Philadelphia 76ers: Breaking Down the 76ers' Puzzling Offseason
The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the bigger surprises in the NBA this past season, spending a solid amount of time in first place in the Atlantic Division and then pushing the Boston Celtics to seven games in the second round of the playoffs.
Of course, they had the fortune of Derrick Rose tearing his ACL in Game 1 of their first-round playoff matchup with the Chicago Bulls, and the Celtics were banged up beyond belief, but, nonetheless, the 76ers still did what essentially no one outside of the city of Philadelphia thought they could do.
Despite the Sixers' rather shocking success in 2012, though, it was clear that they still had a lot of work to do, and that became even more evident with Boston and the Miami Heat, both teams representing the class of the Eastern Conference, further improving themselves with their offseason acquisitions.
Philadelphia has been one of the more active teams this summer, but the question is, has the team actually bettered itself, or has it merely complicated things more?
Let's examine each of the 76ers' offseason moves, starting with the draft, and see for ourselves.
Draft Selections: Moe Harkless (No. 15) and Arnett Moultrie (No. 27)
I personally loved these two selections for the 76ers at the time.
Harkless, a 6'8" wing in the mold of Andre Iguodala, has one of the highest ceilings in the draft, and his superb athleticism and potential to be a very good NBA defender should allow him to transition seamlessly into Doug Collins' system in Philadelphia.
As far as Moultrie goes, the Mississippi State product was an absolute steal at No. 27 (a pick received in a trade with the Heat), as many expected him to get drafted in the teens. He is very skilled offensively much in the way that Chris Bosh is. The 6'11" forward doesn't have a great low post game, but he can shoot the basketball and put the ball on the floor if need be.
Now, let's go back to my first sentence, where I said I loved these selections "at the time."
I said that because I fully expected the Sixers to then put Iguodala on the trade block and clear room in their frontcourt for Moultrie by not re-signing Spencer Hawes.
Well, Philadelphia didn't trade Iguodala, and it re-signed Hawes (more on that later).
I think Iguodala gets a bit of a bad rap in Philly, as due to the fact that the 76ers do not have a go-to scorer, he is asked to do far too much offensively. He would fit much better in a system with other scorers around him which would allow the 28-year-old to do what he does best: facilitate and play lockdown perimeter defense.
That said, the Sixers don't have the luxury of having any great scorers, leaving Iguodala out to dry. That's why I feel it would have been best to trade him for draft picks and/or young talent, especially given the fact that they drafted Harkless. Instead, Philadelphia has a logjam at the wing spots (you'll see why in a bit).
In Moultrie's case, I think he was exactly what the 76ers needed, but now, he is not going to get much of a chance early on with Hawes back in the fold, not to mention another big man I will mention later—and I'm sure most of you already know who I am talking about.
So, while Harkess and Moultrie were certainly good picks value wise, Philadelphia hasn't done much to accommodate them yet.
Lavoy Allen Is Re-Signed for Two Years, $6 Million
This was a solid move. Allen was definitely the 76ers' most reliable frontcourt player in the series against the Celtics, as he is a solid defender who can also shoot the ball. Not only that, but he can rebound fairly well, and he is a surprisingly solid passer.
I don't really have much else to add other than the fact that I liked this decision by Philadelphia. Allen will provide them with some nice depth up front. Not only that, but he came at a fair price.
Hawes Is Re-Signed for Two Years, $13 Million
Why in the world would you re-sign a guy who you had to keep on the bench for a rather large portion of the series against the Celtics because he was getting abused by Kevin Garnett nearly every trip down the floor?
Now, getting clearly outplayed by a future hall-of-famer is nothing to be ashamed about, but when it is so bad that your backup (in this case, the aforementioned Allen) is doing a considerably better job defending him than you are, it should pretty much signal to your front office that you are not worth re-signing.
Well, apparently, Rod Thorn and company didn't get the memo on Hawes, a 7'1" center with absolutely zero low post game to speak of. He is also an awful defender, and his lack of athleticism does not suit Philadelphia's run-and-gun style offense.
Sure, Hawes can spread the floor a bit because he can shoot better than most centers, and as an added bonus, he is a very good passer, but that is all he can do, and it's not like his jump shot is so reliable either, as evidenced by the fact that he shot a putrid 41 percent from the floor in the Boston series.
I just cannot comprehend why the 76ers would give a player like this $6.5 million a year over two seasons, especially when they drafted Moultrie.
I also know that I am not alone in this regard, as after viewing a few Sixers' forums after the news broke that Hawes was returning, the response from the fans was overwhelmingly negative.
The worst part about all of this? Due to another signing Philadelphia made in its frontcourt (which will be addressed in a bit), Hawes is going to be playing power forward next season. It should be fun watching him try to defend athletic fours like Blake Griffin and Bosh.
Elton Brand Is Amnestied
This was a move I understood, and when it happened, my first thought was, "Oh; they're obviously clearing room for Moultrie." Apparently, that wasn't the case.
Regardless, this was a wise decision, as the 76ers would have been on the hook for $18 million in the final year of Brand's contract. Brand is a nice player, but he definitely isn't an $18 million player.
I had no qualms about this one.
Nick Young Is Signed for One Year, $6 Million
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Here's one I really didn't understand.
The 76ers let Lou Williams walk primarily because his pricetag was too high, as the Atlanta Hawks used their mid-level exception to sign Williams to a multi-year contract. While the exact terms are not yet known, assuming the deal is for three years, that would put Williams in line to make somewhere between $15-16 million over the course of the contract.
Even though Williams was Philadelphia's leading scorer in 2012, losing him wasn't all bad, as he was well-known for having a rather poor shot selection and for being a volume shooter, hence him shooting the ball at a 40.7 percent clip this past year.
You would think the Sixers would have had enough of that, right?
Well, I guess not, as they then went out and signed Young, who is essentially a taller version of Williams with a worse attitude.
Young shot only 40.3 percent from the floor in 2012, and he is not exactly known for being a stingy defender (see how similar he is to Williams already?). To make matters worse, though, the ball tends to stop moving once it hits his hands, making Young one of the more proverbial black holes in the league.
Of course, it's not all that bad as Young was only signed for one year, but it further consolidates the massive obstruction that is the 76ers' wing spots, and it just makes things that much more difficult for Collins to get a solid rotation going.
Dorell Wright Is Acquired Via Trade with the Golden State Warriors
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I mean, seriously?
So let's recap here. At the wing spots, Philadelphia has Iguodala, Evan Turner, Harkless, Young, then Thaddeus Young, and now, Wright. That's six players who basically fill the same role, and each and every one of them is going to want playing time. Chances that one of them starts complaining for lack of such playing time? Very high, and my money is on Nick to whine first.
Anyway, Wright is another one of those players who suffers (or I should say makes his team suffer) from a bad shot selection. He shot a tad over 42 percent the past two seasons, and last year, his numbers dropped considerably across the board from the year before. Yes, he didn't get as many minutes as he did during the 2010-11 campaign, but, you know, usually there's a reason for that.
The best part about all of this? The player the Sixers traded for Wright was, according to the NBA.com article, "a player currently in Europe." When you can't even name the player that was traded, chances are, you aren't getting something very good in return.
Okay, maybe I'm being a bit too hard on Wright, but his acquisition just doesn't make any sense for this team.
Some people like to collect baseball cards, some people like to rocks, and the 76ers like to collect wings.
All that's left for them is to re-sign Jodie Meeks and they can call it a day.
Kwame Brown Is Signed for Two Years, $6 Million
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Remember that signing of a big man I mentioned earlier? Well, here it is.
Okay. I'm going to try my best not to laugh as I write this.
Let me start by saying that everyone goes a bit too far with Brown. Yes, he is obviously one of the biggest busts in NBA history, but there is no doubt that he is at least serviceable and can fill a role for some teams.
The only problem is, the 76ers are not one of those teams.
If there is one thing Brown is not, it's a starter, and he is going to be expected to start in Philadelphia with Hawes being moved to the power forward position. So, the Sixers' starting frontcourt consists of Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes. That is not exactly what I picture when I am trying to envision a legitimate contender.
I mean, was the pricetag bad for Brown? No. He received the same deal that Allen got, so he isn't really being overpaid. It's just the fact that it is kind of hard to take Philadelphia seriously when Brown is its starting center, and, again, what about Moultrie? Why did you even draft him if you were going to re-sign Hawes and then go out and ink Kwame to a contract? It just doesn't add up.
I wouldn't be surprised to see Brown riding the bench after a while this season. On that same token, though, I wouldn't be surprised to see him remain in the starting lineup regardless of what happens.
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This is the thing. The 76ers were a couple of pieces away from being a dangerous team. I'm not saying they would have been able to reach the level of Boston or Miami, but they could have at least assured themselves of being a potentially frightening team in the future with the right moves.
Instead, they created a logjam at the wing spot, blocked Moultrie in the frontcourt, and replaced Williams with a fundamental clone.
It just seems like Philadelphia has no direction whatsoever, and with the Brooklyn Nets likely taking away a playoff spot next season and a team like the Milwaukee Bucks looking better on paper than the Sixers, it's very possible that Philly may find itself on the outside looking of the playoff picture, especially considering that it plays in the toughest division in the East with the Celtics, New York Knicks, and Nets, and don't think the Toronto Raptors won't be improved this coming year, either.
I think Collins did a heck of a job with this team in 2012 and got everything he could out of them. I'm just not so sure he will be able to have the same kind of success this year.
There is still a chance for the 76ers to get on the right track, though, and it starts with trading Iguodala, even if the smartest time to do that would have been prior to the draft.