If the Philadelphia 76ers had some kind of checklist that outlined moving forward to next year, the first item of business would be to create the perfect offseason plan.
There are multiple aspects of a team's offseason activity, but only four that Philadelphia needs to specifically focus on.
Those are the NBA draft, free agency, trades and coaching strategy.
If Philly is able to nail these areas down between now and next season, then we might have a pretty good team on our hands.
If not, then...well, we all saw what happens when they have a poor offseason.
It's time to come up with a strategy so that Philadelphia doesn't repeat last year's mistakes. Here's a look at the perfect offseason plan for the Sixers.
The NBA draft is my favorite time of the year. It's the only moment where a franchise has the ability to change its entire future based on selecting that one special player.
If you hadn't noticed, I'm extremely excited for this year's draft.
It's always difficult watching the Sixers struggle. The only good news is that there happens to be a consolation prize in missing the playoffs.
Getting a lottery pick.
Philadelphia is currently slated to get the No. 11 pick in the draft, though that could change if they were lucky enough to move up during the lottery selection.
For the sake of this article, though, we'll say that they are picking at 11.
There are mixed perceptions about this draft class being weak or average, but selecting in the lottery means that Philly has an opportunity to grab somebody who can come in and contribute.
There are two options for the Sixers at their draft spot: They could either select a scoring guard or a big man.
If they are looking for a scorer, then C.J. McCollum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would their best bets. Players like Ben McLemore or Shabazz Muhammad just aren't going to fall down to pick No. 11.
McCollum and Caldwell-Pope could, though.
McCollum has been attending Lehigh University in nearby Bethlehem, Pa., so he wouldn't have to travel too far in joining the Sixers. McCollum came onto the scene after leading Lehigh over Duke in the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament. He puts up points in bunches and shoots the ball exceptionally well, averaging 51 percent from beyond the arc before getting hurt this year.
Caldwell-Pope is actually more under the radar than McCollum, but offers a similar offensive game. The difference is that McCollum is more polished and under control, and Caldwell-Pope is more athletic. He can make plays with his shot or with his athleticism, making him tough to guard.
If the Sixers want to go with a big man, then it's most likely going to come down to Kelly Olynyk and Cody Zeller.
To be honest, this is where things get frustrating.
Addressing the frontcourt and selecting a power forward or center with this pick would be the best thing for Philadelphia. It's their biggest need and it has to get addressed.
That means the Sixers should take one of the bigs, right?
Well, that's exactly what they shouldn't do. It's all so frustrating because Olynyk and Zeller aren't going to be long-term solutions to Philly's problems. They each do certain things well, but both are too soft for the NBA game and have a high chance of spending the majority of their career on the bench.
Zeller is the safer pick of the two, but his production and toughness are both in question at this point.
So where does that leave Philly?
When it comes to the 2013 NBA draft, the smart move is to take McCollum. He has the potential to be similar to Damian Lillard from last year's draft, and will be a good player for years to come. Developing within the organization and selecting somebody from the 2014 draft would be the Sixers' best bet to come away with a talented big.
Last year's offseason had the Sixers being unbelievably effective in acquiring free agents and making a blockbuster deal. The team was excited, the fans were excited and the city was excited—except it all came to a crash landing as Andrew Bynum decided that getting paid to watch the games from the sidelines was much more appealing than actually suiting up and playing.
That was last year, though, and this is a new offseason.
Unfortunately, Philly will be faced with a similar problem in the Bynasaur.
Bynum is now a free agent, and any team can make a run at signing him. His biggest concern should be if teams are willing to throw a high amount money at him when they are unsure about his future. Organizations' biggest concern should be if he's ever going to play again, and if so, then at what kind of level.
It's hard to admit, but Philadelphia should re-sign him as long as he's not getting anything near a max contract—which he most likely won't. It's absolutely terrifying, but his talent level when healthy is extremely rare and a valuable asset to have on your team.
The reward outweighs the risk in this situation.
Once this deal is taken care of, it's off to other free agents and potential trades. This is where Philly needs to be especially smart.
The key word for the Sixers is: patience.
Being patient and not taking the first appealing offer will be crucial. The team has two pieces that would likely be worth a good amount on the market, and those players are Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young.
Young played well enough that he might have put himself onto Philadelphia's "can't trade" list, but Turner's inconsistent play has him with one foot in another city and the other still on the Philadelphia team plane.
The right move is to keep both players and give Turner one more shot under a new coach. The risk here is that he could lose some of his current value if he plays even worse than last season, but the reward is that he finally plays in the right position and learns to be consistent.
All that being said, it wouldn't be stupid for Philadelphia to take a trade involving Turner if the return was great enough. That statement sounds like it contradicts the one before it, but the point is that the Sixers can't be set on keeping him and turn down a deal that has the potential to turn out better than keeping him ever would have.
There are also the opportunities to improve through free agency; this one is relatively simple.
Don't sign anybody with a role past being a role player. This summer's free-agent class just isn't that good, especially when you compare it to next year's. Committing a large amount of money to anybody outside of Bynum—and even then it can't be too much—would be a big mistake and limit Philly's options for next year's significantly better free-agent class.
In the end, this all comes down to patience. The ability of Philadelphia to be patient and make the right decisions will lead to the correct moves.
This isn't the easiest topic to plan for since the Sixers still don't have a head coach; however, there are certain steps that need to be taken by whoever fills the position.
The first and biggest step is to understand the personnel. Philly has been one of the more athletic teams for the past couple of years, but you wouldn't really know it based on how they've played.
Doug Collins brought a defensive-minded approach to the team, which was great, but it severely limited what Philadelphia was able to do in transition. Sending all five guys to the defensive glass usually limits the opponent's offensive rebounds, but it just slows down your own team as well.
This leads to the next point in coaching strategy. The new coach needs to craft a system around the players at his disposal.
Not around his own philosophies and ideas.
What is the most important area in Philadelphia's offseason?
An example of this is that Phil Jackson's "triangle offense" wouldn't have worked if he didn't have the right players to fit it. He evaluated his team, then created the offense to fit to their strengths.
Something like that might sound straightforward, but how many times do wonder why so-and-so is in that position on the floor when he's much better in a different area of the court? It tends to take place way too much when it comes to Philly.
This was Collins' biggest problem. He didn't put his players in the best position to succeed based on their skill set. He instead put them where he thought they best fit his system.
In the grand scheme of things, the Sixers actually have a pretty good team.
Any coach who steps into the organization will certainly have some rough spots to smooth out, but the foundation is relatively clean and set.
They just need someone to guide them the rest of the way.