October 30, 2014

Wrapping up the Sixers season – who should stay, who should go?

At the beginning of the Sixers season, I thought the best case scenario was that both Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner took significant steps forward and that the team could take advantage of the compressed season / short training camp and fight for the 3rd seed in the big group in the East behind the Heat and Bulls. Worst case was, well, getting the 7th-9th seed again, where NBA teams go to die.

For a while there, it looked like the best-case scenario might come true as the team got out to a 20-9 start… only to follow it up with a 15-22 finish. I’m not going to lie, at the end of the season, I was hoping they wouldn’t even make the playoffs.

But they did, and one Derrick Rose knee ligament changed everything. The beat the Bulls, and then took the Celtics to 7 games. They showed their flaws (scoring, much?) and their assets (defense, athleticism, hustle). They gave the fans and ownership a glimpse of what the team would look like in a big series – something we would have only been able to imagine if not for poor Mr. Rose.

So where do we stand now? After a couple years of “figuring out what we have” – the Sixers are in a position to actually have some roster flexibility. The next two years will define whether or not the franchise will continuously be doomed to 7th-9th seed purgatory – or whether new ownership can pair some savvy basketball moves with their enthusiasm and bring back some genuine excitement.

So what will the next 24 months bring? Here’s where I think they should start (ages as of Oct 31, 2012), ranked in order of likelihood to return…

1. Jrue Holiday, 22

Quick 2012 wrap: His regular season was a disappointment, seemingly taking a step back from 2010. Everything (Pts, FG%, Ast, Reb, FT%) went down except his 3p%. He played in the playoffs (18.4 PER vs. 14.7 PER in regular season) – how we hoped he would play all year.

Contract: On his rookie deal signed through next year and will be a RFA after that.

Verdict: I often have to remind myself that Jrue is still young. He’s only 3 months older than John Wall. He’s 16 months younger than Lavoy Allen. This was only his second season as a starter and it came without a proper off-season. I’m not going to say I didn’t expect more from him in 2011-12, but he showed plenty of signs in the playoffs of the player I think he can be (all-star level, 2nd-3rd best player on a really good team). As to what he will be, let’s hope he took a step this May.

2. Thaddeus Young, 24

Quick 2012 wrap: Did little to improve in his first year of his new contract. Scored at lower rate with a lower shooting % and lower rebound rate. Still a solid sub, but continues to be somewhat one-dimensional.

Contract: Signed longer than any other player on team. To make $8 million next year, $8.6 in 2013-14, $9.2 in 2014-15 and has a player option for $9.7 in 2015-16.

Verdict: Doug Collins’ favorite player didn’t show me much this year. I still like him as a rotational player, but you get the sense he could be more. Was a big no-show in the playoffs due to injuries and match-up problems (7.7 pts, 5 rebs, 42.9% FG). He will probably stay in the same role next year. He’s still young enough to get better.

3. Nik Vucevic, 22

Quick 2012 wrap: I was not pleased with the draft pick at the time, and even though the guy I pleaded for (Kenneth Faried) was a 1st team all-rookie, I don’t hate the Vucevic pick anymore. He showed a nice offensive game, and played hard on defense and the boards, leading the team Reb/36 minutes.

Contract: Rookie deal runs through 2015-16, when he become a RFA.

Verdict: Vucevic vanished down the stretch as Collins obviously decided he wasn’t ready – but he showed plenty of signs he can be a better version of Spencer Hawes (take that for what it is) given the chance.

4. Evan Turner, 24

Quick 2012 wrap: The toughest player to read for me this year. His 10 best games this year: 21.2 pts, 9.4 reb, 3.9 ast, 57.8 FG%. His other 55: 7.2 pts, 5.1 reb, 2.6 ast, 39.9 FG%. He improved slightly across the board, but lacked consistency and still needs to improve a jumper I’m not sure will improve.

Contract: Two more years on his rookie deal, then RFA in 2014-15.

Verdict: Let me put it this way – I personally have a lot more confidence that Jrue will become great than I do Turner. If he was a hair more athletic or a slightly more consistent shooter I’d feel differently. Still, he’s shown enough potential that you have to give him another year but I wouldn’t put me on “Team Evan” at the moment.

5. Lavoy Allen, 24

Quick 2012 wrap: A draft pick that looked like a favor to a local kid more than anything else, he played well at times in the regular season, but broke out in the playoffs with excellent defense, energy and a reliable jumper.

Contract: Unfortunately, the Sixers must have not thought Allen would be a player of note (let’s face it, we pretty much all felt that way), and signed him to 2nd round contract that deems him a RFA this year.

Verdict: Allen’s breakout was a highlight of the playoffs, but I would caution the Sixers against overreacting. We are talking a small sample size and someone who in the end only averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds per game in the playoffs. I am 100% behind bringing him back and giving him big time minutes to see what he’s got – but think he’s far from a sure thing at this point.

I’d say the 5 above are pretty much 80%+ to return next year. There is a pretty big drop to this 2nd group, which starts around 50%. 

6. Elton Brand, 33

Quick 2012 wrap: Had his moments, but looks cooked. Surprisingly, his rebounding rate and block rate were up over the previous year.

Contract: One more year at $18.2 million.

Verdict: Lots of people are yelling to use the amnesty clause on Elton. But I would make sure to ask: for what? To give Kris Humphries $10 million a year? I certainly hope not. Looking at this weak FA class, the Sixers might do better to hang onto Brand and try to trade his contract during the season and wait for the much better 2013-14 FA class. Unless there is a trade that requires we take on some money, I say keep Brand, and limit his minutes even more than before and see if he can be effective in spurts.

7. Andre Iguodala, 28

Quick 2012 wrap: Continued to have less of an impact in the scoring column, but was an all-league defender (despite what the voting may have said) and provided one of the biggest surprises of the year in becoming an excellent 3P shooter (39.4%).

Contract: Set to make $14.7 million next year, and has a $15.9 million player option for 2013-14.

Verdict: I like more about Iguodala than I don’t. People think he needs to score more to justify his contract, but don’t understand that allowing an opposing player to score 10 points less is the same as averaging 10 points more. His contested fade-away jumpers are the 2nd most frustrating thing to watch on the floor for this team. But his transition game, defense, and passing ability make him a valuable player. However,  I’d be open to trading him to fill a need on the scoring end or get a promising, young, cheap player. I feel like in order to see what we really have in Evan Turner, we need to let Dre go. But at his age, and with his talent, I wouldn’t mess around with Monta Ellis-level garbage in return. Will try to brain-storm trade options as I write.

8. Jodie Meeks, 25

Quick 2012 wrap: Not as good as 2011. Points down and his 3p% dropped from 39.7% to 36.5%. Might not seem like much, but when you are up near 40% – that’s a legit NBA skill. When you drop to 36%, you are in a big pack and Meeks doesn’t do enough else.

Contract: A free-agent

Verdict: I’d be OK with bringing him back on a short-term, small deal. I like 3-pt shooters, and wouldn’t mind keeping him on the bench. Haven’t heard much on him.

9. Lou Williams, 26

Quick 2012 wrap: Led the team in scoring coming off the bench and also improved on his 3P% with a career high 36.2%. Is maddening down the stretch as he predictably heaves contested shots in the final minutes of quarters (The most frustrating thing for me to watch on this team). Can’t play defense worth a lick. Very streaky offensive player, but can get to the line better than any Sixers’ player.

Contract: Player option for $6.4 million.

Verdict: I’m personally ready to see Lou walk. Among players with 1,500 shots over the last 2 seasons, he has the 3rd worst FG% at 40.6%. He doesn’t play defense and while he carries us on offense from time-to-time, it’s not consistent enough to see him stick around. I’d rather his shots go to Jrue and ET. Hopefully he opts out and gets a deal from another team.

10. Spencer Hawes, 24

Quick 2012 wrap: Was pretty darn good to start the year, then not-so-darn good later on, then pretty bad in the playoffs. His first 6 games of the year he put up 13.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.1 blocks per game while shooting 65% from the field. The 23-year-old looked on his way to a breakout year. Then, a couple injuries and fall back to earth later, he averaged 9.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 blocks on 43.2% shooting in his last 18 games and was basically replaced by Lavoy Allen in the Boston series.

Contract: A free-agent

Verdict: We have someone who can duplicate his offensive skill in Nik Vucevic, and desperately need a defensive presence in the middle. Let him walk.

Kiss ‘em Goodbye: Tony Battie, Andres Nocioni, Craig Brackins, Sam Young

So – if I’m the GM, here is what I am doing this off-season…

1. Evaluate the trade value of every single player on the roster
2. Call Orlando and see what Dwight Howard would cost (Dre, Turner, Thad, #1?) – then realize he’s kind of a baby and you don’t want him anyway
3. See if Eric Gordon has any chance of leaving New Orleans.
4. Look to trade Dre for one of the following players: Rudy Gay, Paul Milsap, Pau Gasol, James Harden
5. Let Lou and Spencer walk
6. Target a scorer or a defensive inside presence at #15
7. Send Evan Turner back to Herb Magee
8. Don’t spend a ton on free agents that aren’t EG
9. Study what exactly San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston do in evaluating players

It’s tough to say what exactly the Sixers should do, but the jist of it for me is keep the top 5 on the list of players above and work your tail off trying to turn the rest into something that could give this team a big step forward. And if you can’t? Don’t force anything and try again next year when Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Paul Milsap, Al Jefferson, Dwight Howard, James Harden, Andrew Bynum, Ty Lawson and Taj Gibson are all potentially out there.

The Sixers have our attention. They have a chance to win the city back. Let’s see what they do with it.

 

 

 


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Comments

  1. joof says:

    Great post Pete. I tried to listen to wip when they went over who the sixers nucleus is. The announcer decided the 76ers have no nucleus but parts. I was about to call and say thats precisely why they should keep the parts and wait for the nucleus. They are one draft pick away from being a NBA finals contender ( Think AI2 deluxe version). I do not feel comfortable changing teams around and signing random free agents for big money. I tend to think the default approach of a team should be homegrown….draft picks plus long tenured players. I realize being in the no mans land (borderline playoff lottery team) is not a good place…but the 76ers have a young nucleus minus one piece. AI is a Pippen like player……Holiday and turner may be that third wheel, and they have the 6th man and 7th man, marginal starters, role players, etc
    I am using an eye test, for the most part. I havent watched a game in years…but have followed them casually here and there. The playoffs are not a full indicator, but surely they showed a lot.
     
    Here are a few impressions.
    1) Collins is a great coach….I didnt know how overbearing he is, but hes awesome. He reminds me of L Brown.
    2) Brand played ok…….glad he is starting still.
    3) AI played better…although that thing he does when he makes a shot is still annoying
    4) hawes played pretty well….I dont know why ppl say he played so bad…one game I swear he scored 20 and ppl complained about his game.
    5) Turner played well…..I didnt know he was able to drive and create offense. I wonder what would happen if the 2010 draft was redone, where he would go. Wall doesnt seem to be doing to well…and cousins seems to be struggling, also.
    6) Holiday played well, also. I liked watching him. I thoiught he could be a borderline all star pg..not sure hes at that level but hes doing well.
    7) Young seems like hes good at coming in as a pf against sf’s….Im not sure how he fits in
    8) I wanted to see Vukovic. Ive never seen him play.
    9) Allen played so well. I barely heard about him when he was Temple. He always seemed so content to just score 20 pts a game by taking jumpshots…..he turned into a defender.
    10) I dont know much about meeks….maybe he could just come in for 1 or 2 shots…and if he makes them keep him in if not hes done for the game ha
    11) Williams was a very good changeup….it was almost like whenever they stalled he could come in and get the offense going.
     
    Moving forward…..
    13) I dont see why they would pay brand 18 million to walk away. He could be a decent 1/2 time starter and add depth along with experience. Plus, they could actually try to trade for 15 million back in salaries and maybe get a prospect and a 2nd round pick ((using the 15% trade rule?)
    14) Id like to see AI stay, unless they get a good deal. Hes playing into his role….
    15) Id like to see them try to find a PF/C in the draft that can push them over the top (I know its a long shot).
    16) Id like them to grab a 3pt shooter and maybe another big man in the 2nd round. They dont need any more tweener players from point to SF.
    17) If the draft plan/homegrown plan doesnt work they can try again next year, and have cap flexibilty after next year and the following year.
    18) I have no idea who the point guard is. It seems like they have 4 options…including Williams
     
    But once again….great post pete…..
     
    I just watched the celtics lose ‘(      There were some crazy calls/no calls…..wade kicking a player on the drive….etc

  2. pg says:

    joof, that is an interesting point about identifying a nucleus or lack there of, and I think I agree with you and WIP.  I was listening to Mike Lombardi on the BS Report and he was critical of Collins for being a game-to-game coach, albeit a good one, but not a good coach for a strong vision of the future.  He is not an NBA guy sure, but it did give me pause.  He cited Vukevic’s lack of pt in the playoffs and late in the season.  Had he played him more earlier with some crunch-time minutes, then he could have used him in the playoffs.  It was worth thinking about, but I am not sure there is an identifiable nucleus that would leave me to know what Collins’ vision should be for the future.  I agree with both you and Pete that there should not be an overreaction this year based on what is on what the market looks like.  This nebulous 7-9 seeding is frustrating, but Collins and this team did their part to pique everyone’s interest.  Let’s hope they can keep putting one foot in front of the other.

    • joof says:

      Hey PG…..interesting conversation….
       
      On wip, the announcer actually thought the team should be broken up bc it did not have a nucleus. He thought they should take steps back until they landed a centerpiece, and then build up. That makes sense….I just think the team has to many pieces…it’s not a downtrodden team that needs to try to be the odds on favorite to win the lottery.
       
      For your Vukovic comment….I didnt see him play during the yr. Despite that, Im not sure he can be used to generalize collins ability to develop players. He did a good job w Allen, and Young played better, from what I can tell. Maybe Collins cant develop new players, sorta like L Brown was good at getting a certain response ie defense and quality possessions…and he got more out of AI 1 in 2001

  3. Chris McC. says:

    It’s not the greatest class of free agents, especially on the frontcourt, but I don’t see why the organization should run this team out on the floor for another season. Even my mother knows this roster isn’t getting anywhere. I think making some changes is what exploits this increase in fan interest. Show us you’re willing to swallow the Elton Brand contract in order to gain flexibility. Show us you’re able to put together a really savvy deal for Iguodala (still working on what that might be).

    Speaking of Eric Gordon, I wonder how landing the #1 pick will affect New Orleans’s attitude towards matching any offer sheet for EG. It could push them towards or away from giving him max money. He’d be a huge get for this team.

  4. mark says:

    This team needs bigs. Lavoy showed up in the playoffs but I don’t think he’ll ever be a good starter. My strategy for this team would be to try and trade AI9 to a team like the blazers and get one of their picks and then use that pick on a player like Thomas Robinson, or either of the Joneses (Terrence/Perry). Or stay put at 15 and take a guy like Arnett Moultrie, John Henson, Fab Melo or Andrew Nicholson. 

    I love the thought of bringing Harden in as well. A lineup featuring Jrue, Harden and Turner along with a good young big who can play in the paint, would be a GREAT way to turn this franchise into a legit contender 
     
    Ideally for me the starting 5 for the 2013 season (2 seasons from now) would be: 
    PG- Jrue Holiday
    SG- James Harden (acquired via trade)
    SF- Evan Turner
    PF- Arnett Moultrie
    C- Andrew Bynum (acquired via FA)

    • joof says:

      Hey Marc..Id love to conversate with you, but I dont know a lot about the non sixers players you mentioned. can you tell me about the players at 15…or the players you mentioned in apossible trade w the blazers.
       
      I do think they need PF/C’s also…..

  5. Chris McC. says:

    I don’t think OKC trades Harden for Iguodala. The Thunder would have to throw in a handful of guys to make the money work. OKC has one of the best, deepest rotations in the NBA. It’s one of the things that’s gotten them to the Western Finals. The other is maintaing young talent and roster flexibility – trading James Harden is anathema to the philosophy.

    Iguodala would play almost the same exact role in OKC that Harden currently does (with a bit more emphasis on defense and a little less on scoring). Harden is 22 and is owed $17M over the next three years. Iguodala is 28 and is owed $44M over the next three years.

    I would be positively stunned if they made that deal. Makes no sense for the Thunder.

    That said, I would shit my britches with joy if Rod Thorn found a way to turn Iguodala into Harden (and Aldrich and Sefolosha for $$ reasons). I’d name my first three children Rod – son, daughter or otherwise.

    • Chris McC. says:

      Iguodala would be a much better fit for the Lakers. Gives Kobe a guy who can defende the other team’s best wing player every night.

  6. joof says:

    The 76ers have sure turned into an interesting team.
     
    With the Phils losing their identity, and the eagles being very predictable (and not in a fun way), the 76ers and flyers provided some great playoff games.
     
    Im going to look at all of the players drafted from 14-16 in the 5-10 years. Im curious what kinda players came from those spots.
     
    Does anyone feel that the 76ers are one great draft pick away from being an NBA finals contender? By great draft pick, I mean a pf or C with caliber that equal or greater to AI2.

    • Ken Bland says:

      With the Phils losing their identity>>

      Yo, Hoss.  Slooooow down. 

      • joof says:

        I think they have KB. They went from a team of big hitters with clear spots in the lineup to a team that doesnt have big or small hitters and no clear spot in the lineup.
        At this point..it looks like rollins should be in the later part of the lineup and some would say ruiz moved up (Im not a fan of playing catchers up in the lineup). The order of Rollins and Ruiz were talked about a few years back, but it wasnt pressing. Now it’s more pronounced.
         
        The 4 aces idea was great….but now its one ace.
         
        The pitching may improve (esp starting), but the batting may be in remission for at least this year.

  7. Jd says:

    There is 0 chance OKC trades Harden for Iggy would love to see it but doubt it. Most likely trade would be Iggy to Lakers (who want him) but it would be some sort of three team deal where Gasol went let’s say back to Memphis and Sixers ended up with Zach Randolph who could be helpful but the thought doesn’t really have me excited.i

  8. Chris McC. says:

    Anyone watching these playoffs still? Curious, which pick and roll do ya’ll prefer right now, Parker/Duncan or Rondo/KG?

    • joof says:

      I havent watched the spurs this yr….I find it hard to not pick duncan…….but rondo is playing like crazy and KG is hitting some long jump shots…..
       
      who would you pick????
       
      I think its pretty obvious the heat just dont have that it factor…..there body language just seems poor and their coach is defensive when interviewed. It seems like they arent even calling plays at times…just giving james or wade the ball and having them drive for a foul or shot

      • Chris McC. says:

        It’s really hard. if it were for the past decade obviously you go with San Antonio but I really like watching this C’s offense right now despite the thousand and one things the Spurs do so well. Almost as enjoyable as watching KG set a solid pick, Rondo diving into the lane and making shit happen is watching KG bail on those picks early. Almost every time it throws whichever two guys are on him and Rondo and frees KG up for a jumper or a drive. Been having so much fun watching them in this series.

  9. Chris McC. says:

    Dre to Raptors for the 8th pick?

    Not worth it just for the pick. Trying to decide how I would feel about Iguodala for the 8th pick and Amir Johnson…

    • Garvey says:

      Replace Amir Johnson with Ed Davis and we may be talking…

      • Chris McC. says:

        Yeah, I don’t know how I feel about that. I don’t know nearly enough about this upcoming draft class (aside from everyone else thinking it’s shit) to judge the value of a number 8 pick.

        Trading Dre for any player and a 1st rounder seems great as long as the player isn’t Charlie Villanueva. That’d be two first round picks but who do you target with them and is this really the draft you want two first round picks in? I don’t know. Will there be a true big man and/or a shooter available at 8 and/or 15? 

      • Chris McC. says:

        Would the 8th and 15th pick be worth anything to the Hornets in exchange for the 1st pick. Because I would trade Iguodala to Toronto for the 8th pick and t-shirt cannon if I could then flip our 15th pick and their 8th pick to the Hornets for the first pick. That’s turning Dre and the 15th pick in the draft into Anthony Davis.

        Or… I wonder what it takes for the Sixers to get that pick from the Hornets… Iguodala, Turner and the 15th pick for the 1st pick and the Ariza/Okafor contracts. Probably not.

        • joof says:

          I dont think that pick is up for grabs like that. If the 76ers had the number one pick, could you picture them trading it for the number 8th and 15th overall pick?    or the 15th overall and an overpaid borderline all star???
           

        • Chris McC. says:

          Well, of course you’re right. If this Sixers franchise traded the chance to draft Anthony Davis my eyelids would flip themselves inside out.

          BUT… The Hornets already have the 10th pick; if they found a way to flip that first pick into the 8th and 15th picks (or 15th and Dre/Turner) and dumped the Ariza and Okafor contracts in the process I would be blown away. A smart front office could do a lot with Gordan, Aminu and three first round picks – no matter how weak the class is perceived to be. That said, what would be required to pull this sort of thing off is probably impossible.

          • Pete says:

            Yeah – there is no way the Hornets let go of the #1 pick. 

            The trade I saw out there (forget where, maybe NBC sports) was Dre for #8, Ed Davis and Jose Calderon’s expiring deal.

            I would probably do that because it gives us two more young guys, and opens us up to have MAJOR cap room in 2013.
             

          • Chris McC. says:

            Yeah, that’s not a bad deal for the Sixers but I don’t see how it gets Toronto any closer a division title to trade away a first round pick and a promising talent like Ed Davis. They would be paying an obscene amount of money for 40 wins.

            $15M for Iguodala
            $10M for Andrea Bargnani
            $6M for Amir Johnson
            $4.6M for Linas Kleiza (no, that’s not a typo)
            $4M for Jerryd Bayless

            That’s almost $40M. Forty Million Dollars for five guys. For THOSE five guys.

            Sixers would then look like this:

            $10M for Calderon
            $8M for Thad
            $5M for ET
            $2.6M for Jrue
            $1M for Lavoy (that’s according to his Qualifying Offer on HoopsHype)
            $2M for Ed Davis (locked up through 2015)

            Still only at $29M if you assume EB is amnestied – which he may not be if this deal were to happen. He’d get about 20 minutes a night with Thad, Davis and Lavoy there to pick up the lion’s share of the front court minutes. Add a decent shooter to help against the zone and another rotation big man to play D (REGGIE!) and that’s really not a half bad roster. Not at all. Not even a little bit. This idea is growing on me. A lot.

  10. Chris McC. says:

    Already beginning the search for Rod Thorn’s replacement.

    Please, oh please, hire somebody from the Spurs. 

  11. Garvey says:

    Kwame Brown ’nuff said.

  12. Thanks for the article and hope to read from you again. Interesting, clear and precise. Very valuable information Pete.