With the NBA All-Star break around the corner and thus the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, we here at Philadunkia still stand as a blog divided on just what approach the 76ers should take for the remainder of 2010-11.
Should the Sixers hold a fire sale and look ahead to 2011-12 and beyond?
Should the Sixers be a “buyer” at the year’s trade deadline in effort to move up in the Eastern Conference standings and possibly entertain the idea of winning a 1st round playoff series?
Or should the 7-6 do nothing and see how this season plays out ?
After the jump, Philadunkia scribe Tom Sunnergren tackles this all important issue with his own unique twist.
Rod Thorn jolts awake from a deep sleep. He sweats profusely. It’s 4:30 pm.
Thorn: There’s still time.
(He picks up the phone. Sixers headquarters answers on the other end.)
Thorn: We’ve got a major problem. I need to put my best man on this. Get me Johnson.
Headquarters: …Sir, you fired Johnson.
Thorn: Then get me McCaferty.
Headquarters: There is no such person.
Thorn: (Pauses, looks portentously out window)
Thorn: Get me Sunnergren.
Thorn:(Yelling into phone) I said get me Sunnergren!
Thorn drops the phone into its receiver and pours himself a shot of rye. His wife looks at him with not so much disapproval as deep concern. Her eyes moisten. Thorn gulps down his shot and pours himself another.
Mrs Thorn: You promised it would be different this time.
(Thorn looks away, buries head in hands)
Thorn: What have I done. What the hell have I done.
The Next Day
Thorn and Ed Stefanski sit in his office.
Stefanski: What’s all this about Rod?
Thorn: We’re, as you know, fast approaching a fork in the road. Nothing less than the very fate of this franchise hangs in the balance.
(Stefanski rolls eyes.)
Thorn: Our expectation this season was that we would be so dreadful we would get another high lottery pick to build with, eventually add a top free agent when Brand comes off the books, and with that core launch a run. We’ve played so well though, our veterans have responded so favorably to Doug Collins, that we’re in danger of playing our way into the playoffs, out of the lottery, and back into the very sporting purgatory we just emerged from.
Stefanski: Oh, that.
Thorn: There is still time to avoid this though –if that’s in fact what we need to do– but decisions need to be made and they need to be made immediately. I’ve asked Tom Sunnergren to put together three scenarios for us, three courses that we can take.
(Tom Sunnergren, sex hero turned blogger turned shrewd analyst, enters the room. He carries three manila envelopes.)
Sunnergren: Thank you for having me gentlemen.
(No time to waste, he spreads the three envelopes across Thorn’s desk.)
Sunnergren: Three options. Three different roads to take.
Thorn: (Takes a deep breath, speaks decisively.) We’ll take option number two.
Sunnergren: Wouldn’t you…wouldn’t you like to know what they are first?
Thorn: Very well, I’ll take option four.
Srefanski: (To Sunnergren) Why don’t you just read them to us.
(Sunnergren opens the first envelope)
Sunnergren: Option number one — Maintain the Status Quo.
The conventional thinking in the NBA is that the surest route to victory is to draft a pair of high lottery picks, develop them into stars, and surround them with selfless role playersand veterans. This is, like most conventional wisdom, at best a half-truth. The “ground up” way of building a team is certainly one route to contention, but there are others. One need look no further than the Boston Celtics, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, or Phoenix Suns — four of the most successful franchises in the NBA — four alternative ways to build. Each of these teams was constructed, almost entirely, through free-agency and trades, not through losing to win. The Celtics were the dregs of the League before they acquired Ray Allen and Garnett– albeit with using the five pick in the draft as bait — and while the Mavericks are buoyed in large part by Dirk Nowitzki, nearly his entire underrated supporting cast –including the still enormously effective Jason Kidd — was acquired through free-agency and trade. Dirk himself was picked ninth, not exactly at the top of the draft. Same story with Kobe, who many people forget was only the 13th pick, and the Lakers. The Suns, in their glory years, were free-agent Steve Nash and, in Stoudemire and Marion, two ninth picks.
The Sixers, contrary to the views of many of the fans, can in fact continue to win and, with clever roster management, make the postseason without forfeiting long-term competitiveness. As long as the young talent, which we suddenly seem to have, continues to grow, we will be fine going forward.
Not everybody wins like the Thunder have. Theirs is a model, not the model. Plus, the playoff revenue wouldn’t hurt.
(Stefanski looks to Rod Thorn and nods. Thorn is asleep again.)
Sunnergren: Option number two is sell.
Brand and Iguodala go on the block. We unload them — hopefully without sacrificing too much of our young talent – – clear payroll and move forward free and clear of the millstone of bad decisions past.
(Thorn, now awake, glares at Stefanski)
Under this scenario, we either, (1.) miss the playoffs and get a lottery pick, then, once the new CBA is sorted out and the deals we acquire in return expire, go after a free agent with our newly deepened pockets or (2.) play well and make the playoffs despite the absence of our supposed cornerstones, then still add a free agent in the next season or two — again, depending on when the deals expire — to push over the top one of the best young teams in the NBA.
IF we jettison Brand and Iguodala, we are suddenly young, talented, and cheap. To mangle an old expression, nobody younger than us will be better and nobody better than us will be younger.
Sunnergren: Option number three is controversial, but has some appeal. We buy.
Teams around the league are frantically trying to shed salary right now, extricate themselves from commitments sometimes irrespective of the value of the player. What if we went in the other direction? With Jason Kapono’s expiring deal, Sam Dalemberts trade exception, and a stable of desirable young players, we could get better — maybe a lot better — right now.
The objective of the upgrade wouldn’t be to compete this season or even advance past the first round, but to position us for the next two or three years. The Celtics are aging, the Knicks may be a fluke, and the Nets and Raptors aren’t even in the vicinity of contention. A window will soon be thrust wide open — the Atlantic will be ours for the taking. If there are transactions, upgrades, that are possible now that won’t be this off-season or next, then we have to consider making them.
What opportunities are out there? Well, I’ve tried to stay in generalities here, but it’s been reported that the Bobcats are willing to move Gerald Wallace for salary relief. It would be worth putting in a call to Jordan to see what we could do to pry free the south of 30, occasionally elite player, who would fit in with what we do and provide the extra muscle on the boards that we need.
Stefanski: (To Sunnergren) What would you do?
Sunnergren: My recommendation is option two.
Thorn: (to Stefanski) I agree, two is the obvious choice. We should try to get better now, go for the jugular.
Stefanski: I believe that was option three Rod.
Thorn: You’re fired.