30 teams in 36 or so days: Philadelphia 76ers
September 10th, 2007
Players acquired via free agency or trade:
Players acquired via draft:
First round: Thaddeus Young (12th overall), Jason Smith (20th overall, acquired in draft night trade)
Second round: Derrick Byars (42nd overall, acquired in draft night trade, unsigned), Herbert Hill (55th overall, acquired in draft night trade, unsigned)
Louis Williams (exercised team option), Shavlik Randolph (exercised player option)
Joe Smith (signed with Chicago), Alan Henderson (unsigned, might yet return)
Trivia question: Which player did Billy King either sign or re-sign this offseason for way too many guaranteed years and guaranteed money, as is his yearly custom to do at least once?
Answer: No one.
This is extremely unusual behaviour from the man who in recent years has given out or taken on the contracts of Aaron McKie, Allen Iverson, Chris Webber, Samuel Dalembert, Dikembe Mutombo, Todd MacCulloch, Greg Buckner, Kevin Ollie, Derrick Coleman, Marc Jackson, Keith Van Horn, Eric Snow, Steven Hunter, Jamal Mashburn, Glenn Robinson, Brian Skinner, Kenny Thomas, Corliss Williamson, George Lynch and Willie Green, amongst others. Years of piling on payroll and trying to manoeuvre his way out of previous personnel decisions have left his team with a big tab to pick up, and not much to show for it. This, it would appear, has stymied King’s spending habits, if only for a bit (next year, the Sixers’ payroll predicts to be about half of where it is now).
The offshoot from this, though, is that King has not improved his team in any capacity via trades or free agency. And this leaves him with all his eggs in one basket, having to address his team needs via the draft.
Historically, this is where King does his best work. Having not had much in the way of high draft picks during his tenure, on draft night King has acquired players such as Larry Hughes, Speedy Claxton, Nazr Mohammed, Kyle Korver and John Salmons, as well as Green, MacCulloch, Dalembert and Iguodala, the majority of whom turned in great value for their draft spot. This season, armed with three first-rounders as a result of the Iverson trade and also a second rounder, King figured to improve his roster notably in one hit.
In the 2006 Draft, King made a draft day trade that wound up with him selecting Rodney Carney in the first round. It was a strange pick – a backup at best with players in front of him, and with no standout skills to really speak of outside of his athleticism, Carney didn’t add much to a roster which, at that time (and even now), needed a big infusion of talent. The pick was made just that little bit more pointless when King then selected another small forward – Bobby Jones – in the second round. He also signed free agent small forwards Steven Smith and Louis Amundson at various points in the season.
You could say he has a thing for small forwards. And you’d be right – in this year’s first round, he saw fit to draft another one, selecting the phantasmogoric Thaddeus Young with his first pick.
His second first-round pick saw more of the strange duplication tactic going on. Already stuck with paying multiple years and a whole load of money to Dalembert and Hunter, King decided that he needed a third tall athletic shot-blocker with mediocre offence, drafting Jason Smith out of Colorado State. Whether Young and Smith go on to become good picks isn’t really the point – with a number of issues to address on his roster, King chooses to select another player who is predominantly a mere duplication of what he’s already got in place.
King’s other draft night moves involved swapping his third and final first-rounder (subsequently used on Petteri Koponen) for a mid second-rounder (subsequently used on Derrick Byars), with players such as Josh McRoberts, Glen Davis and Jermareo Davidson selected in between the two. And Philadelphia’s own second rounder – #38, used on Kyrylo Fesenko – was traded to Utah for their #55 selection – Herbert Hill – and “future considerations”.
Due to a roster spots crunch, it looks as though Byars and Hill will be coming to training camp to battle for only one spot, which isn’t exactly an efficient return when you consider that we’re talking about what began as the #30 and #38 picks in a deep draft. Oh and what’s more, Byars is a small forward, and Hill is a centre. So more duplication there.
After trading Allen Iverson to Denver fairly early during last season, and following that up by buying out Chris Webber, Philadelphia went from being a 5-18 team at the time of the trade to ending with a 35-47 record. For you maths fans out there, that’s a 30-29 record after the trade – above .500.
How they did this continues to baffle me. And why they did this is also dumbfounding. Perhaps it would have more fiscal – if somewhat irresponsible – to tank the blue blazes out of the remainder of the year, as was done by other teams, and try to win a top three lottery spot. They had the sufficiently bad team with which to achieve it, after all.
Still, in a sense, you have to admire them for trying to do the right thing, and play the right way. Yet, as one Philadelphia fan said to me towards the end of last season after I mentioned that I admired Philadelphia attempting to try and win games, “I want them to try as well! I just want them to fail.”
It’s a good point well made, and speaks to the questionable direction taken in recent times. When built to win, they lose. And when built to lose, they win.
In return for superstar Allen Iverson, Philadelphia received a half-year of Joe Smith, signed by Chicago in a particularly unspectacular bidding war (Joe didn’t even get the full MLE for the two years that he signed; gotta love teams that lose out on important players because they overspent less deserving players and ran out of budget). They received Andre Miller, a nice player, and the later two first-rounders, parlayed as described above into Jason Smith and Derrick Byars. And a bit of cap relief.
That’s all. That’s all they received back. For Allen Iverson. And given the way that they didn’t tank out the season, they wound up with Thaddeus Young over the Al Horford and Mike Conley types of this world. Or better, if they were lucky.
What a strange, strange year they had last season. And by “strange”, I mean “bad”. Here’s to more of Kevin Ollie as a backup point guard.
As mentioned above, Philadelphia played basically .500 ball for the final two thirds of last season. And I don’t get it. The argument which states that it is the sum of the parts that equates to success rather than the value of the actual parts itself holds very true, and always has done. It certainly seems to have applied to the Sixers of last season, and to the neutral it was great fun to see an offence based largely around Kyle Korver succeed quite as it did.
But can it succeed again? If you’re a Sixers fan, you have to hope so, because little help has come from outside.
The starting backcourt is talented, but the backups are weak. Kevin Ollie is awesome, but terrible. Louis Williams still hasn’t shown an NBA-calibre game. And while Willie Green can score, he’s more inefficient than an American muscle car. This didn’t get addressed this offseason, other than to add the swingman Byars alongside Carney as crossover artists at the 2/3 spots. Outside shooting comes in the form of Kyle Korver and Green, yet not much from everyone else (Iguodala has his days, but it’s not a strength yet).
Frontcourt scoring isn’t particularly noteworthy, either. Shavlik Randolph will return, but Joe Smith departs, and no offence really replaces him. Jason Smith and Dalembert offer occasional yet inefficient offence at best, and Steven Hunter is bloody terrible.
They have the league’s worst power forward rotation, worsened since Smith left for Chicago, and they also don’t feature a particularly consistent or hardy centre spot.
There’s a lot of flaws on the roster, is what I’m trying to say,
But then again, there was a lot of flaws on the roster last year, and they played mostly .500 ball. I don’t know how they did it, but they did it, and circumstances have not changed much. They can do it again.
And besides, they’re still in the Eastern Conference. So they still have a playoff chance.
EDIT – Ok, so after I wrote this, the Sixers decided to have a quick flurry of action. Having done nothing for over two whole months, they waited until the short window that it took me to write and post this to do the damn thang. Thanks for that. Show me up, why don’t you.
The Sixers made three moves in this time. They signed Herbert Hill and Derrick Byars (albeit to unguaranteed deals), agreed to sign Calvin Booth, and traded Steven Hunter and Bobby Jones to Denver (apparently their favourite trading partner now) for Reggie Evans and the draft rights to Ricky Sanchez.
The trade opened up a roster spot, as Sanchez is unsigned (although only a fraction of Jones’s salary was guaranteed anyway, but whatever), and helps alleviate some of the duplication outlined above. Meanwhile, Reggie Evans may be perhaps the most one-trickish of all the one-trick ponies out there in the league today, as well as being quite overpaid. But he is, for what it’s worth, the superior player to Steven Hunter. It’s one extra year of salary, but hey, this is Philadelphia, who cares about that sort of thing?
But as for Calvin Booth – they traded the #30 pick for the #42 pick under the guise of saving money, and then go and spend that money on Calvin Booth? And Reggie Evans for that matter? You’re still the master, Billy King.
I am continuously intrigued by the esoterica and minutiae of all the aspects of building a basketball team. I want to understand how to build the best basketball teams possible. No, I don’t know why, either.
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