76ers

What if the Sixers had kept Charles Barkley instead of trading him to the Suns?

What if the Sixers had kept Charles Barkley instead of trading him to the Suns?

Charles Barkley wanted out of Philadelphia and got his wish. But what if the Sixers simply hadn’t listened to him?

The team dealt its dissatisfied star to the Suns in 1992 for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry. It’s a trade Jim Lynam, then the team’s general manager, still regrets.

“Charles, from his perspective, he made it known in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want to be here,” Lynam said in April on the Sixers Talk podcast. “And I would say in hindsight — this is just me, my own personal opinion — we made a mistake in listening to him. I tell Charles that to this day.”

If Lynam had kept Barkley, a saga like the one that unfolded in 2018 with Jimmy Butler and the Timberwolves is one possibility. We imagine, in an effort to spite then-owner Harold Katz, that Barkley would have sat out practices and preseason games, voiced his displeasure in explosive exchanges with the media and perhaps gained a bit of weight. He would not have silently accepted Lynam telling him that the trade he so desperately wanted was never going to happen.

When such a dispute occurs, money can be one way to ameliorate the situation. But in Barkley’s case, that likely wouldn’t have helped much. Per Spotrac, Barkley made $3.2 million in 1991-92, one of the top salaries in the NBA. According to The Associated Press, Barkley in 1988 said he felt he was underpaid, but he wouldn’t think about asking for a raise unless the Sixers won an NBA championship. Katz had already renegotiated Barkley’s contract before the 1986-87 season, per the AP, and again, it’s not as if Barkley was being paid a grotesquely unfair amount at the end of his Sixers tenure. 

The larger issue is Barkley’s very valid stance that the Sixers hadn’t assembled enough talent around him. In his eight years in Philadelphia, the front office had misfired on many moves. Barkley was surrounded by Hall of Fame players Maurice Cheeks, Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Bobby Jones as a rookie on a 58-win team that lost to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. By the 1991-92 season, he was the Sixers’ only All-Star representative and played with Hersey Hawkins, Johnny Dawkins, Armen Gilliam and Charles Shackleford on a 35-win team. 

In response to the extended monologues Barkley surely would have delivered about how Katz and the Sixers had bungled opportunities to construct a contender, maybe Lynam would have felt the heat and searched for a splashy trade or two, in part to convince Barkley it was worth playing and giving full effort. Would Golden State have listened to an offer for Tim Hardaway? For the right price, would the Pistons have considered parting with Joe Dumars after a disappointing first-round loss?

Though the Sixers wouldn’t have had much of value to deal besides Hawkins and draft picks, we figure they would've been especially eager to explore options. It seems unlikely that such efforts would have been successful. 

Let’s put the front-office machinations and off-court drama aside and say Barkley would’ve stayed in Philadelphia for the rest of his career and given his best. How would the Sixers have fared? With the Bulls, Pacers, Knicks and Magic all looming in the East, an NBA championship — or even a conference title — looks improbable. But instead of having to wait until the 1998-99 season to make the playoffs again, the Sixers would’ve stuck around in the postseason mix. They would have picked lower than No. 2 in the 1993 NBA draft, and therefore not have made the infamous decision to take Shawn Bradley over Penny Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn. 

In the 1995-96 season, Barkley turned 33 years old but still averaged 23.2 points and 11.6 rebounds per contest, making his 10th All-Star Game. The Sixers probably would not have been great that season, but they wouldn’t have lost 64 games and "won" the opportunity to draft Allen Iverson. Nevertheless, in one of the best drafts ever, the team still might have snagged a star in Kobe Bryant (the 13th pick) or Steve Nash (No. 15). 

While it might be fun to picture Barkley in a Sixers uniform slaying Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal in the playoffs during his prime, it’s not a realistic outcome. Unless the Sixers could’ve pulled off a miraculous trade or nailed a couple of their draft picks, he would’ve been in a similar position as he was before moving to Phoenix, stranded on a team that was a rung or two below legitimate contention. 

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2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

2020 NBA draft profile: Payton Pritchard's elite ball handling, unlimited range should entice Sixers

Payton Pritchard

Position: PG
Height: 6-2
Weight: 190
School: Oregon

The NCAA Tournament being cancelled will likely affect several draft prospects. Oregon’s Payton Pritchard seems to be one of them. The senior guard led the Ducks to a 24-7 record and the team won the Pac-12 regular season title with a 13-5 mark. Pritchard leading a strong tourney run could’ve helped his draft stock.

As it stands, Pritchard’s resume is still pretty darn impressive. He was a consensus All-American in 2019-20 and won Pac-12 Player of the Year. He averaged 20.5. points, 5.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game in his final collegiate season.

Strengths

Pritchard has a reputation as a tireless worker and dogged competitor. As mentioned, he was the true leader of an Oregon team that had a chance to do serious damage in the NCAA Tournament. He excelled in a much larger scoring role his senior season.

He seems to have the ball on a string with advanced handling skills. His father told a reporter that his son practices dribbling “until his hands bleed.” While he’s not the most explosive guard, his ability to change speeds and understanding of when to do so is a huge asset.

He also has good vision and awareness. Despite a high usage rate, Pritchard’s turnover numbers didn’t grow exponentially. He averaged 4.6 assists and two turnovers a game during his time in Eugene.

Outside of a down season in 2018-19, Pritchard has proven to be an elite shooter. He’s fearless with unlimited range. This play against Washington in overtime got a much deserved “ONIONS!” call from Bill Raftery.

That game was sort of a microcosm of Pritchard. Oregon struggled against Washington’s zone for much of the game. Pritchard patiently picked his spots but took over at times when his team needed him to.

Despite being just 6-foot-2, Pritchard is solidly built and did flash potential as an off-ball defender with 1.5 steals a game. He’s also a solid rebounder for his height, which helps him be able to push the pace.

Weaknesses

The height will likely be an issue at the next level. He also doesn’t have long arms or the lateral quickness it would seem to take to defend NBA guards. It’s hard to gauge against the zone, but he may also struggle to battle through screens.

He’s not particularly athletic or explosive. Though his ball handling skills are excellent, he does struggle to turn the corner on quicker defenders. The lack of explosion also led to him struggling to finish against length at the rim.

While he has NBA skills, he does not possess a strong physical NBA profile.

Fit

As a player that can play with and back up Ben Simmons, Pritchard could be a decent fit. Pritchard's ability as a shooter and advanced ball handling would mesh well with Simmons' elite ability as a screener and roller. Simmons’ size and defensive prowess could help cover Pritchard’s deficiencies. 

While he took on a scoring role this season, Pritchard isn’t the type of player to force things. As a point guard that likes to push the ball up the floor, he could fit in well with the Sixers’ pace and space style.

Because of his lack of height and athleticism, he will likely be around for the Sixers in the middle of the second round. He seems worth a flyer there because of his steady improvement and work ethic. He's not the type of player you bet against despite his physical limitations.

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Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

Joel Embiid's 'mentality just completely changed' after All-Star Game success

The coronavirus pandemic has altered our everyday lives. It’s caused many to self-reflect and find out new things about themselves.

So, what has Joel Embiid found out about himself with all this time on his hands while the NBA season is suspended?

“I’ve discovered that I’m not that good at video games,” Embiid said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Zumoff.

The All-Star center, whose game of choice is still FIFA, went on to explain the evolution of his player in career mode. That’s not to say Embiid hasn’t been taking the situation in our world seriously. Embiid pledged to donate $500,000 to COVID-19 medical relief efforts back in March.

Even as the NBA appears to be closer to a return, Embiid is still emphasizing safety — though he misses playing in front of the Wells Fargo Center crowd.

“First of all, I want everybody to remain safe. I want to be safe,” Embiid said. “This is nothing to play with. You don’t know what can happen. But when the time is right and everything is safe and I can be on the court, I feel like what I’m going to be missing the most is just being out there, winning for the city of Philadelphia, representing the city of Philadelphia, and just going out there and dominating.”

The 26-year-old felt like he was turning a corner before the stoppage. He had two of his more dominant outings of the season after the All-Star break, including putting up a career-high 49 points against the Hawks.

It was an odd first half to the season, but outside of a shoulder injury that cost him five games, Embiid was looking more like his old self after the break.

“I feel like before the season got shut down, I was on that path,” Embiid said. “Especially after that All-Star Game, my mentality just completely changed. First part of the season, it wasn’t up to my standards — not even close. I was on that path to just changing all that and making it happen.”

Of course, what would an article about Joel Embiid be if health and fitness level weren’t mentioned? Embiid’s career has been mired by injuries. When he’s missed time, whether because of injury or load management, he’s admitted that he can get out of shape quickly. He hasn’t played a game since March 11.

GM Elton Brand said earlier this month that he “wouldn’t bet against” Embiid coming back ready to play. His head coach took it even a step further.

“Joel's always a topic. We get it,” Brett Brown said back on May 15. “The importance that he represents as being a complete parallel to can you win a championship or not, is real. I've had many conversations with Jo. I spoke with him 30 minutes ago, and he's got a real desire to be at a playing weight that equals his best since he's been in the league.”

No matter what the format looks like, the Sixers won’t have an easy road ahead if/when the NBA resumes play. It seems like they could meet the Celtics in the first round, a team that knocked the Sixers out of the playoffs in 2018.

Like anyone missing basketball, Embiid watched “The Last Dance” documentary. There are some parallels to be made as Embiid and Ben Simmons have had their share of disappointment in the postseason. Much like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did with the “Bad Boy” Pistons, the Sixers’ All-Star duo may have to overcome their playoff boogeymen in Boston and Toronto.

Embiid believes he can push his teammates the same way Jordan once did.

“I did watch it. It was interesting,” Embiid said. “I saw a lot of similarities and a lot of people have told me that. … I can also be that guy, I just need to keep putting in the work and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

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