HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Boston Celtics have reloaded with Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jeff Green. The Brooklyn Nets have spent over $300 million on their new starting lineup. The New York Knicks lost Jeremy Lin, but added depth. And the Toronto Raptors have upgraded their rotation with the additions of Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields and Jonas Valanciunas.
Overall, the Atlantic Division is on an upswing. But what of the Philadelphia 76ers, who were, at one point, one of the last five teams still alive in the 2012 Playoffs?
With seven players in their rotation under the age of 25, the Sixers could have stood pat and kept improving. Instead, they let go of two of their biggest contributors, allowing free agent Lou Williams to sign with the Atlanta Hawks and using the amnesty clause to waive Elton Brand.
In their place are Nick Young (signed to a one-year deal), Dorell Wright (acquired from Golden State) and Kwame Brown (two years).
With young guards/wings Maurice Harkless, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner on board, it’s understandable why the Sixers didn’t want to commit long-term to Williams. But Brand was on the final year of his contract, and the Sixers clearly downgraded in their frontcourt.
Now, shaking up the frontcourt wasn’t a terrible idea, because the starting combination of Brand and Spencer Hawes was pretty poor offensively.
Sixers efficiency by frontcourt combination, 2011-12 (including playoffs)
|Brand + Young||62||704||106.2||97.1||+9.2||+113|
|Brand + Hawes||41||584||95.6||94.3||+1.3||-2|
|Hawes + Young||42||420||105.7||100.6||+5.1||+43|
|Vucevic + Young||38||419||104.2||95.6||+8.6||+59|
|Allen + Young||29||251||103.5||90.4||+13.2||+45|
|Allen + Brand||27||249||104.2||91.4||+12.9||+50|
|Brand + Vucevic||30||234||98.5||94.1||+4.4||+10|
|Allen + Hawes||10||95||105.7||87.6||+18.1||+28|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
Still, Brand was more effective than Hawes, who was re-signed for another two years. The problem was the $18.2 million he was owed in the final season of his contract. By using the amnesty on Brand, the Sixers were able to add to their depth with Young and Wright. They’ve also regained some financial flexibility that could allow them to make a big move in the future.
But with a new starting frontline of Hawes and Brown, you have to wonder if the Sixers aren’t taking a step backward. With the Nets likely to take one of those Eastern Conference playoff spots next season, are the Sixers guaranteed a spot in the top eight?
Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer believes that the Sixers made the right moves, and that their patience could eventually be rewarded…
To their credit, the Sixers didn’t break out the giant confetti cannons and flashing lights and smoke machines to introduce Brown, Young, and Dorell Wright. As coach Doug Collins made very clear in a half-hour media session Tuesday, the team has a very realistic view of where it stands in the NBA landscape and how far it needs to go to win a title.
“We had a plan,” Collins said. “We had a plan, if we amnestied E.B., we had some guys in mind that we thought we could add to our team. They weren’t necessarily going to be home runs, but they were going to be guys that fit exactly what we thought we needed.”
The stark, interrelated truths: It takes home run moves (adding LeBron James or Kevin Garnett or Jason Kidd) to create an instant championship contender, but the Sixers are not in a position to swing for those particular fences just yet.
So think of these moves – adding Brown, Young, and Wright, re-signing Spencer Hawes, drafting Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie – as a bunch of singles. If the Sixers can load the bases, they will be that much stronger if they do hit a home run, either with a midseason trade or, more likely, in free agency next summer.
The long-term plan looks pretty good, as long as Holiday, Turner and Lavoy Allen continue to develop. Short-term, it looks like the Sixers are willing to forget the positive vibes they built in May. And it may take another great coaching job from Doug Collins to get them back to the playoffs.