The 2010-2011 Philadelphia 76ers made significant progress toward reestablishing the franchise as a perennial playoff contender. Young guards Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner showed they belong in an NBA starting lineup. Forwards Thaddeus Young and Elton Brand posted solid seasons. Point-forward Andre Iguodala continued to show why he is second to only LeBron James at his position.
But since the trade of Samuel Dalembert, the team has lacked a true inside presence. Spencer Hawes is a solid player, but he's nothing special. He isn't capable of consistently getting big rebounds against top-notch big men. Further, his presence does not alter shots from the paint and he certainly isn't capable of defending an elite center like Dwight Howard in the paint.
With Dalembert set to become a free agent once the players and owners agree on a new CBA, the question must be raised: Should the Sixers bring back their long time center? If the team hopes to take another step forward in 2011-2012, the answer must be yes.
While Dalembert does not bring anything resembling offensive skill to the table, he does bring excellent defense and superior rebounding. He's basically a poor man's Tyson Chandler (and we all know how pivotal Chandler's presence in the middle was for the World Champion Dallas Mavericks).
With Lou Williams, Holiday, Turner, Young, Elton Brand and (for the time being) Iguodala, the 76ers have more than enough offensive weapons to make a significant playoff run. What the team lacks is a defensive anchor—a big man that can get the crucial rebound in crunch time or alter shots in the paint. They need a player who has athletic ability and an above-average basketball IQ. Samuel Dalembert fits that bill perfectly.
He isn't flashy; he isn't offensively skilled; he isn't an athletic freak of nature; but he is a consistent, hard-working, fundamentally sound defensive center—and that's all the Sixers need him to be at this point.
Unlike other potential targets (e.g. Greg Oden), Dalembert has demonstrated he is more than capable of playing a full NBA season, he has playoff experience and he's comfortable being the "garbage guy"—collecting rebounds and kicking them back out to shooters. It's not a glamorous job, but it is one that Dalembert takes pride in doing well.
Provided the two sides can agree on a reasonable salary, this seems like a perfect fit for both sides: Philadelphia can reunite with its best defensive center since Dikembe Mutombo (nearly a decade ago), and Dalembert would be given an opportunity to play for a winning franchise (after toiling for a less-than-mediocre Kings team following his departure).