To me, things were looking up when I left for vacation. The team was far from a finished product, obviously, but we were told as fans that things would be turned around quickly under Doug Collins. A couple weeks later, let's take a look at where the team stands.
Here's the roster, pending the #2 pick, obviously:
- Guards - Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Willie Green
- Forwards - Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young, Andres Nocioni, Jason Kapono
- Centers - Marreese Speights, Spencer Hawes, Jason Smith
It seems like Evan Turner is the leading candidate for the Sixers' #2 pick, so feel free to pencil him in if you like. We'll get back to the roster in a second, first I'm going to share the first quote Doug Collins has made since accepting the job which has made me sick to my stomach:
"Obviously, I was never here and coached Sam, but just watching the dynamics and how it all fit, I just feel like now if you look at our big guys, every one of our big guys are skilled offensively and they can all shoot. I think that's a great thing to be able to do. Now you have four interchangeable big guys."
To me, this is just silly. Brand is skilled offensively, though we're really only talking about skill in terms of scoring, and yes he can shoot. Speights shares a similar skillset, with even less ancillary offensive skills, but he's a legitimate shooter especially in pick-and-pop situations. Smith is skilled at nothing and Hawes is right there with him, just because a center likes to shoot from the outside doesn't mean he's a threat from there. Teams will gladly let Hawes shoot jumpers all night long. Hawes jump shooting is a minimal improvement over Dalembert's from 16-23 feet, and from 10-15 feet Sammy held a significant advantage over the Sixers new "skilled" center. The team now has four interchangeable big guys in that they're all perimeter players (save Brand, I suppose), none of them defend and they're all extremely poor rebounders. I'm not sure how you can possibly view an abundance of poor pieces as a strength, but in this case, any spin would've done.
I've been reading comments in favor of this trade the entire weekend, the only logical conclusion I can come up with is that people just hated Dalembert and are so glad he's gone they haven't really taken a look at what the Sixers got in return. Let's take a quick look at how trades are judged objectively. Meaning, if you don't have a horse in the race, how do you judge the winner in any particular trade? Here are the criteria I use:
- Who got the best player? (99% of trades are won on this question alone)
- Who improved their overall roster (If one team deals from strength to address a weakness, they could still win the trade even if they weren't getting the better player)
- Who bettered their financial situation?
- Did either team get rid of a problem in their locker room?
On the fourth question, I suppose there are two sides to every story. Since the trade, stories about Sammy are leaking to the media, his contributions are being ignored or minimized and he's being made out to be a complete cancer. Let's say it's all true. Let's say his attitude caused more harm than the good his play brought. I won't argue for a second that the Sixers got rid of a bad apple, in the locker room. But what did they get in return? Two guys who wore out their welcome in Sacramento. Nocioni complained to the press about his playing time (playing time he clearly did not deserve based on his production) and off the floor, he got a DUI this past season. Hawes has made no improvement in his three seasons in the league, and refused to play for the Kings' summer league team. Hawes was benched by Westphal last season in favor of Jon Brockman and Sean May.
Personally, I think if you're going to hang your hat on the fourth criteria (locker room presence) then the advantage should at least be clear. In this case, I think it's probably a draw. Essentially, the Sixers are hoping the change of scenery will straighten Nocioni and Hawes out (which I find highly unlikely), while the Kings are hoping the same about Dalembert. The main difference, and the reason why the Kings really took advantage of the Sixers in this deal, is that the Kings are making a short-term gamble on Dalembert. In fact, it's shorter than you think. If he goes out to Sacto and acts like a fool, guess what, he's only going to gain in value for the remainder of this season. When February comes, he's going to be one of the biggest expiring contracts in the league. A tremendous asset for the Kings, even if he had no value on the floor. Fortunately for Sacramento, he's got a ton of value on the floor. Especially for a playoff team who needs a defensive big off the bench for a playoff run. The Sixers don't have the same luxury with Nocioni and Hawes. Hawes is a moderate expiring contract ($2.2M) and Nocioni has another overpaid year left.
When you boil this trade down to the bare essentials, the Sixers swapped headaches with the Kings, they're paying at least an extra $6.65M to take on Sacramento's headache, and the headaches they're taking on have absolutely no value whatsoever in a potential trade, while the headache they rid themselves us not only contributed on the floor, but potentially holds immense potential as a trade chip, and at the very least holds very good value if you simply let his contract expire. No matter what way you slice it, this was a terrible, terrible deal.
Enough about the trade, though. We've got a GM who is wading deeper and deeper into waters he's clearly not able to swim, so all we can do is take a look at what we've got and identify what we need in the hopes that someone with a lick of sense will nudge him in the right direction.
Assuming Turner is the pick, the Sixers could potentially have the PG, SG and SF positions locked down for the remainder of Iguodala's contract, and locked down with potential All Stars. That's a very, very strong starting point, and it's also kind of a backwards way to build a team, in my opinion, but that's neither here nor there. We're talking about this season. With Turner entrenched at the two, what will the starting lineup be?
If Collins really believes the spin he's putting out there, I think it has to be this:
Speights has done absolutely nothing to earn the starting spot at center, luckily for him, though, neither has anyone else on the roster. If Collins truly believes having a shooter at the five will open things up for Brand and maybe unclog the lane a bit, then Speights fits the mold much better than Hawes or Smith. Collins is going to have to come up with one hell of a defensive scheme to make that lineup a passable defensive unit unless Brand has a major bounce back this season.
There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to see way too many small lineups with either Thad or Nocioni at the four. Either variation is a disaster waiting to happen, if you ask me. In fact, I think the Sixers would be much better served to use Iguodala at PF if he's on the floor when Collins decides to go small.
As far as the depth chart is concerned, I suppose it would look something like this for me:
PG: Jrue, Turner, Lou (I don't want Lou to spend significant time at the point)
SG: Turner, Lou, Meeks, Green
SF: Iguodala, Turner, Thad, Nocioni, Kapono
PF: Brand, Iguodala, Thad
C: Speights, Hawes, Brand, Smith
As far as rotations go, I'd probably try to stay big throughout the first quarter up front, subbing in one of the garbage bigs for Speights with about four minutes left in the quarter. I'd get some rest for either Turner or Iguodala at the end of the first as well (subbing Lou or maybe Thad in), then to start the second I'd go with a smaller, running lineup. Something like this:
I guess from that point on it would have to be fluid. See which type of lineup is working, mix guys in to stretch the floor. Wonder why you don't have a single defensive big on the roster.
To me, even making the best of a bad situation like I've attempted to above makes for ugly basketball. Anyway, I'm back, we've got three days until the draft and barring something disgustingly stupid, the team will be in much better shape this time next week. I just hate the fact that I believe they've taken a big step backwards in the past week.