Draft profile: Louisville's Jordan Nwora

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Next up in my draft profile series is Louisville forward Jordan Nwora. He is an athletic wing player who is coming off a season where he averaged 18.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.3 APG. He took the road less traveled staying multiple years in college, but it was the right decision. 

Nwora’s game has grown greatly since his freshman year of college where he only averaged just under six points per game. In his time at Louisville, he was also named All-ACC on two separate occasions and was named the ACC Most Improved Player in his sophomore season. 

There is a lot about Nwora that makes him an interesting prospect. For starters, standing at 6’7 225 pounds his body is ready for the NBA. He also moves well for his size which gives him the potential to become a solid player who can play on both ends of the ball. 

In terms of the Sixers, Nwora would be a great fit on the roster. Most importantly because he is the perfect kind of shooter for this team. 

In his final season at Louisville, he shot 40.2% from deep on 6.1 attempts a game. His shot is best in catch and shoot and spot-up situations, making him the perfect fit alongside the Sixers’ two stars. 

Nwora could be a guy that Joel Embiid could swing the ball to out of a double team, and could also be a got to spot up and shoot when Ben Simmons is attacking the rim. Three-point shooting is a key point that the Sixers need to address, so adding a guy like Nwora in the draft would be a good get. 

On top of being a good shooter from deep, Nwora is also a super-athletic forward. He showed in his time in college that he is just as comfortable playing above the rim as he is letting it fly from deep. 

These days players who stick around for multiple years in college are looked down on, but it could be looked at as a positive for the Sixers. 

We saw last year how well Matisse Thybulle played for the Sixers after being a four-year guy in college. Nwora will be 22 by the time the 2020-2021 season starts, putting him in the same age window as the team’s key pieces.

Drafting an older player will also help with the maturity aspect of the team. The Sixers feel that their window to win a title is now, so targeting players who have matured physically and mentally is something the team should focus on as they look to contend. 

Nwora checks a lot of boxes for the Sixers and should be one of the names they look to target come draft night. He fits the mold of building a big lineup, is a knockdown shooter, and can run the floor and get up. 

Between Furkan Korkmaz, Matisse Thybulle, Mariol Shayok in small samples, and possibly Jordan Nwora the Sixers could have a bench full of length and shooting to help space the floor for their two superstars. 

If Nwora is still on the board when it comes time for the Sixers to make their pick, they should seriously consider drafting him.   

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Sixers select Nico Mannion in latest mock draft

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

In the latest installment of Bleacher Report’s NBA mock draft, there was a new name being selected by the Sixers. This time around it has the Sixers drafting Arizona freshman Nico Mannion with the 22nd pick in the draft. 

Mannion is a point guard who averaged 14.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, and 5.3 APG in his sole year at Arizona. His numbers landed him on the All-Pac-12 Team and the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. 

This is an interesting pick for the Sixers. Mannion has positives about his game, but he might be a project that would have to start his career in the G-League to polish his game. 

One strong part of Mannion’s game is his ability to facilitate. He is a willing passer and can get the players around good looks. He could be a guy to come in and keep the ball moving and the offense in rhythm when Ben Simmons is off the floor. 

Some other strong parts of his game include being a strong ball-handler, having good touch around the rim, and can create his own shots in small samples. 

The first question mark about his game is his size. Right now Mannion is 6’3 and 190 pounds, at that size it is going to be hard for him to have the same success around the rim that he had in college. Putting on muscle has to be at the top of his list as he makes his transition to the NBA.

Another part of his game that needs work is his shooting. This is crucial if he is going to find a role on the Sixers, who need outside shooting. In his one season of college, he shot 32.7% from deep on just over five attempts a game. 

This problem could potentially be an easy fix. Mannion already has a nice shooting stroke, it is just the consistency that is an issue. Between work with NBA coaching staff and defenses focusing less on him, he might be able to up his percentage naturally. 

Personally, if the Sixers do draft Mannion this year I could see him taking the same kind of route we saw with Mariol Shayok. Spend most of the year in the G-League to develop more and then come up and see what he can do with the Sixers in small samples in year one. 

Drafting a player that might be a project while the window is open is a little questionable to me personally. But best case scenario if he develops properly Mannion could be a cheap backup point guard who could also be used as a floor spacer for the Sixers moving forward. 

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PRACTICE By Allen Iverson -- As performed May 7, 2002

By Mitch Nathanson, Historical Columnist 

Anybody tells you that I missed practice --

If a coach says I miss practice

And y’all hear it.

Then that’s that.

 

I might have missed one practice this year.

 

But if somebody says,

He doesn’t come to practice

It can be one practice

Out of all the practices this year

That’s enough.

 

If I can’t practice I can’t practice.

If I’m hurt I’m hurt.

Simple as that.

 

It ain’t about that.

It isn’t.

It’s not about that.

At all.

 

But it’s easy to talk about.

It’s easy to sum it up

When you talk about practice.

 

We’re sitting here, I’m supposed to be the franchise player,

And we’re talkin’ about practice.

We’re talkin’ about practice.

 

Not a game

Not a game

Not a game

We’re talkin’ about practice.

 

Not a game.

Not the game that I go out there and die for.

And play every game like it’s my last.

Not the game.

We’re talkin’ about practice, man.

 

How silly is that?

We’re talkin’ about practice.

 

I know I’m supposed to be there.

I know I’m supposed to lead by example.

I know that.

And I’m not shoving it aside like it don’t mean anything.

I know it’s important.

I do.

I honestly do.

But we’re talkin’ about practice, man.

 

What are we talkin’ about?

Practice?

We’re talkin’ about practice, man.

We’re talkin’ about practice.

We’re talkin’ about practice.

 

We ain’t talkin’ about the game.

We’re talkin’ about practice, man.

 

When you come in the arena,

And you see me play --

You see me play, don’t you?

You see me give everything I got, right?

But we’re talkin’ about practice right now.

 

It’s funny to me, too.

It’s strange to me, too.

But we’re talkin’ about practice, man.

 

We’re not even talking about the game.

The actual game – when it matters.

We’re talking about practice.

Mitch Nathanson's biography of Jim Bouton is out now.  You might as well buy it; you've got nothing better to do


Ben Simmons' case for Defensive Player of the Year

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Ben Simmons showed a major improvement in one part of his game this year. He stepped up his skill on the defensive side of the ball and showed that he is arguably one of the best defenders in the NBA right now. 

Simmons was at the top of multiple defensive categories this season which begs the question, should he be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year? I believe that he has a very strong case to be a finalist for the award. 

This award has not been favorable to players at his position. Over the last 10 years, a center has walked away with the honors seven times. A backcourt player hasn’t been named for the award since the 1995-1996 season when Gary Payton won it with the SuperSonics.

Times are changing in the NBA and so should the standards for how season awards should be valued. Handing the award to the best rim-protecting center should be a thing of the past. 

Ben Simmons 2019-2020 defensive statistics 

  • First in total steals (115)
  • First in steals per game (2.1)
  • Second in total deflections (216)
  • Third in deflections per game (4.0)
  • 106.9 defensive rating 

The numbers don’t lie, Simmons was one of the best perimeter defenders this season. With shooting and perimeter play being the focus of NBA offenses now should shift the criteria of the award to the best perimeter defenders. 

Another reason why Simmons should be in the running for this award is versatility. Ben Simmons stands at 6’10 and has the athleticism to match up against any player in the league when needed. 

Top caliber teams have always had that player that prides themselves and defending the opposing team’s best player on a nightly basis. Ben Simmons is that guy for the Sixers, and he can do it at all five positions. 

He proved that this year shutting down multiple All-Star caliber players when matching up against them. 

At his size, there are no real weak points to his games defensively. He can switch off on big men, can lock down wing players, and can defend quicker guards who are much smaller than him. 

Ben Simmons built up a very good resume to be in the running for the Defensive Player of the Year award this year. Along with being a lock to be a finalist, he should have a real chance to walk away with the award this season. 

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How A Delayed Postseason Saved the Sixers

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

We are all still awaiting how the NBA will go about resuming its play once this pandemic is over. Although there is still nothing close to a timetable on when sports can resume again, it seems like we might get NBA playoffs at some point during this summer. 

Reports have come out that the draft lottery and combined have been pushed back to no surprise. There was also a report that came out stating that the 2020-2021 season may not begin until December. 

Delaying the start of next season gives me the impression that the league is aiming to crown a champion for this season. Although this suspended season has been far from fun, it was a saving grace for the Sixers. 

The biggest reason it saved the Sixers is health. As we know when play was still going on the injury bug had taken a big toll on the Sixers. Ben Simmons had an injured back with no timetable of return and Joel Embiid had just returned to the lineup after missing five games. 

This delay in the season has now given both stars the time to rehab and recover in peace without the pressure of returning to the court as fast as possible. Having them both fully healthy to kick off the playoffs (if they happen) makes this team much more dangerous. 

The other reason why it should be looked at as saving grace is that this team has been handed something that has never happened before, a clean slate heading into the playoffs. 

For the first time when the playoffs start, it is going to feel like day one for every team. Fatigue and nagging injuries will be a nonissue as players have had months to recover, and teams will all be knocking the rust off as they try to pull it together to be the champion of this crazy season. 

Expectations were set very high on the Sixers heading into the start of this regular season. Sadly, most would agree that the team did not come close to the expectations that were thrown upon them back in October. But the most beautiful part of it all, none of it matters now. 

The Sixers can take all the mishaps of this short regular season and put it all behind them. They can head into the playoffs and treat it as day one of a new beginning. 

Brett Brown and company can look at the regular season as a trial run and a base for what worked and what didn’t. Along with having two months (and maybe more) to come up with solutions to maximize the talent on this roster to compete for a title. 

The Sixers now don’t have to go into the playoffs hearing all the negativity from the media about their record or seeding as the playoffs are going to be basically day one of a new mini-season. 

This roster still has more than enough talent to go and chase a title. It is still going to be an uphill battle if they find themselves stuck at the sixth seed, but this delayed postseason could save what some people were calling a lost season. 

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Should The Sixers Call About Zach LaVine?

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Although the NBA has still not decided on what to do with the rest of this season does not mean it’s too early to look into the offseason. Whether this Sixers’ core gets the chance to show what they can do in the postseason or not, the roster could use some tweaking. 

The Al Horford experiment did not pan out the way that the team had hoped, so finding a suitable trade partner for him and his large contract should be at the top of the offseason to-do list. 

One name that has been thrown around for the Sixers to target is Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield, but I would like to throw another name out there. That is Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine. 

The Bulls have not been able to break out of the bottom tier of the NBA and could potentially look to move on from their star. Chicago has only won 22 games each of the last two seasons and might be looking to move forward and build around young point guard Colby White, who showed a lot of promise leading up to the suspension of the season.

LaVine had a career year with the Bulls this season and was arguably a snub for the All-Star game. He averaged 25.5 PPG (career-high), 4.8 RPG, 4.2 APG, and 1.5 SPG. On top of that, he also shot 38% from deep on a career-high 8.1 attempts a game. 

His fit on the Sixers would be almost seamless. LaVine is the kind of player that compliments both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and at 6’6 he fits the big defensive identity that this team is looking to build. 

Pairing Zach LaVine with Ben Simmons is something that puts fans in seats. The two would easily be the most athletic backcourt in the NBA, along with one of the best defensive ones as the two combined for close to four steals a game this season. Seeing Simmons and LaVine throw down together in the open court would be an awesome sight to see. 

LaVine is also the perfect kind of guard to put around Joel Embiid. He is a guy that could catch and shoot when defenses collapse on Embiid in the paint and is a guy that could come off screens around the arc and knock down shots when needed. 

We saw in the past how well the Embiid/Redick dribble hand-off worked for the Sixers in the past. That is a play they could recreate with LaVine who would also have the ability to attack the rim.  

There is a little bit of risk when bringing in LaVine. Although he has recovered nicely from it, there is no forgetting that he is just three years removed from tearing his ACL as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The injury has not seemed to affect him much since returning but a scary injury like that is something that will always loom over a player.  

Some external things that also make LaVine a good fit for the Sixers is his age and his contract. He is signed through the 2021-2022 season so he would be around while this team feels its championship window is open. Not to mention at 25 years old that LaVine is in the perfect age gap with Embiid, Simmons, and Tobias Harris. 

The final reason why the Sixers should call about the young star, LaVine indirectly brought up wanting to play with a team like the Sixers earlier this year. 

 

During All-Star weekend LaVine was a guest on ESPN’s First Take as the representative of the hosting city Chicago. They started off talking about LaVine’s past dunk contest performances and his decision to compete in the three point contest this year, then things got interesting. 

Max Kellerman went on to ask LaVine about what players he would want to play with and then what kind of players he wants to play with. He then went on to drop two interesting quotes. 

LaVine went on to say that he wants to play with a “point guard you can get up and down the floor and pass the ball” and then went on to say “playing with a dominant big man is great too.” 

Based on those quotes it seems like LaVine would love the idea of playing in Philadelphia. He basically came out and said that he wants to play with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

Trading for a guy like Zach LaVine is going to be no small task. Chicago is going to have a steep price for their star player. But making the call to see what it would take to add a guy like him could completely shift the direction of the franchise for the foreseeable future. 

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Sixers Lose Assistant GM to Bulls

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The Sixers’ front office has taken a hit. Late last night ESPN’s Adrain Wojnarowski reported that Marc Eversley would be leaving the Sixers to become the general manager of the Chicago Bulls. 

Eversley's role in the Sixers' front office was senior vice president of player personnel, a role he has been in since 2016. Along with his role in player personnel, he also aided general manager Elton Brand with basketball operations. 

Although this departure hurts the Sixers, it could also possibly help them down the road. Losing someone who worked closely with the GM is something you never want to see, and it is magnified as Brand is still rather new to his front-office role. But now Brand has a good connection to another organization. 

As we know, Brand has had no problem going all in to revamp the Sixers’ roster to keep them in the title hunt. Trades and big splashes have been his MO since almost day one. 

Now with a connection in the Bulls’ organization, it is open to speculation that Brand has a new team to try and work his magic with. 

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Simmons expects to return if play resumes

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

With all the pandemonium that is going on it is always good for some positive news to come about. Sixers fans can rejoice and have a sigh of relief this morning when word finally broke on Ben Simmons’ injury status. 

After weeks of wondering and speculating the wait is over. ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan reported that the pain is Simmons’ lower back has “all but dissipated.” The report also stated that if basketball is to return this season that Simmons will take the floor. 

Simmons went down with this injury at the end of February and was forced to miss the final eight games before the NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Having Simmons at full health is great news for the Sixers moving forward. If by a miracle the NBA can conduct its season the Sixers will now have their All-Star point guard ready to go. 

This is great news in the long-term as well. With this news coming out right around two months since going down it gives off the impression that this will not be an issue for the future. 

Back injuries can be tricky and it would have been terrible news if this were to be a nagging issue for the 23-year-old superstar who just signed a max extension last summer.

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Draft Profile: Josh Green

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

The next prospect in my draft prospect series is going to be Arizona freshman Josh Green. Although he only has one shortened college season under his belt, I still feel that Green could bring a lot to the Sixers. 

 In his lone season at Arizona Green averaged 12.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.6 APG. One stat that should draw the Sixers’ attention, he shot 36.1% from three on just under three attempts a game (2.8). 

Green has a smooth shooting stroke and is good at spot-up shooting. This makes him a nice fit on the floor around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He is also good at moving around without the ball. 

One thing I like most about Green is that his body is NBA ready. He already has a nice frame at 6’6 and 210 pounds so he will have the weight to deal with other NBA players. Green also has a 6’10 wingspan that can help him be a menace in the passing lanes. 

Although he is not a prolific ball-handler Green can be serviceable as a ball-handler and is far from afraid to put the ball on the deck when needed. His slashing ability and finishing at the rim is just as good as his shot from deep. 

Josh Green would be a great pick for the Sixers in the first round. His fit on the team would be seamless and he still has so much room to grow at only 19 years old. 

Although the team may look for an upperclassman to fit the age timeline better with Simmons, Embiid, and Harris I think Green’s game is polished enough to where that wouldn’t be an issue. 

Lack of shooting was the Achilles heel of the Sixers this past season so taking a guy like Green seems like an easy choice. He could be another sharpshooter from deep that can come off the bench with Furkan Korkmaz and space the floor. 

On top of his shooting ability, he is a great athlete and could be a great running partner in transition with Ben Simmons when the team pushes the tempo. Green threw down multiple highlight dunks in his sole year at Arizona. 

Green’s game is very polished for being just 19 years old, which should keep him on the Sixers’ radar come draft night. He checks most boxes the Sixers are looking for and would make a fine addition to the team. 

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Sixers Rewind: Iguodala and company stun LeBron's Heat on Easter

By Kevin McCormick, Sports Talk Philly Editor

As part of a holiday treat let's take a jump in the time machine and go back to Easter Sunday nine years ago. The Sixers had their backs against the wall against the NBA’s new supervillains, but somehow found a way to pull a rabbit out of the hat (pun intended.) 

It was LeBron James’ first postseason as a member of the Miami Heat and his first obstacle was a scrappy Sixers team. Although being able to keep most of the games close, the Sixers found themselves down 3-0 in the series and potentially being swept on their home court. 

Against all odds, the Sixers were able to avoid the sweep and give the home fans a present on Easter. The Sixers pulled off an 86-82 victory and forced a game five in Miami. 

The Sixers rolled out a starting five of Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Spencer Hawes, and current Sixers’ GM Elton Brand. Arguably the most unlikely of lineups to knock off LeBron James and company even if it was only one game. 

Miami’s big three dominated the Sixers but it was not enough to complete the sweep. LeBron finished the game with 31 points and the big three combined for 65 of the Heat’s 82 points. 

Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand carried the load for the Sixers’ starting lineup. Elton Brand posted a solid double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Iguodala filled the stat sheet finishing with 16 points, rebounds, four assists, and two steals. 

The stars did their jobs, but the heroics came from the Sixers’ bench. 

Lou Willams and Evan Turner were the scoring leaders for the Sixers with both of them notching 17 points. But it was Williams who had the biggest moment in the game. 

The Sixers were down one in the final twenty seconds of the game and opted to put the ball in the hands of their sixth man. Williams was able to create some room for himself and knock down a huge three-point shot over the outstretched arm of Dwyane Wade to put the Sixers up two.  

Williams’ shot would extend the Sixers season and allow them to fight another day. Sadly they would not be able to ride the high of that thrilling victory and be sent home in game five. 

Although the win only extended the series one more game, the Sixers were able to hold their heads high. That ragtag team was able to steal a playoff victory from the team was the new NBA juggernaut.  

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