With the NBA draft only a few hours away, experts all over the country have been making predictions as to where this year’s crop of players will end up.
For the Sixers the point guard position is one of the biggest questions on the roster and there has been a constant buzz over the possibility of drafting a prospect to play that spot for the home team. 6’3” combo guard out of VCU Eric Maynor or 5’10” UNC point man Ty Lawson appear to be the lead candidates to hear their name called at #17. The buzz of drafting a new point guard has been accompanied by rumors that the Sixers will pull off a sign and trade with Andre Miller, shipping star point guard to another team in exchange for a similar veteran point guard. Of course the reality is that the Sixers may not have a chance to sign and trade Miller if he goes with another team or if the Sixers just let Miller walk and simply sign someone to take his place.
Maynor and Lawson are polished as a point guard in a draft class full of potential at that position, yet having a veteran guy in the locker room to mentor wither of these talented rookies and show him the ropes before he gets fed to the sharks would be a good idea.
Andre Miller has had a great past couple seasons with the Sixers, but when it comes down to it the 33 year old veteran is looking for a four year, big money deal, while the Sixers are most likely only going to offer him a two year contract. Additionally, Miller is not the type of player who is used to teaching and Miller will be the first to tell you that his leadership is defined by what he does on the court. Should the Sixers select a floor general at #17 in this year’s draft, they are going to need a point guard who can do more then lead by example, they’ll need some who can mentor the kid they choose and groom him for the franchise.
Should the Sixers and Miller choose to part ways, there are a few ideal candidates on the market that could fill in just fine for Andre Miller, . I separated the candidates into three different groups: cash for cash, best for your buck, and risky business.
CASH for CASH: In this category, the candidates are all skilled point guards who have years of experience under their belt but come at a high price. With Andre Millers salary last season just being under $10 million, they are guards who would basically fill in for Andre’s salary while giving the Sixers a trustworthy point guard to run the show in Millers absence.
Jason Kidd is the first point guard on the list. Jason Kidd received just over $21 million dollars last season for the Mavericks, but at the age of 36 and after coming off arguably his worst season in the NBA it is possible a renegotiated agreement could bring that number down dramatically. Although Kidd had a down year, many players in the NBA would still kill for the type of season he had. Kidd averaged 9 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 steals a game while playing in all but one game during the regular season. The major loss to the Sixers by adding Kidd would be scoring. Andre Miller averaged 16 points a game for the Sixers last season and was a threat to score whenever the ball was in his possession. What Kidd doesn’t have in scoring he makes up for in passing. Kidd had two more assists a game than Miller which goes to show that he is a pass first player. Critics have questioned Kidd’s elite status at the point recently including Charles Barkley, who told the Dallas News this season, “I think he can be a guy coming off the bench. He can be a great influence in the locker room. But as far as him being a starting point guard against the elite point guards in the NBA, those days are past him.” I agree that Kidd isn’t nearly the elite point guard he used to be, but his work ethic and basketball IQ would make him a great asset to guide the youth of the Sixers next season. If the Sixers do indeed draft a point guard than who better to show him the ropes in the off-season than Jason Kidd?
Mike Bibby is another cash for cash option. Bibby had a ticket price of $15 million dollars last season, but at the age of 31 and with the fact that his points per game stats over the last two seasons have finished below his career average as well as given the current state of the economy in this country that number is sure to come down on the free agent market. Bibby would fill the void of Andre Miller with little to no change. Their numbers were nearly identical last season with Bibby’s being just slightly lower. Bibby ran an up-tempo offense in Atlanta and led them to two straight playoff appearances. Sound familiar? With 11 NBA seasons under his belt, Bibby would be a fine mentor to the youth of the Sixers. The only problem with Bibby is durability issues, but with 79 games started last season I think it’s safe to say that he is as healthy as a horse. If Miller isn’t around next season, the safest choice for the Sixers would be to go with Bibby.
The BEST for YOUR BUCK category is full of many talented point guards young and old who would fit in nicely for the Sixers yet at a rather good bargain. If the Sixers are still looking to add some firepower to the team in the off-season, than getting one of these players would be ideal.
Raymond Felton is the first player coming from the bargain bin. Felton unlike Kidd and Bibby is a restricted free agent therefore if the Sixers want to pursue Felton they can make an offer, but the Bobcats have the chance to match the offer. Felton is expected to make 5.5 million dollars next season which is a far lower ticket price than Kidd or Bibby. Felton has the skills to become an all-star point guard in the NBA. Miller, Kidd, and Bibby are all on the downswings of their careers, while Felton’s is just getting started. Felton is only a mere 24 years old but had averages of 14 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists per game last season for the Bobcats. The problem with Felton is experience and possibly his attitude. Only playing four seasons in the NBA for the Bobcats is not exactly an ideal candidate you would want to start at the point for a team that is aiming for the finals next season. He has also spent some time in Larry Brown’s dog-house, but then again outside of George Lynch, who hasn’t. You can’t argue with Felton’s numbers, but not playing a single playoff game is a drawback when you’re looking towards a playoff push next season. If the Sixers drafted Ty Lawson in the draft, than I could see Felton being a perfect fit for the Sixers. Felton and Lawson have followed the same path to the NBA and I’m sure since they know each other that Felton would take extra time to help Lawson develop into a better player. They both are part of the “Carolina Mafia”, they both won NCAA championships in their junior seasons, they play the same position, and are nearly the same size. It seems almost like a match made in heaven.
Anthony Parker is another player who would be the best for the Sixers buck. Parker was paid 4.5 million dollars last season by the Raptors but played on a higher level than his salary shows. Parker like Miller, Kidd, and Bibby has a lot of experience playing professional basketball. While he only played in the NBA for really three seasons, he played over in Europe for seven where he received two Euroleague MVP awards. He is not a true point guard but he has great ball handling and decision making skills. He averaged 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists for the Raptors last season and he is known throughout the NBA as one of the best perimeter defenders and shooters in the league. What he will give the Sixers youth is tremendous knowledge of the game while adding much needed perimeter defense and shooting to a team that struggled all last season. He would be a solid bargain to replace Andre Miller.
Once again, the sale ticket is on Jarrett Jack and he would be a pretty good buy for the Sixers next season. Jack is also a restricted free agent and is expected to receive just under three million dollars next season for the Pacers. At only 25 years old, Jack has had a solid NBA campaign so far and received career highs in almost every statistical category last season for the Pacers. Jack averaged 13 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists a game on a team that never really found a rhythm last year in the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers could beat teams like the Lakers and Celtics only to drop games to teams like the Warriors and Grizzlies. With four NBA seasons under his belt Jack is kind of in the same situation as Raymond Felton. He is a good player who is stuck on a mediocre team and it is unknown still whether or not he can lead a playoff caliber team to victory. He is also a player who plays inconsistent on offense. Some nights he can hit you for 25 while others he can only muster a mere four. He is a true point guard however which is a plus, and he has a good work ethic. He has enough knowledge about playing point guard in the NBA to mentor any incoming rookie as well. Is he an answer to the loss of Andre Miller? It is tough to answer, but for that price he might be worth a try.
Last but not least on the sales rack is Ramon Sessions, but from the looks of his salary last year you might think he was bought at a thrift store. The man was only paid a little over seven-hundred thousand dollars last year. After the year he had last season though he should be looking forward to a nice raise. In this years off-season Ramon Sessions will be one of the most sought after free-agents. In only his second NBA season he posted averages of 12 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists per game while only starting in 39 games. In a game against the Pistons in February, Sessions dropped a nasty 44 points. Against the world champion Los Angeles Lakers in April, Sessions also recorded his first triple-double with 16 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds. His name is being talked about around the NBA nearly as much as Anthony Morrows was after his amazing 37 points in his first ever NBA game. For the simple fact that Sessions still has endless potential, he would be a great pick-up for the Sixers to replace Miller. He doesn’t have veteran leadership, but he could turn out to be one of the top point guards in the NBA if he keeps working at it.
The RISKY BUSINESS candidates all play completely different styles of basketball, but have all been in the NBA for a long time and have all had their share of great games. The problem is there would be a lot of risk involved in signing any of these players even if the reward could be great. These are very long shot options, but I though they were worth mentioning.
I’ll start with one of the most beloved Philadelphia sports icons of all time: Allen Iverson. The two worst things about Allen Iverson are his salary and his attitude. There should be no reason why Iverson is getting paid 22 million dollars a year, no matter how many jerseys or tickets he sells. The fact of the matter is that he is 34 years old and beaten down. Iverson has had hip and back problems since the 2000-01 season and it was only a matter of time before he lost a step. The Pistons realized this last season and played Iverson off the bench, which turned into a war in which Iverson after an early April game at New Jersey told a herd of reporters, “I’d rather retire than be on the bench”. With all of this said, what would it mean to the city of Philadelphia as well as Iverson to come back to the team grab onto the reigns and lead them to the promise land? I don’t think it’s out of the question. Iverson will realize this off-season that getting paid 22 million again will not happen, and who wouldn’t love to have Iverson back if the Sixers worked out a deal that was more affordable. He is a winner, he still puts up good numbers, he has become a better teammate over the years, he is clutch, and he is a well respected veteran. An added bonus would be sell-out crowds to Sixers games once again as well as merchandise sales. It’s different than bringing TO back to the Eagles, because when Iverson left the city still loved the man. Every time Iverson comes back to Philly to play, what happens? It’s a lot of money to spend on an injury prone guard with a history of taking bad shots, but the excitement his signing would bring to this city and organization would be unmatched.
Next up from the risky business section is Steve Nash. It is hard to argue against the accomplishments that Nash has received in his career with the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns : two MVP’s, six NBA All-Star Games, and ten playoff appearances but than again Nash is 35 years old and is starting to show his age. His points, assists, and rebounds all dropped from a season ago, and the Suns missed out on the playoffs for the first time since Nash rejoined the team from Dallas. Nash would also be out of his element in Philadelphia. Nash has had players like Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion, Shaq, and Boris Diaw to throw the ball down low to over the past four years who are all great at finishing underneath the basket. In Philly however Nash would have an undersized Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young down low to throw to who are more crafty than powerful. Nash is good at the drive kick out like Andre Miller, but his assists will definitely be down without a dominant force in the lane. One great thing about Nash is his knowledge of the point guard position which he would gladly pass on to a rookie guard joining the team. You can’t argue with Nash’s asking price either at just over 13 million. It is much cheaper than Kidd or Iverson, while he holds more MVP awards than both of them combined. It would be interesting to see Steve Nash on the east coast.
Brevin Knight is the last guy on my list that would be a risk to go out and get. He is cheap enough at just 2 million a year, but the man has been on eight NBA teams and the last two seasons have not been pretty. From 2004-07 I would have told any NBA GM to go out and get Brevin Knight. He was one of the best passers I saw through those years and I thought that finally after 10 seasons playing in the NBA, Knight has found out how to use his talents with the Charlotte Bobcats. That was until Knight was traded to the Clippers and sat behind Cuttino Mobley for most of the year and later when he was shipped to the Utah Jazz where he sat even more behind one of the NBA’s best point guards Deron Williams. I still believe however that Knight has some gas left in the tank. Players don’t just go from 13 points, 9 assists, and 2 steals a game to nothing overnight. Knight just got the short end of the stick. The Bobcats wanted to play Raymond Felton so they had no need for Knight, Mobley had been starting for the Clippers for years, and Williams is the best point guard the Jazz have had since John Stockton. If given another shot at a starting role however, I think Knight is up for the challenge. In terms of teaching the youth of the Sixers too, Knight would be more than qualified for the job. It’s not everyday you see a guy in the NBA who has played on eight different teams. He is a true journeyman, and could fit well with the Sixers.
Whatever ends up happening at the point position for the Sixers, it all starts with the 2009 NBA Draft tonight where every Sixers fan will get a better picture about what direction the Sixers are looking to go for next season. Until than, all we can do is speculate.