The first week of 2012 NBA Free Agency is almost complete, as the rumors and trades are popping up faster than the pimples on 16 year-old "The Situation's" forehead. The Division the Sixers reside in – the Atlantic – has been particularly crazy.
The Nets pulled a minor upset in re-signing Deron Williams. They also traded for Joe Johnson and re-signed Gerald Wallace, while remaining a potential destination for Dwight Howard. A "big four" of D-Will, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Dwight Howard is pretty legit. It's still a long shot, but the Nets are a team to look out for all of a sudden.
The Celtics re-upped Kevin Garnett for three years, and even if they lose Ray Allen – as expected – there's really no reason to believe they won't be in the mix for another Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, KG, Jeff Green, Sullinger, Fab Melo – that's a contending core.
The Knicks and Raptors off-season will hinge on what happens with Steve Nash. The two teams are considered the front-runners for Nash's services. The Raptors looked like the clear-cut favorite early, but Woj is reporting the Knicks have gained significant ground, and may have emerged as the favorite.
(Don't forget, the Raptors are expected to add last year's first round pick, Jonas Valanciunas, to the mix this year. The consensus is, he would've been the number two pick if was in the 2012 Draft Class).
So, where does this all leave the Sixers?
The Sixers moves and/or rumored moves, in the first week of Free Agency, have been a Rose O'Donnell on the Kate Upton Scale of Sexy. They've been linked to "meh" guys like Jamal Crawford, Jarred Jeffries and Devin Ebanks. They re-signed last year's second round pick, Lavoy Allen, after botching his rookie contract. They had casual discussions with Spencer Hawes and Louis Williams about contract extensions, and declined to extend qualifying offers to Jodie Meeks, Sam Young and Xavier Silas. They were also half-heartily rumored to be in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, even though we all know they have no shot.
Even more bizarrely, there hasn't been a single Andre Iguodala trade rumor – something that's become an off-season ritual around here – and the Sixers current roster consists of a mix of guys whom, when combined, make no basketball sense. The guards can't shoot, the bigs can't rebound or dunk, and everyone has eight-foot extremities. There are only nine players under contract, and there's just no way the Sixers roster will resemble the current edition come October.
Is this just 'the calm before the storm', or do the Sixers actually have a plan?
For years and years and years, I've pushed for the Sixers to adopt a specific philosophy, and most importantly, rid themselves of the quicksand that is NBA Mediocrity. I wrote about it here. A good example of my philosophy is the Atlanta Hawks – the epitome of mediocre. However; the Hawks seem to have finally realized that mediocrity is the worst, and took a proactive approach in reversing it, by somehow finding a taker Joe Johnson's contract, as well as Marvin Williams's. They might suck for a while – a year at least – but the important thing is, they're no longer locked into bad contracts and have the flexibility to go a few different directions.
Fortunately, another decade-long sentence of NBA Mediocrity is avoidable for the Sixers as well, with two simple moves. Move #1: Trade Andre Iguodala for a combination of young players, draft picks and expiring contracts – think along the lines of the Kevin Garnett deal, with less compensation, obviously. Move #2: Avoid signing ANY long-term contracts in free agency. (You could also throw "trade Thaddeus Young" in there as well, but that's not nearly as important).
Move #1 is important for a couple reasons. First, if the Sixers keep Iguodala, one of two bad things will end up happening – either he'll leave via free agency, and the Sixers will receive ZERO compensation for his services, or the Sixers will end up locking him up to a predictably dreadful extension. (Trading him for a veteran big man – which has been my prediction for months – will also likely result in the same consequences as keeping Dre).
Move #2 is important because long-term contracts in free agency rarely work. Teams spend just to spend, everyone drools over their shiny new toys, then fans look back at the deals dolled out and wonder if the NBA requires GMs to drop Acid before negotiating a contract. In fact, if you look at any list of 'the worst contracts in the NBA', they usually begin and end with contracts handed out in the free agency period, including contract extensions. (Andray Blatche, anyone?)
There are only two circumstances when a team should spend in free agency. 1) The targeted player is a superstar, i.e. LeBron James in 2010, and 2) The team targeting said player is a legitimate championship contender and/or "one piece away", i.e. (blanking). The Sixers find themselves in neither scenario.
The Sixers quiet approach has resulted in backlash from some fans. I've read a lot of "The Sixers need a big man – SIGN KRIS HUMPHRIES!!!!' or "The Sixers are now the worst team in the Atlantic – ROD THORN IS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL!!!!" comments on this blog and Twitter. I completely disagree with both of these statements. In my eyes, no news, is good news, for the Sixers.
Sure, Kris Humphries fills a need, but is signing him to a multi-year deal going to bring the Sixers any closer to a championship? Hell no. And, so what if the Sixers are the worst team in the Atlantic Division – no move, or collection of moves they could make this off-season could morph them into legitimate championship contenders, now or down the road. Is another first round Playoff exit really ideal? And don't even dare bring up last year, cause a healthy Derrick Rose means the Sixers don't even win a Playoff game. (P.S. If the Sixers make the Playoffs, bye-bye 2013 first round pick).
Think big picture, guys. The team should have two goals right now. 1) Develop the young guys, specifically Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and newly-drafted Moe Harkless and Arnett Moutrie and 2) Build a champion. If a potential move interferes with either of those goals, it should be avoided – plain and simple. This includes, but is not limited to: signing veterans and penciling them in for significant PT, signing any free agent to a long-term deal (especially cause this year's free agents aren't very good), re-signing Lou and/or Hawes, trading Andre Iguodala for bad contract(s), or trading Evan Turner before we realize exactly what we have – not to mention the ultimate "sell low" mistake.
A little over a month ago, I was adamant that re-building was not an option for the Sixers. Now, I'm not so sure. Their draft strategy indicates I could have been wrong, and who knows, maybe Doug Collins "found himself" – there's really no other explanation for this outfit.
I, for one, am loving, and rooting for a continuation of the Sixers quiet approach in free agency. I don't care about the misfit roster, or the possibility of being the worst team in the Atlantic Division. Development and draft picks, that's what I'm all about. My ideal off-season: Trade Iguodala for compensation with POTENTIAL, focus on development of youth, and fill the roster with cheap, scrap heap guys, with modest upside – think Gerald Green last year. Hopefully I didn't just jinx the shiz out of things.
BREAKING: SIXERS SIGN JAMAL CRAWFORD TO 7 YEAR, $180 MILLION DEAL.