How the Sixers can turn a period of uncertainty into an offseason of dreams

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The Philadelphia 76ers are at a critical stage in “The Process” right now as they face the biggest offseason in recent memory. The team has provided excitement in a city where it’s been a long time since the fans had anything to really cheer about. With the emergence of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, the team has three young and talented players that they’ve been hoping would develop in to stars. Embiid and Simmons have established themselves this past season, as two of the top young talents in the game at their positions. Saric has shown the league that his rookie year wasn’t a one-time thing and that he’s a true NBA player. Yet, the team still has plenty of room to go and needs to get better if they’re going to compete for a championship in the near future.

Markelle Fultz, the #1 overall pick in last years draft, was lost for the majority of the season. Whether it was because of injury or a mental block, he only played a few games for the team and was relegated to the bench at the end of their series against the Boston Celtics. If the Sixers are to take the next step in team growth then they’ll need Fultz to return to the form that made him the first overall pick. He showed flashes at the end of the season, with some quality defense and also a triple-double, but there were also poor shots and tentative play which shows how much he needs to be on the court to regain his confidence. The team, as far as management, hasn’t really shown that they are competent in helping, so it may be up to Brett Brown to be his biggest helper in getting back to the Fultz the fans and team had hoped the got in the draft.

The Sixers have a couple of unproven young players in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Furkan Korkmaz. Both were supposed to provide shooting, defense and athleticism for depth along the rotation and it seems that neither of them did any of that. TLC showed some flashes during a few starts this year, but never materialized in to a consistent threat. They also have a few players overseas that they drafter and are hoping will develop and be a part of the team for the future. The intriguing one is Jonah Bolden, a 6’10” forward who they selected with the #36 overall pick in the 2017 draft. He’s listed as a power forward but can guard multiple positions from that spot on the floor and provides solid defense.

One of the really good things that Sam Hinkie provided in his time with the Sixers, was that he set them up with multiple picks in drafts as well as having them ready to compete for quality free agents as the years went on. That’s what the Sixers are looking at this year. Regardless of who’s running the team this offseason, the priority needs to be getting the best players to help the team reach that next level in NBA play. Staying put and keeping the same players will not advance them through the league next year. The amount of picks they have this draft (six including two first rounders) should allow the Sixers the ability to move up in to the top five and select a player that can contribute right away as well as fitting a need for the team. Mikal Bridges from Villanova is that guy. He’s a two time NCAA Champion that’s improved his defense and three-point shooting with each college season. He’s listed at 6’7” and plays both small forward and shooting guard. Coincidentally, the Sixers need help in those positions with a guy that could provide defense and quality three-point shooting.

So, what would it take to get Bridges in the draft? Most draft “gurus” have Bridges available to the Sixers with the 10thpick in the draft. But, there are some that see him going higher. If the Sixers set him as a priority, then they should move up to ensure that they get their man. They could move two of their picks in the first round and one or two of the second rounders to jump in to the top five. The teams that are there, like the Hawks, Mavericks and Kings all are starting to rebuild their teams and could use the number of picks to secure some organizational depth and youth. The Sixers should be able to throw in Jerryd Bayless and his $9 Million of owed salary to open up some more cap room for themselves.

 

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Why would they give up those number of picks for one guy? Because they can’t use all of them. There aren’t enough roster spots and where they’re selecting, they’re not sure to get a guy that will make an immediate impact on the team. Going after and getting the one guy that makes sense is the best course of action for the team. There are only so many Euro players that you can draft and stash to hope they make the team in three years. This team is set up to start being great, now. Roster spots aren’t unlimited and when you have good young players, they can’t be forced to sit out at the expense of underperforming veterans just for the sake of playing them. (See Johnson, Amir) So take the guy that can make the most immediate and quality impact on the team, now.

So, where would that leave the team after the draft? They would have an additional $9 Million to use toward a free agent like LeBron James or Paul George. Contrary to what everyone may say, those two haven’t made up their minds as to what’s going to happen next year. Players want to win and even though the Lakers have a ridiculous amount of money to spend, they’re not on the level of the Sixers in terms of talent and winning yet.

LeBron James isn’t having the fun that he’s had in the past. Even when playing against the Warriors the past few years in the championship series, this year he’s looked like a beaten man. Knowing that he can’t singlehandedly win the title and that the team they’ve put around him is in no way able to compete on that level. The only reason they’re even in the Finals is because LeBron took them there. He’s looking to increase his legacy and what better place to do that then in Philadelphia with a Sixers team that’s loaded with talent? The team now is one of the best defensive teams in the league and that’s something that Lebron thrives on, where his Cavaliers team is just flat out horrible. Coming to the Sixers would allow LeBron to play less minutes, with less pressure to carry the team, all while working with and teaching players like Embiid, Saric, Simmons and Fultz what it takes to win in the NBA and win championships. His legacy would be secure and he could, more than likely, guarantee himself at least another three shots at winning another title.

Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George is a more interesting case for the team. He’s not been a member of a championship team but he’s one of the best all-around players in the league. Having a quality player at the small forward, who plays defense and can shoot from the outside, is what the team needs. He would allow the Sixers to use Bridges in a less pressure filled role on the second unit with Fultz and Covington. While everyone has already decided that he’s going to the Lakers, the Sixers again would make more sense for George is he’d like to compete for a title before he gets to be too old. Going to the Lakers, in the Western Conference, would mean competing against the Warriors, Rockets, and Spurs for the next few years with a less talented team. It would be good for his pockets, but in the end, don’t players want to win? George would, like James, be a huge addition for the team and help them get to the next level, but we’ll have to wait and see what his priorities are this off-season.

The other part of this offseason that people have been looking at is a trade for Kawhi Leonard. In my opinion, I don’t like it, nor do I think the team needs him. He’s shown, with one of the league’s top organizations, that he’s going to do what he wants and not be a part of the team. It’s selfish and I can understand that as it’s his career and his health but, I’m not sure how that plays out if he’s not the #1 option on the Sixers. They already have Embiid and Simmons as their top options and Leonard wasn’t happy sharing with Aldridge, who went to the Spurs and said he didn’t fit in, so Popovich worked to make him fit in. The Spurs have let it be known that they need a “grand slam” offer to think about letting Leonard go and the Sixers would have to include Saric, Fultz, and probably two first round picks to even get them to take the call. So, why waste all that you’ve built up for to get a player that you’re not sure will be the missing piece of the puzzle? There’s no reason. Let him take his injury, attitude and pouting demeanor to another team and have them deal with him. It would cost too much and be detrimental to the overall balance and quality of the team to bring him in.

Lastly, and this is a huge one. The Sixers need to resolve the Bryan Colangelo situation and they need to do it quickly. While most people are upset that it’s taken a week, so far, they can’t be that unreasonable that the Sixers are doing their diligence in trying to uncover all that they can about the whole ordeal. The perception alone is enough to have it hurt the team in the off-season and players wouldn’t want to come here because all of their personal business would be suspect to revelation should anything occur. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, whether it be his wife or friends or family that ran his “burner” accounts, the whole thing is bad for the team at a very crucial point in their building of a championship team.

The best move for the team is to let BC go now and replace him, quickly, with a new GM. His father would have to be let go as well, since the “special advisor” would be counterproductive if he’s related to the guy they just fired. I’m not saying that David Griffin is the answer as everyone loves his connection to Lebron, but they need someone that can handle the job, handle answering the questions this will bring, as well as bring stability to the team as it moves forward. Think of someone like Mike Zarren from the Celtics. He’s helped build them in to a championship caliber team in a short time and he’s got a good track record in free agency. His knock may be that he’s a top analytics guy and people would immediately liken him to Sam Hinkie. Whatever the case may be at the end of this, the Sixers need to move on and do it the right way, so that the players on the team and the impending free agents don’t look at the team as a mess. They need to be shown that the team cares about them above all and that they’ll do what it takes to make the organization right again.

Hopefully, throughout the off-season, the Sixers will make the right moves to keep the team moving forward in the immediate future and for the long term as well. They can continue on the great joy the team brought this city and its fans by making quality moves throughout the organization and building the team for the successful future that seems to be right in front of us all.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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