Everyone remembers the scorching start to the season, en route to a 20-9 record, and the number one offensive and defensive efficiency in the NBA. Everyone also remembers the Playoff run, where the Sixers won their first Playoff series in something like 500 years, and took the Boston Celtics – who were one quarter away from the NBA Finals, themselves – to a seventh game in the ECF.
Predictably, Sixers fans and NBA fans alike were, once again, fooled into thinking the Sixers are a better team than they actually are. Instead, a "sober" approach should be taken when discussing the Sixers future. "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me".
The Sixers 20-9 start to the lockout-shortened 2012 regular season has been well-documented – their record after hasn't.
The Sixers record in the final 37 games of the regular season, which is more than half the season, was 15-22. During that abysmal stretch, they weren't just losing games – they were consistently getting embarrassed by many of the league's doormats.
On March 30, the Sixers lost by 21 to the Wizards. On April 4, the Sixers lost a home game to the Raptors, by 21. On April 13, the Sixers lost a home game to the Nets. And on April 16, the Sixers lost by double digits to an Orlando Magic team without Dwight Howard and Glen Davis.
The team's 15-22 record in the final 37 games was tied for the seventh WORST record in the NBA. Their company during that stretch included: the Nets (14 wins), Hornets (15 wins), Raptors (14 wins) and Wizards (13 wins).
At this point, you may be saying to yourself, "But they beat the Bulls and almost beat the Celtics in the Playoffs!" Sure, but may I remind you that, the Sixers were two miracle Andre Iguodala free throws away from LOSING the Bulls series, against a team without Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, along with a hobbled Rip Hamilton, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson.
Bottom line, the Sixers still aren't a good team – don't let one magical Playoff run fool you into thinking otherwise.
(Another thing being taken for granted is the loss of Elton Brand and Louis Williams. EB and Lou were two of the Sixers best players for most of the season, and people are just assuming their production will be easily replaced - it won't.)
Because the Sixers were so close to the ECF, fans are advocating a "quick fix" in free agency, by spending money on a guy like Kris Humphries – a move which may have made sense if the Sixers were actually as good as their run suggested. But they're not. Therefore, locking up a player like Humphries does nothing other than prolong the mediocre Merry-Go Round.
Luckily, the Sixers front office appears to understand this (so far). They did re-sign Spencer Hawes – which we all despised – but it was only a two year deal. They then amnestied Brand, decided not to re-sign Lou, and signed Nick Young to a one-year deal. While their plan might not be what everyone wants (re-building or "all-in"), they do appear to have a plan – which is all I ask – and it falls somewhere between the two extremes.
If I'm reading between the lines correctly, the Sixers' plan appears to be: remain somewhat competitive in the short-term, while remaining relatively uncommitted in the long-run – which I'm totally cool with, although not ideal. As long as the Sixers aren't unnecessarily locking up players to long-term deals, and leaning towards development of youth, (aka getting a shooter (Swaggy) for Jrue/ET to kick to, and an athletic big (Moultrie) they can run a pick n' roll with), I'll be content, as far as this off-season goes.
Draft included, I'd give the Sixers the grade of a B-/B for their off-season. I haven't agreed with every move, and I'm not 100 percent behind the perceived plan – assuming they have one – but they have done some good things, and haven't done anything incredibly stupid. We'll find out more when a decision is made on Iguodala.
Just remember, the Sixers aren't as good as you may think, especially after losing Brand and Boss, and they're certainly not one player, or a "quick fix", away from being a legit contender in the Eastern Conference. They'll be lucky to make the Playoffs next season – which is fine – as long as the focus is on the development of Jrue, Turner and the 2012 Draft Class.
(I fully acknowledge I just jinxed the shiz out of things again.)