Philadelphia 76ers: State of the Franchise 2011

Michael DiProngsContributor IMay 19, 2011

Unappreciated worker or overpaid B-level star?
Unappreciated worker or overpaid B-level star?Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The dream run has come to an end. You know the franchise is in trouble when the “dream run” that caught everyone around the league by surprise, ended after a .500 season and a 4-1 beat down. It really should have been a sweep, save miraculous shooting from Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams as well as a string of mental errors by Dwyane Wade.

It was a roller coaster—from a 3-13 start, all the way up to calls of Doug Collins being Coach of the Year, then back down to crawling past the finish line in the playoffs. The diehard Sixers gave everything they could and narrowly avoided a sweep. But what can be done now? With Doug Collins staying on board, what is the state of the Philadelphia 76ers?

I love Google Instant. It “predicts” what you want to search by trying to finish it before you finish typing. If you don’t know what Google Instant is, go to right now and type in Andre Iguodala. You see the first suggestion? Yes, you see it: “Andre Iguodala Trade.”

The man who took over Allen Iverson’s locker and the face of the franchise has now, once again, been the subject of trade talks. Should it really be his fault? Most Philly fans sadly point out that a team can only win with a superstar and sidekicks—or, in the case of Miami, two superstars in Wade and LeBron James with some decent complimentary pieces in Mike Bibby, James Jones, and Chris Bosh.

James said that the Boston Celtics laid out the blueprint when Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett joined forces and brought Boston a championship. Is this the blueprint for the rest of us? Does Carmelo Anthony need to join Amar’e Stoudemire just to get into the playoffs? Are the Nets not good enough by adding a top three point guard in Deron Williams?

What happened to the days when Allen Iverson could carry a team all the way to the finals, where Shaquille O’Neal and a young man named Kobe Bryant would meet him? When Ray Allen could carry the Bucks, Vince Carter the Raptors, or Kevin Garnett the Timberwolves? Sadly, those days are probably behind us. A trend of “superfriends,” for better or for worse, has taken over the league. And what matters is whether or not Philly can compete in East and make it out of the first round for the first time since Allen Iverson played here and the Hornets were an Eastern Conference team.

Man, is it really Andre Iguodala’s fault that he’s couldn’t fill the shoes of Allen Iverson? Is his contract really that overrated? Most fans say that Iggy (horrible nickname, and Iguodala himself dislikes it) is a good second option and a stellar third option. If the L.A. Lakers had Iguodala instead of Ron Artest, Dirk Nowitzki would probably be back in Germany right now. But Iguodala barely cracks the top 40 list in terms of salaries; does be barely crack the top 40 list of players? The contract problem, I reluctantly have to say, is with Elton Brand.

I love Elton Brand. The man is a workhorse; a powerful, stabilizing veteran player who you know not to mess with—the Lincoln Burrows of the team.  He played his heart out, battled down low, and at times was the most consistent player on the team. But Iguodala doesn’t have to go—Brand does. He is getting paid more than Iggy, and this is money that could be used to pursue another top, superstar scorer who would compliment Iguodala well.

Iguodala may be our most valuable trade chip at this point, but perhaps there should be a reason for that. I understand that superstars are rare to come around, but even a decent post player with a knack of scoring—a certain DeAndre Jordan, perhaps?—could serve us well. What we know is that Iguodala is not a jump shooter or a first scoring option. With so many score-first type players in this league who teams seem to not want, perhaps we could fine room for them? Quick, someone contact Leon Rose.

I love the keeping of Doug Collins. Good coaches are underrated, and good coaches are hard to come by. The Sixers should know this better than anyone—with the retirement of Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan this season, Philadelphia should be blessed that Doug Collins seems so excited to stay. It has been said so many times—the best coaches are the coaches who will actually care about your best player and your last player.

Phil Jackson earned the respect of Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, but he also cared about the Smush Parkers and Luke Waltons of a team. There is a reason why players love playing for certain coaches, and that is because coaching is mostly player relations and not just film and X’s and O’s. Collins is a man who knows how to connect with players and knows how to communicate with players, and his staying should be a relief to all Philly fans.

Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner—the dream backcourt duo that never worked out, resulting in Jodie Meeks taking over after a few hot games. Holiday has the tools to become a great point guard; even a Chauncey Billups-like guard. But he will not become Dwyane Wade, much to most people’s dismay.

With the excess of talented point guards, the top five list is hard to crack. Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, and Rajon Rondo. Can he crack the list? Doubtful, but he can certainly be a solid guard—if he were born 20 years ago, probably an elite guard. But it will take serious growth—consistent growth—for Holiday to be significant. We’ve had hopes on Lou Will and Thad Young before, but those fizzled out.

After a thousand words, what is the state of the franchise? Quite optimistic, although it is true that Collins finished with a record the same as what Maurice Cheeks accomplished with the same crew (though Cheeks had Andre Miller, a floor leader and veteran point guard).

The Mo Cheeks 41-41 seemed to be the ceiling of the team, with no real sense of direction. The Collins 41-41 seemed to be the starting point; the team started out 3-13, and Collins has only just acknowledged the feel of the team and how to manage it in the future. Not to mention that the Boston Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in the same fashion—four games to one—as the Sixers did (I would probably argue that Games 1, 3, and 5 were more competitive than the Celtics’, but it's difficult drawing so many positives from losses).

This summer will truly prove to be a deciding and exciting one to see whether or not the Sixers can finally break into the East’s elite in the post-Iverson era. But, with so many questions surrounding the team, I only wish that we had the answer.