Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid’s Recovery, Potential Free Agency Targets
Each week Derek will answer reader questions and tweets and will appear on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill to answer your questions.
In this week’s edition of the Sixers Mailbag, Derek answers your questions on Joel Embiid's recovery, potential free agency targets next summer, and Nerlens Noel's foul shooting, and more.
On to your questions!
Q: Would you rather pay Reggie Jackson or Brandon Knight this summer? I noticed Brandon Knight is shooting >40% on catch and shoot 3's. He has the size to be a Hinkie guy. Meanwhile, Reggie Jackson has some heart and has shown flashes in very important games for the Thunder. Now he has been all but relegated to a deadline deal and inevitable free agency. Any thoughts?
I like both Jackson and Knight quite a bit. I thought Knight would be solid in the NBA, but he's made bigger strides these last two years than I expected. He's playing really well, especially this year.
While I think that Jackson might end up being the more dynamic scorer, I think Knight fits the team better. If there's one thing Knight has always done it's make shots dribbling off the pick and roll, and with Embiid (and perhaps Okafor) here to set picks and roll to the basket, that skill set would be very useful. To be fair, Jackson has done a very good job of that this year as well, I just have more faith in Knight's success carrying forward in that regard.
The other area where Knight has a (big) advantage over Jackson is shooting off the catch, another big skill set for a point guard in the Sixers (likely) future offensive scheme. Knight has shot 44.4% on his 2.9 three point catch and shoot attempts per game on the season. Jackson is shooting only 21.3% on 2.0 attempts per game in the same situations.
I also think Knight is finally starting to put things together as a defender.
That being said, I think you have a much better chance of getting Reggie Jackson in the summer, due to a combination of the Thunder's salary cap situation and the Bucksdrastic improvement this season. And he's certainly an interesting name to think about. I just wish that he were a little bit less streaky in his outside shot and that he played in control more frequently.
Listen to the Mailbag segment with Mike Gill and Derek Bodner on The Sports Bash:
Q: My question is concerning Hollis Thompson. After his rookie season we all had the hope he could become a good 3-and-D-weapon at the perimeter for the 6ers. But in this season he only hits 33 % of his threes. My guess is that the lack of playmaking and offense creators puts him in worse situations to shot. He has to create a lot more for his own shots, an ability he is not capable of. In addition he takes a lot more threes than last year, so he can may-be not hold his percentage. What do you think?
I think a couple of things.
First, I think Hollis prioritizing a quicker release could be playing into things, as even a slight change in shooting motion can impact a shooter's effectiveness. Especially on his contract, I give him time and let him see if he can develop the muscle memory and consistency that he previously had.
I touched on this the other day in my Robert Covington article, but more shot-creators and guys who can draw a double team will always help shooters, and Hollis is no exception. A little bit over 61% of Hollis' catch and shoot opportunities are contested, which is a high percentage, even for a guy who is mostly a set-shooter. Not as high as Covington's ridiculous 74%, but high.
What's interesting, though, is that he's connecting far less when he's open. He's actually connecting on 41.2% of his three pointers when a defender has been between 2' and 4', but only 34% when the closest defender is between 4' and 6', and only 32.6% when the closest defender isn't within 6'. Last year, he was automatic with space: 47.9% from three with the nearest defender between 4' and 6'.
On the positive side, Hollis improving his shooting percentage (39.1% to 41.2%) on three pointers while defended closely is a good sign that maybe his quicker release is working. His drop in effectiveness when open, though, is weird. My hunch, based on his past history, is that the drop in effectiveness will eventually progress back up to his career norm, and then we'll have an effective shooter for cheap.
Q: From everything you’ve gather, what is the status of Embiid’s foot? Is he able to do cardio? Has he been cleared to run? We’ve read this past weekend about the concerns regarding his maturity and weight—which may be valid—but the team has yet to indicate that he is far along enough in his rehab to begin conditioning. I was perplexed by Keith Pompey’s article because it’s been unclear that he was ready to begin "conditioning" exercises.
He's able to run on an anti-gravity treadmill. That, along with elliptical training, have been the primary methods of increasing his heart rate. In theory he could possibly be able to use aquatic exercises to get his heart rate up without putting much pressure on his foot, but I haven't heard any reports of him doing so. I'll try to remember to ask around to see if that's happened at all.
That being said, as I mentioned in my recap from last night's game, Embiid went through what was probably the most intense drills I've seen him do this year, either before games or at practice, Wednesday against the Knicks. Rather than casually shooting he was shooting in rhythm, getting more lift on his shot, and jogging faster. He's still not cleared to go full speed or make hard cuts, but I would definitely classify it as progress.
As I said when talking about the Embiid situation, my far bigger concern than his weight was the report that he blew off training sessions. Hopefully that was just an isolated, minor incident, and the closer he gets to actually being able to play basketball, it will just be a distant memory.
Q: With trade talks surrounding guys like MCW and Wroten, how do you think GMs around the league would currently rank the Sixers top 5 or 10 assets? (Embiid, Nerlens, MCW, Saric, KJ, Covington, Wroten, 2015 1st rounder, 2015 Heat pick, 2016 1st rounder, etc.)