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Are the Philadelphia 76ers Hurting Themselves by Winning?

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2010

DALLAS - NOVEMBER 30:  Forward Jason Smith #14 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a shot against the Dallas Mavericks on November 30, 2009 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's never a good sign in sports when you find yourself cheering more for when your team loses than when your team wins.

Somehow, as the Sixers kept adding wins to their season-high five game winning-streak this past week and a half, that's the exact place I found myself with the team.

As the Sixers knocked down Houston, New Orleans, then Minnesota, the writing on the wall became more and more apparent: History is about to repeat itself again for the Sixers.

They'll go on a late-season surge, seemingly "putting it all together" and giving the team hope for the long-term, qualify as a low seed in the playoffs, and get their doors blown off by the Cavs, Hawks, Magic, or Celtics in the first round.

But, in the long-term, would the Sixers be better off tanking the rest of this season, shooting for a higher draft pick, and getting started on the rebuilding process?

I've made my thoughts known about when the Sixers should start trading away their roster (next season, with $20 million in expiring contracts on the roster), and also suggested some trades that make sense for them, if they're so inclined to jumpstart the roster slash-and burn.

Yet, as the Sixers kept reeling off win after win last week, my morbid excitement about the team faded away with every victory.

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Earlier in the season, as their loss column grew while their win column remained more-or-less stagnant, I started picturing a Top 10 pick for the Sixers and a guy like Evan Turner, Greg Monroe, or dare I say, John Wall.

The team hasn't had a pick in the top 10 since 2004, when they used the ninth pick in the draft to select Andre Iguodala.

Seeing as Iggy's name has been flying in trade rumors this past month, he could be on a different team as early as next week. (And Tracy McGrady, love him or hate him, could be suiting up next to Allen Iverson for two months. God help the NBA.)

At the very least, the Sixers are almost sure to make major moves in the next year and a half, when they have $20 million worth of Samuel Dalembert, Jason Kapono, and Willie Green coming off the books at the end of 2011.

Considering that this team is nowhere near contending for a championship, is it not time to officially declare a two-to-three year rebuilding process?

Granted, that calls for team management to essentially acknowledge that the Elton Brand signing was a bust. Unless Elton keeps voicing his displeasure with the team, management likely wouldn't do such a thing, at least publicly.

Regardless, following the All-Star break, the Sixers could start working towards the first phase of any solid rebuilding process: A high draft pick.

I recognize that the draft is a crapshoot regardless of where you pick, but let's break down the last two years of the draft to see how many potential superstars came from the top 10 vs. the other 50 picks.

2009

No. 1 Blake Griffin (Clippers, Injured/Incomplete), No. 2 Hasheem Thabeet (Grizzlies, Bust), No. 3 James Harden (Thunder, Star), No. 4 Tyreke Evans (Kings, Superstar), No. 5 Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves, DNP [in Spain]), No. 6 Jonny Flynn (Timberwolves, Star), No. 7 Stephen Curry (Warriors, Superstar), No. 8 Jordan Hill (Knicks, Bust), No. 9 DeMar DeRozan (Raptors, Star), No. 10 Brandon Jennings (Bucks, Superstar)

Other 50 picks: No. 18 Ty Lawson (Minnesota->Denver/Star), No. 23 Omri Casspi (Kings, Star), No. 37 DeJuan Blair (Spurs, Superstar)

2008

No. 1 Derrick Rose (Bulls, Superstar), No. 2 Michael Beasley (Heat, Superstar), No. 3 O.J. Mayo (Grizzlies, Superstar), No. 4 Russell Westbrook (Thunder, Superstar), No. 5 Kevin Love (Timberwolves, Star), No. 6 Danilo Gallinari (Knicks, Star), No. 7 Eric Gordon (Clippers, Star), No. 8 Joe Alexander (Bucks, Bust), No. 9 D.J. Augustin (Bobcats, Bust), No. 10 Brook Lopez (Nets, Superstar)

Other 50 picks: No "stars" - best players include No. 11 Jerryd Bayless, No. 14 Anthony Randolph, No. 16 Marreese Speights, No. 19 J.J. Hickson, No. 26 George Hill

Granted, that's just my opinion of these rookies and sophomores, but there's no question that the platitude of franchise-altering players in the top 10 should sadly encourage teams to start tanking now to have a solid shot at a future All-Star.

In the next week, the Sixers need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves whether this team, as it's currently composed, can win an NBA championship. If the answer is "no" (and, have no doubt, it is most definitely "no"), then you start the rebuilding process.

While a team will never acknowledge that it's actively tanking, the Sixers could start awarding more minutes to younger, spot players to provide them invaluable game-time experience for the future. (Then again, they do have Eddie Jordan as coach, so his constant finagling of the lineups work fine, too.)

At 20-32, it's a question worth asking. When is it time to start packing it in, thinking past this season into the long-term?

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