For a team that was within minutes of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the Allen Iverson era, the last thing you’d likely expect is an overhaul. However, that is what the Sixers need and, luckily, the owners, Rod Thorn and Doug Collins know it.
As constructed, the Sixers are not one player away from truly being an elite NBA squad again. The fact is, the team needs to add at least two stars, including a superstar.
While many wanted to see this team delve into free agency and bring in a big name, or trade underappreciated Andre Iguodala for a stud shooter, that was not the way for the Sixers to go. At least, not this year. Beyond Deron Williams and maybe Roy Hibbert, what free agents were worth signing to long term deals?
Instead, the Sixers developed a smart long-term plan and they have executed it to perfection. Let’s recap their moves that became official today:
- Resigned center Spencer Hawes to a reported two-year, $13.2 million deal;
- Resigned big man Lavoy Allen to a two-year, $6 million deal;
- Signed free agent gaurd Nicky “Swaggy P” Young to a one-year, $6 million deal;
- Amnestied Elton Brand to clear roughly $18 million in cap space;
- Let guards Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks walk;
- Traded for small forward Dorell Wright, who has an expiring $4.1 million deal;
- Drafted small forward Maurice Harkless; and
- Traded a future first round pick for power forward Arnett Moultrie.
The Sixers blueprint for success hinges on next summer, not this one. With the Heat, Bulls and Celtics still strong and the Nets resigning Deron Williams and trading for Joe Johnson, there aren’t many moves to be made right now that will make this team a title contender.
The squad needs stars to put around Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and the other youngsters. These moves give the team flexibility next summer in a couple of different ways.
First, Nick Young and Wright come off the books, clearing roughly $10 million in cap space. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but every penny counts.
Second, you have three players (Hawes, Allen and Iguodala) who will have just a year left on their deals. They are chips to be used in a sign-and-trade deal to bring in a quality star free agent next year. That is roughly $25 million of contracts you can trade to a team looking to move someone for expiring deals. Plus, you can trade Turner and Holiday in the right deal. Even Harkless and Moultrie are trade chips moving forward.
Among the names on next year’s list of free agents are Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum and Josh Smith. Any of them would help this team regain the reputation as one of the league’s best franchises.
The plan has been executed this summer and more moves could be made, including the trading of Iguodala. Now, we wait for next summer.
Meanwhile, the Sixers haven’t really lost much from last year’s team with the exception of the 4 spot.
Young and Wright replace Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks. Young is a taller version of Williams, while Wright can take the 3-point specialist slot occupied by Meeks. Wright is a small forward, but he can spot up and drain threes. Two seasons ago he hit more than 37 percent of his attempts. Three years ago, he knocked down nearly 39 percent. This past year for the Sixers, only Holiday and Iguodala had higher percentages.
Scoring was an issue and the Sixers at least have options to help in that regard. And, they didn’t mortgage the future to get it. That is a far cry from the days of Kenny Thomas and Samuel Dalembert getting max deals.
Will the Sixers contend this year? Unlikely. Have they set themselves up to build a team capable of having a Phillies-like run? You can judge that.