Philadelphia 76ers on Thin Ice Following Lou Williams' Opt-Out

Rob MahoneyNBA Lead WriterJune 18, 2012

The Philadelphia 76ers are as oddly constructed as any team you'll find in the NBA; their best player is a standout defender and fill-in-the-gaps ball-handler/slasher/playmaker/scorer, they peddle in depth rather than elite talent, and their leading scorer—on both a per-game and per-minute basis—comes off the bench.

They're a unique bunch without a particularly straightforward path for evolution, and with the latest news (via John Mitchell of The Philadelphia Inquirer) that Philly's aforementioned leading scorer has opted out of his deal in order to become an unrestricted free agent, they risk seeing their offense wither away almost completely.

Lou Williams agent Leon Rose confirms that Williams has opted out of the final year of his deal.

— john mitchell (@JmitchInquirer) June 17, 2012

Williams may only be regarded as a super-sub and a role player, but he's legitimately the best shot-creator that Philadelphia has. That's not exactly the most affordable skill to come by on the free-agent market, and considering how useful Williams might be to a team in need of his scoring savvy, it's quite possible that rival suitors will flat outbid the Sixers.

We don't have reason to believe that Williams' exodus is an absolute certainty at this point, but the possibility of his departure—augmented by the impact of his absence—gives us reason enough to ponder the potential fallout.

The Sixers are very clearly looking to take the next step in their development, but most of the "next steps" that Philly could possibly take are on the offensive end. Doug Collins' defense is fairly stout, and though there are certainly screws to tighten and pieces to replace in order to bolster the Sixers' defense, it's the collective inability to generate quality offensive opportunities that stands as Philly's most worrisome limitation.

Andre Iguodala is paid a pretty penny and provides production in spades, but he, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner can't be rightfully expected to catapult the Sixers into offensive relevance by approaching the game form the same angles. All three are valuable players, but have thus far been incapable of anchoring an offense over the long term.

Take away Williams—whose ability to alleviate his teammates by working off the dribble in order to get to the free-throw line and create decent looks—and the Sixers' offense sinks to unacceptable marks, burdening an otherwise interesting team and offering little reward for their tremendous defense.

The Sixers can't rightly let Williams go without a shot-creating replacement in mind, but also can't overpay for him, can't wiggle too much in a potential trade due to their salary-cap commitments and can't rely too heavily on the development of their good—but hardly elite—young players.

The entire situation has put a quality team in an absolute offseason mess; it was already going to be difficult for the Sixers to navigate the fog, but should Williams indeed bolt in free agency, Philly could be left rudderless and adrift midway through their team-building development.