After winning 14 more games than they did the previous year, Doug Collins and the rest of the 76ers may be hard pressed to keep the momentum going. Due to a lack of cap space and a weak draft class, it may be difficult for Philadelphia to significantly improve upon its 41-41 record this season.
It almost goes without saying that Rod Thorn and the rest of the 76ers' front office have their work cut out for them this summer. Not only do the 76ers face difficult decisions with members of their current roster, they'll also be on the market for role players who can provide the rebounding and defense that the team desperately needs.
As we look ahead to the offseason, here are 10 moves the 76ers should consider making this summer.
One of the most impressive aspects of the 76ers' turnaround this year is the fact that they did it without a true reserve point guard.
When Jrue Holiday was sitting on the bench this season, the point guard duties were typically shared between Lou Williams, Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala. However, none of the three is a prototypical lead guard—a need which Philadelphia will likely address this offseason.
Boston's Delonte West would be a solid option off of the bench for the 76ers. Not only can he run the point, but he is a very dangerous shooter (with a career average of 37.3 percent from beyond the arc) who would open up the floor for Iguodala, Young and the team's other wing players. In addition, he is a very solid perimeter defender who would be extremely valuable when Philadelphia needs a stop at the end of games.
Down the stretch, Doug Collins has frequently gone to Tony Battie as his first big man off of the bench. Needless to say, it should be more than a little disconcerting for 76ers fans when a 35-year-old journeyman is the best interior option for a team
So it should be no surprise when the 76ers make a move to add a low-post presence (or two) this summer. The upcoming draft could be their best chance to do just that.
While the 2011 draft class isn't all that deep, there should be a number of skilled power forwards available when the 76ers pick midway through the first round. Options include Purdue's JaJuan Johnson, Maryland's Jordan Williams, or Kenneth Faried out of Morehead State.
If the 76ers are willing to go the "project" route, Bismack Biyombo may be an intriguing option if he's still on the board at No. 16. While the 18-year-old Biyombo is completely raw offensively, he's already an extremely productive shot blocker and rebounder—two areas in which the 76ers are desperately lacking.
Doug Collins hasn't even been the 76ers' head coach for a full calendar year, but he has earned every right to lead this team for as long as he chooses.
After the team's disastrous 3-13 start, Collins has played all of the right chords with this team, blending the 76ers' young stars and veterans into one of the league's most dangerous units in the last half of the season.
With three years left on his initial deal, Collins isn't going anywhere, and the 76ers have no plans on making a move, so the extension would be more of a good faith gesture than anything. But his work this season should be acknowledged in some fashion, and an extension seems like a logical solution.
With the three oldest players on the roster likely leaving this offseason (Tony Battie, Antonio Daniels and Darius Songaila), the 76ers roster will likely remain one of the youngest in the NBA.
As one of the team's co-captains, Elton Brand is the team's elder statesman, but he's almost inherited that mantle by default as most players on the team are still in the early stages of their professional careers.
The 76ers would do well to bring in a veteran presence—perhaps a Jeff Foster or Juwan Howard type—whose value to the team wouldn't necessarily be limited to their play on the court.
Even if the 76ers draft a big man, that shouldn't preclude them from acquiring another via free agency.
Without a great deal of cap space, the 76ers will likely be limited to using their mid-level exception if they're going to make any sort of move this offseason. If that's their plan, the Thunder's Nazr Mohammed is a player they should definitely consider.
In limited action, Mohammed put up decent numbers this season, averaging 7.1 points and 4.9 rebounds. More importantly, he would instantly be one of the team's better rebounders and would provide additional toughness missing from the current roster.
Thaddeus Young represents a problem for the 76ers. But it's a good problem to have.
Since Philadelphia chose not to lock him up to a long-term deal last summer, Young will be a restricted free agent when the new league year begins (whenever that may be, due to the ongoing labor negotiations).
While his qualifying offer is just shy of $4 million, Young should have plenty of suitors lined up at his door based off of his play this season (12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in only 26.0 minutes per game).
Since Young will likely receive an offer sheet in excess of his current deal, the 76ers would be flirting with the luxury-tax threshold should they choose to re-sign him.
Consider it the pill that they just may have to swallow.
Arguably their best young player, Young makes this team go, and he is almost too valuable to let walk. If he signs elsewhere, the 76ers would lose one of the league's best reserve players, and they would be hard pressed to find an adequate replacement.
To say that Spencer Hawes hasn't lived up to the expectations of 76ers fans this season would be somewhat of an understatement.
He isn't the world's greatest shot blocker, nor does he provide an imposing presence, despite his 7'1", 245-pound frame. In simple terms, Spencer Hawes is a big man who doesn't maximize his size to the best of his ability (or so it seems).
That said, he was only 22 years old at the start of the season, and he is a solid option at the 5 position (mostly due to the fact that there are very few quality centers left in the NBA).
With a $4 million qualifying offer this summer, the 76ers would do well to pick up that option—it would be difficult to find someone as good as Hawes for that kind of money. Ideally, Hawes will use the summer to work on the flaws in his game—most notably his defense—to become a player Doug Collins can trust when the 76ers are trying to close out games.
After starting the 2010-11 season on the inactive list, Jodie Meeks has become a full-fledged, NBA-caliber shooting guard, averaging 10.5 points in 74 games this year (64 starts).
On a team devoid of shooters, Meeks carved out his niche as a reliable deep threat, hitting 138 threes this season. For that reason alone, the 76ers should not only pick up the option on Meeks' contract, but attempt to work out a long-term deal at a reasonable rate as well.
Granted, next season he'll probably lose his starting spot to Evan Turner, who should have worked himself into the lineup by the time the preseason rolls around. That said, you can never have too many shooters on a team, and in Jodie Meeks, the 76ers have one of the league's best.
While Andres Nocioni is still a productive player and provides valuable veteran leadership, he doesn't have a very defined role on this Philadelphia team.
His very presence on the roster is probably more detrimental than anything else. For the most part, any minutes doled out to Nocioni this year came at the expense of Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, two young players who need as many minutes as they can get in order to blossom into stars.
With only one season left on his deal for $6.65 million (with a team option for $7.5 million in 2012-13), Nocioni may be an attractive role player for a contender looking for a solid rotation guy who doesn't require a long-term financial commitment.
Collins and team president Rod Thorn have been nothing but effusive in their praise of Andre Iguodala this year, and with good reason.
Iguodala has battled through nagging injuries to both his right knee and Achilles' to become an All-NBA caliber defender this season. However, his biggest contribution to the team was his willingness to play the "point forward" role—a move that sparked the 76ers' late-season playoff surge.
So while his coaches and his teammates may love Iguodala, he is surely aware that he could be a salary-cap casualty at any moment. The 76ers' front office can spin it however they want, but it will become increasingly more difficult to justify paying $45 million over the next three seasons to a player who averages less than 15 points per game.
Iguodala probably has more trade value than any player on the current roster, and the 76ers will likely need to move him if they want to acquire a legitimate No. 1 scoring option.
Trading the seventh-year swingman shouldn't be too difficult, given his skill set and versatility (he's played every position except center at some point this season). And prior to this year, he has been extremely durable, having missed only six games in six seasons.
With several players on the roster at the wing positions (Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams), the 76ers have options at the 2 and 3 spots should they decide to cut ties with Iguodala. As much as Collins and the rest of the 76ers' brass may not want to do it, it may be the only way this team can challenge the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.