Landry Shamet

Boban Marjanovic destined to be Sixers fans' next cult hero

Boban Marjanovic destined to be Sixers fans' next cult hero

Once upon a time, before Chukwudi Okafor wanted to slap the you-know-what out of me and before I met my girlfriend at the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade, I was known as the Dario Saric Guy. I woke in the wee hours of the morning to watch him play overseas for two years. I sung his praises and foretold his future playoff heroics. Once those moments came last spring, I was elated, but he became a necessary casualty in the franchise-altering Jimmy Butler trade this past fall.

Rookie Landry Shamet appeared to be the newest fan favorite in Philadelphia after Saric’s departure. Spearheaded by the @CookieHoops Twitter account and podcast, a truly bizarre, yet absolutely hilarious, meme began that compared Shamet to Waluigi, the arch-nemesis of Luigi in the Super Mario universe. Did it make any sense? Well, maybe their moustaches looked a little alike, but it’s only something that could’ve existed in a post-ironic community deep down in Sixers Twitter. It didn’t matter if it made sense, though, when Shamet proved himself to be a sweet-shooting deep threat who was fearless enough to pull up from anywhere on the court against any opponent.

Shamet is now gone, a key piece in the Sixers’ massive trade with the Clippers that brought Tobias Harris to Philly. Who will take up the mantle now as Sixers fans’ cult hero?

Boban.

Boban Marjanovic, tied for the tallest player in the NBA at 7-foot-3 and the league’s heaviest man at 290 pounds, is thicc in every sense of the word. He doesn’t fit the Sixers’ immediate needs of a backup center in the form of stretching the floor or the ability to defend in space, but he’s an elite backup offensive big man who averages 12 free throws per 100 possessions this year (Joel Embiid averages 14.2, just for reference). He’s also a competent enough rim protector based on his sheer height and girth alone. I’m in awe at the size of this lad. Absolute unit.

If you like playing with meaningless stats in small sample sizes, here’s a wild one:

Marjanovic’s career Win Shares per 48 minutes number is .267 in 1514 career minutes. That’s not a lot of time on the court given that he’s a career backup who has averaged 9.3 minutes per game in four seasons. Nevertheless, that mark of .267 is the highest by any player ever in NBA history who’s played at least 1500 minutes, per Basketball-Reference. It’s a career rate higher than that of Michael Jordan, David Robinson, George Mikan and Wilt Chamberlain, who all round out the top 5.

So, yes, the Sixers essentially acquired the greatest player to ever pick up a basketball (the worst player to ever do so? Anzejs Pasecniks, who the Sixers also hold the rights to).

Marjanovic’s basically as good offensively as your one uncle thinks Jahlil Okafor is while also being a guy who is going to get slaughtered in pick-and-roll situations defensively by the likes of Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry and D’Angelo Russell in the playoffs. I’m not even sure to what degree he’ll crack Brett Brown’s rotation. It’s a wash!

The most important part of Marjanovic being a Sixer, however, has nothing to do with what he provides on the court and everything he does off it.

He’s a villain taken straight out of a John Wick movie. No, not in the way lanky, goofy Eastern European players are said to look like villains from high-octane action movies. He’s quite literally a villain in John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, which comes out in May:


Just think: You might be able to watch the Sixers win an Eastern Conference Finals game and the very next day go see one of the team’s players kick Keanu Reeves in the sternum on the big screen.

Look at this man:


Imagine him chanting, “STOP, DROP, SHUT ‘EM DOWN, OPEN UP SHOP” in a Serbian accent while circling the Wells Fargo Center concourse. He needs to link up with the Phillie Phanatic and Meek Mill to do an ATV race around the warning track of Citizens Bank Park on Opening Day. He needs to lead the championship parade down Broad Street in that four wheeler while holding a can of Miller Lite that looks comically small in his hand as if he’s Andre the Giant. He needs to do everything.

Boban isn’t the cult hero Sixers fans always imagined they were getting, but he’s the one they need right now and certainly the one they deserve.

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Sixers' Wilson Chandler out 2-3 weeks with right quad strain

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Sixers' Wilson Chandler out 2-3 weeks with right quad strain

Updated: 3:18 p.m.

It seems like Wilson Chandler has been snakebitten this season.

The veteran combo forward will miss the next two to three weeks with a right quad strain that was revealed by an MRI taken Friday. He is likely to return after the All-Star break (Feb. 17).

Chandler has already missed 16 of the team’s 52 games this season with injuries to his left hamstring and right quad and an upper-respiratory infection. The 32-year-old also hasn’t quite looked like himself in the games he has played.

With Chandler out, Brett Brown is in a tough spot. Two choices to replace Chandler in the starting lineup are rookies Landry Shamet and Jonah Bolden. There are issues with doing that with either player.

First of all, both players have given the bench a boost. They were huge in the Sixers’ win over the Warriors the other night. Both young guys seem to have settled into their roles and you might not want to disturb their rhythm.

If you start Shamet, you’re losing something on defense — though he’s much improved on that end of the floor. With Bolden you’re losing something on offense — though Bolden has hit an unsustainable 56 percent from three over his last seven games.

It’s possible that Brown could opt to use T.J. McConnell in the starting lineup and use Ben Simmons more at the four. Brown could also use Mike Muscala, who’s done better at the four than the five and does stretch the floor next to Joel Embiid.

Then there’s Corey Brewer. Brewer started three games while Jimmy Butler was out. With that said, even with Chandler leaving Thursday’s game early, Brewer played just 9:48 vs. Golden State. But what’s made Brewer so valuable is how quickly he was able to go from playing superheroes with his kids to guarding James Harden. Inserting him as a starter would keep the rest of the rotation as is.

For Saturday night against the Kings (10 p.m./NBCSP), Muscala will start in place of Chandler and Shamet gets the nod for JJ Redick (rest).

Two-way player Shake Milton, who just joined the team in Sacramento, is another player to keep an eye on. He has intriguing tools and was impressive in the Sixers’ loss to the Nuggets last Saturday. It’s to a point where Milton is — and should be — above Furkan Korkmaz on the depth chart. 

Milton’s two-way status limits him to 45 days with his NBA team. While the exact number of NBA service days isn’t known, it seems pretty unlikely that Milton will reach that limit. Once the Blue Coats’ season ends in late March, he’s free to join the Sixers for the rest of their season.

The good thing for Brown and the Sixers is that they have options. They could have even more with the trade deadline and buyout market looming.

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Sixers' Ben Simmons makes Rising Stars Challenge; rookie Landry Shamet overlooked

Sixers' Ben Simmons makes Rising Stars Challenge; rookie Landry Shamet overlooked

As expected, Joel Embiid will have some company at All-Star weekend.

Ben Simmons was named to the Rising Stars Challenge on Tuesday night as part of Team World. The game will take place Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Here are the full rosters for Team USA and Team World:

We’ll find out Thursday, when the reserves are named, whether Simmons is part of the All-Star Game itself.

If Simmons makes the All-Star Game as well as the Rising Stars Challenge, he'll have to decide whether he wants to play in both contests, as Embiid did last season.

Simmons, the Rookie of the Year last season, has a very solid résumé for the All-Star Game despite his much-discussed lack of a reliable jump shot. He’s averaging 16.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 8.2 assists, and has eight triple-doubles.

Perhaps his biggest area of improvement has been in the post. After shooting 21 of 70 (30 percent) on post-up possessions as a rookie, he's gone 42 for 83 (50.6) this season.

Shamet overlooked

There’s a strong argument to be made that rookie Landry Shamet also should have been a part of the Rising Stars Challenge. 

Sixers head coach Brett Brown expected Shamet, the No. 26 pick out of Wichita State, to spend time in the G League this season. Instead, he’s the only Sixer to play in all 50 of the team's games and has done the following:

• Made the second-most three-pointers among rookies (91)
• Posted the highest three-point percentage (minimum 30 attempts) for a rookie (40.3 percent)
• Set a Sixers rookie record for three-point shots made in a game (eight, on Jan. 8)
• Recorded a 2.12 assist-to-turnover ratio

Lonzo Ball and Trae Young have bigger names, but Shamet’s résumé this season is at least on par with both.

While Ball has an edge over Shamet in most traditional statistical categories (points, rebounds, assists), the two have similar advanced stats. Ball has a 12.0 player efficiency rating and minus-0.3 net rating, compared to Shamet’s 11.1 player efficiency rating and minus-0.8 net rating. Shamet has 2.1 win shares; Ball has 1.8.

The two are obviously very different players — Shamet is an excellent shooter and Ball is below league average from three-point range and an abysmal 41.7 percent from the foul line. Ball is a much more effective distributor than Shamet, who has mostly been asked to play an off-ball, "mini-JJ" Redick role by Brown. But, in terms of value, Shamet and Ball are close. If anything, you’d think the fact that Shamet is contributing for a contender as a rookie might give him an edge.

Young is, without a doubt, a more talented offensive player than Shamet. However, Shamet is having a better season than the Hawks' rookie, who’s shooting just 29 percent from three-point territory. Young might have more flash and dynamic playmaking ability than Shamet, but he’s been highly inefficient on a bad Hawks team and easy to pick on defensively. Young has a minus-3.5 box plus minus and a minus-8.5 net rating. 

Of course, there’s no objective criteria for selecting the participants in the Rising Stars Challenge, a task that falls upon the NBA’s assistant coaches. It’s all arbitrary, and it’s certainly fair to argue that Young and Ball better fit the definition of “rising star” than Shamet. 

In early November, Shamet told The Delco Times’ Jack McCaffrey one of his goals was to make the Rising Stars Challenge. He’ll have to wait until next year to check that off his list, but the rookie’s impressive, mature play merited a spot this season.

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