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Taking Stock

The Sixers started their Summer a bit earlier than usual this year, but three days before the draft seems like a very good time to compare rosters from 2008 to 2009. After the jump we'll take a look at where the team stood at this time last year and maybe grade Ed Stefanski on the fruit of his labor over his first full season as GM.

On June 25th, 2008 this was the Sixers' roster:

PG: Andre Miller, Kevin Ollie (unrestricted free agent), Lou Williams
SG: Willie Green, Rodney Carney
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: Thaddeus Young, Reggie Evans, Jason Smith, Herbert Hill (restricted free agent)
C: Samuel Dalembert, Calvin Booth, Shavlik Randolph (restricted free agent), Lou Amundson (unrestricted free agent)

The Sixers had a boatload of cap space which would free up on July 1st, immediately after rescinding their rights to Kevin Ollie, Shavlik Randolph, Herbert Hill and Lou Amundson. They held the #16 pick in a draft that was considered at the time to have decent talent, but a bit top-heavy.

The Sixers were in a very good position heading into the offseason, thanks in large part to the Allen Iverson trade and Chris Webber's expiring contract. Webber's $19M came off the books and the Sixers finally had some cap space to work with. The only problem in late June was that it wasn't clear how they'd be able to use it. Josh Smith was a definite target, but he was a restricted free agent and as we saw, Atlanta was more than willing to match an offer sheet for him. Elton Brand was the premiere free agent, but not a whole lot of people believed he'd opt out of the final year of his contract. The other decent free agent names - Antawn Jamison, Corey Maggette, Baron Davis (if he opted out), and Gilbert Arenas - didn't really seem to be ideal fits.

As they headed into the draft, several names were swirling, the two that seemed to be getting the most play were Darrel Arthur and Mareese Speights. Not a whole lot was expected out of either. The Sixers were clearly targeting bigs with their lone draft pick.

Up to this point in 2008, Ed Stefanski had been doing his best to stack the deck in his favor and be ready if an opportunity presented itself. The team's surprising run to the playoffs had put Philadelphia on the map and made Broad Street a legitimate destination where free agents would consider playing. They were a team on the precipice.

Now, let's fast forward to today, Monday June 22nd, 2009. Here's the roster, as it stands today:

PG: Andre Miller (unrestricted free agent), Royal Ivey (unrestricted free agent), Lou Williams
SG: Andre Iguodala, Willie Green, Jason Kapono, Kareem Rush (unrestricted free agent)
SF: Thaddeus Young, Donyell Marshall (unrestricted free agent)
PF: Elton Brand, Marreese Speights, Jason Smith
C: Samuel Dalembert, Theo Ratliff (unrestricted free agent)

Unlike last season, the Sixers have no cap space this Summer. In fact, they're uncomfortably close to the luxury tax threshold. They have a huge decision to make with Andre Miller, re-signing Miller may just push them over that threshold by itself. It's pretty much an either-or situation at this point, either they sign Miller or they have the mid-level exception to sign a player. Rush and Ratliff are probably both gone. If someone offers Royal Ivey more than the minimum, I expect he'll be breaking his lease in Philly as well. Donyell Marshall could go either way, but I'm not holding my breath that he'll be back either.

Here's a super-quick summary of the moves Stefanski has made in the past 12 months:

  • Drafted Marreese Speights #16 in the draft.
  • Traded Rodney Carney and Calvin Booth for cap space.
  • Signed Elton Brand
  • Extended Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams
  • Signed Royal Ivey to a two-year deal (with a player option for the second season)
  • Signed Donyell Marshall to a one-year deal
  • Signed Theo Ratliff to a one-year deal
  • Signed Kareem Rush to a one-year deal
  • Traded Reggie Evans for Jason Kapono
So here we stand. Let's assume all the free agents leave, the question then becomes, are the Sixers better off than they were 12 months ago. Let's go position-by-position:

  • PG: Last year they had Andre Miller coming off a career year and under contract. This year, they have no one signed to play the position. Worse off.
  • SG: Last year they had Willie Green and Rodney Carney manning the position. This year, I'm counting Iguodala as a two, but I'm not sure the team really does. Still, I'm going to have to say they're better off. Iguodala has to play some minutes at the two, Green's minutes have to be cut, and Kapono is better than Carney and Willie, at least, he should be. Better off.
  • SF: Iguodala is still part of this equation, how big of a part is debatable. I'm already counting Andre as a part of the improvement at the two, so this position gets a downgrade. Thad's good, but he's not on Iguodala's level. Worse off.
  • PF: Elton Brand is a question mark. Even as a question mark, though, he's head and shoulders better than Thad at the four or Reggie Evans et al. Signing Brand was a huge coup for Stefanski last season, one that should pay huge dividends this year. Better off.
  • C: Sammy's stock has certainly dropped in the minds of fans, coaches and apparently opposing general managers, but his play on the court really hasn't. He is what he is, a guy who could dominate games with his defense and rebounding if he could keep his mouth shut, settle for put-back and lobs on the offensive end and concentrate. The only way this position can be considered a step back today is if the coaching staff has finally had enough of his act and they cut his minutes drastically. Even.
  • Bench: Well, if the season started today, I assume the bench would consist of Marreese Speights, Jason Kapono, Jason Smith and Willie Green. As compared to Lou Williams, Rodney Carney, Reggie Evans and Jason Smith from a year ago. This year's version seems a little better to me. Better off.
  • Coach: Eddie Jordan was not my first choice to coach this team, I've been pretty clear about that. I thought Tony DiLeo was better than Mo Cheeks, and I think Eddie Jordan is better than Tony DiLeo, so while not the ideal solution, I'd say Jordan is clearly an improvement. Better off.
  • Overall: Incomplete.

So much is going to ride on Thursday night and July that I'm not sure you can really grade Stefanski's effort right now. The Elton Brand injury threw a gigantic monkey wrench in the evaluation of the team, and really it's necessitated some tremendous guesswork heading into this Summer. We didn't get a long enough look at Iguodala at the two. We don't know how close this roster is to contention. We don't know if it's worth bringing Andre Miller back to run with a starting lineup with Elton Brand in it. Will the offense make up for the defense? Can they win in the two or three years Miller has left at a decently high level? Does Miller even want to come back?

Bottom line, if you put the Sixers roster as it stands today on the court against the roster from the same point last season, I think this year's team takes them. I guess that's a sign of a step in the right direction, but obviously, you can't put your finger on the pulse of a team until you see what they look like on opening night.

Last year, Stefanski pulled a rabit out of his hat on draft night, landing a guy who should be a rotational player this season, possible a starter - maybe even a star - down the line with the #16 pick. If he can pull a similar magic trick this season, his Summer will be off to a great start.

So there's our quick look at the state of the team heading into the draft as opposed to this time last year. What do you guys think? Better off than last year? A year of good moves that didn't quite work out? A year of follies? Thoughts in the comments, as usual.
by Brian on Jun 22 2009
Tags: Basketball | NBA Draft | Offseason | Sixers |