Los Angeles Clippers at Philadelphia 76ers
Wells Fargo Center
4:00 p.m. PST
December 9, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Is Michael Carter-Williams’ early-season production sustainable?
Tom Sunnergren, Hoop76, (@tsunnergren): Sure, why not. I don’t think he has many more triple-doubles or nine-steal nights left in him this season, but the Michael Carter-Williams we’ve come to know and love – the boxscore stuffing, uber-athletic, hard charging point guard with superfreak length – is, I think, here to stay. Regression in some statistical areas might be coming, sure, but MCW should improve as a shooter as 2013-14 wears on and, when/if the Sixers’ veteran trio of Evan Turner/Spencer Hawes/Thad Young get dealt, he’ll get more scoring opportunities too. He’s good. We should get used to it.
Jovan Buha, (@jovanbuha): It’s difficult to project the production of Sixers players given the uncertain future of the team (i.e. Will they trade away half their productive players?), but I’ll say no. Eighteen points, six rebounds and seven assists per game is ridiculous; he’ll at least drop off to 16-5-6. His PER (19.13) is sustainable, though, if he can improve on his awful shooting from the floor (40.8 percent) and from deep (32.4 percent).
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Right now, Carter-Williams has incredible numbers and while expectations for his career probably have to be adjusted through the first quarter of the season, it’s going to be difficult to sustain that production if only because defenses will alter how they defend him as the season continues. That’s especially true if Evan Turner and/or Thad Young ends up leaving Philly. If Carter-Williams is the No. 1 concentration for a defense, he can’t put up those same numbers, though he can still be a Rookie of the Year caliber player.
2. What is the 76ers’ biggest strength?
Sunnergren: Tirelessness. The Sixers are young, dumb, and not terribly polished, but they come at you, and keep coming at you. Then, just when you think they’re slowing down for a few beats – to have a cigarette, catch their breath for a minute, maybe check their email – they come at you again, this time even harder. This is a very fit basketball team that likes to run and simply wears its opponents out. Here’s a fact: over their first 21 games, the Sixers have been outscored, on average, in every quarter but one; the fourth.
Buha: Their pace. According to ESPN.com, they lead the league in pace factor by almost one full possession. Also, six guys are essentially averaging double figures, so it’s a challenge to game plan for their unique blitzkrieg. They’re just so young, fast, athletic and unpredictable…if you look close enough, that spells T-R-A-P-G-A-M-E.
Katz: Running the floor. Usually, the Clippers have the ability to run a team out of the gym on any given night, but the Sixers actually try to do that even more. Right now, Philadelphia is playing at the fastest pace in the league. It’s quick shots. It’s Carter-Williams, who leads the league in steals, getting takeaways and leading the break. The Sixers may not be particularly skilled, but they are athletic and they surely take advantage of that.
3. Are the Clippers just in a collective shooting slump or is there something functionally wrong with the offense?
Sunnergren: I was researching this problem, when I came across an interesting and important fact: Chris Paul is on this team. So, no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong. Basketball seasons are long, busy things that give rise to all sorts of trend stories that seem real and screamingly urgent right up until the moment when they don’t. The Clips have the personnel. The O will be just fine.
Buha: It’s a little bit of both (sorry, Andrew Han), but I’ll lean more towards something fundamentally wrong. The Clippers are down their best shooter (J.J. Redick) and cutter (Matt Barnes), so the offensive movement and spacing isn’t as ideal. Reggie Bullock and Willie Green just don’t strike the same fear in opponents, and aren’t similarly capable shooters.
Katz: Something is functionally wrong, but it’s not anything fixable. Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick aren’t walking through that door! Lose your best shooting wing and your best off-ball cutting wing and your offense won’t open up as much as you’re used to seeing. That’s the predicament the Clippers are in right now and it’s one they can’t really get out of until either of those guys returns.
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