SB Nation's NBA network has been having a series of network wide themed posts. Today is Biggest Disappointment Day, which if you've followed this blog for very long you know is right in our wheel house. Enough of this happy go lucky "we have a dominant big man" atmosphere, let's get back to negativity with an inspection of the biggest disappointments in franchise history. Trust me, the list of potential candidates is long.
Due to how recent it is, some would be eager to call Evan Turner a big disappointment. With a combination of the "what have you done for me lately" syndrome and his effect on the future of the current team he's bound to be one of the first names many think of. At Liberty Ballers, we've generally been supporters of Evan Turner, but even we can't deny that he has been a disappointment relative to the expectations from when he was drafted. But the book is not yet finalized on Evan Turner's 76ers career, and there were far more egregious mistakes in this franchises long history.
If Evan Turner is too recent win the award, another big blunder in franchise history may be too far in the past for most fans to relate to. The 76ers had the unfortunate distinction of being the first team to trade a reigning league MVP when they traded Wilt Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers back in 1968. Darrall Imhoff and Archie Clark combined barely eclipsed Chamberlain's scoring output in 1968-1969 and the Lakers would go on to appear in the NBA Finals in 4 of Wilt's 5 seasons with them, finally winning in 1971-1972. Whenever you trade Wilt Chamberlain it's likely the worst move in franchise history.
But that trade happened over 40 years ago, and most of Liberty Ballers readers weren't even born yet much less directly affected by the trade. For that, we need something a little more recent.
The most glaring move, or series of moves, that came to mind when I started this piece was that disastrous 1986 draft. The 76ers were set. They had an emerging 23 year old future superstar in Charles Barkley, fresh off a 20 point, 12.8 rebound sophomore season. They had Moses Malone. They had just gone 54-28 and had maneuvered their way into owning the top pick in the draft. And they, somehow, not only screwed it up but screwed it up in such an epic fashion that it's almost unfathomable.
They had their reasoning. They thought Moses Malone was on his last legs. That after turning 30 he would start to show signs of decline and that they had to get value for him now. They thought Cliff Robinson and Jeff Ruland, while neither in the same stratosphere as Moses Malone, were both productive and young. Robinson had averaged 18.7 points per game the previous year and was only 26 years old, and Ruland had been very productive over the previous 4 seasons, averaging 22.2 points and 12.3 rebounds one year before being slowed down by foot injuries.
Then there was the pick. The '86 draft was admittedly weak, but Brad Daugherty was the clear head of the class and would go on to have a very productive, albeit injury shortened, career. But they were enamored with Roy Hinson, who was only 25 years old and had just averaged 19.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. All 3 of them, Robinson, Ruland, and Hinson, were players they could build around.
Or so they thought.
Turns out Moses Malone had more minutes left in his body than Robinson, Ruland, and Hinson combined. He would go on to have 3 straight 20+/10+ seasons, and two more very productive years before finally fading. Brad Daugherty, while his career was cut short due to back problems, similarly played more minutes and was more productive than Robinson, Ruland, and Hinson combined, much less Hinson alone. In his short career he would go on to become the Cavaliers all time leading scorer and rebounder.
To put that in perspective, here are the combined scoring averages for the players during the 4 years after the trades. I took out Ruland's 9.4 points per game in '86-'87 because he only played in 5 games.
But this doesn't really do it justice, as pure scoring numbers rarely do. Take a look at the total win shares over that 4 year span.
Moses Malone (37 win shares between '86-'90) and Daugherty (25.3 win shares) both individually contributed more win shares to their teams than Robinson, Ruland, and Hinson combined. Those two contributed 3x the total win shares.
Only 2 of the players involved in the trades were productive NBA players after the '89-'90 season: Moses Malone and Brad Daugherty.
But this series isn't supposed to be worst trade ever, or even the worst day ever. It's biggest disappointments ever. Roy Hinson was obviously a huge disappointment, never getting back to the success he had in Cleveland and flamed out after only 8 seasons in the league at the age of 29. Jeff Ruland, mostly because of his aching feet that was a known condition before the trade and 76ers brass negligently ignored, was never a productive player again. Both disappointments.
But the real disappointment comes from Harold Katz, who was running the show at the time. Not only did his ignorant maneuvering on draft day go terribly wrong, but he then owned the 76ers through the trading of Charles Barkley, the selection of Shawn Bradley with the second overall pick, and the selection of Sharone Wright with the 6th pick.
Harold Katz, and the decision makers he hired at various points beneath him, killed basketball in this town. He robbed a generation of a dynasty and their continued blunders left the 76ers in the gutter until Allen Iverson, Pat Croce, and Larry Brown could resurrect it a decade later.
After winning a championship during his second season of owning the team, Harold Katz was the franchises biggest disappointment.