The Sixers currently sit a player short of a full roster. This will be a very tricky spot for the triumvirate of Thorn / Stefanski / Collins to fill. It’s tricky because the Sixers need a very specific kind of player. It’s very tricky because the free agent cupboard – and the Sixers’ war chest – is nearly bare.
An old Chinese proverb says, “A problem well defined is a problem half solved.” Because we always listen to old Chinese proverbs, let’s define the problem before we jump to the solution. Here’s where the Sixers stand as I type this (Just a paragraph ago they were sitting and now they’re standing. That’s progress. I credit Doug Collins.)
2009-10 Production of the Sixers’ Current Roster
*All numbers courtesy of Wins Produced Numbers From Andres Alvarez
Two things jump out here: One, the Sixers are going to struggle this year to meet even the low expectations set for them. Two, the reason for this is the frontcourt.
The roster Ed Stefanski has assembled for this coming campaign produced 17 wins last season. While I would be uncomfortable using this alone as a projection for 2010-11 – Jrue Holliday’s progression, Evan Turner’s production, and minute allocation issues all need to be accounted for and would add a few victories to the total — I don’t think it’s too far off the mark either. ESPN’s fearless forecasters have the Sixers winning 31 games. For the sake of this post let’s split the difference and call the 2010-11 Sixers a 24-win team.
On to the frontcourt. I think a good argument could be made that this is not only the worst frontcourt in the NBA, but the single worst component of any team in the League. We don’t have time for such lofty arguing though. Not today. We do however have time to take a closer look at this unit. (Warning: Not for the faint of heart)
2009-10 Production of Every Guy who could Potentially Log Frontcourt Minutes for the Sixers
The best post player the Sixers currently employ (Elton Brand) was 16 percent as productive as an average power-forward this past season*. The second most productive player was the third-worst player on a 25 win team. Is there any reason for hope? Hawes, Speights, Smith, and Young are all young and considered comers and they — ugh, I can’t do this. This is a terrible unit. Remember the defense of the ‘85 Bears? The greatest unit on a historically great team. This is the opposite of that.
(*Now might be a worthwhile time to quickly review WP48. Short story: It’s a performance metric that takes box score statistics and explains how many wins they equate to. Slightly longer story: An average team produces .5 wins per 48 minutes, and has five players on the court at a time. So the average player produces .1 wins per 48 minutes, or has a WP48 of .1. A player with a WP48 of .11 is above average, a player with a WP48 of .09 is below average. And so on.)
So, after taking an honest appraisal of where the Sixers stand, it’s clear this team is not even in the vicinity of contention. The goal then should be this: develop young talent, lose enough games to get decent lottery position, hope lightening strikes twice in the form of a second straight top three pick, use a few of the bucks that come off payroll at the end of the season to make a modest move, and enter 2010-11 with a core of Holliday, Turner, Iguodala, 2011 high lottery-pick, and (hopefully) 2011 semi-splashy free agent acquisition.
If we’re going to add a guy, the team we’re looking to fortify is the above best-case scenario team; The Sixers of 2011-12 and beyond. That means we want a productive guy who, in order of preferability, is either likely to improve over the next few seasons or maintain his present level of production. So he’s got to be young. Let’s say 25 and under. He should also play PF/C, for obvious reasons.
How many guys on the market fit this narrow profile?
One. Josh Boone.
Now the 76ers signing Boone seems highly unlikely likely given that Rod Thorn his former boss in NJ is the new president of the Philadunkia’s home team. Even though he drafted the guy, if Thorn were all that crazy about Boobe, he would have offered him a fresh deal with the Nets once it became clear that “The Decision” wouldn’t be bringing Lebron to New Jersey / Brooklyn. Still, I like Boone a lot as addition to the 2010-11 Sixers roster, so here’s a closer look at Boone as a player.
Josh Boone at a Glance
How do we like Boone, let me count the ways.
1.) He’s young (25) and has been used only sparingly. Given his production when he has gotten on the court, I think we can chalk his lack of minutes up to the Net’s incompetent coaching rather than any fault of his own. There’s a lot of tread on this kid’s tires.
2.) His production has been pretty excellent. He’s 40 percent over League average over the course of his career. Why? He’s an efficient scorer. He also rebounds well, blocks shots and steals the ball averagely, and avoids fouls and turnovers. He immediately becomes the Sixers’ best big.
3.) The worst place to be in the NBA is in the middle; 35-45 win 7-10 seed purgatory. We don’t want to go back there. You need stars to win in this league (always) and you get stars in the high lottery (usually). When you’re bad, the only way out is to get worse. What’s this have to do with Boone? The Sixers have no use for a guy who will knock them from lousy to mediocre. Fortunately Boone’s not that guy. Let’s say he gets his 1500 minutes and produces his 5 wins and does so by taking minutes evenly from each of the current PF/C’s on the roster. That moves us from 24 wins to 29. 29 wins still gets you a lot of ping-pong balls.
Will Boone be a useful addition to the team? Yes. Is Boone a panacea? No. (Did I have to look up panacea to make sure I was using it correctly? Yes.) But at this point in the offseason there are no perfect fits out there. You have to take what you can get. To quote whatever politician is on TV arguing in favor of a deeply flawed bill, “let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”