The Golden State Warriors will face the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at 7:30 p.m. EDT at Oracle Arena. Among the three former Warriors on the Sixers' roster is Dorell Wright, who came into his own in the Bay Area before being shipped east as part of the trade for Jarrett Jack. For insight on his progression with his new team as well as the Sixers' offensive struggles this season, I contacted SB Nation's Liberty Ballers.
Dorell Wright is without question one of the NBA's good guys, but trading him to the Philadelphia 76ers this offseason in the deal that brought Jarrett Jack to the Bay became an inevitability once the Golden State Warriors drafted Harrison Barnes.
And no matter how cool Wright is as a person, it's really hard not to look back on that trade as a major win for the Warriors now - as jae wrote back in July, the trade was.not.a.big.deal, especially not in terms of the team's long-term progression.
In any event, tonight will be Wright's first game back at Oracle Arena as a member of the Sixers. The Sixers also boast former Warriors Kwame Brown and Jason Richardson, though both have been injured lately. To get a sense of how Wright is fitting in with his new squad, I contacted Michael Levin of SB Nation's Liberty Ballers who broke down Wright's game, his role in the Sixers' future, and the emotions surrounding the uncertain status of Andrew Bynum, which we might be able to relate to.
1. Dorell Wright was a great guy here in the Bay Area and I wish nothing but the best for him though it was clear he didn't quite fit into the Warriors' plans anymore. Derek Bodner has a great article about Wright's progression over at Liberty Ballers, but in your opinion how has he been for the Sixers so far this year? Is he still using that lethal pump fake?
Michael Levin: I wish pump fakes were onomatopoeias so I could write one here. DW is all about the pump still, but he's a beautiful fit on this team thus far. He struggled early on with his shot, but he's really come on strong the past seven games or so. He's been asked to do a lot in that span, including shooting efficiently (20+ points in three games all on less than 20 shots), rebounding (at least five in all but one game), and running the point (nine dimes against the Lakers). Really hoping they continue to find minutes for him and he keeps shooting well.
2. I saw your tweet suggesting that a "Jrue/Evan/Dorell/Thad/Bynum lineup next year is a top 5 team in the league." The first four play together every now and then but haven't been the strongest four man lineup used. Based on what you've seen so far this year, how would you describe the lift that Bynum would give that lineup?
Call me a simpleton, but I think a Jrue/Evan/Dorell/Thad/Bynum lineup next year is a top 5 team in the league.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) December 27, 2012
ML: Ohhhhhhhhhh man. I figure a lot of those numbers are due to Dorell's poor shooting to kick off the season, so I'm not terribly worried about that.
With Bynum though, *LONG DEEP SIGH*, it's a completely different team. They're mediocre as mediocre gets without him because they're built to support a post presence. Having the worst bigs in the league now substituting for him makes them as vulnerable as a sandwich on Yom Kippur. Everything with Bynum is speculatory, but we're very optimistic about the effects Andrew would have on the team in all areas.
3. Speaking of Bynum, we find ourselves in similar situations this season: waiting for a center that we traded for to return to full health. I won't bother comparing who misses their center more, but the way in which the teams have handled the situations is interesting: the Warriors confessed to a cover up about Bogut's injury, from the type of surgery he underwent to the timetable, which understandably rubbed some people the wrong way. In contrast, perhaps, you described the takeaway from a recent Sixers presser as totally uncertain about when Bynum would return. And you concluded with the exact sentiment I have about Bogut right now: no strong feelings one way or the other, which is a sort of sad existence to be in as a sports fan but...whatever.
So given where the Sixers are at right now, would you want Bynum back for a playoff push or would you hope that he stays out and the Sixers fall back into the lottery (I won't use the tank word)?
ML: Ah yes, our brothers in arms. The Sixers never admitted to lying about it, but holy hell did they conceal some things in their breast pocket. I don't really care about a Sixers playoff run unless Bynum comes back. It'd be really nice to see him come back and wreak some annoying havoc on unsuspecting Eastern Conference playoff teams that have no interior presence. Otherwise, I'm cool with missing the playoffs and holding onto a lottery pick (the 2013 first rounder is the lotto-protected property of the Miami Heat).
The issue being this: Bynum's in a contract year. If he doesn't play this season, I anticipate there being too much ill will on the Sixers side for them to want to commit the time and money it'll take to keep Bynum here. I'd sign him at any cost because he's their best chance at contending at all in the next 5 years. Losing him would be crippling. The risk is high, but completely necessary when we're talking about winning championships. Good luck with Bogut, pal.
4. Another player that has been nursing an injury for the Sixers is Jason Richardson, part of the Warriors' best rookie class prior to this year's. What has he brought to the Sixers this season and what do you think the team misses with him not able to go?
ML: Eh. J-Rich was better than expected the first few weeks, but he's been pretty non-existent since. The shot hasn't been there, the defense doesn't really do much for anyone, and he's not remotely as explosive as he was 5-10 years ago. I think he'd be nice in a 6th man role for 20 minutes per game, but I'd rather see Dorell and Nick Young getting a majority of the minutes with Turner at the wing.
5. It seems that the Sixers have struggled offensively so far this season, but they're hard to beat if they can get to 99 points - excluding two games played without Jrue Holiday, they're 9-1 when they hit 99 with the loss coming against OKC. What would you say is the key to stopping the Sixers offensively (other than removing Holiday from the lineup)?
ML: Usually the Sixers stop themselves. They don't get to the rim enough, they don't get to the foul line enough, and they don't shoot enough threes. Too much emphasis on inefficient midrange shots and a terminally slow pace makes them an easy target for a team like Golden State who can really run up the score. Let the Sixers play their game (poorly), guard the corner threes, and it should be a Warriors victory unless Jrue goes nuts.
For more on the Sixers, check out SB Nation's Liberty Ballers.