Sixers have nobody but Hinkie to blame
General manager Sam Hinkie's rebuilding plan should have included a veteran point guard.
THIS HAS NOTHING to do with Tim Frazier, the Sixers' emergency starting point guard.
It has less to do with his backup, 6-8 small forward JaKarr Sampson. Yes, small forward,
It has almost nothing to do with Michael Carter-Williams, the regular point guard whose toe hurt; or Tony Wroten, an incendiary bench player who, before knee surgery, spent part of the season as MCW's understudy.
It has to do with The Plan, and its fraudulence in this important stage.
The Sixers entered the season without a lot of things, but most of them could be explained away by the basic tenet of The Plan.
The Plan, in essence, is the blueprint concocted by young analytics whiz Sam Hinkie, the Sixers' second-year general manager who has staffed his front office with numbers men of his ilk. He figured to stockpile draft picks; acquire cheap, young talent with specific characteristics; and let the team develop organically.
The Plan has merit, and it has logic.
What it lacks is leadership.
Specifically, it lacks a veteran point guard. It is a criminal omission.
That was amplified the last three games, when two Developmental League players ran the team: Frazier, in his third NBA game and his second start; and JaKarr Sampson, a 6-8 small forward.
Last night, Frazier finished with seven assists . . . and seven turnovers, the most among an avalanche of 27 turnovers that cost the Sixers a chance at a huge upset against the Warriors. Sampson had three turnovers. That means a combined 10 giveaways at the point guard spot, manned by two D-Leaguers, against the league's best team.
They were all the Sixers had.
That's because, faced with choosing among Jameer Nelson, Aaron Brooks, Earl Watson, Leandro Barbosa and Nobody, Hinkie and the Sixers chose Nobody.
"Had those injuries and this particular situation [not happened] the area would not have been exposed," said coach Brett Brown; otherwise, he contended, "we're doing just fine."
No, not fine. Carter-Williams still lacks a guide. The team still lacks depth. Brown cedes that point, at least in this moment.
"It's hard to quantify," Brown said. "The point can be more accurately made now, given this rare situation."
In this rare situation there is Nobody to run the offense when it is going off the rails. Then again, there was Nobody to afford a calming influence during the 17-game losing streak - or, heaven forbid, perhaps impede the 17-game losing streak.
The Sixers chose Nobody to occupy a precious roster spot: Larry Drew II, Alexey Shved and, now, Frazier. They are fine young men, but they are NBA Nobodies.
That makes The Plan a fraud.
Nothing says the Sixers would have been able to sign a viable veteran; but, hey, money talks, and the Sixers can afford to overspend a little.
Instead, every night the Sixers trot out a group of guys who can't sign for a rental car and expect them to play competitively against grown men. Then, they expect them to be accountable for it after and between games.
They take the floor with less direction than Christopher Columbus; he didn't know where he was going, either, and he didn't know where he was once he got there.
That isn't a slight to Brown, charged with making soufflé out of fake eggs and powdered milk. Brown can scheme all he wants, but when the ship leaves the dock Brown cannot trim the sails.
Brown points to veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute, but his 11 playoff games in six seasons don't carry a lot of weight. Even the Sixers admitted they hoped Mbah a Moute would mainly serve as a guide for fellow Cameroonian, rookie Joel Embiid. Of course, the Sixers do not expect Embiid to play this season, as he recovers from foot surgery.
That's right: They got a leader for a guy spending the season in a sport coat.
Here's hoping Frazier, a feel-good story out of Penn State, hangs on in the NBA for a decade, makes $50 million and wins a ring. All the better if Frazier's journey to riches and relevance begins in Philadelphia on this 10-day contract.
But employing Frazier does not enhance The Plan.
Employing a veteran wise in the ways of the league - now, that enhances The Plan.
It does not guarantee wins, and it should not obscure the players' fine effort in last night's 89-84 loss to the Warriors, who sleepwalked through a 41st win.
Hollis Thompson lost Andre Iguodala on a back-door move, remarkable in that Iguodala is one of the league's better defenders.
K.J. McDaniel stepped through Draymond Green, passed the ball to himself off the backboard and sent the crowd into convulsions with a Tracy McGrady dunk. Sampson used a behind-the-back dribble to ditch Iguodala, hung in the air and laid it in, a move that electrified the crowd again. Jerami Grant blocked Klay Thompson's jump shot and began a Sixers' break.
And, after every one of those plays, the Sixers wasted a possession with a poor inlet pass, an ill-advised shot - something that depleted the momentum they had just gained.
As the game's end neared, with a comeback in sight, Frazier engineered possessions that ended in him throwing the ball away across the court; then, with a teammate taking a rushed three-pointer that didn't draw iron; then, with a double-teamed teammate getting his shot blocked.
No one questions the athleticism of the Assets, as Hinkie dismissively refers to his players. Grant and McDaniels should be required to participate in the Slam Dunk Contest for the next 5 years.
No one questions the effort of the players. They try hard; sometimes, too hard. Nerlens Noel gets a hand on every rebound within his wingspan and tries to block every shot. McDaniels attacks the rim like it owes his boss money.
No one can criticize their willingness to implement coaching directives, mainly because none has been in the NBA long enough to evaluate whether they can be coached. For that matter, the development of their most important players - Noel and Embiid - have been so impeded by injury that you won't know if they're any good for at least three more seasons.
It might take longer, considering their development is slowed without a veteran point guard on the roster.
The team does not understand the concept of pace, nor the concept of refocusing.
It does not realize that a big dunk on one end counts for two points, not five; that you still have to defend the opposition, and you need to get a good shot the next time down.
This is not the fault of Tim Frazier.
Fault lies way above his pay grade.