Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. That’s one way you could describe the Philadelphia 76ers’ season, but not even I was ready for this. That is, the absolutely meteoric fall from playoff contention over the last two months of the season and dropping 14 of 24 games.
Anybody who knows the game and watches the Sixers could’ve told you this was going to happen a long time ago (in fact, I did just that before the trading deadline).
First things first: this off-season, the Sixers have to unload superstar guard Allen Iverson. In the NBA, you often don’t get equal value when you trade superstars, but Philly can get an influx of youth and potential draft picks to compliment the young core of Andre Iguoudala, Kyle Korver and Samuel Dalembert.
Unfortunately, Philly has Billy King, a general manager so atrocious and prone to overpay and overvalue talent that he attends Isiah Thomas’ school for management and fiscal responsibility. The Sixers are still paying the salaries of Todd MacCulloch, Jamal Mashburn and Aaron McKie, which totals over $18 million for this season alone – more than Iverson’s 05-06 base salary.
If they unload Iverson, the Sixers would then have some flexibility in free agency. Despite the weakness of this class, there are some players that could help Philly, like Rasual Butler and Speedy Claxton, both of whom could bolster the weak Philadelphia bench.
Falling out of the playoffs means at least one good thing for Philly – a lottery pick in the draft. Despite the pick, the Sixers have two things going against them: their chance of grabbing the No. 1 spot is somewhere around 0.7 percent in a weak draft class.
Probability would pit them at No. 12. At that point, it’s likely Duke’s Sheldon Williams will fall to them. Williams, who will by no means will be an NBA all-star, is a banger who plays good defense and can block shots with the best of them. While he isn’t an offensive stud, his low post game has improved leaps and bounds over his senior year. Think of him as a Carlos Boozer type – before the injuries and without the asinine lawsuit against Prince.
The final thing the Sixers could do to become a better club is to surround head coach Mo Cheeks with a fiery and intense assistant coaching staff. The laid back Cheeks is a players’ coach – someone as suited for this leaderless team as Barry Bonds is for the home run.
Philly can’t fire Cheeks. The players like him, the city likes him and the organization needs some stability. With four coaches in four years, the Sixers are like the NBA’s coaching version of the girl who gets around. You don’t build a team around a coach. You hire a coach that fits well with your team – and the Sixers need a coaching staff fit for this squad.
While doing all of these things will by no means automatically make the Sixers a real contender (to be fair, nothing will), I believe this is the best plan to put a strong young squad on the floor with the highest ceiling for improvement. At the same time, they keep their options open with flexible salaries to make moves if need be.
Tragically though, this is Philadelphia, land of eternal sports suffering, so the sports gods aren’t exactly in the Sixers’ favor. If the Sixers don’t make these moves any time soon, they’re going to continue being a very average team for a very long time.