I know that most of my posts have been about soccer. What is a sports fan to do when it’s World Cup time? The event comes once every four years. Lost in all the soccer madness is the fact that the NBA Draft is tomorrow night. I love the NBA Draft because it represents the time of year when every fan has hope. Hope that your team will get its next franchise player and return to respectability (I’m talking about you New Jersey Nets). Hope that your team will draft the missing piece that will propel them to the playoffs and beyond. Hope that your team might make a blockbuster trade. I better stop with the hope bit (otherwise I might sound like an Obama campaign commercial).
My team, the Sixers, fall into the category of team looking for a franchise player and respectability. The Sixers have been mediocre, at best, for most of the decade and haven’t posted a winning record since 2004-2005. In the 9 seasons since the Sixers played in the NBA Finals following the 2000-2001 season, they’ve compiled an overall record of 348-390. On the face of it, that doesn’t sound that bad. Over nine seasons they are only 42 games under .500. But when you stop to think about the fact that they have had just 3 winning seasons and 1 .500 season in that time span things get a little more depressing. Thanks to playing in the generally weak Eastern Conference, the Sixers have actually made the playoffs in over half the seasons since 2000-2001.
In an effort to address this mediocrity, the Sixers splashed out some major cash to sign Elton Brand following the 2007-2008 season (a season in which the Sixers finished just 2 games under .500). What the Sixers got in return for their investment was 1 more win the following season. Not exactly what you pay $82 million over 5 years for. Brand played in just 29 games his first season in Philadelphia and was a shadow of his former self this past season. This is clearly not what the Sixers were expecting and the contract has hurt the Sixers’ ability to make moves in the future as Brand is owed $51 million over the next 3 seasons.
In an effort to shed some salary, but I also think make the team better, the Sixers traded Samuel Dalembert to the Kings for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes. The trade gives the Sixers a good forward to come off the bench in Nocioni and replaces Dalembert with Hawes. The Sixers give up something on the defensive end with this switch, but Hawes is younger, cheaper and has room the develop. Besides, Dalambert was unhappy in Philly. Who really wants an unhappy player on the team anyway? The problem with this trade is that it gives the Sixers another small forward. They already have two starting quality small forwards in Andre Ig0udala and Thaddeus Young. I know that Iguodala plays shooting guard for the Sixers, but his best position is SF. The Sixers lack a starting quality center and power forward for that matter (unless Brand has a bounce back season). I like Jrue Holiday at the point. If the season were to start right now the Sixers starting line-up would probably look like this:
PG – Holiday
SG – Iguodala
SF – Young
PF – Marreese Speights/Brand (Brand gets the nod if healthy)
C – Hawes
I believe the Sixers have a chance to make an impact with this draft. I know that a lot of people think the Sixers should draft for need, but I think the Sixers need to take the best available player with the #2 pick. I know this analogy crosses sports, but the Vikings took the best available player on the board when they drafted Adrian Peterson and I think they are happy with that decision. Unless you are a playoff team already, I think you have to take the best player on the board over drafting for a specific need. Clearly, if you have the #2 pick you don’t exactly have and amazing team, how can it hurt to pick the best player? Finally, after nearly 700 words, I get to who I think the Sixers should draft: Evan Turner.
Evan Turner is, after John Wall, the best player in the draft. He is long, athletic, can play both guard positions and a good defender. Chad Ford of ESPN says that this pick is a near lock after some of the other prospects (Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins) the Sixers were looking at failed to impress in workouts. If the Sixers draft Turner, I could see them trying to move a player to make room in a crowded backcourt/small forward rotation. I think the gutsy move would be to trade Iguodala. He clearly cannot carry the team. The Sixers could get back a some decent players and maybe some picks in exchange to Iggy. I know that it is tough to trade away the guy you started to build a team around, but clearly Iggy is more Scottie Pippen than Michael Jordan. This would allow the Sixers to start Holiday at PG, Turner at SG, and Young at SF. They would still have some decent options off the bench and whomever they received in return for Iggy. However, instead of trading somebody, I think the Sixers will slot Turner in a PG and use Holiday as a sparkplug off the bench. I could also see the Sixers look for another trade (perhaps to unload Brand’s contract if anyone will take it).
If the Sixers don’t draft Turner, a player that will bring immediate help to the team and provide a star for the future, they will regret their decision. Clearly Brand and even Iguodala are not the future of the franchise and the Sixers have lacked an identity since Allen Iverson was traded. Evan Turner can provide that identity and make the team better, what’s not to love?