On Tuesday my colleague Steve Toll wrote a post that pulled no punches in explaining how he believes the 76ers have truly dropped the ball this off-season and in fact may have ruined the franchise for the next several years. Based on the reactions in the comments section, it’s obvious that most of you strongly disagree with Steve’s analysis of the Sixers’ recent moves. Yes, a few of you did agree with Steve, but 90% of you were calling for his head. To be honest, my analysis of the Sixers off-season falls somewhere in between Steve’s “the sky is falling” post and the glowing comments most of the readers typed up over the last two days.
Yes, I can read between the lines on the recent deals / moves the Sixers have made and I understand the long range plan the 76ers front office has put together and to me it makes sense — build around a young core; remove parts that cut into those player’s minutes and impede their growth; maintain cap flexibility and avoid the escalating luxury tax. It’s a smart plan and I like it. However, I think that long range plan could have been adhered to while at the same time using this off-season to put us in a better position for 2012-13.
After the jump I’ll look at Steve’s points and provide my own analysis…
#1) Not Firing Doug Collins and completely removing him from any basketball related decisions
The first part of this statement was a little over the top for my view of the Sixers, but in general I think we can take something from this opinion that could make the Sixers a better franchise. Doug Collins is a very good coach, but not a great one. No doubt, he should be commended for the miracle season he pulled off in 2010-11. There are very few coaches who could have squeezed as much out of that roster as he did. However, the NBA is a “What have you done for me lately business?” and if you’re totally honest, you would admit that Collins did NOT do a great job in 2011-12 and that can not be ignored.
His loyalty to Jodie Meeks as a starter was absurd. The way he toyed with Evan Turner’s minutes was ridiculous and borderline irresponsible to the long term growth of the franchise. The same can be said for his managing of “Big Nik’s” playing time. His insistence on going to Dre or Louis when the team needed a big basket was also extremely frustrating (and futile). Lastly, Collins got schooled by Doc Rivers in the second round of the playoffs. A playoff series that the Sixers should have taken from a tired, old and injury depleted Celtics team. Yes, Doug Collins is a good head coach, but he doesn’t walk on water as many of you have suggested and there certainly is room for improvement in 2012-13. If he doesn’t do a better job in 2012-13 one could argue that it may be time for the Sixers to find a new head coach.
However, the second part of Steve’s statement regarding “basketball related decisions” is spot on and need’s to be addressed by the Sixers ownership group. It’s clear that Rod Thorn is a lame duck GM and that Doug Collins is calling the player personnel shots and that fact needs to change. Take a look at the last five NBA Champions – Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles (2X), Boston and San Antonio – and you’ll see there is a clear and established division in those franchises between the position of the head coach and that of the GM / President. You’ll also see those franchises have a different people handling each of those jobs. It’s rare in the modern history of the League to find a head coach who has successfully handled both of those roles and winning an NBA title while juggling both jobs is impossible. In short, Collins needs to either officially be moved up the position GM / President or the 76ers brass need to find someone to officially take over that job from Thorn. Continuing down the current dual-role path for Collins is unacceptable.
#2) Drafting Arnett Moultrie
I love the fact that the 76ers were able to add Moultire to the roster at the 2012 Draft, but I am not pleased with the way they went about it. Unless the plan is to move Iguodala this summer or before the 2013 trade deadline, selecting Harkless at #15 made no sense to me. Having seen Harkless play numerous times, I agree with many of you that he is a solid wing player who excelled in the chaos that was St. John’s last year. However, he’s at least two years away from having an impact at the NBA level, as of now has no true position in the League and he’s a repetitive part (‘tweener wing player) for this team. But this isn’t about Harkless.
If Moultrie was a guy you liked a lot and “a top 10” talent as our lame duck GM stated, then why not simply select the kid at #15? Numerous “experts” predicted the Sixers would do just that in order to make the team more athletic and help solve our rebounding issues. Merely taking Moultire at #15 would have been a respectable move that would have drawn solid reviews.
Or if the draft room intel Doug and Rod were receiving indicated that Moultrie would fall into the 20’s somewhere, then why not trade out of the 15th spot? The Sixers could have dropped into the 20’s, grabbed Moultire and picked up an asset (player or pick) along the way. Instead they gave up a 2nd round pick and a lottery protected 1st round selection in 2013 to grab the 27th pick in this year’s draft. Again I don’t believe grabbing Moultrie was criminal, but the method they used to obtain the kid certainly wasn’t the smartest draft night move I’ve ever seen.
#3) Not Trading Kyle Lowry for Jrue Holiday
This is where Steve and I absolutely disagree. I understand the attraction in dealing for Lowry (14.3; 6.6 & 4.6 per night last year) as he ranks among the Top 10-12 rated point guards in this League. He has a unique ability to get to the rim for a bucket or to drop an assist (something the Sixers need more of) and he’s on an inexpensive contract ($12mil over next two years). So I get the Lowry fascination.
However, I don’t see Lowry playing any better then he did in 2011-12. Thus I would not be ready to send the “Jruth” (13.5; 4.5 & 3.3 per last year) packing anytime soon as his “upside” has a much higher ceiling. I honestly think that Jrue has just scratched the surface of his skills and the best is ahead of us. Jrue is also a far superior defender than Lowry. To be honest, it’s not even close. Lowry is a turnstile. You win championships with defense. Finally, Jrue is taller (6-4 vs. 6-0), younger (22 vs. 26) and has significantly less miles on his body.
4) Not Re-signing Lou Williams
It’s ironic that Louis Williams has become nearly as polarizing among the members of Philadunkia nation as his mentor Allen Iverson. Just like Bubba Chuck, people either really love or strongly detest LW. I’ll be the first to tell that I am not a big fan of LW’s. Still I recognize that the year he put up in 2011-12 as the 6th man for the 76ers was one for the record books and that he was a very valuable member of the team last season. And for that I tip my cap to him. However I also recall that his poor shot selection, inability to recognize when he was having an “off night” and sub-par defense absolutely killed the Sixers at various times in 2011-12. I also remember that he went MIA when we needed him the most — in Games 5 (9 pts.), 6 (11 pts.) and 7 (7 pts.) vs. Boston. Because of the inconsistencies in his game, there was no way I wanted the Sixers committing to Louis for anything more then 2 years.
Still, it really doesn’t matter what I or the Sixers wanted when it comes to LW, because Louis did not want to be in Philadelphia anymore. Collins loves LW and if LW wanted to stay, Doug would have made it happen with a one or two year deal. Additionally, it could not have worked out better for LW that the Hawks wanted him as badly as he wanted out of Philly. Louis is from Atlanta, his family and off-season home are in Atlanta and his rap “career” is based in Atlanta, so when the Hawks put a long term deal and a chance to compete for a starting join in front of Louis, he was gone.
But I am okay with Louis leaving, because Collins replaced Louis with a 6-4, poor man’s version of #23 by signing Nick Young. Then he doubled covered his ass by trading for Dorell Wright, who really is a shooting guard masquerading as a 6-9 small forward. He’s also better on defense then Louis. So in reality, we did retain LW’s skill set, we just didn’t actually keep Louis.
#5) Signing Nick Young / Not Re-Signing Jodie Meeks / Trading for Dorell Wright who is better than Nick Young in every way..
For me this three analysis points in one statement breaks down as follows…
Signing Nick Young was not a good move because in theory they could have had OJ Mayo (Mavs — 1 yr. $4mil with player option for 2nd yr) who is only 24, appears to be getting better, actually plays defense and can give you some decent minutes at point guard. Those are four things you can’t say about Young.
Jodie Meeks had to go. I don’t care if he is more efficient then Nick Young and a better defender — by the way that’s not saying much – sometimes a player and a team simply need to go their separate ways and this was one of those situations. I’m just happy that with Meeks gone the walls at my house will need less spackling work this coming season.
I like the trade for Dorell Wright a lot. He’s a 6-foot-9 three-point shooter who plays solid defense and comes with only one-year remaining on his contract. If he can return to his 2010-11 form (16.4 ppg.) this will be a steal for the Sixers.
#6) Amnestying Elton Brand
I loved this move until Collins used most of the $18million in cap space they created by letting Brand go to sign Nick Young ($6mil) and Kwame Brown ($6+mil). The latter move made me throw up in my mouth (just a little). To be honest I now wish that they had just kept EB along with his solid interior defense and leadership rather then simply give away money to Brown and Young. Had the Sixers used their newly found cap space to sign a legit big who could improve their interior defense I would have been much happier with the amnestying of Brand.
#7) Resigning Spencer Hawes to a 2 year deal
I’m fine with this move if Hawes is going to come off the bench as he did in the playoffs several times successfully. I mean who doesn’t want a 7-1, 250 pound guy with a nice jumper coming off your bench. It would be a nice change up to throw at defenses if we had signed a 5-man with an interior game for the starting lineup.
However, it’s not a smart deal if Hawes is penciled in as your starting center. It’s becomes even harder to swallow after I hear they plan to move Hawes to the starting power forward spot. Simply put Hawes is not a starting caliber player in this League. Given the recent quotes from Collins on Hawes and his new role, this now looks like a bad deal to me.
8) Not Hiring Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Van Gundy
Assuming Doug Collins willingly moved up to the GM / President job and Phil Jackson was not available to take over the head coaching duties, I could live with one of the Van Gundy’s running this team. Neither Jeff nor Stan would be my first choice, but we could do worse.
9) Kwame Brown
I don’t care how the Sixers attempt to spin this signing (1 yr. @ $6mil), it was a mistake. Brown is not a starting center in this League — period. Yes he is not a total scrub as many believe. And yes, he is physical. And yes he could make the Sixers tougher on the interior (FYI…That’s not saying much). However, Kris Kaman (Mavs – 1 yr. $8mil) would have done these same things and as a bonus provided 13 points, 8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per night (47 games in 2011-12).
— In short, I think the Sixers could have been much smarter with the moves they made for 2011-12 and it’s possible that we could take a step back next season. But I like the long range plan and I think we are set up very nicely for the future — especially when the luxury tax starts escalating – so I am very optimistic about the next 5 years for this franchise.
Ohh yeah, I like that they’re bringing back Malik Rose.