Three weeks ago I wrote about the Sixers then 15-game losing streak, and compared the futures of Philly and the Celtics. I didn't have a clear answer of who I'd rather be, but gave the slight edge to the Celtics because they have more talent in the cupboard, and a host of future draft picks (even if their picks this year are unlikely to be as good).
Three weeks (and 11 games) later, I thought it was as good a time as any to check back in on the Sixers, mostly because they made NBA (and pro sport) history last night in Houston.
Philadelphia got drubbed by the Rockets, 120-98, their 26th consecutive loss. That ties them with the 2010-11 Cavaliers, and the 1899 Louisville Colonels (MLB) for the longest losing streak in the history of American pro-sports. Even worse is how Philly has lost these games:
- They've lost 19 games by 10+ points
- They've lost 9 games by 20+ (6 by 25+)
- They've lost 3 games by 30+
- They've lost 2 games by 40+
So one out of every three games the Sixers are getting annihilated, and 75% of the time they're losing by double-digits, not even in the game during the final few minutes.
It's been embarrassing and depressing for their players, but it has also been effective.
On January 29th, the Milwaukee Bucks were 8-39 and appeared cruising for the #1 lottery spot. That same night the Sixers beat the Celtics on an Evan Turner buzzer beater, lifting their record to 15-31. Philly was 7.5 games back with 36 games left on the schedule, a seemingly insurmountable deficit.
And since 1/29, the Bucks have been far from good. In fact, their 6-19 record is one of the worst records in basketball over that time. However, the Sixers have not won since, allowing them to chop 6.5 games off of the Bucks lead, leaving them just 1 game shy of Milwaukee with 10 games left.
Think about that: the Bucks have won only 24% of their games since the end of January (a 20-win pace for the season), yet they are on the precipice of being caught by a team that was 8 games back in the loss column.
And if the Sixers can finish the season on a 36-game losing streak, they will likely catch a Bucks team that has proven at least capable of winning a game every once and a while. Meaning while their streak is embarrassing and deflating, it's going to get the job done.
That brings me to this question: should we, as Celtics fans, be jealous of Philly's losing streak? Jealous of a team losing 36 in a row (most likely) to end the season in the #1 lottery position? Jealous of the laughing stock of basketball?
It really depends how much value you put in draft pick position over everything else. In most cases, tanking teams are at least developing their young guys while losing (see the Magic, Jazz and Celtics). But the Sixers are not really doing that, as almost their entire team consists of roster filler. Sure, Michael Carter-Williams is getting plenty of run, but is playing him 35 minutes a night with no talent around him really the way to develop your future point guard? The numbers say no, as MCW has been god awful during the last 26 games, shooting 37% from the field, 20% from three, turning the ball over a whopping 4.3 times per game. Not that those numbers are all his fault. He needs to shoot the ball a lot because of the lack of talent, and when he does pass, he's passing to NBDL guys. But there's no way going out there and getting crushed by 20 every night while going 7-20 from the floor and turning it over 5 times is the best way to groom a point guard.
Philly is seemingly abandoning player development (not giving MCW any help, not playing Nerlens Noel despite the fact that he's 14 months removed from ACL surgery, dealing NBA quality guys in Spencer Hawes and Turner for expiring contracts) in favor of a pure tanking effort. It's the kind of tanking that cannot be viewed as "team building" or "part of the process" as much as it's the painful kind of tanking that almost everybody wants out of basketball.
The Celtics on the other hand have one star in Rajon Rondo, a trio of good young players drafted in the first round in Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, and several legitimate NBA role players in Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless. They fight hard in 80-90% of their games, and at least look like an NBA team, albeit a pretty bad one. But again, is that the right way to go? Barring the lottery Gods smiling upon the Celts, Philly is going to be drafting higher on draft night, and they'll have a much better chance of finishing with a top-three pick than Boston will. So while the Celtics have developed their young talent better, the Sixers have a better shot at bringing in a future star than the Celtics do.
It really is a loaded question..and one without a clear answer. I'm on the record as valuing lottery position quite a bit, and not being a huge believer that a bad season can hinder the development of young guys. But the Sixers aren't really developing young guys with the exception of MCW, and he's in such a terrible situation that I'm not so sure there won't be long-term damage to his game. There's a difference between a player being part of a bad team, and a player being the face of the biggest laughingstock in league history, a role that Carter-Williams has been thrust into, and one that will only get tougher as the Sixers losing streak marches on.
Without a true franchise altering star out there (Duncan, Shaq, LeBron, Durant), I think I'd rather be the Celtics this season than the Sixers. That's not to say that I wouldn't rather the better pick all things being equal (that's insanity), but everything else surrounding Philly is against everything you want to see your favorite team do. If the prize was LeBron, pinching your nose to avoid the stench of awfulness would be worth it. But I'm not so sure it's worth it this season, especially if it ends up hurting Carter-Williams development.
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 3/28/2014 04:50:00 PM Tweet