In the midst of celebrating Christmas, I was sitting on my aunt's plastic couch (yeah, people still do that) on Sunday enjoying NBA basketball with some cousins, and the conversation eventually stopped on the Sixers. Most of them agreed that Sixers were wasting their time with this mediocre team and figured they should tank this season to get a great draft pick. I had to interrrupt and create a barbershop-style argument, the summary of which will be provided below.
Simply sucking and garnering a top draft pick is never enough to create a championship team.
- The one team that everyone points to is Oklahoma City. Durant is key to the Thunder's success, but a man who should get almost as much credit is Sam Presti. Presti had 3 top 5 picks in 3 years, and didn't screw up any of them (Durant, Westbrook, and Harden). Plus he got a valuable big man contributor in Serge Ibaka with a 24th pick in 2008. Add to the fact that he somehow convinced Danny Ainge that Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins was a fair deal, and you can't deny Presti's genius and OKC's great talent evaluation staff.
- On the other side, look at Orlando and Cleveland. Drafting Dwight Howard has done wonders for the Magic, but they've failed to add more talent to surround their franchise center, plus had to deal with salary cap killing contracts (SCKC) like Lewis, Turkey Glue, and Arenas. Cleveland lucked into Lebron, but their draft history afterwards is a tragedy. They fouled up bad by drafting Luke Jackson (and passing on Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, and even Jameer Nelson), and the only notable player they took afterwards is JJ Hickson.
- San Antonio lucked into Duncan after losing the Admiral for a season, but they made draft steals in Genobili, Parker, and now Dejuan Blair.
- Boston tanked only after losing Paul Pierce, but they used what valuable pieces they had (Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, 5th pick that became Jeff Green) to bring KG and Jesus Shuttlesworth to the Garden. By keeping Rondo and Perkins, and making great small money moves in getting PJ Brown and James Posey, they won a title.
In reality, the worst thing to be in the NBA is to be a mediocre team with untradeable contracts and bad management, like Phoenix, Atlanta, or New York.
I'm a lot more excited about the Sixers than I was, say, 5 years ago on this basis. I have a lot more faith in Rod Thorn than Billy King, The current roster features a lot of young talent with loads of potential, unlike the 2006 roster, which was just a source of frustration, depression, and horrible shot selection. And no Sammy Dalembert. I can't stress that enough.
I'm done here.