Philadelphia 76ers: Sizing Up the Sixers' Biggest Needs
Less than two months removed from its best postseason run in nearly a decade, the Philadelphia 76ers franchise is like a ship without a rudder.
A 35-31 campaign capped off by an appearance in the conference semifinals would normally be cause for celebration in most cities. Yet discerning Sixers fans are well aware that their beloved team is caught in a morass of mediocrity: too talented to be considered bad, yet not talented enough to be a legitimate threat.
A suggestion for the team's theme song next year? "Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel.
Unfortunately, the 76ers' playoff success this past season is nothing more than a cheap cologne that masks the team's true scent.
So instead of rebuilding (which would be the most prudent course of action), the franchise has focused its efforts on re-tooling the current roster.
But so far, their moves to that end have left many scratching their heads this offseason.
The Sixers' biggest need is in the middle, and the team chose to "solve" that issue by re-signing center Spencer Hawes to a two-year, $13 million deal.
That would be the same Spencer Hawes who ranked 341st in the NBA in points per possession allowed last season (0.91 PPP, according to Synergy Sports). The same Spencer Hawes who averaged less than 24 minutes per game in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as his Charmin-like defense forced head coach Doug Collins to replace him with rookie power forward Lavoy Allen.
Hawes would be a decent backup center on most teams, but expecting him to competently guard physical big men in the post is little more than a pipe dream.
Elton Brand was the team's most effective interior defender last season, but the 76ers used the league's amnesty clause to part ways with the 13-year veteran. Brand looked every bit of a 33-year-old with bad knees at times last season, but his long arms and guile made him a nightmare for opposing bigs. In post-up situations last season, Brand was 16th in the league in points per possession allowed (0.61 PPP).
It is unknown who will provide that brand (no pun intended) of veteran savvy this season.
Presumably, Thaddeus Young will slide into Brand's spot at the 4 position, but he doesn't have enough experience guarding power forwards to be an immediate difference-maker.
In regards to the backcourt, the 'Sixers are still in search of a true playmaker off of the bench. Jrue Holiday has been the team's only point guard ever since he arrived in Philadelphia three years ago, and no one currently projected to come off of the bench for the Sixers can effectively run the offense.
More than anything else, the Philadelphia 76ers need a true sense of direction. Not from the bench: Collins has coached this current group of players as well as humanly possible.
No...The problem lies in the front offices of the Wells Fargo Center. The team president, Rod Thorn, has one foot out of the door, yet he's still the figurehead of a new ownership group that is unwilling to take the drastic steps in order to make the team a true power in the NBA.
Until they do that, they'll be left floating in the proverbial creek without a paddle.
And without much hope for the future.
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