The latest bit of news to squirt out of the Sixers PR department is the addition of a local, affiliated NBA Developmental League team, the Delaware 87ers. Josh Harris had a big smile on his face. This is the latest in a long line of cutting edge propaganda moves the Harris-led franchise has made since they bought the team during the lockout two summers ago. Like most of the print-worthy moves they've made, this one is a lot of noise about nothing.
This move definitely ranks above setting aside a section behind the hoop for the Revolutionaries and hiring Ayla Brown to sing the national anthem. Probably ranks ahead of the free Big Macs if the team scores 100 points, as well. The new practice facility? I think that's probably a more meaningful improvement. The D-League is a great way to groom guys to sit on the end of the bench, once in a long while, you hit the lottery and find a solid guy for your rotation. That's your diamond in the rough, a complimentary piece to slot in as your seventh or eighth man. There are two tangible benefits to controlling your own D-League franchise. (1) You have a place for your young players to get minutes, and they play those minutes in your system. (2) In the Sixers case, their D-League team will be in close proximity to Philly. So if a guy can't crack the rotation, he can get some burn against rock-bottom competition running the same plays he would be running in the NBA, if he was good enough to crack the rotation. And if you have an injury at the last minute, and you're playing at home, and your D-League team is playing at home, you can get a replacement at the drop of a hat if you have a guy stashed.
I say tangible benefits with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Perhaps if the Sixers had a deep team where minutes for young guys should be hard to earn, you could maybe make a case for needing to find a way to keep the young players sharp and build familiarity, but they aren't in that situation. They aren't even close. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a bad move. It's better to have your own franchise than not, but in the grand scheme of things, it's negligible.
I probably should've made my mind up about this ownership group by now, but I haven't. To date, they've signed two players to long-term contracts. Jrue and Thad. The only two guys on the roster of any value. So they get passing grades for those moves. The other signings have all been for a year or two. I agreed with the Bynum trade at the time, and still think it was a worthwhile gamble. I don't think they'd be any closer to contention now with Harkless, Vucevic and Iguodala still on the team. It was probably time for Collins to go, whether it was his decision or management's doesn't really matter.
I feel like they haven't made a big mistake, yet, and they've shown a willingness to make a bold move if the opportunity presents itself. The easiest thing in the world for them to do last summer would've been to spend the money to bring back the same team, make incremental improvements and try to build on their first playoff series win since Iverson. They didn't take that road.
This D-League announcement isn't something to blast ownership for, it just strikes as another tedious PR move. It doesn't even qualify as a baby step in the right direction. I suppose the next litmus test will be who they hire to coach the team, but ultimately the coach doesn't matter much, either. I can get behind one of two paths this summer: Go for broke with a meaningful player (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, in that order. Or someone other top-ten player in the league), or get worse than you were last season. Anywhere in the middle and we're in trouble, as fans.