Tony Battie Comes Full Circle with Sixers: A Lesson in Draft Logic
This summer was a big offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers; laugh if you may, but the team will look drastically different than last season, although they stayed completely inactive.
Despite being non existent in the free-agent fiasco, the Sixers made major changes with the acquisition of new head coach Doug Collins and the trade of long-time Sixer Samuel Dalembert.
The Sixers also saw an upside in their 27-55 record last season, with the pick of Evan Turner, second overall, in the NBA Draft. With all of these moves, the Sixers most likely capped off their summer with the signing of veteran center Tony Battie to a minimum contract.
Although Battie is new to the Sixers and the organization, he was a key player the last time the Sixers were in this situation.
Most Sixers fans know that the last time the team held the second overall pick in the draft, they selected Keith Van Horn, a University of Utah PF, then sent him to New Jersey for Tim Thomas, a standout forward from Villanova, in a draft-night trade.
Thomas had a short lived season-and-a-half career in Philadelphia, playing 94 games for the Sixers, while averaging 11 points his rookie year and just over four a game in his sophomore campaign—not exactly what you would like from a guy you essentially used the second overall pick on.
More inept basketball fans also know the type of players who were passed over in this deal to grab Thomas.
The 1997 NBA draft was, more or less, the "Tim Duncan and Others Show," as the Spurs took the Wake Forest PF with the first pick and every subsequent pick was a crap shoot ( a little similar to this season). The Sixers took Van Horn second overall and passed over future All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Tracy McGrady, as well as newly signed Sixer Tony Battie, before making the move for Thomas (seventh overall by New Jersey).
Battie was a standout center from Texas Tech, and before entering the draft, was averaging 10.7 points and just over eight rebounds a game in his junior season. He was taken fifth overall by the Denver Nuggets, and after a year in the mile-high city, where he averaged eight points and around five rebounds a game, was traded six more times in his 12-year career, spending most of it as a bench-style journeyman.
Just weeks after his rookie season, he was shipped with Tyronn Lue to the Lakers for Nick Van Exel. He spent part of a season in L.A. and was traded again, this time to the Boston Celtics for center Travis Knight. Not exactly the best scenario for a then-22-year-old player's professional confidence.
Battie spent the following five seasons with the Celtics, becoming a useful role player and averaging around seven points and six rebounds a game, while playing around 20-25 minutes a game.
While Battie was coming into the prime of his NBA career, the Sixers were improving with the play of 1996 first overall pick, Allen Iverson, and role players like Tyrone Hill, whom the Sixers acquired with the Tim Thomas trade in 1999. And on the other side of the Sixers 1997 draft, Van Horn was averaging 15-20 points a game for an oddly competitive Nets team (that's right, the Nets used to win).
In 2004, Battie was sent from Boston to Cleveland, and at the same time, the Sixers finished reacquainting with Van Horn, as he played 74 games for the Sixers and produced a solid 17 points a game in 2003-04.
Van Horn was sent to the Knicks in a four-team trade in 2004 for the combination of Glenn Robinson, Marc Jackson, and a draft pick which would later become Daniel Gibson.
Gibson never surfaced with the Sixers, as he was a part of another trade featuring Royal Ivey for the rights to Efthimi Rentzias, a Greek center who spent a dreadful 2002-03 with the Sixers before heading back to his home county.
All three players (Van Horn, Thomas, and Battie) spent the rest of their careers circling around the NBA playing in Dallas, Milwaukee, New Jersey, Orlando, L.A. (Clippers), Phoenix, and Chicago respectively.
Van Horn and Battie both were members of Conference Championship teams (Van Horn: Dallas, New Jersey; Battie: Boston) and Van Horn had the strongest career as a Nets top-10 scorer and rebounder, while Battie and Thomas were not so lucky.
This all brings us back to this year's NBA draft...
Sixers fans have high hopes for Evan Turner—let's all hope his career is more productive than Tim Thomas', but the counter argument is still comical.
I know this may come off as diluted logic, but since history tends to repeat itself, we may see DeMarcus Cousins (fifth overall) in 2023 suiting up for the Sixers after some frequent stops. Also remember the name of seventh overall pick Greg Monroe (who knows, he might show up sometime soon).
What have we learned from this story is draft logic—no player is guaranteed and just because you ship them here or there, they may come back to contribute to your franchise in the future.
And with Ed Stefanski in charge, we all know anything is possible.
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