Roughly 2,076 miles of distance between Philadelphia and Phoenix, yet they have more in common than most teams in the NBA. They are both re-building, positioned to be at or near the top of the 2014 NBA Draft, and and feature a lot of young talent.
So that begs the question: Who deserves the top pick in the draft?
We are here to give the people what they want, or at the very least, to give the people email conversations about bad teams. Here is the raw, uncut transcript of my email conversation with Michael Levin of Liberty Ballers:
So, how are things out in Philly? -- Kris Habbas
Things are excellent. You guys seem to be doing everything you can to out-tank us, but I'm confident in our ineptitude and lack of depth. Though Phoenix playing in the West makes a difference.
How's all the decimation on your end? -- Michael Levin
I am not the biggest fan of the word "tanking," because that implies an intention to lose and be bad. That, to me, does not describe the Suns to me. I get why one would get that impression, but what they are doing is acquiring young talent and building to the future. They could have stayed in basketball purgatory like they have been for the past few years, but that is the worst place you can be in sports. That middle ground of being the 13th-20th best team in the NBA is not a fun place. So, they are not "tanking" just trying to become relevant again by building from the ground up.
Then again, a horse of a different name is still a horse, right?
How are you enjoying Brett Brown so far? -- KH
I think that's just skirting around the truth. They didn't acquire Emeka Okafor to be good. Whether it's "tanking" or "rebuilding" or "sucking really hard," it all means the same thing. Wins don't matter. Development does. High draft picks do. There's a stigma to tanking because of the old people that think it's impure, but I sorta don't give a crap about that. It is what it is. The Sixers and Suns are playing the system and they're committed to it. It's admirable. And it's not their fault the NBA is built the way it is.
Brett Brown's a stud. I hope he doesn't get addicted to PCP this year because of how depressing it'll be, but I feel really good about him as the coach of this team for a number of years. It seemed like he got enough of a guarantee from the front office that no matter how many losses they pile onto his face, he won't be thrown under the bus for the team's failures. Excited to see what the future holds for Brett's coaching style. He's got a heck of a grace period to try out whatever he'd like.
How soon do you think Sarver gets in the way and ruins your rebuilding project with a 4 year deal for Drew Gooden? -- ML
I think Sarver is hand-cuffed somewhere in U.S. Airways with duck tape over his mouth. Or, he is living the life of a multi-millionaire, finally. He seems to be out of the shuffle and has placed his trust in the basketball acumen of Ryan McDonough and the business savvy of Lon Babby. For some reason I do not forecast any long-term contracts for middling veterans any time soon.
PCP is a dangerous thing man, we have a trio pf Philly natives on the roster out here so I will ask them to have their boys keep an eye on Brown for you.
Coach Jeff Hornacek is giving off the impression of being a stud as well. He is engaging, intelligent, and seems to enjoy coaching the young players. Love his honesty with the media as well. Seems like the top free-agent for both of us is our head coach. I am obviously going to be partial, but Ryan McDonough is a rockstar. How is Sam Hinkie doing so far? -- KH
The further you can get away from Sarver, the better. I can't imagine he doesn't throw a wrench into this thing after you start 3-18.
Hinkie is our savior. He's been on my podcast, we've emailed and texted, and I've never felt more confident in any organizational figure in sports. Actually trusting the guys running your basketball team is remarkably fun. -- ML
It is a weird concept to trust a front office, at least as of late, for me as well. There is no man in basketball I trust more than Ryan McDonough, which leads me to the point of this pow wow...
Are you satisfied with the approach to this current season by the 76ers? -- KH
Absolutely. Like I'm not willing to say I'm more satisfied than I am after sex, but like maybe some sex. Like mediocre sex, this is more satisfying than that. If the Sixers get the talent to contend and things start really happening, we'll cross that good sex satisfaction bridge when we get to it.
For now, yes. Mediocrity was crippling. We drowned in it. I'm positively goosed about tearing it down and starting over.
You? -- ML
Let's run with that analogy... As an outsider looking in the 76ers seem to be like a guy traveling across the country to meet up with model-esque girl, but along the way makes frequent stops, because, well, he has to, and settles for whatever he can get. He has to stay active, but has no standards. That is all well and good because the end result will be the same regardless of standards; he is getting his model.
Like the 76ers, the Suns are getting a very high lottery pick and will get a potential long-term franchise savior.
Unlike the 76ers though, the Suns have standards and at every bar on their road trip they are looking for specifics. In order to maintain my job here I am going to break this analogy and say that the standards are draft picks, young athletes, and short-term contracts.
One would say both teams are putting on a clinic in "tanking," however I much hate that word, what do you think? -- KH
I think you think the Suns are doing something different than the Sixers. They're not. It's all about short-term contracts, young players with upside, and draft picks. For both teams. And maybe even moreso for the Sixers -- they have more cap space than the Suns next year. The Sixers have 10 guys under 25. The Suns have 5.
You're the second Phoenix person I've spoken to that things the Suns are doing something noble but the Sixers are just crashing a car into a house and killing children and farm animals.
That's some BS, bro. -- ML
Not suggesting that the 76ers are harming animals, if so I would have to notify P.E.T.A. out of the pure goodness of my heart. No animal harm is happening here in Phoenix either.
Let's move this over to some more positive channels.
A young, franchise talent has escaped the Suns since 2002 (much of that is there fault) and the 76ers have had what amounts to 10 lottery picks in that same time frame. With that, how much do the 76ers deserve this lottery win? -- KH
Deserve? I dunno. It's luck. Get the best odds you can and see what happens. If the Sixers end up with a Top 4 lottery pick, I'll be thrilled. And if that New Orleans pick turns into something decent, even better. Not sure about deserving anything, especially when you make fanbase suffrage into a pissing contest.
The Sixers will be bad. The Suns will be bad. Together, they have about a 33% chance of getting the top pick. Weird. -- ML
Yeah, the good thing about finishing with the worst record is that the team is guaranteed a Top 4 Pick and the second worst record gets a Top 5 Pick guaranteed. So you are the kind of guy that just rolls with the punches? I know that the majority of people are on the other side of the spectrum with intense emotional attachments to how their team "deserves" something more than others. To be honest, it is refreshing to not have a lunatic on the other side of this email (even though you are on the other side of the country.
With the talent in this class having a shot at a Top 5 pick is net win for any team.
What would the fan base vibe be in Philly if, say, the team finished with the fifth overall pick in the draft and missed out on Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, or Jabari Parker who could all be centerpieces for the future of a franchise? -- KH
I think at this point, Gordon and Exum and Smart and Hezonja and Embiid have just as good a chance of being up there as those three. I don't think we're dealing with a 3-player draft. I'm sure people will curse the heavens if the Sixers don't pull the #1 pick, but the odds are heavily against that. We'll end up with a very good potential superstar. That's thrilling. You think Phoenix deserves it?
Also, there's not much of a Sixers fanbase. The people that care tend to care a lot, but most people are lethargic apathizers. The Sixers are wayyyy behind the Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers (and even Big 5 college bball) in Philly. People won't really care until they're good or, at the very least, exciting. Nabbing one of those great young players will go a ways towards that.
Double also, I live in LA, sooooooooo west coast best coast. -- ML
Man, you are detached from the 76ers scene! I am in Phoenix, native born and raised, but ironically never a Suns fan. Was always a huge hoops fan, but never fell for the logic of "root for the home team because this is where you happened to come to be..."
I am on board with this not being a 1-3 player draft with nothing but hot garbage after those big three names, then again most fan bases will only know those names because of unintelligent/irresponsible media people force feeding them down our throats. There will likely be a Victor Oladipo and a Bismack Biyombo in this draft just like every year.
The Suns are relevant and top dog out here on days that do not begin with Sunday. hockey exists out here for some reason and the football Cardinals and Diamondbacks are good 1/5 years so the fans are typically able to immerse themselves in the team.
After the team "fell" down to No. 5 last year and the general sense of disappointment from the fans and media I think it is safe to say folks will be jilted a little if they do not get the top pick. I have a feeling the fans and media will be disappointed if the Suns did not collect all four potential first rounders they are scheduled to get this year.
So for Philly it is basically; Look, I'll take what I can get. Can I get the legs? I'll take the legs. You can have the top part.
http://youtu.be/sI_-cbZ35E4 (1:40 mark) -- KH
Check back in tomorrow for Part Two where Michael and I talk about the Michael Carter Williams Era and continue to disagree on just about everything again.