NBA Rumors: 76ers Must Keep Wheeling and Dealing To Justify Dalembert Trade

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJune 22, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 26:  Andre Iguodala #9 and Samuel Dalembert #1 of the Philadelphia 76ers react after a basket against the Orlando Magic during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at the Wachovia Center on April 26, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Orlando defeated Philadelphia 84-81 to even the series at 2 games each. 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 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

I was enjoying a company picnic on Thursday when I got the text message that haunted me all day: The 76ers were trading Samuel Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes.

My instant reaction wasn't suitable for print.

While it's nice to know that Sixers fans will never have to suffer another Samuel Dalembert jumper, it's hard to swallow the fact that the team just abandoned nearly $13 million of cap space in 2011 for players of Hawes and Nocioni's caliber.

The Sixers signed Sammy D to a 6-year, $60 million extension back in 2005 (thanks again, Billy King!), and had to wait out five years of his 8.1-point, 8.3-rebound, and 1.9-block-per-game career average before he'd become valuable again. 

No team in their right mind would have traded for Dalembert when he had three years and $32 million left on his deal, but when there was only one year left on the deal, anyone would have taken that salary on.

Dalembert had a 15 percent trade kicker in his contract, making Dalembert that much more untradeable.  (What team in their right mind would pay him $14 million for one year?) 

Then again, if a team traded for Dalembert strictly for financial reasons—to dump him at the end of the season and free up cap space—the trade kicker only gave them added incentive to complete the deal. 

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It's no secret that the Sixers needed to rid themselves of Dalembert; in fact, they've needed to be Sammy-free since about 2007. 

Most championship teams don't start centers who can't score more than five feet away from the basket, or big men who commit cheap fouls on a nightly basis—Dalembert fits the bill in both of those categories, and thus, needed to be shipped out for the Sixers to build a championship contender.

Still, I'm left feeling that the Sixers could have fared better in a trade for Dalembert had they waited to pull the trigger—perhaps the day of the draft, perhaps after free agency began, perhaps even around February. 

Let's be honest, you don't fall asleep at night dreaming of trades for Hawes and Nocioni.

There's no question that Hawes is an upgrade offensively over Dalembert, then again, who isn't?  While Hawes will add value on the offensive end—coach Doug Collins is already drooling over the interchangeability of his big men—his defense leaves much to be desired. 

SacTown Royalty magnificently examined the defensive comparison between Dalembert and Hawes the day after the trade, and the results certainly don't favor Philly.

Hawes closes out on shooters more effectively than Dalembert, but Dalembert defends the post better, plays one-on-one off the dribble better, blocks shots more effectively, and while Hawes rebounds poorly for his size, Dalembert excels (especially on the defensive end).

The point is, this trade should not and cannot be seen as an "upgrade" for the Sixers yet.

The Sixers struggled defensively last year, ranking 18th in the league in points allowed per game (101.6) and 24th in the league in point differential (-3.9). 

Adding Hawes to the mix likely won't make the Sixers any better on the defensive end, and it's doubtful his offensive contributions will make up for his defensive shortcomings.

Still, the trade could signal that the Sixers are finally headed in the right direction—rebuilding.

Sixers fans have long grown tired of an endless stream of the team qualifying for the playoffs only to meet their maker in the first round. 

For the Sixers to become the powerhouse they once were in the 80s, they must fully commit to a rebuilding process, and it starts with the No. 2 pick.

With that No. 2 pick, the Sixers would be crazy not to draft Evan Turner, the do-it-all PG/SG out of Ohio State, who was named the national player of the year this past season. 

And that brings us to Andre Iguodala.

“If you take Turner, you have to do something with Iguodala,” a Western Conference GM told Philly Magazine.  “Turner doesn’t have the athletic ability of Iguodala, but Iguodala doesn’t have the feel for the game Turner does.”

The GM went on to say that teams would covet Iguodala on the market this summer because "there are enough teams that need wing playmakers." 

Given how the Cavaliers and the Suns reportedly sought out Iggy in February, the four years and $56 million left on Iguodala's contract doesn't seem to be as much of a trade non-starter as many would assume.

The Sixers don't have to trade Iguodala, necessarily—they could ship out Nocioni, Thaddeus Young, or Jason Kapono instead—but it's imperative that the Sixers rid themselves of one of their four wingmen before the season starts. 

From there, logic dictates that the Sixers should make moving Iguodala their first priority.  Beyond the fact that Iguodala holds the largest contract of the four wing players, the other three have specialties (Kapono's three-point shooting, Nocioni's defense, Young's ability in the post) that suggest they could become model role players; Iggy, not so much.

To the Sixers' credit, GM Ed Stefanski's comments on Friday indicate that the Sixers are in the right frame of mind for the summer.

"After you come off of a 27-win season, you got to be aggressive," Stefanski said. "We are going to keep looking to see if we can tweak this even more. Yeah, we have to be more active."

Ideally, Stefanski's proposed "activity" will revolve around Iguodala this summer, freeing the Sixers of two of their largest three contracts in the span of three months.

With that cap space comes the opportunity to rebuild around young studs like Jrue Holiday, Turner, Young, and Marreese Speights, the likelihood of a high draft pick next year, and a chance at a top-tier superstar next summer in free agency.  (Let's get Carmelo Anthony on line one, please.)

If the Sixers remain in idle from here on out; however, they'd be committing to another season of mediocrity. 

They'd likely scrap and claw for one of the last playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference, meet a team like the Magic in the first round, and get swept out of the playoffs before anyone knew they were there in the first place.

Sixer fans should hope that Stefanski's comments were more than just empty promises. 

If the Sixers commit to a full rebuild by shipping out Iguodala—the first "franchise player" billed by the team after they shipped Allen Iverson out of town—they'd finally have a chance at returning to the glory days of the 1980s in the next few years.

Otherwise, the Dalembert trade was yet another example of how the Sixers management fails to understand the principle of losing now to win later.