The700Level

NBA's elite still having their way with Sixers

usa-joel-embiid-warriors-sixers.jpg
USA Today Images

NBA's elite still having their way with Sixers

As much enthusiasm as there is for the Sixers’ best start in five years, they still have a long way to go to reach the ranks of the NBA’s elite.

That probably shouldn’t come as news to anyone. The Sixers have an incredibly young, inexperienced core group of players. Joel Embiid played 31 games as a professional prior to this season, and Ben Simmons is still considered a rookie. That right there is the foundation of the franchise and says nothing of Dario Saric in his second season, or No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz on the shelf after appearing in four games.

Some growing pains were inevitable. That much is evident when the Sixers are facing top-flight competition.

The Sixers have amassed an 11-8 record on the season — the best through 19 games since 2012 — though it’s come largely at the expense of inferior opponents. After losing to the Cavaliers on Monday, their record against teams with superior records fell to 3-6, compared to an 8-2 mark vs. the rest of the league.

Again, this isn’t exactly a shocking development. Aside from the fact that we’re talking about the very best competition the NBA has to offer, any expectation the Sixers should be playing on the level of a championship contender right now is probably out of line. Naturally, their record is going to be better against lesser opponents.

Still, with the way the Sixers have performed against the likes of the Cavaliers, Celtics and Warriors — three of the four teams that reached the conference finals last season — they don’t appear to be on the same plane yet.

The Sixers are 0-4 against the previous season’s conference finalists, and those losses haven’t been particularly close games in the end. They’ve dropped those contests by a total of 61 points, or an average of 15, with the closest margin of defeat coming by eight.

Each of those matchups was close for stretches of the action, with the Sixers playing the Celtics pretty tight until the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. By and large, and against the reigning champion Warriors and runner-up Cavaliers in particular, the Sixers simply couldn’t keep up.

One more time, this isn’t a surprising development. The Sixers have a ton of growth ahead of them, and the 2017-18 campaign is going to be fun whether it ends in a parade or more than likely does not.

Nearly a quarter of the way into the season, we are beginning to get a better feel for the hierarchy in the NBA. And for now, at least, the Sixers are not quite in the top tier.

How the Sixers measure up to basketball’s elites by April, May or June might be a different story. So far, they have a lot of work left ahead.

Fan recreates Eagles Super Bowl ring out of sand

Fan recreates Eagles Super Bowl ring out of sand

Here’s another story brought to you by the fact that the Eagles are Super Bowl champions.

Remember that gorgeous ring the team received last week? Well, someone made a replica completely out of sand.

That’s pretty impressive work and it’s awesome to see that Stefen Wisniewski is so proud of his ring that he’s wearing it to the beach. His former teammate and "Philly Special" QB, Trey Burton, is questioning that decision, though.

After the ring ceremony, Wisniewski posted this to his Twitter account, a heartfelt story about what the ring means to him.

The guys on the Eagles just get it. Throughout this journey that brought Philadelphia its first Super Bowl trophy, the players have put the fans first and taken everyone along for this incredible ride. It’s awesome to see a story like this where a Super Bowl champion is so proud to share his new ring with a fan.

More on the Eagles

Eagles' trading Ronald Darby seems unlikely

ap-eagles-ronald-darby.jpg
AP Images

Eagles' trading Ronald Darby seems unlikely

The Eagles paid a reasonably high price to acquire Ronald Darby last August, sending a third-round draft choice and Jordan Matthews to the Bills in exchange for the cornerback.

So why is it all offseason there were rumors the Eagles might turn around and flip Darby? And why is it, even as training camp approaches those rumblings persist?

Darby is the Eagles’ most accomplished cornerback in many respects. Despite missing eight games last season, his three interceptions were tied for the most among the team’s returning players, while only Malcolm Jenkins received a higher grade from Pro Football Focus in the secondary. In terms of pedigree, Darby is a second-round talent with sub-4.4 speed and a nose for the football – the kind of game-changing ability you can’t teach – and, except for Jalen Mills, he’s the only proven corner on the roster.

Yet, the feeling Darby is on the trade block has been hard to shake. After months of speculation, but little concrete evidence to back it up, perhaps it’s worth exploring the legitimacy of the idea.

The rumor appears to have originated from an appearance by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen on 97.5 The Fanatic on March 6. At the time, Mortensen said he would be surprised if the Eagles didn’t add a third-round pick in April’s draft, and believed they would move a defensive back to pick up the extra selection.

Though Mortensen never singled out Darby by name, he was the logical choice. The 24-year-old’s contract is scheduled to expire at the end of the 2018 season, and given the Eagles’ salary cap restraints and depth at cornerback, re-signing him long-term might prove challenging.

There’s been a lot of noise about the possibility of trading Darby ever since, but no strong or definitive report indicating the Eagles ever attempted to do so.

If the Eagles were to deal a corner, Darby does make the most sense. Mills is under contract through 2019, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas through 2020, and recent fourth-round pick Avonte Maddox through 2021. DeVante Bausby has also emerged as a rising prospect under contract for the foreseeable future.

Then again, if the Eagles are serious about repeating as Super Bowl champions, there’s no reason they should be aggressive in trying to dump Darby. A strong argument can be made he’s their best cover man, and set to play the ’18 season for a cool $1 million.

Who’s to say the Eagles wouldn’t make a concerted effort to sign Darby long-term after this season, either? Cornerback is clearly a position the team values. Mills has his limitations – not to mention his contract comes up soon – while Jones, Douglas and Maddox are all relative unknowns at this point. By the end of the ’18 campaign, Darby might be the only certainty of the bunch.

Right now in particular, remove Darby from the equation, and almost everybody else is nothing more than a projection. It’s difficult to imagine the Eagles taking such a huge gamble when there’s still so much at stake this season.

More on the Eagles