The last time the Dallas Mavericks visited a team searching for their first win, they fell miserably in New Orleans to the Pelicans. If you count Opening Night, they destroyed Phoenix, cause technically the Suns were winless and I’m annoying for pointing that out about a 0-0 squad. The Pelicans took advantage of a flat Mavs team and even without much of a contribution from Anthony Davis, who played just 19 minutes after suffering a thigh injury towards the end of the second half.
Fortunately for the Mavs, Philadelphia doesn’t have anything resembling Anthony Davis. Philadelphia doesn’t have much of anything.
A year ago, the core of the 76ers seemed to be built around point guard Michael Carter-Williams and big men Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Embiid has yet to play an NBA game with back-to-back foot surgeries and MCW was traded at last season’s deadline for yet another first round pick, much to the chagrin of Philly coach Brett Brown. Nerlens Noel, however, has proven to be quite the budding star. Noel was selected 6th by New Orleans in the 2013 Draft and traded along with a 2014 first-rounder (Dario Saric) for Jrue Holiday. Sixers GM Sam Hinkie may have played coy about Holiday’s shady medical records but ultimately this one’s on New Orleans and the 76ers full-blown tank job would look even worse if not for this great trade.
Noel leads a current 76ers team that has an average age of 23.3, youngest in the NBA. This year’s third overall pick, Jahlil Okafor, helps anchor the middle and is the (very, very) early favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year. The 76ers have taken a lot of criticism from every angle for fielding a crazy bad team, one that has started 2015-2016 0-10 and possesses the only double digit negative point differential.
It seems that since their epic failure of getting involved in the four-team Dwight Howard trade in 2012 set the team on a course to go way, way back. In the deal the team sent away Nikola Vucevic, Mo Harkless and Andre Iguodala and in return got one very, very messy season of Andrew Bynum. Since then it’s been a total teardown, beginning with the Holiday trade and to this point not seeing an end.
For right now, it’s stack up as many picks as possible and try out all sorts of different personnel at the cheapest price possible. In fact, they claimed Thomas Robinson off waivers last season to simply meet the minimum salary requirements. The 76ers currently employ six undrafted free agents. No team has five and only two (Charlotte, New York) have four. Those players come cheap and there are plenty of them.
As for what the Sixers are indeed playing with besides the two very talented big men Noel and Okafor, they acquired guard Nik Stauskas from the Kings this off-season in a salary dump move for Sacramento with Stauskas, only in his second year after being taken 8th overall in 2014, sweetening the pot. The underrated and very talented Tony Wroten is still out recovering from ACL surgery, as is free agent signing Kendall Marshall. That left the backcourt to Isaiah Canaan, and he rather quickly relinquished the starting gig to undrafted rookie T.J. McConnell (Bear Down Arizona!).
Hollis Thompson (undrafted, 2012), Jerami Grant (2nd Round, 2014) and JaKarr Sampson (undrafted, 2014) have proven to be quality rotation players for this team. The big gem the team has received through their familiar circuits has been Robert Covington. Covington had a cup of joe with the Rockets in 2014 after starring for the D-League Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Though he fit the Rockets shoot three’s, ask questions later system to a ‘T,’ Houston waived the 6 foot 9 sharpshooter and Philadelphia used their waiver priority to pluck him away.
Covington, a personal favorite of mine that I may have written about someway somewhere a year ago, is set to return from a knee injury that has limited the 24-year old to just one game this season. Reports since late last week strongly indicate that he will return Monday vs. the Mavericks. Last season Covington amassed 13.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 27.9 minutes a game. He took a robust 6.4 three pointers a game, making 2.4 (37%). He shot a suspect 39.6 percent from the field, but it was a year of growth that he now looks to build upon. It looks like this Monday will get things kicking in his sophomore year, excluding 34 minutes in 2013-14.
So yes, the Philadelphia 76ers are 0-10 and they…well, stink. But Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and now Robert Covington make for an intriguing product, one you shouldn’t come out flat against…like last week in New Orleans.
Now, ifyou’ve been paying attention to comments made by Rick Carlisle today, you would think the Mavericks are taking on an Eastern Conference powerhouse:
“I’ve watched their last three games and for me it’s the most dangerous game on the schedule.”
“A game like Saturday helps everything. But if you show up and lay an egg tonight it will all have been wasted.”
“You start turning it over against them, it’s going to be a dunkfest out here and people are going to be going crazy.”
“We’ve got to play our game and we’ve got to play it very well, and we’ve got to play 48 minutes.”
Mavericks: JaVale McGee (leg) Questionable
76ers: Robert Covington (knee) Questionable
Richuan Holmes (hamstring) Out
Kendall Marshall (knee) Out
Carl Landry (wrist) Out
Joel Embiid (foot) Out
Tony Wroten (knee) Out
Mavericks: Dirk Nowitzki (17.8)
76ers: Jahlil Okafor (19.2)
Mavericks: Zaza Pachulia (10, 12th in NBA)
76ers: Nerlens Noel (9.1, 20th in NBA)
Mavericks: Deron Williams (5.2)
76ers: T.J. McConnell (7.0, 10th in NBA)
Mavericks: Dwight Powell (0.7)
76ers: Jahlil Okafor (1.8, Tie-11th in NBA)
Mavericks: Deron Williams (1.4)
76ers: Robert Covington (2.0, Tie-6th in NBA)
Mavericks: Raymond Felton (4.0)
76ers: Phil Pressey (3.4)