TO TANK OR NOT TO TANK ?? (II)

That is the question…we threw out to you the readers yesterday. 

As we mentioned there is no consensus here at the Philadunkia offices as to what approach the 76ers should take for the upcoming 2011-12 season.  From reading comments on this and other Sixers sites, talking to other Sixers fans and listening to sports talk show hosts, there does not seem to be any agreement on “the street” either.

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 Wednesday, in the first of this two part series, Tom Sunnergren stated his case for why he feels strongly that the 76ers should, “Go For It” during the 2011-12 season.

On the other side of this discussion 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.  Today Philadunkia scribe C. Smith lobbies for the 7-6 to take a “competitively indifferent” approach to the 2011-12 season and look to the future right NOW.  

You may choose to call it what it really is, that ugly sports term known as — “Tanking”.

Look, I love what Doug Collins and the Sixers accomplished in 2010-11 (Especially considering the disaster that was the 3-13 start.), but the current roster is not going to get Philadunkia nation a whiff of an NBA title (100 to 1 odds in Vegas right now) or even the Eastern Conference Finals.  Thus, in my opinion NOW is the perfect opportunity — one that we have been desperately seeking — to right all of the basketball wrongs that exist on this roster.  So, much as it pains me to type it, I believe the 7-6 should embrace a “comptitively indifferent” approach (a.k.a. “tank”) to the abbreviated 2011-12 season in order to establish a solid foundation and a better long term future for this franchise. 

Let’s quickly examine why NOW is the perfect time to “tank”…Err, I mean develop a better future for the 76ers:

1) Except for the most die-hard of pro basketball junkies, the lockout has turned hoops fans off to the League and its upcoming season.  On the local level, it certainly has killed any momentum the Sixers built with the Philadelphia faithful during their playoff run last year.  I wouldn’t say that NBA basketball has been forgotten in this town, but I would say that unfortunately pro hoops is currently on the deep back burner in the minds of the Philly sports fan base.  Thus, thanks to the disinterest in the overall League product and the NBA action down at the Wells Fargo Center produced by the lockout, a Sixers team with a losing record in 2011-12 could easily fly under the Philly sports radar and go relatively unnoticed. 

2) Complimenting the damage the lockout has done to the Sixers following, is the current status of the 7-6 on the Philadelphia sports landscape.  I’m a huge Sixers fan and even I am willing to admit that the Red, White and Blue currently sit fourth on the pro sports pecking order in this town.  To be honest, that’s a real shame considering the success Collins & Co. saw in 2010-11.  But the truth is, the Flyers Stanley Cup aspirations for this NHL season, the present day drama surrounding Andy Reid’s job security and the Phillies push for a World Series ring in 2012 will keep fans distracted long enough to allow the Sixers to cruise through a “disappointing” shortened season without an abundance of negative push back from the faithful.

3) The shortened 66-game season and the fact that the Sixers seem destined for a slow start also contribute to my “tank” now theory.  A very brief training camp and a season that will likely begin with a five or six game road trip (Thank you Disney on Ice!) is a recipe for a disastrous start by this young and still learning squad.  Unlike last year, a 66-game season will not provide enough time for Collins to correct all the early season problems that arise and produce another miraculous recovery that leads to back-to-back playoff appearances.  I say avoid worrying about this short season all together and concentrate on developing the young core for the long haul.     

4) This current roster is the final piece of evidence for why “tanking” of the 2011-12 season makes sense.  We’re cap strapped, lacking a star caliber player and no where near contending for the NBA title.  Compounding the above issues is the problem that the current Sixers team, without too much tinkering, is good enough to play exciting basketball, win 47-50 games next year and make the playoffs.  But that’s not the goal.  Correct?  A championship parade down Broad Street is the ultimate goal for this franchise.  For that to happen, this roster will need an overhaul.  In general new ownership groups are typically given a “grace period” when they take over a pro sports franchise.  You know what I am talking about – a span of time where it is accepted that the team will not do well as the new owners to get “their” people in place and begin to implement “their” ideologies on the franchise as they build toward long term success.  Josh Harris & Co. should gut this roster of past mistakes and start their “grace period” NOW.      

I hate the thought of it, but the above facts provide enough evidence for me to believe that 2011-12 season is the perfect time for the Sixers to “tank” in order to establish a much brighter future.

So let’s look at how we develop a better future for the 76ers NOW:

First, I would resign Thad and then pull him, Jrue and Evan into a meeting where I would establish that they are now the “core” the Sixers are going to build around and lay out the following plan for them to see “the future” of this franchise.  Here’s is the plan…

1) Trade Speights for an expiring contract or anything else.  No, I mean anything – a bucket of Gatorade, a signed pair of KD’s shoes, whatever….

2) Use the amnesty clause to knock Brand’s awful contract off the books.  Yes, I know how solid his play was last year and it may be a smarter move to use the amnesty clause on Brand at the end of 2011-12, but I also know that EB is no where near a $16-18 million a year power forward and this post is about the NOW.

3) Dangle AI9 for expiring contracts and then trade him — finally.

4) Let Hawes walk.

  • Then Anoint “Big Nik” as the starting center.
  • Sign a journeyman backup to a 1 yr. deal to support the kid.

5) Move Nocioni through a trade for expiring contracts (Waiving him is also an option, but may not garner us enough cap space to make it worth while.).

Hopefully through these moves the 76ers we take enough Ls in 2011-12 to get a high draft lottery pick as well as create enough cap space to land a big free agent for 2012-13. 

Most League experts (TV, online and front office execs) will tell you that the current Sixers team is stuck in NBA mediocrity hell – good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to seriously compete for an NBA title.  Those same experts will tell you that even under the new CBA, (Which for the next two years reads a lot like the old one.) the Sixers will have to take a step back before they are ready to make a huge leap forward.  If as a Sixers fan you are honest with yourself, really honest, you’ll see (As much as we all hate to admit it.) that these experts are telling the truth. 

 Unfortunately NOW is the time to face that truth.

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