With the All Star break upon us, it's time to choose a side. After the jump, I'll lay out four paths, choose your own and we'll see where you wind up...
(If you don't know what a choose your own adventure book is, you're either really young, you were deprived as a child, or both. Read all about 'em here.)
You are the owner of the Phildalephia 76ers. After investing almost $200M in your roster only 18 months ago, your team is now 12 games under .500 heading into the All Star break. They've looked like a lost team at times. The coach has antagonized his players, and vice versa. The general manager you brought in to right the ship seems to be way off course. Now it's time for your first decision. Do you:
(a) Make no moves at all
(b) Fire the coach and possibly the general manager
(c) Shake up the roster
(d) Fire the coach and shake up the roster
You chose to make no changes, play out the string..
Congratulations, the Sixers played just well enough to miss the playoffs, barely. They wound up with the #13 pick in the draft and managed to go a whole season with their young players having their minds polluted by one of the worst coaches in the league. On the bright side, they now have no team unity, no clear direction and a luxury tax bill will be due next February.
You chose to fire Eddie Jordan and maybe Ed Stefanski for good measure, but give the roster the rest of the season for assessment and development.
Congratulations, your interim coach was able to get the team to focus on defense and the smarter rotations led to a strong finish. You made up 4.5 games in the season over the last 30 games and finished with the #7 seed. Unfortunately, that meant another hard-fought first round exit from the playoffs and the #17 pick in the draft, again.
On the bright side, Jrue Holiday showed himself to be a true building block with his expanded role under your interim coach. Proper evaluations were also made of Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, Rodney Carney and Jason Smith, so while you're still over the luxury tax limit, you can now formulate a clear plan moving forward. The team needs have been identified and your summer can be about two things. Finding the right man to coach the team and plugging the holes via draft or trade to retool and pick up where you left off in 2010-2011.
You chose to shake up the roster via trade.
Congratulations, you took it right down to the wire and got the absolute best deal you could for Andre Iguodala and Sam Dalembert. Unfortunately, no deal presented itself for both Iguodala and Brand, so you settled for the best package on the table for your two best defenders, which essentially amounted to a salary dump.
What was already a poor defense turned into a laughing stock over the last 30 games of the season. The talent left on the roster was barely enough to rival New Jersey on most nights, but a handful of games were won by Elton Brand's spiteful, angry play on the blocks. You finished the season with 28 wins, good for the 8th-worst record in the league. An unlucky bounce in the lottery dropped you down to the #9 pick, where you selected Hassan Whiteside.
You've essentially replaced Sam Dalembert with a huge project via the draft, and you're left with less than $10M in cap space to replace Andre Iguodala. Eddie Jordan is still your coach, so at least next season's draft pick will be much, much higher. Elton Brand is the defacto centerpiece of your roster.
You chose to fire Eddie Jordan and gut the team.
Congratulations, under this scenario, you built up enough karmic currency by first firing Eddie Jordan that someone actually took Elton Brand off your hands in the deal you used to dump Andre Iguodala. Shipping out your two-best players caused a nosedive of epic proportions, and you finished the season on a 5-25 streak. Unfortunately, 25 wins was only good enough for the 4th-worst record in the league, again bad luck left you with the number 5 pick, but you're lucky enough to get a guy you hope will wind up being your replacement for Andre Igudoala, Wesley Johnson.
Along with Johnson, you have between $10-16M in cap space along with three fairly attractive expiring contracts. You may be a player in free agency, maybe not. It's probably going to depend on the pieces you have left after the deadline fire sale and more importantly, who you decide to choose as your new head coach. No matter how much money you clear, you can cross Wade and LeBron off your wish list. They aren't signing on for a rebuilding franchise that can't draw any fans. You're probably talking about the second tier free agents, like Joe Johnson, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire.
Of course, at this point you also have the option of sitting on your cap space, playing the young guys a ton of minutes, and heading into the lockout with virtually no money committed beyond 2011. This is the cheapest route, obviously, and it would also probably guarantee a higher draft pick the following season (if not a half decade of guaranteed mediocrity).
So there you have it, which route did you choose? Are you happy with your choice? Which is most-likely? Food for thought as we wait to watch a Sixer-less All Star weekend.