April 30 has brought a lot of realization to Sixers fans everywhere that the team is at a make or break moment this offseason. Andre Miller bailing, Theo Ratliff criticizing, and Iguodala unsure of the teams direction are all signs of the crossroads.
What is GM Ed Stefanski to do?
Before describing the moves that have to be made we must look at a young viable trio that can lead the 76ers to greater success with more maturity and experience, given the right supporting cast.
Andre Iguodala has been the designated star since the departure of Allen Iverson, and as thus far has not made anyone forget the original AI. He has the potential to do so as long as he can improve on his consistency, especially in scoring opportunities.
The 6’6” 207 lb Iguodala is a player with all around skill, and of recently, has been flirting with elitism with game winning shots in both the regular and post-seasons.
He also realizes that at the moment he is in the same class as Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks; a very talented player but just below superstar quality.
A permanent move from small forward to shooting guard would not only help Iguodala but also gives Thaddeus Young a more chance to play his natural position.
The 6’8” 220 lb second year pro is a natural scorer with an abundance of athleticism and energy, but still has work to do on the defensive end.
The third of the trio is rookie Marreese Speights, who justified Stefanski’s scouting knowledge with his low post presence in limited minutes this season through blocks and rebounds, and at times points.
It would be wise for Philadelphia to start the 6’10” 245 pounder at power forward or center next season.
Decisions will have to be made this summer that could determine both the immediate and long term future of the Sixers.
Sure not resigning Kareem Rush is an easy move, but reloading the team with the multi-year contracts of Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert is next to impossible.
The 76ers has tried unsuccessfully moving Dalembert’s $11.2 million plus contract per year last offseason.
His positives as trade bait are his tremendous defensive skills and borderline All Star potential that was second for centers in the Eastern Conference for All Star voting last year.
The bad news is that the last sentence sounded like a used car salesman pitch to ditch him.
The only feasible trade would be to get Minnesota Timberwolves’ general manager Jim Stack drunk and/or high, preferably both, to extort him for Al Jefferson.
Elton Brand would be easier to trade due to his NBA career work before arriving in Philadelphia. Though an injured shoulder has kept him out for most of the season he is still an attraction to some NBA executives.
When it comes to trades in the NBA it is all about equal value of roster tenders, like getting approximately $11 million worth of expiring contracts back for Dalembert.
The problem with behind all of this is that one of them will have to be traded while the Sixers are forced to eat the contract of the other. If they cannot do this then the resigning of Andre Miller is in jeopardy.
Miller looks to be the most obvious casualty of Philadelphia’s overspending of the forward-center positions. The 33-year-old point guard is looking for a new contract after making $10.3 million in the last year of his current deal.
Sadly for Miller the 76ers will have an easier time finding a point guard in the upcoming NBA Draft with either UNC’s Ty Lawson or Syracuse’s Jonny Flynn falling to Philadelphia in the bottom-teens.
The Sixers could also try to trade one of their highly paid big men for a capable point guard and other pieces making Miller expendable.
As serviceable as Andre Miller has been one his major criticism has been his lack of ability to shoot three-pointers, especially for a team that lacks the firepower from most of the roster.
His highest season three-point average was last season at .283 (15-53).
His absence from the final team meeting also does not help his case in negotiations for a new deal. Nor does last year’s deal between the 76ers and Lou Williams for five years give Miller leverage against management.
Another issue facing the Sixers is the selection of head coach going into next season.
After the December 3 firing of Maurice Cheeks, senior vice president and assistant general manager Tony DiLeo assumed the interim head coach for the rest of last season.
The Sixers still achieved around the same .500 record and first round exit by the sixth game in the playoffs as the year before.
More telling than the season before was the comment made by Theo Ratliff after the playoff elimination about DiLeo not holding the players accountable for their lack of effort in game six against the Orlando Magic.
Young could only call DiLeo a nice guy and Iguodala had a Freudian slip answering “I don’t know if I can say it, but I think we’re going down” about the Sixers’ future.
Regardless of whoever is the head coach next season, he will have the task of making the 76ers better than a .500 team by the end of next season.