Tony Wroten took the handoff from Michael Carter-Williams, drove through the Cavs defense and floated a layup into the hoop to help give the Sixers a 96-93 win over the Cavs back on Monday night. It was Wroten’s twelfth 20-point game of the season and third in the past four games.
Just two seasons ago, Wroten was glued to the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies in his rookie year. He averaged 2.6 points in 7.8 minutes per games. Sam Hinkie traded just a second-round pick for him in the summer of 2013. He’s grown tremendously during Hinkie’s tenure as general manager and is the type of player that Hinkie is constantly looking for around the league.
As a team, the Sixers are all about growth these days. At 5-29 however, nobody blames you for changing the dial on the remote while the Sixers are playing. They’re a bad team, maybe even the worst in NBA history. But, here’s three reasons why you should give them a chance this year and maybe even attend a few games as the season nears the halfway point.
1: Award-chasing rookies
Nerlens Noel, the flat-top boasting big man, has had himself quite a rookie year so far defensively. He’s ranked third on NBA.com’s rookie ladder right now behind the Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins and the Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic. He leads all rookies in rebounds (7.1) and steals (1.5) and ranks second in blocks (1.4). Offensively is where he’ll need to develop if he has any chance of receiving the Rookie of the Year award by the end of the season. He averages 7.8 points per game on just 41 percent shooting.
K.J. McDaniels, selected 32ndin this past June’s NBA draft, could be the steal of Hinkie’s tenure as general manager. He’s far surpassed any expectations for him coming into the season. He sits fifth on NBA.com’s rookie ladder and has shown athletically and defensively what he’s capable of on any given night. As a wing, he ranks 17thin the entire league in blocks per game (1.5), he’s third amongst rookies in scoring (9.2), seventh in rebounding (3.7) and seventh in steals (0.9).
2. Robert Covington
Before Robert Covington joined the Sixers, their record stood at 0-9. The Sixers have gone 5-20 since. Obviously Covington isn’t the main reason why the Sixers have started winning games, but he’s added long-distance shooting to the team’s roster, a dimension it didn’t have at the start of the year.
“It builds my confidence to come in here and help this team win,” said Covington after Monday’s win over the Cavs. “I’ve helped a few of my teammates play at a higher level by being here. Tony and [Michael Carter-Williams] have been really appreciative of my presence here, because I open up the paint for them a little bit. Everyone has really bought in here to our goals and we just continue to get better.”
Covington averages 12.1 points and 2.2 three-pointers made per game this season. He averaged just 2.3 points in 4.9 minutes with the Rockets last season in seven games.
3. Defensive intensity
With Noel and McDaniels added to the lineup this season, the Sixers have been much better defensively compared to last year. As a team they rank 18thin the NBA in defensive efficiency, giving up 103.7 points per game. Last season, they ranked 27thin defensive efficiency, giving up 107.5 points per game.
Having one of the longest teams in the NBA will help with that, as well as six players who are averaging over a steal per game and Noel and McDaniels anchoring the blocks department. As bad as the team is offensively, watching them improve defensively is a joy to watch and a breath of fresh air compared to last year.