It was a busy—but not exciting—offseason for the Philadelphia 76ers, who pulled off a series of puzzling moves that started with the signing of Kwame Brown and ended with the non-trade of Andre Iguodala.
The issue of whether they went in the right direction is controversial, but one thing is clear: This front office is poised for another playoff run in 2012-13, whether the roster is capable of it or not.
Some—including me—believe that the team should develop its abundance of young talent this season, seeing as the Eastern Conference’s strength only grew with the Heat adding Ray Allen, the Celtics replacing him with Jason Terry and the Nets assembling one of the best starting fives in the league.
With Doug Collins seeming to run the show from behind closed doors and GM Rod Thorn taking a back seat, it seemed the team’s philosophy changed from one of player development to creating a veteran-laden roster.
Here are grades for each of the team’s offseason moves (and one non-move):
Extending Lavoy Allen: B+
When you isolate the signing, it seems the Philadelphia 76ers did a great job of not over-paying for a young forward with some defensive potential.
With players like Allen, who had a nice postseason after a quiet regular season, it is easy to overcommit and lock yourself in with the wrong player for too long and for too much money. In this regard, GM Rod Thorn and Head Coach Doug Collins did well.
On the other hand, this move makes no sense when you look at the team’s later moves, which include re-signing Spencer Hawes and adding Kwame Brown. With Allen, this team now has six players who can play power forward or center.
Even if you aren’t in favor of a youth movement, one thing is clear: having too many big men on the roster will hurt the development of Allen, Arnett Moultrie and Nikola Vucevic. I like the signing, but not as much if it means fewer minutes for Moultrie and Vucevic.
Re-Signing Spencer Hawes to Two-Year Deal: B
I know injuries hurt Spencer Hawes and I know he’s only 24, but I still find it hard to be in love with this signing.
I wouldn’t have minded if Hawes started at center with Vucevic getting sixth man-esque minutes—20 to 25—but with Brown on the roster and Hawes apparently moving to power forward, the logjam only continues.
If Hawes is able to prove his worth on offense like he did early in the season, toughen up and increase his defensive efficiency, I wouldn’t be angry if the Sixers decided to part ways with Vucevic next season and make Hawes their starting center of the future.
What they shouldn’t do, however, is groom Hawes at the expense of first-round pick Arnett Moultrie, who has the potential to be one of the better power forwards in the league.
A 4-5 pairing of Moultrie and Hawes would be nice if they both play up to their potential, but how good this signing is will be determined by how Hawes plays in 2012-13.
Letting Go of Lou Williams: A
I know “Sweet Lou” has always been a fan favorite here in Philadelphia, but after last season’s postseason, it became clear that his exciting tenure with the Sixers should come to an end.
Thorn and the front office made the right decision by parting ways with Williams, a combo-guard who just doesn’t fit the team’s mold.
He is a scorer with little regard for “selflessness” on the offensive end, which has worked well in certain cases but won’t anymore with more players who can make things happen with the ball in their hands—Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala.
Williams is a volume player, and last season it took him nearly 12 field-goal attempts per game to score 14.9 points. He also only dished out 3.5 assists per game, a number that should be higher from a point guard who gets starters’ minutes.
Don’t get me wrong: Lou will be a great asset in Atlanta. He simply wasn’t the right fit in the City of Brotherly Love.
Using Amnesty Clause on Elton Brand: C
As I said nearly three weeks ago when the move was announced, using the amnesty clause on an expiring contract as large as Brand’s would only be smart if the team used its money wisely.
That would consist of waiting until 2013, when the free-agency pool deepens and players like Chris Paul, Monta Ellis, James Harden, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum hit the open market.
Instead, they used the money on Kwame Brown, Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Royal Ivey. Not exactly household names, to say the least.
The Sixers had two relatively good options coming into the offseason. One was to let go of veteran free agents and build the team from the ground up, giving playing time to young players like Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday in order to build a contender by next season.
The second would’ve been the option I mentioned above, which involved using the extra money they saved to sign one or two impact free agents and build a contender that way.
They chose “none of the above,” which involved signing low- to mid-level free agents who will only stunt the growth of younger players.
I’d rather have Elton Brand, a tough defender with a beautiful expiring contract, than all four of those other guys combined.
Signing Nick Young to One-Year Contract: A-
This is one of the only moves I’ll begin to advocate for, seeing as the Sixers’ biggest need was a pure scorer and Nick Young is exactly that.
And by “pure,” I mean that he can’t really do much else.
That said, Young has been one of the league’s better scorers since he started getting more playing time in Washington.
He can shoot the ball somewhat consistently and is pretty good at getting the ball to the basket, which will make him a great addition to a Sixers team that lacks depth with the departure of Lou Williams.
The team also gave him a one-year contract, which means he’ll have to prove himself or he’ll be out.
Unless Young’s attitude poisons the entire team—which is unlikely with Doug Collins at the helm—this move has the potential to be the steal of free agency.
Trading for Dorell Wright: B-
On one hand, this move was brilliant. The Sixers got a swingman who only two years ago averaged 16-plus points per game for Golden State, leading the league in three-pointers made while he was at it. In return, all they had to give up was Edin Bavcic, a Bosnian player who’s never set foot on an NBA court.
On the other hand, they just traded for another small forward, which makes five of them on the roster. Wright will severely cut into whatever playing time Moe Harkless would’ve received, meaning that the Sixers will now be giving their No. 15 pick little to no minutes.
This move was one of the more puzzling ones. The Sixers didn’t need another small forward, especially one who took a huge step back in 2011-2012 and can’t play much defense.
Now, given that they’re also keeping Iguodala, it becomes clear that the Sixers plan on either racking up the DNPs for Harkless or sending him to the D-League, neither of which are ideal.
Unless Wright can regain his form from two years ago, this move will only hurt the Sixers’ development over the next 82 games.
Adding Kwame Brown: C
This move isn’t just puzzling, it’s perplexing. And the fact that Kwame Brown is the one of the league’s larger scapegoats only exacerbates that feeling.
It’s hard to understand this move from both a basketball and financial standpoint.
In terms of the roster, Brown simply doesn’t fit what the Sixers need at the center position. He isn’t a good rim protector, he can’t handle the ball well in the post and he doesn’t have a good mid-range game.
Instead of starting him at center, the best solution would have been to start Hawes at center and give Arnett Moultrie more minutes, which will help develop the starting core that is in place for 2013-14.
Financially, the Sixers freed up Elton Brand’s $18 million only to use one-sixth of it on Brown. That $3 million they’re paying him could have gone to a big-name free agent next year, when the contracts of Young and Wright expire.
As I mentioned on the Brand slide, guys like Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum may be available.
Instead of adding them, they added Brown, a barely capable backup, for the purpose of starting and stunting the growth of the younger big men around him.
Parting Ways With Jodie Meeks: A+
Meeks isn’t necessarily a scrub, but as he showed in last season’s postseason, he just can’t fit the role of a player like Nick Young.
He’ll do better in a place where the starter is great (e.g. Los Angeles). If shooting the rock is his only “role,” Meeks will succeed and enhance the players around him. When he’s asked to do more than that, however, disasters like the Boston series tend to happen.
The Sixers were smart to let him go.
Signing Royal Ivey: A-
In a move that is of little consequence compared to others, the Sixers signed veteran PG Royal Ivey to a one-year, $1.23 million contract on July 17.
Ivey has never been an important member of any team he’s played for, rarely starting and never playing more than 20 minutes per game in a season.
Bringing in a mentor and serviceable backup for current starter Jrue Holiday was a given.
Seeing as though the contract will be up next season, it also shouldn’t hinder the signing of any other players in the future even if it does restrict the number of summer league standouts the team can keep on the active roster.
Not Trading Andre Iguodala This Offseason: D+
When you look at the entire Sixers offseason, no potential move was thrown out more often than the trade of All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala.
Potential names that appeared on the radar were Al Jefferson, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay. Jefferson was the most popular, seeing as he’d be the dominant center the Sixers haven’t had in the last decade.
Instead, the Sixers decided to keep Iguodala, who’ll be a free agent after next season, on the roster at least until the start of the regular season.
This means that Doug Collins, who has taken control of most of the personnel moves, believes that the team as currently constructed has the capability to make a deep playoff run.
That’s news to me.
The team surprised many last year by beating the Derrick Rose-less Bulls and then playing Boston nearly as hard as the NBA Champion Heat.
This year there will be no “element of surprise,” and the cavernous gap between the Sixers and the East’s top contenders—Boston, Chicago, Brooklyn and Miami—is too much to overcome with hard work and a fighting spirit alone.
Iguodala’s tenure should have come to an end like those of Jodie Meeks and Lou Williams, because the time has come for a one-year “development” phase.
Even though he is a great defender and overall solid asset, he’s just another player who will stunt the growth of first-round pick Maurice Harkless, who at the moment seems like the third man on the depth chart at small forward.
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