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July 7, 2009: Where Do the 76ers Stand?

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July 7, 2009: Where Do the 76ers Stand?
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Last Wednesday, NBA teams were allowed to start negotiations with free agents. With less than 24 hours until the contracts can be signed, let’s look at the current state of the Sixers. 

 

It can be summed up in one word: HORRIBLE. No matter what the sport is, it’s worse being mediocre and hoping to just make the playoff than to just flat out stink. The bottom teams at least have the chance to grab a top draft pick. Mid-level teams such as the Sixers have to hope a top prospect slips to them due to someone’s lack of scouting.

 

The Sixers are mediocre in every sense of the word. They have no experience at point guard. They have a third stringer starting at shooting guard. Their starting small forward is forced to try to be the star, but he’s a B+ player at best who should be option No. 2.

 

The starting power forward proved to be a bad fit before he went down for the year. The starting center is such a crutch, he makes the entire franchise look like it has one huge ACL injury.

 

The bench currently is full of talented guys who are young, inexperienced and a lot of times have been forced to play out of their natural positions.

 

I’ve said this before, but I’m going to keep saying it.

 

The worst part about the Sixers is their financial status. Here’s a formula: NO CAP SPACE + NO STAR QUALITY = NO TICKET SALES.

 

The lack of sales for home playoff games is proof that Philadelphia fans aren’t interested in inconsistency and just making the postseason. They want a contender! If the 76ers don’t put together a contender, people aren’t going to waste their time coming out to see them play.

 

What can Ed Stefanski do to create a positive enough atmosphere to keep Ed Snider from threatening his job? He has to be very, very creative with the changes he pursues. I have a feeling that he will, but because nothing beside a few denied rumors have surfaced one can only keep speculating what will happen next.

 

A few changes have occurred but many more need to follow. Bringing in Eddie Jordan as the head coach wasn’t the most popular move. I was pro Avery Johnson myself. But, with Jordan the Sixers have a coach who has a system which is something you can’t say about most of the coaches who came after Larry Brown. 

 

The goal is for Jordan’s system to co-exist with Stefanski’s overall plan.

 

The million dollar (or multi-million dollar) question is: What is Stefanski’s plan? How is he going to turn a cap-restricted franchise into a contender when the current contender’s are making moves to get even better and other teams are moving their cap space in preparation for 2010’s “A-List Bonanza?” 

 

The answers won’t come anytime soon, but there are a few hints. 

 

The trade that sent Reggie Evans to Toronto for Jason Kapano not only addressed the Sixers’ need for a long-range threat, it also signified that Stefanski isn’t afraid to admit his mistakes. He should’ve never traded Kyle Korver to Utah. Kapano should fill that void.

 

Stefanski previously realized an error he made when he fired Maurice Cheeks a little over a month into the regular season. He did this after he extended Cheeks' contract last summer.

 

The Sixers’ draft pick probably tells the most about Stefanski’s plans are. Drafting a guard (point guard in particular) was too easy to predict. Who that guard would be was much harder. If the Sixer’s had drafted Ty Lawson from North Carolina, they would’ve obtained a player more equipped to contribute immediately. 

 

Philly choose a taller, but younger Jrue Holliday out of UCLA. That pick hints that the Sixers’ main objective is to establish a young, fast and talented core which may be tailor-made for Eddie Jordan’s style of play. 

 

If that’s the case, Stefanski’s goal needs to be to clear the Sixers of the other mistakes they’re currently dealing with. The mistakes of the previous general manager Billy King, the other mistakes Stefanski himself has made, and the prevention of future mistakes.

 

Billy King’s mistakes obviously were the contract extensions of Samuel Dalembert and Willie Green. Dalembert’s extension was based solely on potential even though he never really hinted that he was in the process of building on that potential.

 

Green’s extension in March 2006 was and still is a mystery. It was put on hold because he injured his knee August 2005, and was offered again before he proved he was fully recovered. Green’s salary isn’t enormous, but even when healthy his production is worth half of what he makes.

 

Neither Green nor Dalembert are going to generate a lot of phone calls of interest to Stefanski. That said, this is where Stefanski must be creative. Popular opinion states that there two players are impossible to trade, but nothing’s 100 percent impossible. There are teams that could use these guys services (Houston or Detroit anyone?).

Stefanski’s error was going for broke last summer during free agency. Lou Williams’ extension reflects that of what he is: A productive 6th man off the bench. 

 

The Sixers’ probably overpaid for Andre Iguodala, but he makes around the average of what he was projected to be: second fiddle to a star, No. 1 option.

 

Elton Brand, on the other hand, should not have ended up in Philadelphia. Even before the injury, he looked like he didn’t fit in. He wasn’t aggressive and was nowhere near the 20-10 guy he was as an L.A. Clipper. At this time, Brand doesn’t look like he’s going to be a good fit for Eddie Jordan’s system or the direction Stefanski’s going in developing a nucleus.

He’s a prime example of why you don’t eliminate cap space for years just to say, “We got the best available guy this year.”

 

A future mistake would be giving into Andre Miller’s contract demands. A two-year contract worth $10-$12 million would be reasonable, but the 33-year-old (yes, 33) point guard who’s far from a yhree-point threat expects 3-4 years at $10 million per year.

 

On the other hand, the Sixers’ can ill afford to let Miller leave without getting something in return, especially with their current cap situation. Expect Miller to end up with a contract worth around $8 million a year. A sign and trade should land the Sixers at least two productive options.

 

Are there solutions?  Of course there are, but in order for anything to come to fruition, the 76ers’ front office must be creative, aggressive, proactive, and productive. They must find a way to keep their core, stay competitive and provide hope for the future. There are two ways they can go about this.

 

Option 1: Make moves to create cap space and join in on next year’s free agency sweepstakes.

 

Example: Trade Green, Brand and Dalembert to Houston for guard Tracy McGrady’s expiring contract ($23 million) and forward Shane Battier. In addition to that, sign and trade Miller to Portland for guard Steve Blake and forward Travis Outlaw (both of whom have expiring contracts).

 

With these two transactions, the Sixers would be in position to clear almost $32 million in cap space next offseason. The worst case scenario would be that McGrady would never recover from injury, the Sixers don’t make the playoffs and they get a lottery pick in addition to their cap space.

 

Option #2: Take advantage of other teams situations and build a team that will compete next year.

 

Example 1: The Charlotte Bobcats need a power forward to take pressure off Emeka Okafor and to also move Boris Diaw to his natural “three” spot.

 

Trade Brand and Green there for guard Raymond Felton, forward Vladimir Radmanovic, and center DeSagana Diop. That would give the Sixers a young but experienced starting point guard, another three-point threat and a shot-blocking machine who’s not worried about offensive touches.

 

Example 2: Suppose Andre Miller does get the contract he wants with Portland. The Blazers are unlikely to go to the cap limit for him, so a sign and trade is quite possible.

 

How about a three-way trade with Miller going to Portland, center Joel Przybilla and forward Travis Outlaw going to Houston and forwards Shane Battier and Luis Scola come to Philly. It sounds crazy, especially the Rockets giving up Battier and Scola. But, Houston would obtain a true center in Przybilla to replace Yao Ming. If Ming does get healthy, Pryzybilla’s contract (along with Outlaw’s) expire after next season.

Example 3: Do the Detroit Pistons want to keep to starting shooting guards at $11 million plus per season for the next four years? My strong guess is….NO!! What Joe Dumars has to know is he needs a starting center. Rasheed is gone and Antonio McDyess is probably not far behind. 

 

What can the Pistons do? The used their cap space on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Starting Kwame Brown at center would be a sign of giving up and Detroit can’t afford to do that. It probably will never happen but Richard Hamilton for Dalembert and a conditional draft pick would be good for both sides. 

 

There is a third option if none of the above play out and the Sixers are forced to resort to more veteran minimum free agents to fill up the roster. There also is the possibility of Andre Miller leaving with Philadelphia getting nothing in return.

 

While this is probably the most realistic result, I can’t entertain that thought. As a Philly sports fan, I have to keep thinking of ways to bring a winner to this town. I just hope the decision makers feel the same way.

 

 

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