Since that gut wrenching day in 2006 when the Philadelphia 76ers decided to pull the trigger on a deal that sent perennial All-Star guard and Philadelphia icon Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets, this franchise has been searching for his replacement.
Originally, the Sixers planned that high rising, athletic swingman Andre Iguodala would become the face of the franchise and carry the torch. Unfortunately, that plan has faltered for multiple reasons, and ultimately 76ers fans grew frustrated with first round playoff exits and uninspiring basketball and in turn stopped showing up at the Wells Fargo Center. Then after the debacle that was the 2009-10 season, the 76ers fell into a sports blackhole in this town and became irrelevant.
Now, the forgotten franchise in the City of Brotherly Love has a an opportunity to resurrect its dying image and bring enthusiasm back to its fan base by trading for Carmelo Anthony. Acquring Carmelo Anthony is a franchise saving opportunity and Philadunkia’s home team must do everything in their power to seal the deal and if that means that second overall pick Evan Turner must be sent to Denver along with Andre Iguodala, then so be it.
Anthony, 26, is exactly the superstar player that the Sixers have been missing since Iverson departed. In Philadelphia, the Phillies have a plethora of stars. Thus the Phils win and pretty much own this town currently. The Eagles too have numerous stars on their roster and the Birds, well they dominate the headlines and the airwaves. Even the Flyers feature enough stars to keep the pucks in this town relevant and that was before the orange and black became the darlings of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. On the national level, the teams that win and get television appearances in the NBA boast rosters with star power. We don’t need to name those squads, you know who we are talking about. But the Sixers? Well they have no stars and they get no love — locally or nationally. Bringing in Melo instantly solves that problem and makes the Sixers a relevant team not only in the NBA but more importantly on the Philly sports scene again.
Still, Anthony is so much more then a bona-fide star who can put people in the seats, garner headlines and sell jerseys.
The Sixers have always been an solid defensive squad, but have had trouble putting the ball in the hoop consistently. They lack a true scorer and true finisher. That is exactly the player Melo is and can be for head coach Doug Collins. Since coming out of Syracuse season seven years ago, Anthony has been near the top of the League in scoring the basketball. During his first seven seasons with the Nuggets, he has averaged 24.7 points per game while adding 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists to his gaudy point totals. But it is not just the 25 points per game that Melo throws up which would drastically help the Sixers. All the attention and double teams that Melo would command from opponents would benefit the Sixers greatly. Melo’s presence would open the floor up and make life easier for Holiday, Turner, Young, Louis and others. These nice looks and easy baskets would obviously help the Sixers offense and lead to more wins, but it would also speed up the maturation process of these young Sixers.
Obviously Anthony’s offensive skill set makes him a top flight NBA player, but his defense while not stellar, is another aspect the Sixers should be interested in. During his young but illustrious career, he has averaged 1.2 steals per game. That’s better then Elton Brand’s career average of 0.9 spg. and he’s the leading theft artist among Sixers bigs on the current roster. Additionally, Melo is an athletic 6-foot-8 and 230 pound player, so he has the size as well as the quickness to guard the athletic power forwards around the League who simply ripped the Sixers interior defense last season.
At the end of the day, the biggest reason the Sixers should make the deal is that the addition of Anthony makes the Sixers an instant contender in the East. Taking the powerhouse Miami Heat out of the equation, the Sixers have one of the best collections of young talent in the East : Turner (hopefully), Young, Marreese Speights, Spencer Hawes, Louis Williams and Jrue Holiday.
Moreover, take a glance at the overall landscape of the Eastern Conference. The Boston Celtics added some nice pieces this summer, but at their core they are an aging team near the end of their reign. The Atlanta Hawks may not be able to afford some of their younger talent after the contract Joe Johnson received this offseason, so their run could be coming to a close. Lastly, the Orlando Magic are in salary cap trouble and do not have the tradable contracts or money to upgrade their roster.
What does this all mean for the Sixers if they can manage to acquire Melo? This upcoming season the home team could vault from a possible fringe playoff squad all the way to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. If the younger kids develop around Melo as they are projected to do, then in a year or two, the forgotten Philly sports franchise could be fighting for the second seed and taking on the dream team known as the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Without a doubt, Anthony is not in the same league as Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Kobe Braynt or even Kevin Durant, but he is a perennial top-10 player in the NBA and bonafide star which is exactly what the Sixers need right now. If Rod Thorn and Ed Stefanski can convince Anthony to sign an extension and play in the City of Brotherly Love then the Sixers should make this deal immediately and thus get started on their basketball renaissance.
Without Anthony, the Sixers are forced to hope that either Turner and / or Holiday develop into a superstar that can fill the void left by Iverson’s departure nearly five years ago. As we all know, that kind of hoping and dreaming is what caused the free fall that has rendered the 76ers irrelevant on the current Philadelphia sports landscape.