Making the Philadelphia 76ers Contenders Again Can't Be That Hard, Can It?
It seems like such a long time ago, but there was a time when the Philadelphia 76ers were considered an elite team.
Of course, at that time most of us were more interested in Thundercats than thunder dunks.
We've heard the stories:
The "Beat LA" chants at the Spectrum for Game Seven.
There was the promise of "Fo, fo, fo" from league MVP Moses Malone.
Up until the '92 trade of Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns, the Sixers were perennial playoff participants.
Then came a couple of seven-foot punch lines in Manute Bol and Shawn Bradley, and some really bad teams overall.
Allen Iverson managed to pull the Sixers out of the muck, but was not able to duplicate the success of his MVP season.
All bringing us to today.
After a disappointing Game Six loss, everything we thought we knew about this team has proven to be "less than accurate"—much like their three-point shooting.
Here are some tips for your offseason plans, Ed!
Embrace Andre Iguodala as the Franchise
For better or worse, this is who management has pinned its hopes and dreams on.
The question on Iguodala has never been his talent; it's always been and continues to be:
Can he carry a franchise?
Can he be "The Guy"—or is he only just a very good player?
The truth of the matter is that his paycheck already says he's among the best in the league, even if his production has been somewhat lacking.
The saving quality of Iguodala is that he knows he needs to get better and he wants to. Plus, he has the tools.
He's athletic, fast, and strong. He's an excellent finisher at the rim, a solid rebounder and a decent passer.
His shooting has come a long way, but he needs to develop a more-consistent offensive weapon. He's big enough to post up and he's athletic enough to develop a mid-range fade to his arsenal.
Even with all his flaws, he's the best the Sixers have—and as such the make-up of the team has to be complementary to his game.
The one year Sixers successfully built a team around their best player, they went to the NBA Finals, and that fact cannot be ignored.
Iguodala has embraced his role as team leader, the least management can do is listen to his ideas.
Continue to Develop Thaddeus Young, A.K.A. Option No. 2
Magic had Worthy.
Jordan had Pippen.
Shaq had Kobe and later Dwayne Wade.
Even Skipper had Gilligan...okay, bad example.
The point is that an effective partner can lead to great team success. And Young has all the qualities of a great one.
There are some who think the second-year small forward has the potential to be better than Iguodala himself—and with good reason.
Thad has worked diligently on his shooting touch, his post moves, and using his left hand effectively.
There were times this year that Young looked completely impossible to defend, which is the reason that he and Iguodala could be one of the league's top one-two punches.
As long as he continues to work hard, this could be the Sixers' best draft pick without the initials A.I.
The Team Should Adopt Reggie Evans' attitude.
He's a smart defender and a hardnosed player. He thrives on mixing it up down low, and most forwards in the game are wary when he's attacking the glass.
And as anyone who's ever received a pick from the man will tell you, he's as solid as they come.
He brings intensity to the floor that is contagious, but when he's not on the floor that still needs to be their identity.
The great thing about the Larry Brown teams is that every guy on the court hustled, defended, and took it as a personal challenge to shut down the other guy. No, they didn't block every shot or get every rebound, but they made the other team work for everything.
This current roster has shown flashes of that focus, but their youth and lack of discipline end up overriding it.
The Sixers have too many mental lapses at crucial moments in games. They may have been able to battle back from large deficits, but that is not the preferred method of winning.
There will be times you play a team that simply are superior, but there were too many times this season when that wasn't the case and they were still beat badly.
An attitude adjustment is needed.
Bring in New Blood, Either by Trade or Free Agency
Let's face it.
The Elton Brand Experience was less than what was expected.
Elton Brand is a great player, but just being a great player doesn't make you an asset to every team.
So even though not enough time has passed to see if the Sixers and Brand can gel, the Sixers need to explore every possibility.
Since Phoenix has already dumped Shawn Marion, why not Stoudemire as well? Considering that he has fallen out of favor with management, this trade could make sense.
The Sixers send Philly Max to Phoenix, because Elton Brand is a better compliment to Shaq.
Stoudemire is a better fit for what the Sixers like to do—which is run.
Leg and knee issues make this a somewhat risky prospect, but if you're going to take the risk it should at least be on a player who already fits what you want to do.
Throw in Matt Barnes, who gives the Sixers another solid defender off the bench who can shoot the three, to make the numbers work. Toss in former Sixer Louis Amundson, and the Sixers have a solid front court all of a sudden.
That's only one of many possible scenarios.
The likelihood of this happening is slim, considering Brand is one year into his deal.
Still, there could be a trade involving multiple players (Willie Green and Dalembert come to mind) that could accomplish the same thing—bringing in new guys.
Begin the Exodus of Samuel Dalembert
He's complained about not playing enough minutes.
He's complained about the lack of plays being run to take advantage of his myriad of offensive skills.
He'll NEVER play hurt (this is kind of a sore spot with his teammates too; even the most minor of injuries have him out for multiple games) and is by and large considered "soft."
And he refuses to listen to one of the best big men to play the game, Moses Malone, about how to improve.
Still there are compelling reasons not to move Dalembert.
23,560,000 reasons to be exact.
Is there a team out there willing to swallow this two-year pill with the Bosh/Wade/LeBron Fantasy Draft coming up?
The seven-footer has never lived up to the flashed of brilliance displayed in that contract year playoff series versus the Pistons. The Sixers lost more than the series that day, as Dalembert's contract is the gift that keeps on giving.
The Jazz could use an interior defender and the Sixers could use a perimeter shooter—Kyle Kover's return?
Larry Brown likes Sammy, the Sixers need a point guard for the future to replace the departing Andre Miller; DJ Augustin and Nazr Mohammed may make the numbers work.
However it has to happen, Dalembert needs to go.
Get Some Shooters...PLEASE!
The only thing worse than watching long jumpers miss badly is watching the other team sink them easily.
If the Orlando Magic series was not an eye-opener that there needs to be a change, recognize that your most consistent shooter turns 36 this month!
Even before Stefanski shipped Kover to Utah, the team desperately needed consistent outside scorers now the need is even more dire.
Decide What and Who Lou Williams Is
He's been tabbed as the successor to Andre Miller, but every time he's come off the bench he's been asked to be a scorer.
And he's a natural scorer. He knows how to get to the rim and finish. His jumper is not yet polished (see a recurring theme here?) but it's serviceable.
Problem is, like Iverson, his build screams point guard.
Unlike Iverson, who has great court vision (he averaged seven assists per game during his time in a Sixers uniform, four times averaging higher than seven) Williams is just as likely to turn the ball over as he is to make a good pass.
Former coach Maurice Cheeks, a great point guard in his own right, was working to fix that, but when he was let go so were the restrictions on Williams.
No longer afraid to make mistakes, he increased his turnovers and was guilty on more than one occasion of poor shot selection.
The talent is there—all that's lacking is the proper direction.
If he is going to be your point of the future, someone needs to tell him that.
Coach 'Em Up: Focus on Fundamentals and Toughness
Despite the comments of Theo Ratliff (which I agree with) I'm not sold on the idea DiLeo can’t get it done.
But if a new guy is brought in, he’d better tighten up this ship.
Under Maurice Cheeks, the Sixers played a less up-tempo form of basketball, focusing on defense and fast-break scoring. There was moderate success.
Stefanski wanted a more wide-open offense, so he let Cheeks go and promoted DiLeo to head coach. There was moderate success.
So as you can see there, is a pattern of average play.
At least under Cheeks the Sixers turned the ball over less and the young guys knew that if they did something stupid, like...I don't know, jack up a bad three-point shot on a fast break when you're down double-digits in a playoff game, for example...they'd likely be a spectator on the bench.
This year the Sixers spent a good deal of their time coming back from double-digits; the mark of an inconsistent and undisciplined basketball team.
Spare the rod and spoil the playoff chances.
Desperation move: Trade Andre Iguodala
Stranger things have happened.
Moving Iguodala may seem extreme, even more so than the earlier proposed move of Elton Brand, but it could work.
If the Sixers move Iguodala, they should be able to get two or even three pure shooters, preferably a pair of guards or a pair of guards and a small forward.
This gives them ability to run a post offense, with Brand kicking out to spot up guys, solving their half court offense problems.
Thaddeus Young becomes the future of your franchise, and he can continue to develop more quickly with Iguodala now out of town, as he and Brand become the primary offensive options.
Iguodala's defense would be missed, so one of the players acquired would need to have a similar skill set.
I wouldn't put it past Ed, but the NBA contract structure makes this a hard deal to pull off.