For quite some time, the plan of attack in Philadelphia appeared to be a trade involving the longest tenured Sixer and fan favorite, Andre Iguodala. Iguodala is coming off his first All-Star selection and a run with the USA Olympic Team in London. Translation: the 28-year-old's trade value may never be higher.
But I don’t expect Philadelphia to deal Iggy in a big trade. Lately, they appear to only make “big” moves when it involves power forwards past their prime (see: Chris Webber, Elton Brand). Doug Collins and company seem totally content to see what this youthful squad—the roster's average age as of today is 24—can grow into in after last year’s trip to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Hopefully the front office in Philadelphia isn’t mesmerized by the success of last year’s team (which it totally appears to be). It seems wildly unlikely the Sixers would have even come close defeating the Chicago Bulls in the opening round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs had Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah been healthy. Yes, they battled valiantly against a banged-up Celtics team in the Conference Semis, but the general vibe of that series was that Boston was playing down to Philadelphia’s level and perhaps overlooked them since the Sixers were such a low seed. Also, Boston and Philly play each other a good amount because of their shared division, and familiarity among teams usually leads to a closer matchup even if there is a talent disparity.
If the Sixers hope to someday run with the Bulls and the Miami Heat, or even the Celtics, they must make changes.
The most obvious movable piece is Igoudala. Iggy is definitely the Sixers' best player and clear cut leader, but with the additions of Nick Young, Moe Harkless and Dorell Wright, it does not make too much sense to hang on to him—especially considering that roster already had Thad Young and Evan Turner, two guys who play a similar position to Igoudala.
The Sixers trading Igoudala may hurt their chances of returning to the playoffs and/or improving on their record from last season, but in the long run it may be the only viable solution. Sticking with this current squad and allowing them to develop may simply conclude with Philly ending up in basketball no-man’s land. This means perpetually dipping out in the second round of the playoffs and not seriously contending for the foreseeable future. On top of that they will have no chance of adding a young superstar by winning the draft lottery and, let’s face it, Philadelphia has never been of hub of big free agent acquisitions.
So, what can they do?
What if Philadelphia swapped Jrue Holiday and Igoudala for DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons? It’s a lofty trade that the Sacramento Kings likely would not go for, but it at least deserves conversation and consideration.
The Sixers would get a promising player in Cousins, who appears on his way to an All-Star career, while managing to keep Turner. If another option does not appear available at point guard this season, Thomas can do a serviceable job in the meantime. He averaged 11.5 PPG and 4.1 APG last year in only 25.5 minutes a game. This way Turner could get more time playing a point-forward style he greatly excelled at while attending Ohio State.
Fans will cringe at the idea of shipping out Holiday, but point guard has become a loaded position in this league. Ergo, finding another young, capable one should not prove incredibly difficult. Hell, Josh Selby just lit up the summer league and is buried on the depth chart in Memphis AND comes dirt cheap. There are plenty of young guys like him worthy of taking a flier on, and let’s remember: Holiday is good and will continue to grow, but he’s no Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, and probably never will be.
This also gives their lineup some flexibility. Spencer Hawes could remain at center with Cousins at the four, Turner could start at the two or three, and then wherever he does not start the Sixers could plug in either Wright, Harkless, or Nick Young. This also frees up the possibility of the Sixers putting Cousins at center and having Thad Young play at power forward to adapt to smaller, more athletic teams like the Heat. It essentially gives them the ability to bang bodies down low while keeping intact much of their athleticism that was so vital last season.
The Kings would be rolling out a starting lineup of Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Igoudala, rookie Thomas Robinson, and center Jason Thompson. That’s a pretty nice, youthful, starting five, eh? Plus they get to dump Salmons' ridiculous contract that he’s owed the next three seasons. And giving up Thomas would not be a huge hit for them since they were able to snag Aaron Brooks this offseason.
Although unproven, Robinson appears to be a natural rebounder and could fill in for Cousins, who has had his share of attitude/character problems during his brief time in the NBA. The Kings may be ready to part with Cousins (although given his talent, this is unlikely).
(Quick thought: I think the Sixers either buy out Salmons' contract or dish him to a contender that needs help off the bench. I don’t know; his contract is a black hole. I don’t think there’s any chance the Kings pick up the phone for this trade unless they can free themselves of that deal, though. If the Sixers have to keep him, they sort of have the same problem they have now (too many wings), but it still frees up time for Harkless, the Youngs and Wright. Maybe the Sixers somehow convince Salmons basketball isn’t fun anymore and he just quits. I don’t know.)
This deal checks out financially for both teams (thank you, ESPN Trade Machine) and immediately moves the Kings out of the doldrums of the West. This is crucial for them because of the financial issues the team has been having. Making the playoffs this season could definitely get their fan base back on board.
Philadelphia gets a bona fide stud in Cousins and the departure of Igoudala would essentially hand the keys to Turner and Cousins to lead this young team. But, for this to work, Collins has to start firmly believing in Turner and let him start every game he’s healthy for.
It’s not inconceivable to think Turner can become an All-Star caliber player and Cousins appears to already be there. However, for Turner to grow into the player his potential indicates he can be, Igoudala likely has to go. In fact, for the Sixers to grow into the team they could potentially be, Igoudala likely has to go. It’s unfortunate given what he’s meant to Philadelphia through his eight years there, but basketball is a business, and that sometimes requires making difficult decisions to better a team’s future. That’s what this trade would accomplish.