10 Adjustments Philadelphia 76ers Must Make Before Next Season
With their improbable run to the Eastern Conference semifinals this year, we've seen the most that we can expect out of this current iteration of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Sure...Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young all figure to improve in the coming years, but the Sixers' franchise lacks that superstar-level figure who can propel them to a hypothetical finals appearance. Andre Iguodala is an All-Star and one of the league's best defenders, but he can't lead the team as presently constituted to postseason glory.
Over the past three decades, only the 2004 Detroit Pistons have been able to capture the NBA's ultimate prize without a Hall of Fame-caliber player. And since the current 76ers roster is a far cry from that Larry Brown-led team, some vital changes must be made this summer if Philadelphia hopes to compete with the best in the Eastern Conference.
So as we head into the offseason, let's take a look at 10 adjustments the Sixers need to make before next season kicks off.
1) Amnesty Elton Brand
Elton Brand is a willing and able warrior who gives maximum effort every time he steps out on the floor. At this stage of his career, however, he doesn't give the 76ers much offensively and has difficulty guarding the more mobile power forwards in the association.
Brand's $18.16 million salary for next season will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Sixers' front office if they choose to amnesty him, but after his performances against the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics, the team simply can't justify spending nearly one-third of its salary cap on the aging Brand. And while Brand was very solid defensively for the better part of the season, it's not fiscally responsible to keep him when there are so many other areas on the roster that need to be addressed.
2) Move on from the Andre Iguodala Era
Fresh off of his first ever All-Star nod, Andre Iguodala's trade value hasn't been this high since he averaged 19.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game during the 2007-08 season. And because of that, it's time for Philadelphia to trade their mercurial superstar.
We've seen exactly how far an Andre Iguodala-led squad can go, and it seems as though the 76ers need a new leader if the ultimate goal is to win an NBA championship (which it should be). Team president Rod Thorn himself said that his starting small forward is "not a great player." For all of his skills—and they are many—Iguodala simply isn't that transcendent talent that can be the No. 1 option on a high-performing team.
Iguodala is far too valuable to merely give away, and if the Sixers can find a trade partner who is willing to send an elite-level player to Philadelphia (preferably a center), the 76ers would be foolish not to part ways with their 6'6" swingman.
3) Turn the Keys over to Turner and Holiday
For better or for worse, the short-term success (and failure) of this Philadelphia 76ers team should be a direct result of the play of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.
Both players were highly regarded prospects when the Sixers drafted them, and both have shown that they are capable of carrying this team in stretches. But while Doug Collins has given a fair amount of latitude to Holiday, second-year pro Evan Turner has more or less been relegated to a reserve role until recently.
Philadelphia is only going to go as far as their two young stars can take them, and the team will have to endure some growing pains as Turner and Holiday learn how to complement one another on the court. Only by letting them have the keys to the kingdom will any of us learn exactly how good either (or both) of them can be.
4) Figure out the Point Guard Situation
It appears as though Evan Turner is the most productive when he has the ball in his hands on offense. He's one of the few 76ers who can create for himself off of the dribble, and he's a savvy enough playmaker who can dish it to the open man when necessary.
So since we know that, then Philadelphia needs to commit to him as their primary playmaker, allowing Jrue Holiday to play more of a "scoring guard" role. A full year with them in those positions (as well as a full season of practice) should have the Sixers primed for another deep playoff run next season.
5) Expand Thaddeus Young's Role
Over the course of a month, you can probably count on two hands the number of plays Doug Collins runs specifically for Thaddeus Young. Yet somehow, the 6'8" forward always finds a way to put the ball in the basket, and over the past two years, he has been one of the best bench players in the NBA.
In December, the 76ers signed Young to a five-year, $43 million deal. Not a bad contract, but an awful lot to spend on a player who averages around 28 minutes per game. So for what they're paying him and what he could potentially produce if given more of an opportunity—his numbers this season project to per 36-minute averages of 16.6 PPG and 6.7 RPG—Philadelphia needs to expand Young's role in their rotation.
6) Diminish the Role of Lou Williams
This season, Lou Williams became the first bench player to lead his team in scoring since Dell Curry accomplished the feat for the Charlotte Hornets 18 years ago.
It can also be argued that Williams is the team's best clutch performer: This season alone, Williams has made a dozen shots with the game hanging in the balance. But Williams' high-volume, low-percentage offensive game is detrimental to the team's long-term prospects. And for that reason, Philadelphia can't allow Williams to dominate the ball as he's been doing for the past two seasons.
In comparison, Lou Williams' usage rate in 2011-12 was higher than that of notorious chucker Nick Young of the Los Angeles Clippers. That isn't necessarily a good thing, especially since Williams only shoots 40.6 percent from the floor.
7) Re-Sign Spencer Hawes...as a Backup
Spencer Hawes is an NBA-quality center, but he has no business getting 30-plus minutes per night on any playoff-caliber team.
Don't be fooled by his impressive start to the 2011-12 season: Hawes is no more than a decent offensive player who is capable of hitting a mid-range jump shot every now and again. Defensively, he was a well-deserved reputation for not being all that physical, and he's routinely outworked by the league's other bigs. At 7'1", Hawes should be dominating the glass, but his work on the boards is spotty at best.
At $4 million per year, Hawes would be a great backup center for the Sixers. That's the only role he should play for the team next season.
8) Find More Time for Allen and Vucevic
No one—not Doug Collins, not the 76ers' front office, no one—had any idea that Temple product Lavoy Allen would be one of the keys to the team's impressive playoff run. Someone failed to tell the 6'9" forward that second-round picks typically don't play as well as he did against the likes of Carlos Boozer and Kevin Garnett. Allen isn't quite a starting-level NBA player, but barring a significant move, he should be the first big man off of the bench for the Sixers in 2012-13.
Nik Vucevic only saw spot action in the postseason, but he showed some promise in the 51 regular-season games in which he saw action this year. With a full training camp under his belt, it wouldn't be all that surprising if Vucevic didn't start at the center position next season.
9) Draft Terrence Ross
Jodie Meeks can't be the best shooter on a team that has any serious postseason aspirations. Fortunately, there is a talented long-range threat who should be available when the 76ers are on the clock with the No. 15 pick in June's NBA draft.
At 6'6", Washington's Terrence Ross is bigger than just about every 2-guard coming out of school this year, and his shooting ability and athleticism led NBADraft.net to compare him to former Lakers star Eddie Jones. And while Ross' highlight reel dunks would fit in well with Philadelphia's transition-heavy attack, his three-point shooting would be a much-welcomed addition to the Sixers' offense.
10) Acquire a Legit Backup Point Guard
It's been a while since the 76ers have had a legitimate backup point guard—a problem whenever the second unit is on the floor. It's strange: Philadelphia has a lot of players who can handle the ball, but none of them are what you would call "natural distributors."
There will be more than a few decent lead guards available this summer that the Sixers can fit under the salary cap: Aaron Brooks figures to return to from China, and players such as Jonny Flynn and Jerryd Bayless shouldn't command ridiculous salaries on the open market. One of those is a necessity for a team who currently has a fair amount of trouble getting into its offensive sets.