By FRANK WARD
Three summers ago, Sixers owner Ed Snider was enthralled with Hawks big man free agent Josh Smith. The team’s chairman, however, let his basketball people make the call to sign Elton Brand to a free agent deal instead of getting into a potential sign-and-trade scenario with Atlanta.
At the time, Smith was a young, up-and-coming big man, while Brand was an established all-star coming off of an injury-plagued season. Philly was thrilled that their team had made a free agent splash to improve their front court.
Two years later, Sixers fans trashed the front office for the Brand signing. Now, Brand is playing well, dropping 18 points and collecting eight rebounds a night in the early going. If he can keep this production up, maybe the Sixers can move his contract to a contender later.
For now, though, the team could make a run at Smith, who is rumored to be on the block. Sure, the Hawks have denied that speculation this week, but what are they going to say?
Smith is averaging 14 and nine in the early going this season. Still, he is young and crazy athletic.
The Sixers, meanwhile, don’t seem to be going anywhere and need to rebuild completely. This isn’t a minor tweak here and there. Even Doug Collins has said, “There is a lot more work to be done here than I anticipated.”
Translation: This team isn’t close to contending for a legit playoff run.
The biggest problem is the fact that the Sixers have too many similar players. Andre Iguodala, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner are all tweeners. Turner is a scorer, but not a shooter. He can’t start for Collins for that very reason. He’s a better distributor, but the Sixers have a guy like that named Jrue Holiday.
Young can ball when given the chance. But, with Iggy and Brand around, he won’t start. Iguodala, meanwhile has major value in the NBA. Teams love his defensive ability and he helped himself with his Team USA performance this summer.
Iguodala is still just 25 (26 in January). He has the best value in a trade, but maybe you can still build around him. That’s a decision Rod Thorn, Ed Stefanski and Doug Collins are going to have to make between now and the trade deadline.
The bottom line is the Sixers need to move one or two of these tweeners for guys with legit NBA positions. And, maybe, Smith could be the guy you bring in to help rebuild the franchise.