Eddie Jordan is the Sixers' coach. He's got his system, he's got his idea of the type of players who fit that system. Until he's no longer the coach, he's going to utilize this roster to fit his system. This means, among other things, that guys who may be perfect fits in other systems aren't going to be as useful for the Sixers, even though other teams may value their services.
There are four ways this situation can go: (1) Jordan adapts his system
to fit the players he has. (2) Jordan is fired and a coach is brought
in who can take advantage of the players on the roster. (3) Jordan
continues to play lesser who players who he perceives as better fits,
or he tries to pound square pegs into round holes. (4) Personnel is
added, dropped or traded to create a group that fits Jordan's system,
or at the very least is ready to peak when Jordan is finally replaced.
Option number one doesn't seem to be in the cards. Jordan believes in the Princeton offense and the Community College Defense and nothing is going to change that. Option three is absolutelly a viable option, and I'm afraid the most likely outcome. Option four we'll get to in one second. As for option two (firing Jordan), well, that's probably not going to happen now, and it's most likely not going to happen for some time. Hopefully, this summer, but that may even be a stretch. Eddie Jordan may be here until the following summer, if not beyond.
It's the timing of Jordan's departure, coupled with the unlikelihood of option number one and the prospect of option number three that unfortunately leads me to believe that option number four (trades) is the most viable path the team will take at this point.
I'm not in favor of it, I'm not in favor of doing one thing to change this current Sixers roster into a team more oriented to offense and further away from a team that can defend with the elite teams, but I'm just not sure how long Ed Stefanski is going to pound his head against a wall with an obstinate coach. At some point, something has to give and seeing as how Jordan is his guy, I don't see how he can do anything but move players to get guys who fit his system.
The good news, if you can call it that right now, is the recent play of Elton Brand and Sam Dalembert. Both guys had zero trade value a few short weeks ago. Dalembert was a malcontent with a bad contract, Brand was a guy who never made it back from the Achilles surgery and still had three more expensive years left on his deal. There were teams out there who could absolutely use both guys, but there were way too many question marks involved for the Sixers to be able to pry anything of value back in return for them.
I believe that has changed. Dalembert over the past five games, against some lofty competition, Sammy has averaged 32 minutes per game, and put up very, very impressive numbers. 13.3 rebounds, 9.7 points, 3.8 blocks, 1.4 steals and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes. Those are borderline all star numbers for a center. More importantly, he shut down Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki down the stretch in tight games and basically locked the paint down for his team. Dalembert's contract was bad when he signed, it was bad last season, but right now it's only a risk for a year and change. There are several teams out there, in both conferences, who could use a center who can control the paint, especially a guy who can handle a dominant big without a double when the game turns to the half court. (When I first got the idea for this post, Dalembert didn't just goaltend a potential game-winning shot, and that play wasn't shown on every sports highlight reel over and over again, so just give me some rope for a minute here).
As for Elton Brand, well, how many playoff teams need a low-post presence capable of 20/10 and 2 blocks on a nightly basis while shooting a high percentage from the floor? Just about all of them, right? Well, Brand has been better than that over his last five games (not including the Wash game where he tweaked his hammy): 20.5 points, 10.5 boards, 2.1 steals, 2.8 blocks on 14 FGA per 36 minutes and really showing no ill effects of the Achilles injury.
Has Sammy really turned a corner? Who knows. Maybe he didn't even need to turn a corner, maybe he just needed playing time. Whatever the reason, he's showing definite value. The question with Elton Brand was whether or not he'd ever get back to being the force that he was in LA prior to the injury. Small sample size, but it sure looks like he is.
As for the Sixers, well, they've gotten amazing production from both of their starting bigs and they've still lost seven games in a row and Jordan has been rumored to be griping about Brand. He obviously doesn't think his game fits and he's used minutes to show this again and again. The question becomes, if Jordan is going to be the coach for this season, and possibly the next as well, will Elton Brand be worth the money in 2011-2012 when they can finally get out from under Jordan and start playing a type of basketball that actually has a chance of being competitive. My gut says no. If Eddie Jordan is going to be the coach for that long, Elton Brand should probably be moved, sooner rather than later.
Here's a trade that makes total sense for both teams:
Philadelphia gets Brad Miller ($12.25M expiring) and Tyrus Thomas ($4.74M, restricted free agent, can be dropped)
Chicago gets Elton Brand and possibly Willie Green, if you can somehow trick Chicago into taking him.
Miller is the prototypical five for Jordan's system. More comfortable out on the floor, passing and shooting from the high post and/or top of the key. Extremely poor rebounder, defender and shot blocker. Thomas gets an audition when he comes back from his injury, provides some depth in the front court, but most likely walks at the end of the season, clearing Brand's entire salary off the books this summer.
As for Dalembert, well, tonight's game was one hell of an audition for a potential trade partner. The Mavs will battle San Antonio head-to-head for the Southwest title. They don't have a single guard who can stop penetration, nor a legitimate shotblocker to protect the rim. They also happen to have an expiring contract they could ship to Philly for Dalembert.
Philadelphia gets Erick Dampier ($12.15M, not guaranteed for next year, won't meet stats to guarantee it).
Dallas gets Sam Dalembert
Marc Cuban spent a lot of money on the Mavs this season and they're kind of built to win now. The key piece to their summer was Marcin Gortat, who they wound up losing back to Orlando. They never filled the vacancy of a center who can rebound and block shots. Dampier has never lived up to his paycheck, and he's been injury prone. I think Cuban might be willing to roll the dice on Dalembert to upgrade the defense even though he'd be taking back an extra year in the deal. Dallas is going to be paying the luxury tax for the foreseeable future anyway, so they don't have much to lose by taking on Dalembert's salary for 2010-2011, and Dampier is basically dead money on their payroll right now. I'm sure he'd like to get some production out of that cap space.
If the Sixers were able to pull off both of these deals, they'd shave their payroll to $33M and change (plus a first-round pick salary, probably high in the lottery) and set themselves up as legitimate players in free agency, if they could fool some poor guy to come to Philly and play for their miserable coach next summer. The Brand deal works financially with or without Green, if Green wasn't included they'd have $37M which probably wouldn't be enough for a max contract, but it would be enough for a deal the same size as the one they gave Elton Brand.
To be clear, I desperately don't want to see this happen, but I'm pretty much at the end of my rope. I don't see how this group of players is going to suddenly gain the ability to shoot the contested 20-foot jumpers Jordan's offense thrives on. Even if they do, I know you can't compete when you don't guard anyone and that's your defensive philosophy. It now looks more and more clear that Allen Iverson will be brought in as an attendance gimmick. If the leadership of this franchise is happy to let this season slide down the tubes and they're wholly unwilling to correct the tragic mistake they made this summer in hiring Eddie Jordan, I don't see what other options you have.
Thoughts in the comments, as usual.