As you can imagine, there is no consensus here at our offices.
Now that the work stoppage has come to an “unofficial” end and pro hoops talk is starting to build some momentum around town, there also appears to be a clear divide among the Philadelphia faithful on what the Sixers game plan should be for this upcoming season.
On one side (in our offices and on the street) are those who say Josh Harris and Co. should give Rod Thorn the green light to do whatever it takes in order to assemble the best basketball team possible for this 66-game season and thus build on the success the team had in 2010-11. On the other side are those who say that this abbreviated season presents a perfect opportunity for the Sixers and their new owners to hit the “reset button” in order to get a fresh start and establish a brighter future for this franchise.
Sixer nation is a country divided.
So, two scribes here a Philadunkia were charged with defending each of the above positions — “Tank” or “Go for It” — in order to help you choose a side.
In the first of a two part series, Tom Sunnergren states his case for why he feels strongly that the 76ers should, “Go For It” during the 2011-12 season.
The Sixers have to go for it.
Unconscionable contracts, incompetent management, apathetic fans—put all that aside. Now kick it in the head, roll it up in an old comforter, throw it in the trunk of your car, and toss it in the river. Light a cigarette and drive away. None of it matters. Somehow, someway, this is a team that with a nip here and a tuck there can compete.
Like right now.
1.) They’re progressing
The Sixers won 41 games last year, a 14 game improvement over the previous season. More importantly, they went 38-28 down the stretch—a winning percentage that, if maintained over the course of a season, would give them 47 wins. Furthermore, there’s reason to believe they won’t just maintain this pace, but actually improve upon it. Their core is constituted of young players who are upward bound. Jrue Holiday is literally getting better every day. Evan Turner had a bad season last year—bad meaning he underperformed relative to expectations and capabilities—and guess what? He was still pretty good. And Thad Young, if kept in the fold, is a perfect fit in Doug Collin’s system. Speaking of which…
2.) Doug Collins
He’s the linchpin. As we’ve covered before in this space, there aren’t a whole lot of coaches who make a difference in this league. Doug Collins though, by all indications, is one of them. He took over a talented but disjointed Chicago team in ’86, improved them by ten games in each of the next two years, and led them to a conference championship series in the third. Two years after that, they won a title (without him, granted). He took over a lousy Detroit team in ’95, improved them by 18 games his first season, then eight the next. Then in Washington, widely and rightly viewed as his shittiest coaching performance, he oversaw an 18 game improvement in his first year.
There’s a reason Michael Jordan, the most competitive man on the planet, a man who chases victory so single-mindedly it’s ugly, loves Doug Collins.
Doug Collins wins.
3.) The Center Position
The worst position on our roster is center. The most well-stocked position in free agency is center. Read those two sentences again.
There are, by my count, no less than eight players on the market RIGHT NOW who, if they produce as they did last year and we play roughly as we did last year (and I think these are not just fair assumptions, but assumptions that maybe even undersell how the team should perform this year given our age and general trajectory. See above) would put us within shouting distance of 50 wins in an 82 game season. Here’s a handful of the top choices on my holy shit it would be sweet if we signed this guy wish list, in order of my guestimation* of how many wins we could expect in a full season if they were added to the roster.
*Albeit an economically sound one. This is a pretty easy bit of calculus to do too. Because the Sixers got approximately zero wins of production (alright, Hawes, Speights, and Battie combined for 1 win) from the center position last year, you can more or less just add the wins produced totals of these guys to our total victory tally from last year and get a reasonably accurate projection. Okay, not the most accurate projection, but definitely the fastest one. Also, some of these guys are power forwards. Since I’m not doing positional adjustments, I’ve just subtracted a win from them. I’m also assuming they’ll play center.
55 wins: Kris Humphries (14.8 wins produced in ’10-11)
53 wins: Tyson Chandler (12.2 wins produced in ’10-11)
51 wins: Nene (10.6 wins produced in ’10-11)
49 wins: DeAndre Jordon (7.6 wins produced in ’10-11)
48 wins: Marc Gasol (6.7 wins produced in ’10-11)
48 wins: Chuck Hayes (8.1 wins produced in ’10-11)
47 wins: Andrei Kirilenko (6.8 wins produced in ’10-11)
46 wins: Josh McRoberts (6 wins produced in ’10-11)
Jeff Foster, Greg Oden, and Joel Pryzbilla are also great options (at least upgrades with high ceilings) and none of the above, save maybeNene and Chandler, will require backbreaking, future mortgaging commitments to ink (and even those two are asking for contracts that are bargains against their production). It’s sort of a perfect storm. The one hole on on our team (well, the most gaping) can be filled perfectly this offseason. Round peg. Round hole.
Those are the facts as I see them. And while I admire your insistence on the long view, and accept that a big part of success in team sports is about having a plan and seeing it through, I think it misses something. Really good franchises have a plan in place, a road they follow, but also maintain the flexibility to recognize when a better one comes along. They adapt to the facts on the ground.
Here are the facts on our ground. We have a coach who eats lightening and craps thunder; a surfeit of young, rising, talented wing players; and a team who’s coming together, but who’s progress is stifled by one (festering, black) hole on our roster. And that hole can be filled cheaply and well this off-season.
Carey, I say we go for it.