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Quantifying Mediocrity In The NBA: The Sixers Are Dying A Slow, Mediocre Death

Apr 13, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers pre-game ceremonies prior to playing the New Jersey Nets at the Wells Fargo Center. The Nets defeated the Sixers 95-89. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
Apr 13, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers pre-game ceremonies prior to playing the New Jersey Nets at the Wells Fargo Center. The Nets defeated the Sixers 95-89. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

Gloom and doom is rampant among Sixers fans these days. They're 11-19 in their last 30 games, but they'll make the Playoffs – where a massacre at the hands of the Bulls or Heat awaits.

It's not just the poor play that has fans in a dark place, though. This team has no semblance of a superstar player and a roster essentially void of talent.

Because the Sixers will be selecting in the middle of the first round in the NBA Draft and won't make it out of the first round of the Playoffs, they find themselves in an all too familiar place – treading water.

Since making the Finals in 2001 with Allen Iverson, the Sixers franchise has completely fallen off the map.They're pretty irrelevant in NBA circles and sadly, just as irrelevant in their own city.

(I was in Boston with family on Easter Sunday, before Sixers/Celitcs. Not a single person in a room of about 25 people – pretty well-versed on sports – could name a single Sixers player.)

Attendance has jumped this season because of significantly lower ticket prices and a 20-9 start, but the Wells Fargo Center still ranks in the bottom half of the league in attendance.

Accompanying all the gloom and doom, has been many a rant – all of which reach the same conclusion. The Sixers need to find a star to build around – simple plan, difficult to execute. Historically, the best way to acquire said star is through the draft. And the likelihood that a star falls to the middle of the first round is unlikely. Ergo, the Sixers need to find their way to the top of the first round.

The only answer, in my mind, is a commitment to rebuilding – not half-assing it with veterans like Andre Miller and Joe Smith. Whether you agree or disagree with the idea that fielding a cheap, young team – whose focus is player development, rather than maximizing wins – is the best way to go, one thing is abundantly clear. The blueprint the Sixers have followed since their Finals appearance has failed, and failed miserably.

In the NBA, there's nothing worse than being mediocre, especially when mediocrity is perennial. And there are few franchises who've mired themselves in mediocrity as much as the Philadelphia 76ers over the past decade.

Mediocrity is hard to quantify. Technically, there are only a handful of teams who aren't mediocre. Those are: the teams who can realistically win a title in a given year, the teams with a superstar who are one sidekick away from being title contenders, or the teams who have a chance to acquire a superstar in the draft. Anthony Davis!

The Sixers fall into none of those categories – far from it, actually. The last time they were close to either was when Iverson was around. But just how mediocre have the Sixers been since their NBA Finals appearance?

Although not perfect, I came up with an extremely simplified look at NBA mediocrity. Either you're advancing in the Playoffs, or selecting in the top 10 of the draft. If you're not doing either of those things, that's my definition of mediocre. And while certain circumstances make mediocrity acceptable (team has star in place already i.e. early Durant, mid-2000s Kobe), it's not a place you want your franchise to be too often.

To that point, in eight of the last 11 seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers have neither: picked in the top 10 or won a Playoff series. That's the epitome of mediocre.

A look at the numbers after the jump.

Since 2001-2002
Playoff Wins Top 10 Picks Total
Atlanta Hawks 3 4 7
Boston Celtcs 12 2 14
Charlotte Bobcats 0 6 6
Chicago Bulls 3 6 9
Cleveland Cavs 8 4 12
Dallas Mavericks 12 0 12
Denver Nuggets 2 2 4
Detroit Pistons 16 3 19
Golden State Warriors 1 5 6
Houston Rockets 1 2 3
Indiana Pacers 3 1 4
LA Clippers 1 6 7
LA Lakers 20 1 21
Memphis Grizzlies 1 4 5
Miami Heat 10 3 13
Milwaukee Bucks 0 5 5
Minnesota T'Wolves 2 7 9
New Jersey Nets 9 2 11
New Orleans Hornets 1 1 2
New York Knicks 0 5 5
OKC Thunder 3 4 7
Orlando Magic 6 1 7
Philadelphia 76ers 1 2 3
Phoenix Suns 7 1 8
Portland TrailBlazers 0 3 3
Sacramento Kings 4 4 8
San Antonio Spurs 18 0 18
Toronto Raptors 0 6 6
Utah Jazz 4 3 7
Washington Wizards 1 4 5

Teams With Less Top 10 Picks Than Sixers Since 2001-02 (11 of 30):

  • Celtics
  • Mavericks
  • Nuggets
  • Rockets
  • Pacers
  • Lakers
  • Nets
  • Hornets
  • Magic
  • Suns
  • Spurs
Teams With Less Playoff Series Wins Than Sixers Since 2001-02 (5 of 30):
  • Bobcats
  • Bucks
  • Knicks
  • Blazers
  • Raptors
Teams With Less Playoff Series Wins + Top 10 Picks Than Sixers Since 2001-02 (1 of 30):
  • New Orleans Hornets
Based on this simple formula, the Sixers and Hornets have been the two most mediocre teams (Blazers and Rockets are in the discussion) in the NBA since 2001-02. It should come as no surprise that the last time either team ranked in the top 15 in attendance was 2009 – the best season of Chris Paul's career.

The Sixers haven't ranked in the top 15 in attendance since 2004 – in Iverson's late 20s.

So what does this simple exercise tell us, besides how mediocre the Sixers have been? You need a superstar in the NBA. You need a superstar to win. You need a superstar to avoid mediocrity. You need a superstar to sell tickets.

The Sixers have been a "young", "exciting", "up-and-coming" team since they traded Iverson and handed Iguodala the proverbial reigns. That's gotten them nothing but 11 straight years of mediocrity, both in the standings and the arena. The longer this continues, the less interest Philadelphia is going to have in the Sixers, and the harder it will be to build a winner. Nobody cares that they're a "Playoff team" anymore.

This, my friends, is why, this franchise needs a makeover. They need a star in the worst way, and it's absolutely delusional to think a superstar free agent coming here anytime soon, or one of the current players will become a superstar.

Unfortunately, the ownership seems content with the current model. And that's why these last two months have been of the "sky is falling" variety in Sixers Nation. The light at the end of the tunnel appears non-existent.

We all feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day at this point, only worse, cause we've had 11 painful years of "Needlenose" Ned.

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