The Philadelphia 76ers (13-28) are eagerly awaiting the return of a first-round pick who has been sidelined since training camp with a lower-body injury. No, it is not Nerlens Noel, the Kentucky center who the team traded for during the 2013 NBA Draft, but PF/C Arnett Moultrie, who the 76ers traded for during the 2012 NBA Draft from Miami.
Moultrie, a Mississippi State, product, did not play this past week but could return any day. In anticipation of that move, the 76ers recently waived seldom-used big man Daniel Orton.
It is fair that some Sixers fans are not exactly jumping out of their seats at the news that Moultrie will be coming back soon, but the stats contend that his impact will be a rather positive one, helping to stabilize a front court that has been plagued by poor rebounding and defense lately. Then again, “positive” is a relative term, especially for those 76ers fans who would love to see their team lose their next 45 games and secure the No. 1 overall pick. I can assure those people that Moultrie’s impact, in that case, will be disappointing.
The 76ers have lost six of their past seven games, and they were outrebounded in five of those losses. In fact, over the past ten games, the 76ers have been outrebounded by 6.6 boards per game.
They are 20th in rebounding percentage. They give up the 3rd-most second-chance points per game in the entire NBA. Spencer Hawes was playing very well in November, averaging over 10 rebounds per game, but over the past two months he has started to wear down because Brett Brown leaves him in due to his distrust of guys like Lavoy Allen, Brandon Davies, and Kwame Brown. His rebounding has suffered accordingly. Thaddeus Young may be playing well, but as a power forward who more resembles a small forward, his 6.3 rebounds per game are not helping enough.
As you can see, Moultrie’s return will have two major effects in this department, one more obvious, one less so. First off, he will immediately become the best rebounder on the floor for the 76ers; last season, he led the team with 12.8 rebounds per 48 minutes, even higher than guys like Luis Scola, Blake Griffin, and Serge Ibaka. His rebounding percentage, 15.1%, from 2012-2013 would be the highest on this Sixers team. His proficiency on the boards would help alleviate the Sixers problems down low, including allowing 2nd-chance points.
Moultrie’s addition will also allow Brett Brown to mix up his rotation down low. Instead of having to play Young and Hawes even when they are tired in key moments in the game, he can rotate in Moultrie without having to worry about a large drop-off in production. Brown can also start to use a bigger lineup against teams who struggle against it, putting MCW, Tony Wroten, Young, Moultrie, and Hawes out on the floor.
Moultrie will also help the Sixers defensively. And when I say “help,” I mean “save.” The Sixers give up by far the most points in the NBA per game, at over 111. A front court combination of Young and Hawes is not equipped to handle any NBA-caliber opponent, and they have been gashed by guys like Josh Smith (22 points), DeMarcus Cousins (33 points), Kevin Love (26 points), Amar’e Stoudemire (21 points), Joakim Noah (21 points, 16 rebounds), and Anderson Varejao (8-10 FG) over the past two weeks.
Moultrie, who shot 58% from the field last year, is considered to be more of an offensive-minded forward/center, but last year he showed he can play defense at a high level when he wants to. His 0.6 defensive win shares—the equivalent of defensive WAR in baseball—in only 542 minutes last season are certainly better than Hawes’ 0.9 in 1077 minutes this season. He is not a Noel-esque rim protector, but he has a strong anchor and defense some of the league’s top big men on the low block. Personally, I was sold by his performance in a game against Indiana last year, when he held former UNC star Tyler Hansbrough to just 5 points on 1-7 shooting in 20 minutes of play.
When you look Moultrie’s numbers and his play, it is easy to envision him being the remedy to a battered front court. Not only is he extremely efficient offensively, with a team-leading 59.2 effective field goal percentage last season, but he will help alleviate the rebounding and defensive problems Brett Brown’s unit has had this season.