seriously, watch any Clippers game from the past 4 years and you can see Redick running through 3 off-ball screens on a single possession, over, and over, and over again. What this will do is space the floor to allow the Sixers to dictate ball flow, rather than defenses funneling in on Embiid and forcing Embiid to work his ass off to get a bucket.

And it’s not only spacing the floor that Redick offers. A week ago, rookie Markelle Fultz was viewed as the guy that’s going to have to hit knock down jumpers for the team. And he will still have to do that, but he won’t be the only one who has to. This alleviates a ton of pressure on a first-year player of which expectations are high. Furthermore, as my colleague Bill Leemon pointed out to me, Redick is the first high profile free agent to join the Sixers since the start of the Hinkie era, as Philly was previously the last place on earth a self-respecting veteran would sign (sorry, Gerald Henderson.) This is extremely important. If you read my last article, you remember that I touched on the Sixers possibility of adding a star player a year or two from now. Redick singing in Philadelphia is a movement out of the basement for the Sixers and a step in the direction of becoming a desirable place to play. 

The Redick signing is a win on every level. Even as far as the finances go, the Sixers have to hit the salary cap floor. Instead of having to sign 3 or 4 veterans to get to that floor, creating roster casualties of players with upside, the Sixers are able to retain guys like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot , TJ McConnell and Richaun Holmes. The entire Sixers offense just took a step up with the addition of Redick and I am ecstatic to see how it plays out on the court. Is it October yet?

*My love for RoCo is well documented, but he simply doesn’t hit at a consistent enough clip to draw attention.

Embiid Extension or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Trust a Colangelo

Prior to the 2012-2013 NBA season, Steph Curry signed a 4-year, $44 million contract extension. Now arguably the most valuable contract in NBA league history from a dollars per holy-shit-I-can’t-believe-what-I-just-saw moments perspective, NBA fans are privy to exactly how much impact the deal has had on the league landscape. After consecutive Warriors’ seasons that included an NBA finals victory and the crown for the greatest regular season team to ever grace an NBA court, the burglary contract of Curry allowed the Warriors to get even better. Four years later, Curry’s extension can be viewed as the most team-friendly deal this century. (Maybe ever. I’m too busy checking for WojBombs 3 hours from NBA free agency to figure that out.) How team-friendly is the deal? Let’s put it into some perspective: Evan Turner, Marvin Williams, Timofey Mozgov, Joakim Noah – that’s just a few of the stiffs that made more money than Steph Curry this past season.

But we have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and the extension wasn’t always viewed through a favorable lens: Curry ankles were more fragile than high school freshmen’s self-esteem, and the extension was widely criticized as being an unnecessary risk on a guy who can’t stay on the court. What seems like an obvious bargain today, was critically panned as misguided. Which leads me to the Philadelphia 76ers and their unicorn, Joel Embiid.

According to HoopsHype.com, The Philadelphia 76ers have only $36,547,717 (that could change in a couple hours) committed to player salaries for the 2017/2018 – the lowest total in the league by $2 million. For the 2018/2019 season, the Sixers are obligated to only $8,575,916 in player salaries – easily the lowest in the league. And for the 2019/2020 season, the Sixers owe players all of – hold your breath – ZERO dollars in salary. Tied (with 5 other squads) for, you guessed it – the lowest in the league. To say the Sixers have cap flexibility over the coming seasons is an understatement. The Sixers’ are currently committed to salary the same way that the Washington Redskins are currently committed to the idea of Kirk Cousins* being the quarterback of their future. With that being said, it is time for the Sixers to start planning financially for the core of this franchise. That starts with extending their franchise altering star this offseason: Joel Embiid. (And Robert Covington while they’re at it, but more on that in a later post.)


The Steph Curry extension is a great case study for the potential ramifications of a Joel Embiid extension. While most were weary of Curry’s ability to stay healthy long enough to make an extension bear some fruit, the Warriors were able to calculate the risk and gamble on Curry. The result for the Warriors? 2 NBA championships with 3 finals appearances, a back-to-back MVP and continued cap flexibility with the ability to add transcendent talent in free agency over the life of the contract. Even if Steph weren’t able to remain healthy all 4 of those years, and missed significant time during one of them, the contract would have been validated a) because any number of finals appearances, being 1 or 3, is worth paying a player $11-$12 million a year and b) because the contract would not have doomed the Warriors financially had Steph gotten hurt.

 

Similar to Curry, Embiid is a generational talent (which, in comparison, actually was not known of Curry at the time of his extension) who has a past littered with injury history; however, Embiid’s is more significant. So of course, there is risk in extending Embiid, especially with Embiid still under contract for another season. But really how much risk?

 

Let’s start with the years: four. A 4-year extension would lock Embiid up as a Sixer through 2021-2022 season, as it would kick in following the end of next season, after JoJo’s rookie deal expires. 2022 seems distant, maybe even far enough along that I would actually have a job utilizing my Communications degree by the time Embiid’s extension would end. And I hate to exhaust you with yet another reference to Embiid’s games played, as national pundits continue to rain on the Process Parade, but it’s a big commitment to someone who has only logged 31 games in 3 seasons – although they were the greatest 31 games I’ve enjoyed as a Sixers’ fan since the 2012 NBA playoffs. So I understand the flashing CAUTION lights approaching me. But it’s the wrong approach. If Embiid suffers yet another injury next season, odds are the Sixers will still retain him. “If you think they’ll extend him regardless, why not wait to see if he can stay healthy this year?” Because the flipside is even riskier, in my humble opinion.

 

If Embiid is healthy, and surrounded by actual talent instead of a revolving door of trashcans wearing NBA uniforms, he will thrive. And the Sixers will lose a ton of leverage in the financial department. An extension for The Process incarnate could max out around ~$25 million, and after a healthy season, bet your ass Embiid would demand something in that neighborhood. But now? Now Embiid would have to settle for that Steph Curry discount, something south of $20 million. This would grant the Sixers tremendous cap flexibility moving forward. The kind of flexibility that allows a team on the cusp of greatness to add the final piece to a championship contender.

 

The NBA salary cap has skyrocketed in recent years. Yes, next season’s cap won’t grow nearly as much as predicted, thanks to the Warriors shaving the amount of playoff games down significantly. But the cap increases almost every single year, and as the NBA seems to be the only league that has mastered staying touch with changing technology and a young audience, it stands to reason the cap will continue to grow. As the cap grows, an Embiid extension gets even more valuable each season. That being said, a yearly salary of, say, $18 million for someone as talented as Embiid could be as big a bargain as Curry’s contract.

We know Embiid is the key to the Sixers becoming a threat to win a championship. His skill on both ends of the floor is the kind of stuff that takes franchises to new levels. Without Embiid, the Sixers look a lot less promising. The value Joel Embiid brings to this team makes him worth an extension, collosal injury risk withstanding. Do the right thing, Bryan.

 

*Yes, I already made my point, and didn’t need to take a shot at Kirk Cousins. But hey, it was there for the taking.