The Final Cuts Loom For Philadelphia 76ers

With the NBA Season nearing, the Philadelphia 76ers must pare the roster to 15 players. Which four players are on the bubble?

The Philadelphia 76ers were supposed to be improved this year, and in some ways the team has far improved.  But the team continues to struggle at some positions, has yet to build any cohesion, and needs to smooth out the ups and downs of the current lineups.

At 20 players, the Philadelphia 76ers need to cut five to achieve the 15 man roster.  But which five will be cut?  With so many injured players and so much difficulty getting the player combinations onto the court for Brett Brown, much of the decision making process will fall to practice, analytics and film footage, and gut instincts.

Since neither Bryan Colangelo nor Brett Brown have been taking my phone calls (probably busy schedules right now), it’s up to us to determine which players are on the bubble:

I will list them alphabetically by position,, so as not to tip my hand as to who I believe won’t make the team.  I project the following players at risk of not making the final roster:

Cat Barber
Shaun Long
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
T.J. McConnell
Nerlens Noel
Brandon Paul
Nik Stauskas
Hollis Thompson
James Webb

Feb 24, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack guard Anthony

Point Guard Battle:  Will The Barber Get Cut?

With Jerryd Bayless out due to injury but getting the nod to start when he returns, the Philadelphia 76ers have done little to fix the chaos of the 2015-2016 point guard situation. While the team has added new prospects, the entire preseason has taken on the feel of “tryouts” once more, with no clear player pulling away as the starter. That being said, there is quality enough on the team to hope one will emerge in the last game against the Miami Heat. The only problem is that the season starts very soon.

Cat Barber

Anthony “Cat” Barber is an undrafted free agent signing for the Philadelphia 76ers. A 6’3″ point guard who has lightning speed, termed “fastest guy in the league” in an agents’ compilation by Sports Illustrated’s Seth Davis.

Strengths
Despite being undrafted, Cat Barber had plenty of clout coming into the draft. In two games, he has the ability to score. While running point for North Carolina State, he averaged 23.5 points per game.

Weaknesses
Arriving to the NBA as an undrafted prospect is a handicap. Arriving to the NBA both undrafted and injured is a huge mountain to climb. I’m not certain even Barber can manage it. With his sore wrist, even after coming back, he has been a little off on his shooting. The team has second year T.J. McConnell coming back to the NBA off a good rookie season, and the team has brought in Sergio Rodriguez to fill highlight reels with circus-like passes. So far, Barber merely has his youth and potential as his strongest calling card for the roster.

Probability Of Making Team
I love this kid and he would have made last season’s roster. But this year? I gauge his chances at 25 percent of making this team. I do see the team steering him to the D-League Delaware 87ers this season and competing for a roster spot again next year at 75 percent.

T.J. McConnell

T.J. McConnell is the returning veteran to point guard, the only returning veteran to the position. While some dislike his play, he is a scrappy in-your-face defender whose play warrants a spot on an NBA roster.

Strengths

T.J. McConnell is a strong defensive point guard, and his understanding of the game is better than most give him credit for. While not as quick or flashy as other options at the position, he is a work horse who can shoot when needed, defend well, and can run the team’s offense.

Weaknesses

McConnell is not flash, will not lead the team in scoring, is not considered much of an offensive threat when he has the ball, and is still improving. The Philadelphia 76ers need a finished product at point guard today, and he simply is not it yet.

Probability Of Making Team
I like McConnell’s attitude, and I think head coach Brett Brown does too. He has a 75 percent of making the roster. The other 25 percent is the chance of dealing him just before the season starts for 2017 draft picks to a team in need of point guard depth.

Mar 12, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) looses control of the ball while being fouled by Philadelphia 76ers guard Nik Stauskas (11) and guard Hollis Thompson (31) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Detroit Pistons won 125-111. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Shooting Guard

Nik Stauskas
Nik Stauskas came to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the Carl Landry salary dump in the 2015 off-season which netted the 76ers a significant improvement in their draft position in future NBA drafts.

Strengths
Stauskas was a hot perimeter shooter in college and has been working hard to restore his reputation. Working hard is an understatement, as he has the reputation of being the first person in the gym and the last person out of the gym.

Weaknesses
Stauskas is a shooter whose accuracy is less than ideal. Despite entering just his third year in the NBA, he has struggled to find his “niche”. In one hand he is a jack of all trades but masters of none. He was paired up with Robert Covington by head coach Brett Brown to develop as a two-way player.  The biggest shortcoming of his game has simply been his confidence. Until that resolves, his game will never fully develop

Probability Of Making Team
Head coach has a soft spot for hard workers, and Stauskas fits the bill. But it’s year three and the Philadelphia 76ers look to make significant strides this year. Stauskas may not fit the 76ers timeline. I expect his chances of staying with the team no better than 50 percent. However, if T.J. McConnell does not make the roster, Stauskas will likely be cut as well.

Hollis Thompson

Hollis Thompson is Brett Browns veteran player. He has been on the court for the 76ers head coach during Brown’s entire tenure. While this is his fourth year, Thompson has been reliable enough to come off the bench to score.

Strengths
Thompson is a better than average perimeter shooter on a team in need of perimeter shooting. While the arrival of Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot have taken some of the pressure off Thompson’s shooting. But that also increases the risk of Thompson not making the final roster.

Weaknesses
Thompson has a good perimeter shot, but needs improvement on the defensive side of the ball. He is also not consistent enough of a scorer to develop into the “sixth man” to ignite the team’s offense.

Probability Of Making Team
Thompson’s perimeter shooting is not easily discarded from the team. That, and his familiarity of Brown’s system, should keep Thompson around. I gauge his chances of making the final roster at 80 percent.

Brandon Paul

Brandon Paul is a young man with a dream of playing in the NBA, and whose summer league performance warranted a look. Whether his preseason showed enough for a roster spot is the question

Strengths
Paul can take over a game when he gets hot. In the the preseason opener, Paul unloaded 15 points against the Boston Celtics in the second half in just 13 minutes of play. He is not just a good offensive threat, as his defense is surprisingly well timed. He is a mature player with the eager energy of a rookie trying to make the team

Weaknesses

Paul is a 24 year old trying to carve out a nice, much like patches of cloth are sewn together into a quilt. Do the 76ers have patience enough to stitch him together?

Probability Of Making Team
I am going to go against conventional wisdom and declare Paul to be 70 percent of making this team. He hustles, plays bigger than his minutes, and is a good compliment to the team in the back court.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was an unexpected boon from the 2016 NBA Draft. Rated as the top “3 and D” prospect, he was expected to fall in the lottery picks. When he was available at 24, he was quickly scooped up.

Strengths
TLC is a young shooter who is fearless and aggressive. He manufactures his own shots and is adept at spacing and floor movement even without the ball. He is a staunch defender as well.

Weaknesses
TLC’s aggression comes back to bite the young man in fouls. He led the team in fouls in preseason with 23. He needs to improve shooting accuracy, particularly from the perimeter. Without a stronger threat of scoring outside, defenders will continue to cheat by baiting him to drive to the lane.

Probability Of Making Team
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarot has good potential, but he needs time to demonstrate it in the NBA. The most likely scenario for his future is playing for the Delaware 87ers to improve his shooting accuracy, and then returning to the 76ers in the second half of the season. He could remain on the roster, however, and I project his likelihood at 40% of doing so.

Apr 5, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Nerlens Noel (4) during the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Front Court

Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel deserves to be a starter on an NBA team. He is incredibly athletic, versatile, and his first two seasons have placed his trajectory on the path of being one of the NBA’s great defensive centers. However, the team is swimming in talent at the center position, and Noel is unhappy with few playing minutes in the last year of his contract.

Strengths
Noel is NBA caliber starter at the center position for virtually any NBA team. He is a poster child for rim protection, and his abilities situate his role to work in either a conventional line-up, or as the last defense on a small ball squad.

Weaknesses
Noel is strong defensively, but offensive is very limited. His shooting is set for alley oops, dunks and close layups. Very dependant on scheme for offense. He can also be beaten at the post by bigger stronger bodies.

Probability Of Making Team
In a perfect world, he is 100 percent assured making the roster. But recent improvement from Richaun Holmes, particularly playing center in preseason, combined with Noel’s public discontent, opens the window for a last minute deal before the season begins. I suspect with trade possibilities now, Noel is a 70 percent likely of making this teams roster .

James Webb III

James Webb III is another young man hoping to beat the odds of entering the NBA as an undrafted forward. He made a strong enough showing in the summer league to sign on with the team for the preseason.

Strengths
Webb is a young player whose potential to become accurate from the perimeter makes him a valuable prospect to any NBA team. He showed flashes of his potential by shooting 40 percent accuracy from three-point range during the preseason.

Weaknesses
Webb needs to develop in many facets of the game. While his long range shows potential, his 38.1 percent shooting from the floor will not turn heads. He is a versatile player, but on a roster with many players in that category, he doesn’t have any “standout” qualities to certify his spot on the team going forward.

Probability Of Making Team
I like Webb a great deal. In previous seasons, he would have a much better chance. I rate his likelihood of staying with the team at 20 percent.

Shaun Long

Finally Shaun Long rounds out the list, another young man whose NBA dream is rising from the ranks of the undrafted.

Strengths
Long typically announced his arrival to the court by sinking a shot. Unfortunately, he didn’t get as many minutes as hoped for. He has the potential to be a solid scoring threat from long-range, as well as some upside defensively. He plays a clean game, rarely fouling or turning the ball over.

Weaknesses
He’s young, inexperienced, and didn’t see enough playing time in preseason to turn any heads. Hopefully, he will have the chance to remain in the team’s crosshairs, as he is a hard working young man who really seems to fit what Brown is trying to accomplish with this team. He simply needs to mature and develop.

Probability Of Making Team

Long is another player whose time to realize his NBA career may not be this season. He is a fine young man who could benefit from more experience in the D-League. While he has the makings of a fine player, he is not there just yet. I anticipate his chances of making the final 15 man roster at 20 percent.

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