Forget the two wins the Sixers managed in this first round series against the Orlando magic. They stole one while the Magic were napping. Then they held serve in their first home game for the second win. But when it came down to gut check time, this Sixers team showed exactly why they dropped six out of seven heading into the playoffs, with the sole win coming against a Cleveland team resting their starters. No direction. No leadership. No defensive clue.
The good news Sixers fans is that there’s some silver lining to this embarrassing 25 point loss at home to the Magic without two of their starters. (By the way, this was the easiest game to call, you only had to look back at what the Sixers did against OKC without Kevin Durant and Jeff Green for the blueprint of what this team was all about.) The silver lining is that Ed Stefanski will have to shake up this roster in the offseason if he expects to make any gains into ticket sales for a team that ranks 23rd in the league, sharing the bottom third in attendance with moribund franchises like the LA Clippers, the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The bad news is that there might not be much Stefanski can do since he’s saddled with a bunch of bad contracts and Andre Miller needs to get paid. Without some shrewd wheeling and dealing, this Sixers team might be mediocre until the 2011-2012 season, which incidentally might be a lockout year when the owners have had enough of years of GMs throwing superstar money at non-superstars (that’s you, Iguodala) and draw a line in the sand. But, even if that doesn’t come to pass, that year marks the last year of Samuel Dalembert’s ridiculous contract. (Thanks, Billy King!)
But let’s be optimistic here. Let’s assume there’s someone to play Kevin McHale to Stefanksi’s Danny Ainge. The first thing you have to do is to get rid of Samuel Dalembert. There are some who might argue that Dalembert provides a valuable service. To those, I say, look up the definition of valuable and/or service. When Dalembert was first drafted, he had absolutely no basketball IQ but his huge wingspan and athletic ability made him a project worth taking on. However, 8 years later, he has exactly the same basketball IQ and has not done one single thing to improve his game.
Here’s the quintessential Dalembert play: he’ll jump up with his ridiculously long arms and block a shot but get called for goaltending. Some shotblockers will take a goaltend early in the game just to intimidate the opponent. Dalembert will take a goaltend at any time during a game just because he has no idea, after 8 years, what goaltending is. It’s unbelievable how often this happens. Your shot is off? Don’t worry, you might get bailed out by Dalembert and get 2 points anyway.
Next up, Willie Green. I can’t believe anyone expects the Sixers to compete in the playoffs with a starting 2 guard that averages 8.5 points a game. The Sixers number one priority should be to trade Dalembert for a legitimate starting shooting guard and hope that you can get a serviceable center for a reasonable price and that Jason Smith can contribute next year. My concern is that Stefanski will try the Andre Iguodala at the SG experiment again. Recently, Stefanski said the he didn’t consider the experiment a failure but that it simply wasn’t executed in the right way. Please Ed, the experiment was a failure. Iguodala is a nice player that does a lot of things well but he shouldn’t be your 2 guard option.
As an aside, I think the biggest problem with Iguodala‘s contract isn’t that he’s overpaid, it’s that his contract almost forces the head coach to go to him as the first option in last shot situations. While he has made some notable ones this season, my confidence in him making the shot is significantly less than, say, if Ben Gordon was taking it. Oh by the way, did I mention Ben Gordon is a free agent after this year?
I have absolutely no idea why the Sixers gave Louis Williams $25M over 5 years. He’s not a point guard. He’s not a shooting guard. Throughout the Orlando series, we were treated again and again to Lou driving to the basket like he’s Dwyane Wade only to get his shot rejected worse than the weak tot action in the Sonic ads. Once in a while, Williams will put on a nice little offensive display off the bench but all too often, he takes ill advised shots and has no idea how to run the point.
Finally, let’s hope that the Tony DiLeo era has ended in Philadelphia. While he has been lauded for the job he’s done since taking over for Mo Cheeks, I have to think that there has to be a better option out there at head coach. Throughout the year, there has been no consistent focus from this team. While a lot of that has to do with the players, someone has to step up and whip them into line. When you clinch a playoff spot and then come out and lose by 29 to a horrendous NJ team, that is on the head coach. When the team consistently fails to switch off and defend the three in game winning situations (see vs Orlando, vs Boston, vs Dallas, vs NJ…) that is on the coach. Go back to the tape and check out the missed substitution at the end of the Boston game where Ray Allen buries the three for the win.
Thanks Tony for your work this year, go back to the front office. I hear Avery Johnson is available.
The problem with the Sixers is that they’re good enough to get to the playoffs but not good enough to win. This keeps them from getting someone like Derrick Rose who can make an immediate impact.
But there’s hope Sixers fans. It might take a couple years, but this team can reach the upper echelon of the Eastern conference if Stefanski makes a few good moves. Assuming that Elton Brand comes back and gives the team a consistent 15 and 10, you can build this team around Thaddeus Young and Brand. Come on Stefanski, there’s gotta be someone you can sucker out there. It’s too bad Billy King didn’t get another GM job.