In advance of the Orlando Magic's forthcoming game against the Philadelphia 76ers, we chatted with Carey Smith from Philadunkia via email. You can read the Magic-centric portion of our discussion at Philadunkia. Here's how our talk went.
Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post: Coach Brett Brown said last week that he thinks Orlando is a good example of a team that's "further along" than Philadelphia is in the rebuilding process. What seems to be the plan in Philly, and how confident are you in Sam Hinkie's ability to execute that plan?
Carey Smith, Philadunkia: Thanks to Sam Hinkie, the 76ers have a long-range plan for the first time in over a decade and the plan in Philly is simple -- flush this year down the drain and build for the future. Hinkie's master plan involves losing as many games as possible this season in order to secure a top-five pick in the stacked 2014 NBA Draft. He'll combine that pick with the first round selection he acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans in the Jrue Holiday trade to hopefully add two bona-fide stars to this roster for 2014-15. Hinkie will also continue to add (via trade, free agency, or the D-League) young, affordable talent that can be developed by Brett Brown & Co.
Lastly, Hinkie plans to do all this while maintaining cap flexibility, so that he can eventually pounce on a superstar caliber free agent who can get this franchise over the top and into title contention. It's a bold plan and if it doesn't work, this franchise will be in deep trouble. While I haven't agreed with every move Hinkie has made, overall I have been impressed with the new GM so far and I am confident Hinkie can execute his plan.
OPP: Plenty of fringe NBA prospects badly outplayed Michael Carter-Williams at the Orlando Pro Summer League. Now he's far-and-away the best rookie in the league. What do you make of his progress so far, and how would you grade his performance on the young season?
Philadunkia: I think MCW's progress so far this year has been nothing short of astonishing. I was not a huge fan of selecting Carter-Williams in the 2013 Draft. I felt his jumper was "broke," as they say, and that defensively he would have a huge learning curve when he stepped onto the court in the NBA. I was correct on only 1 of those 2 items.
MCW and Brett Brown put in a great deal of work on the rookie's form and foot work and now his jump shot is a weapon out to three-point range. We knew he could drive the ball to the tin, so the new jump shot has made him a more complete offensive player. Despite his tremendous offensive break out, I would only give MCW's season a B+ so far. On the defensive end of the floor he and the rest of the Sixers have been simply awful this season. It's almost like they don't care at all about that end of the floor. That has to change if this team is ever going to compete for a title down the road.
OPP: Daniel Orton didn't quite work out in Orlando, but the Sixers picked him up off the waiver wire and he's even made a few spot starts for them. What is Orton's role in Philadelphia, and might he be part of the Sixers' long-term future?
Philadunkia: I have been pleasantly surprised by Orton's contributions this season and it's just another example of Hinkie finding a serviceable player in some other team's garbage pile. Still, Orton's role is a that of a reserve who will occasionally get a start in emergency situations and I don't see that changing unless his conditioning improves significantly. Brett Brown is a fitness fanatic and firm believer in sports science. Thus, the new head coach has installed individual benchmarks (body fat, diet, hydration, conditioning tests, etc.) for each player on this roster. If you don't meet those benchmarks, you get cut (see Kwame Brown and Royce White).
After playing in only 29 NBA games in the last two years, Orton is still way out of shape. Unless he can meet the standards Brown has established for him, he will eventually be sent packing. I hear Orton is trying hard to get on board with Brown's program and that the franchise is exercising more patience with him because he is young (23) and has been injured a good deal during his brief NBA career. In my opinion, all of that is good news because I think if he buys into the program, in 2014-15 Orton could be a solid backup to Nerlens Noel and Spencer Hawes if Spence is not traded.
OPP: What advantages does Philly have over the Magic, and how do you expect it to exploit those advantages on Tuesday?
Philadunkia: Honestly I believe the only advantage the 76ers will have tonight are a healthy roster and rest. The Sixers got Spencer Hawes, Tony Wroten and Thad Young back in the lineup at the end of last week, so Brett Brown has all of his starters and keyreserves for tonight's game.
My understanding is that Nikola Vucevic suffered an ankle injury Monday night and is questionable for tonight's game. "Big Nik" simply killed the Sixers six days ago. Additionally, Jameer Nelson is still hobbled and could miss the game. That's good news for the Sixers as Nelson has traditionally killed the 7-6 when he plays in front of his hometown crowd.
Obviously rest could also be a factor. The Sixers last played on Sunday while the Magic played in Washington last night. Other than that, I see no advantages for the Sixers in this contest between two very bad teams.
Thanks to Carey for chatting hoops with us. Visit Philadunkia for complete Sixers coverage.