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One Reason Not To Blow It Up

We've had a nice back-and-forth in the comments over the past month or so regarding the "blow it up" option. The logic goes that the Sixers are stuck in a vicious cycle as long as they're drafting in the teens and they'll never truly turn the corner until they become bad enough to get to the top of the draft. I've consistently fallen on the other side of the argument, for several reasons. One of those reasons is simply that we've been there before, I lived through it, and it wasn't pretty.

Let's start by looking at the past decade for the Sixers. They had a top-ten pick one time in the decade and I'd argue that they won the lottery in that draft. Andre Iguodala dropped to them at #9. They got to #9 by finishing the 2003-04 season 33-49 under Randy Ayers (current defensive guru) and Chris Ford. It was an injury-riddled team, led by Iverson missing 34 games. They were in the lottery two other times in the decade. Thad Young at #12 in 2007, and Thabo Sefolosha at #13 in 2006 (traded for Rodney Carney). Otherwise, they've been out of the lottery and picking in the mid-to-late first round.

Even though they haven't picked at the top the draft in a decade, I believe they have some nice young pieces to build around. They're actually one of the few teams to use the league's age restriction to their benefit. Had high school players been eligible for the NBA draft, there's no way they would've gotten Thad Young, same goes for Jrue Holiday. Both players were highly ranked out of high school and suffered a bit in their rookie seasons at the college level. That's really neither here nor there, my point is that the Sixers do have a core of either four or five very young players who could be pieces on a contending team down the road.

Considering their draft position for the past decade, they're in really, really good shape right now, talent wise, and I'd like to see them continue to develop these guys and keep the team moving forward.

The alternative is to blow things up, use your young pieces as sweeteners to get the longer contracts off the books and then take a shot with a high draft pick to rebuild the franchise from the bottom up with cap space to use if a free agent or salary dump should present itself. Let's take a look at how that turned out the last time the Sixers tried this approach. In the summer of 1992 the Sixers traded Charles Barkley for Jeff Hornacek and a bag of balls. Effectively, they hit the reset button and wound up setting themselves up for seven consecutive top-ten picks. This is how they turned out:

1992: Clarence Weatherspoon (#9)
1993: Shawn Bradley (#2)
1994: Sharone Wright (#6)
1995: Jerry Stackhouse (#3)
1996: Allen Iverson (#1)
1997: Keith Van Horn (#2 - refused to play in Philly, turned into Tim Thomas)
1998: Larry Hughes (#8)

They were 1/4 with their picks in the top three of the draft, 1/7 with their picks in the top 10. Granted, Tony DiLeo probably wouldn't have whiffed on all of those picks, but my point is that it's a complete crap shoot and I believe teams at the top of the lottery wind up following this same trend more often than not. For the most part, it's not simply a matter of blowing it up, getting a franchise-changing talent right away in the draft and having everything work out from there. It's a long, long process involving several high lottery picks until you get it just right and we, the fans, suffer through a ton of losses along the way.

I'm just not to the point where I can support flushing this entire roster down the tubes and getting five years or more of absolutely horrible, uncompetitive basketball to watch in return. I especially can't sign off on that when I see talent on this roster being squandered by the head coach.
by Brian on Jan 5 2010
Tags: Basketball | Draft | Sixers | Tanking |