How to Climb Down from Mount Mediocrity, or My Sixers Off-Season Plan

Sixers owner Josh Harris and new general manager Sam Hinkie. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)


And so here we are again. Us Sixers fans are once again, for the 10 billionth time (estimate may have a margin of error of around 10 billion), wondering how our beloved basketball team can finally stop being so average and boring and become legitimate CHAMPIONSHIP contenders some day again. Thankfully, a unexpectedly delightful development came about recently, as Sam Hinkie, right-hand man to Dork Elvis, became the new president/GM of the team. I actually didn't have that much of a problem with Tony DiLeo, mainly because I didn't know how he would do as the primary decison-maker (I know he was the GM this past season, but every decision this past year looked like it had Doug Collins' fingerprints all over, including not hiring Hinkie last year). However, I would choose Hinkie over DiLeo every single time to run my basketball team, primarily for the following reasons:

1. He brings an outside voice to the Sixers organization, and therefore, should be more objective to the players currently on the team.

2. He apparently knows the new CBA inside and out, and knows how to use it to his advantage. Basically, he could definitely be the Sixers' Joe Banner, you know, hopefully, with a lot more charm.

3. The chances of the Sixers playing a more exciting brand of basketball and more importantly, being more progressive in long-term thinking and player development (2 things they've needed to do for eons) have just increased exponentially.

4. Articles like this and this and this.

Obviously, hiring Hinkle brings no guarantees that the Sixers will eventually become title contenders, but i gotta believe that the odds of that have improved. Before we can even dream of a world that has a really good and exciting-to-watch(!) Sixers team, Mr. Hinkie has some very big decisions to make this upcoming off-season starting with deciding who will be:

1. The New Coach

I believe this should be a high-regarded assistant coach with a lot of coaching experience in the NBA, but has never been a head coach before. I believe this, for two reasons: open-mindedness and the current trend. Fair or not, I believe that someone who is very qualified to be a head coach, but has never been so, will be more accepting of more unconventional methods, more flexible, and won't have as big of an ego than someone who had been a head coach for a number of years. Again, this is just a personal preference of mine and there is absolutely nothing that says that a guy with head coaching experience can't be open-minded or flexible. it just that after having Doug "Goes by His Gut" Collins here, I want the Sixers to bring in someone who's the opposite of that.

Not to mention, hiring someone with no prior head coaching experience would definitely not be a deterrent to big-time success. Just look at this year's final 8 playoff teams. All but one team (Knicks) are coached by guys who were never head coaches before being with their current teams. Most of these teams are expected to be perennial contenders for a good while: Miami, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Indiana, etc. So, I expect this trend to hope for a good number of years. All the better , I believe, for the Sixers to jump on it now. With that said, here are my top 5 coaching candidates, in order:

1. Mike Budenholzer, assistant coach, Spurs - Gregg Popovich's right-hand man for 17 years, widely seen as his heir when he retires

2. Brian Shaw, assistant coach, Pacers - Phil Jackson's right-hand man for 6 years, many believed he should've been his heir after he retired

3. Mike Malone. assistant coach, Warriors - Great basketball background and experience, widely seen as big reason for Golden State's resurgence

4. Kelvin Sampson, assistant coach, Rockets - Lots of coaching experience, both college and pro, very familiar with Sam Hinkie, as both worked in Houston the last 2 years

5. Aaron Mckie, assistant coach, Sixers - Very familiar with the current Sixers team, very young, which could result with being able to relate with the players better

Of course, those teams I mentioned also have the players to win with, too. With them being a lottery team this year, the hope is that our basketball team can add an impact player to win with in:

2. The Draft

Unfortunately, the overwhelming consensus is that 2013 draft will be the weakest in years. Maybe, when we look back years from now, it won't be seen as such, but the odds of that aren't good. It is especially not good then to be drafting in the low-lottery, as the Sixers most likely will with the 11th pick. Still, it's better to have a lottery pick than none at all when you're a team who desperately need to add impact players such as this one. So, who could possibly be an impact player for where the Sixers will probably draft? I see 3 in particular that stand out:

1. Rudy Gobert, Center, 7' 1, 235 lb, France -Very athletic (7' 9 wingspan and a great leaper) and excellent motor on the court, potential to be a good two-way big man with more offensive polish and body strength

2. Michael Carter-Williams, Point Guard, 6' 5, 175 lb, Syracuse - Big for his position with ability to get to the rim and be very good defensively, can play both guard positions, meaning he could play 2-guard with Jrue or handle the point when Jrue sits

3. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Shooting Guard, 6' 5, 190 lb, Georgia Tech - Excellent shooter (38 % from 3 and 80% at the line this past year), very good defender, could be an excellent fit with Jrue and Evan (assuming he stays)

I believe the draft is the best way to add players who could be stars, even superstars. If you look at the last 10 champions, the best player on each team except two or three (Detroit in '04, Miami in '12 , and maybe Boston in '08, depending on whether you think Pierce or Garnett was the best on that team). If you think this is only a relatively recent trend, look at the 10 champions before that. All but 3 of those teams (Lakers, '00 to '02) drafted their best player , as well. This doesn't even speak on how many other quality players those teams drafted, either (way too many to mention). However, even though the draft, I believe, is the best way to add talent, obviously, it's not the only way the Sixers can use to build a potentially championship core, as there are also:

3. Free Agency and Trades

Before they can even add any more players through these two methods, though, the Sixers must decide on what to do with two of their own players: Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum. There's no need to rehash the hair-raising (literally) horror of Mr. Bynum's past season, or lack thereof, here in Philly. In my opinion, there are only two acceptable outcomes involving him and the team: he re-signs for 1 year or he doesn't re-sign at all. I realized that a lot of fans (including myself, depending what day it is) don't even want to think of him coming back here, even for only a year. However, a year would be acceptable for me, because when he's healthy (I know, the odds of that being so may be worse than winning Powerball at this point), he is a proven All-Star player at the game's most valuable position. Not to mention, he will only be 26 when next season starts, he is not great on the defensive end, but he is very decent , even good there, and he arguably has the best offensive game of any big man in the NBA. The downside of this (which is all too real) isn't even that bad, either. If he can't play once again, or underachieves, then the team will likely have another lottery pick next year, which is expected to be the best draft in years (the yin to the 2013 draft's yang, if you will), and will have a lot of cap space next year, as well, with Bynum's contract off the books.

What could also contribute to that cap space would be if the team didn't not resign Turner. His situation, while no where as publicized as Bynum's, may be more important to the team's future and murkier, too. This is, because Evan, while he's a very decent player, for sure, has yet to prove that he can be a building block for the Sixers. The biggest reason for this has been his all-too maddening inconsistency. He could look like the second coming of a healthy Brandon Roy one night, a past his prime and sadly broken-down Roy the next. With him being a restricted free agent after the 2014 season, the team will have to decide whether he has shown enough promise to be worth keeping or if they should cut their losses and let him go, or much more ideally, trade him while he's still pretty valuable. Truthfully, I can't decide what I think they should do with him just yet. I've gone back and forth on Evan even more I have on Bynum, which I can attest is really saying something. I can definitely say though that they shouldn't resign before the upcoming season at all, unless this is a very team-friendly deal. I'm thinking somewhere like 4 years, $20 million. I would trade him however, if he could get the team a 1st round pick, ideally one in the 2014 draft or a young, promising big man. Anything less and I would just keep him, at least that's what I'm thinking at this moment. Ask me again in a week about him.

Now, as for players that they could bring in. I'm actually opposed to to the Sixers making any big money deals. This means no Josh Smith, no Al Jefferson, no Paul Millsap, etc. This isn't, because they're not good players. They are. They are just not worth making the kind of money it would take to sign them to a team that's rebuilding and would definitely - I repeat, DEFINITELY - not make the team a legitimate championship contender this or any years of their contracts. They're good, but they're not superstars by any standard. If we had a proven superstar, it would be a entirely different story, but, alas, we don't. It would be much, much better to sign young guys with potential who would be pretty cheap in terms of money and years, if they can. If not, strictly target guys who be signed on 1-year deals who be productive in some role. As a guideline, basically they should copy the Eagles' free agent approach this past spring.

I also think they should only resign one of their own players, with the possible exception of Bynum, of course: Dorell Wright. He fits what I just wrote about cheap, young guys with potential. Not to mention, he fits two roles for the Sixers that are very important: 3-point shooting and perimeter defense. More and more, NBA teams today are in high demand for "3 & D" players, which is self-explanatory. This is, because teams that use advanced analytics, as the Sixers soon will, have come realized the importance of such players. This article really breaks this down well.

Besides the Evan situation, I would welcome any trades which brings us two things: cap space and 1st round picks. These two assets are extremely important to have for a team like the Sixers, which is currently limited in any kind of assets. They need them to help build a potential title core, either through the draft or any future big trades. If Luckily, if anyone realizes this, it would be Sam Hinkie. He just came from a team, the Rockets, that went after these types of assets with as much zeal, possibly more than, as any team in the league. It paid off very well for them, of course, last year, with the James Harden trade.

So, to finally put to bed this way, way way longer-than-I-intended-to-be post, I am just so happy to root for a team with an actual plan. The days of overpaid contracts, bad shot selection, and just awful organizational philosophies are hopefully now a thing of the past. I hope they follow as much as I have just written as possible (I don't think they're so bad, you?). Mainly, though, I just want them to be smart and resourceful as possible. Thankfully, now, the chances of that being are better than ever. Til then, Sixers be Rockets East!

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