Philadelphia 76ers: Why the Iguodala-for-Ellis Deal Has To Happen

Roy Burton@thebslineContributor IJune 13, 2011

Something has to give. 

Despite his exceptional defense, freakish athleticism and jaw-dropping play-making ability, the writing on the wall is simply too large to ignore at this point. 

His seven years of service should be greatly appreciated by 76ers fans, but the fact remains that Andre Iguodala can not—and should not—be a member of the Philadelphia 76ers next season.

He clearly doesn't want to be in Philadelphia any longer. Iguodala's quasi-excused absence from his postseason exit interview spoke volumes, even more so than his non-committal answers during his season-ending session with the media.

The last time the 76ers had a player who made no secret of his disdain for the organization (Samuel Dalembert), a cloud of negativity surrounded the team for several years until he was finally—mercifully—traded to the Sacramento Kings this past offseason. 

Many of the team's younger players (Evan Turner, among others) appear to take cues from Iguodala—a fact that should only serve to hasten his departure.

The death knell for the Iguodala era was sounded shortly after the final buzzer of the Sixers' first-round series against the Miami Heat. As one of the 76ers' co-captains (and the supposed best player on the team), his lackluster scoring output during the team's five-game playoff run (11.4 PPG) was completely unacceptable.

Those in the pro-Iguodala camp will argue that the seventh-year swingman played remarkable defense against all-everything small forward LeBron James. Let the record show that James averaged 24.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 6.2 APG versus the 76ers.

Even more damning is the fact that when the 76ers needed a clutch basket against the Heat, their best option was Lou Williams—a 6'1" guard who shot less than 41 percent from the field last season.

He also happens to be the team's sixth man.

That's a problem.

Due to his station with the team, Iguodala has every right to be the one with the ball in his hands at the end of a close game. However, he has displayed the propensity not to produce in those spots: the statistics show that in clutch situations, Iguodala is no better than the team's fourth-best scorer, behind Williams, Jodie Meeks and Evan Turner.

That sound you often heard during the Miami series was the collective groan of 76ers' fans as they watched Iguodala take (and miss) one ill-advised shot after another.

That's not to say that Iguodala is chopped liver, necessarily.

At 6'6", his length and God-given talents make him a terror on the defensive end of the floor, as he can comfortably guard four positions. His move to the point-forward position in early February sparked the 76ers to a 41-41 record this year, a 14-win improvement over last season.

But his lackadaisical attitude and inability to be the team's go-to option is unsettling, especially considering that more than $44 million is due to him over the next three seasons.

At this point, a trade seems to make sense for all parties involved. Hopefully, that trade is made with the Golden State Warriors.

The rumor mill nearly exploded last week when ESPN's Ric Bucher reported that the 76ers and Warriors had discussed a trade that would send Iguodala to the Bay Area, with Philadelphia receiving shooting guard Monta Ellis in return.

For the uninitiated, the 6'3" Ellis is the very definition of a high-volume scorer who attacks the basket with devil-may-care abandon.

His 24.1 points per game (8th-best in the NBA) don't tell the whole story: Ellis' quick first step and reliable mid-range game make him one of the hardest players to guard in the entire league.

In addition, Ellis' point guard skills will give Holiday the freedom to play off the ball—a role that the sophomore guard excelled in once Iguodala became the team's primary ball-handler towards the end of last season.

Ellis is the type of player that the 76ers have been lacking since Allen Iverson enjoyed his first tour of duty in Philadelphia. The type of player that the 76ers' front-office has been desperately searching for in the draft, year after year.

The type of player that needs to be in a 76ers' uniform next season. The cherry on top of the proposed deal sundae is that Ellis is scheduled to make approximately $11 million less than Iguodala over the next three years—a bonus for a team currently hampered by a lack of salary cap space.

There are, however, legitimate reasons to think twice about the trade. Alongside the 6'4" Jrue Holiday, Ellis would comprise half of one the smallest backcourt duos in the NBA. And despite his propensity for steals (2.1 per game last season, third in the NBA), Ellis has a reputation for not exerting maximum effort on the defensive end.

Even so, when a team that ranked in the bottom half in the NBA in scoring last season has a chance to acquire a bona fide, No. 1 option, they absolutely need to consider pulling the trigger, despite any reservations that they may harbor.

76ers' fans should have confidence that head coach Doug Collins won't allow Ellis—or anyone else, for that matter—to go through the motions on defense. And without doing anything to improve the team, the 76ers will do no better than tread water for several seasons to come.

As presently constituted, the core of this current 76ers team is no better than a 46-48 win unit. In the Eastern Conference, that could get you a fifth or a sixth seed, and possibly a first-round playoff series victory—a slight improvement over this year.

For the 76ers to stand pat this offseason, their inaction would be evidence that they are satisfied with mediocrity. 

A trade for Ellis, combined with a shrewd selection with their first-round pick (perhaps PF Markieff Morris from Kansas), could vault the 76ers into the the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference as early as next season. 

The first step towards making that a reality is to trade Iguodala, a move that is long overdue. Perhaps it's no coincidence that exactly 84 months have passed since he was drafted by the 76ers with the ninth pick back in the summer of 2004. 

Seven-year itch, anyone?


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