The 2012 offseason started out really well for Rod Thorn and the Philadelphia 76ers with the 2012 NBA Draft, where the team selected talented young forwards Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie in the first round to increase the overall talent on the team’s roster.
Since then, to the dismay of Sixers fans, things have become a train wreck. First the team re-signed Spencer Hawes, a center who doesn’t fit the traditional big man role that the Sixers lacked in last season’s playoff series against Boston. Then they went out and traded for Dorell Wright, who only increases the logjam at small forward. Finally, in one disappointing, swift move, they decided to amnesty Elton Brand and replace him with Kwame Brown, the most disappointing big man of the last decade.
All in a day’s work for this Sixers front office, which seems to be similar to the old regime even with a new CEO and owners.
To make matters worse, which seemed impossible, head coach Doug Collins plans on starting Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown in the front court, according to John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
When you couple that with the presence of the yet-to-be-traded Andre Iguodala, you have starters at the 3, 4, and 5 that will continue to stunt the growth of the Sixers’ young front court talent. It’s a tragedy that we’ve seen time and time again with the Sixers; the team makes a smart draft pick and grabs a player with lots of talent, but has him ride the pine for a couple of years which ruins his career completely.
I don’t want to see that happen with Harkless, Moultrie, or 2011 first-round pick Nikola Vucevic.
Of the team’s last four first-round picks—not including Harkless or Moultrie—three have failed for the most part. Last season Vucevic struggled, partly due to a lack of playing time and partly due to hitting a rookie wall thanks to injuries. He wasn’t given a chance to develop offensively and adjust to the NBA, which is why he is still labeled as “potential” instead of “production”.
2010 selection Evan Turner has faced an even tougher learning curve, one that hasn’t fully completely developed due to Collins’ refusal to play him in key situations. Sure, he isn’t a great jump shooter, but without Lou Williams he is the team’s best shot-creator and is a former No. 2 overall pick for what it’s worth. If Collins had given Turner more than 24.5 minutes per game in his first two years, he might be one of the better young guards in the league.
2008 first-round pick Marreese Speights faced many of the same problems. In his first 100 games or so, he was a vital piece of the team’s front court and increased playing time translated into relative success. Then an injury sidelined him for a nice chunk of the season, and when he came back his time was limited due to the increased role of veteran Elton Brand. When that limited playing time continued into the Doug Collins Era, Speights continued to struggle until it was clear his time in Philadelphia had come to an end.
Then there is Jrue Holiday, the only one who has succeeded in the NBA thus far. He may have taken a slight—and I emphasize slight—step backwards in 2011-2012, but that can be expected with young point guards in today’s NBA. Let’s look at his performance in 2010-2011, his sophomore season. His playing time saw a significant increase under Collins, and what was to follow? He averaged 14 points, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game, earning a spot on the Sophomore Team in the All-Star Rookie Challenge.
It might be coincidence, but intuition leads me to believe it isn’t.
If the Sixers want to develop what could be a promising, championship-caliber young core, two things need to happen. Kwame Brown and Spencer Hawes need to be backups and Andre Iguodala needs to be traded for future draft picks or an impact center, the latter of which could involve moving Vucevic. This year’s starting five should look like this: Jrue Holiday (1), Evan Turner (2), Moe Harkless (3), Arnett Moultrie (4), Nikola Vucevic (5).
It may not be convention to start rookies right away in the NBA, but then again, when has convention ever worked with this team? Start the young guys, endure one season of growing pains, and build a team that will do more than lose in the first round every season.
Follow Khandyman on Twitter to receive more updates and analysis about the 76ers and your other favorite Philadelphia teams.