When the 76ers traded Willie Green and Jason Smith to the New Orleans Hornets for Darius Songaila and Craig Brackins, that deal was executed, in large part, because the Sixers thought they saw something in Brackins and wanted to evaluate him more closely.
In a way, that deal was similar to the one the Sixers pulled off before the 2010 trading deadline, when they acquired Jodie Meeks and Francisco Elson from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Royal Ivey and Primoz Brezec. That deal was centered around Meeks, while the Hornets' deal was built around Brackins.
All of this begs the question: can Brackins burst onto the scene next season like Meeks did this season? In the last few days, we've been talking about the Sixers needs on the interior and questions have come up, repeatedly, about where Brackins stands heading into the 2011-12 season. Instead of looking for the answers outside of the current roster, is it possible that at least one player on the current roster -- Brackins -- might possess the skills to contribute on the interior and fill that gap?
I think the honest answer to this question is no. Brackins might, if he improves dramatically this off-season, earn some playing time in a reserve role, but he does not possess the skill set -- physical presence, toughness, rebounding, shotblocking, post moves -- the Sixers must acquire before the start of next season.
Just so we all have the same info, here are Brackins stats during the regular NBA season (quite limited sample size) and during his stints in the NBDL (much larger sample). Brackins is a 6-foot-10 forward from Iowa State, 240 pounds. He'll be entering his second season in the NBA. During the 2010-11 season, he appeared in three games for the Sixers, playing a total of 33 minutes. During those minutes he was 4 for 16 from the floor, 0 for 5 from three, scoring a total of 8 points, and grabbing a total of 4 rebounds. All of that spreads out to averages of 2.7 points and 1.3 rebounds a game. It's obviously a sample size so small that we can't draw any legitimate conclusions. During his 18 games in the NBDL, Brackins started 13 games and averaged 37.6 minutes a game. He averaged 20.1 points and 8.6 rebounds a game, shooting 44.4 percent form the floor, 24.7 percent from three, and 72.7 percent from the line. Listing these numbers gives you some idea of Brackins' game, but realistically we can't answer many questions looking at his NBA minutes. And we can't be too excited by his NBDL numbers because, quite simply, the competition isn't there.
The Sixers are committed to Brackins through next season, during which they will pay him $1.4 million. The following season, the 2012-13 season, the Sixers have a team option on him.
We'll try to explain the Brackins situation using gathered knowledge from during the season. And we quickly addressed this topic during last week's Live Chat (we'll be holding another this Friday at 1 p.m. after we get an idea of what's going down at the Chicago combine).
Here's what's good about Brackins: he has his head on straight. He mixed with the right crowd during his time up with the Sixers, hanging around Jrue Holiday, Meeks, Evan Turner, etc. He works hard and understood his role with the Sixers last season. He's not going to cause drama, but seemed to be a guy who would always be ready when a chance did come his way. In that regard, he reminds a lot of Meeks, who made the most of last season's early chances and parlayed that into a starting role. He easily picks up offenses and concepts, so, unlike a guy like Marreese Speights, you're not going to worry about him not knowing the play. He's a big guy who can really shoot from the outside and can get his outside shot off anytime he wants. He stretches the floor.
Here are the drawbacks with Brackins: He doesn't quite have a position as of right now. He can play both small and power forward, but he's got the same problem a lot of other guys on this roster have: he's probably too slow to guard an opposing small forward and might get out-bulked guarding an opposing power forward. He's getting stronger, but he's not strong enough and possesses no inside presence. While watching him play in 3-on-3 games toward the end of this past season, he always gets pushed off his spot. If he's trying to post on the block, he'd eventually be catching it at like the mid-post or the short corner, and then often the shot he's taking is a mid-range jumper. The Sixers already have a lot of guys (namely, Marreese Speights in a reserve role) that are playing the exact same way. He must improve on his defense because right now he's not especially good at any one thing: he can't guard the perimeter, he's still learning the pick-and-roll defense, and he's not an interior defender.
Those are the basics surrounding Brackins, which I think are important to understand as we move forward in the off season. Next season, he'll likely enter with an opportunity to pick up minutes in a reserve role. Realistically, earning reserve minutes is his ceiling. Because, unlike what Meeks did this year, the Sixers have no glaring need for a 6-10 big man with a sweet outside shot. Like we said earlier, that's pretty much what Speights brought to the table. Brackins brings better basketball IQ and, likely, a more disciplined attitude, which means he could pick up some of those minutes, but he's not the answer to the big man question.
In addition, Brackins and Speights seem to overlap far too much. There won't be minutes for both of them, which means as the trading season nears, either one would be an easy piece to include in a trade.
As this week's Chicago combine nears, we'll just be touching on some of these smaller Sixers' issues so we all know the lay of the land as the 2011 NBA Draft approaches (June 23) and the NBA's trading season nears. If anyone has a specific topic they want addressed, shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or post it in the comments section below (yes, I read the comments, which is occasionally a painful thing to do).
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