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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – “How do we fix the Sixers?” It certainly wasn’t the kind of conversation you’d expect to have about a team who is 29-22, in first place in their division, and just an hour after a convincing, 20 point win. Regardless, that’s the conversation we were having on Tuesday night on 94WIP.
Building a team in the NBA is perhaps the most difficult in all of pro sports. It’s almost impossible to win without a top 10 player in the league, and those guys don’t grow on trees. Guaranteed contracts complicate the situation even further. Regardless of their current success, the Sixers path toward a parade down Broad St. isn’t particularly clear. So though the Sixers improvement over the last two seasons is obvious, and the team has been exciting, wondering where it’s heading is a natural, prudent thing to do.
The Sixers are young, talented and deep. But whether they’ve got a player talented enough to lead them to the promised land is doubtful, and the ability to attract a player through free agency to do that is even less likely. Stripping the team of their veteran players who contribute (Iguodala, Brand), would surely result in fewer wins right now, but would also lead to better picks in the draft, and more chances at winding up with the “superstar” that they need. That path is one that many NBA teams take, but is a long one, history has shown, without a definitive end in sight (see: Sacramento, Minnesota, LA Clippers). People point to the Oklahoma City Thunder as a success story, but there’s a lot of luck involved in becoming a similar story. The alternative, the path the Sixers find themselves on now, could very well result in years of finishes somewhere between the fourth and eighth seeds in the playoffs. Without a shot at a ring, and without a draft pick good enough for a star. You don’t need to look further than the team that will be at the Wells Fargo Center to face the Sixers on Saturday, the Atlanta Hawk as an example of a team like that. “Young and exciting” can become “30 and mediocre” pretty quickly.
Could the Sixers get good enough, and an attractive enough destination for a big-time free agent to land, or player on an expiring deal to ask to be traded to? Not likely. The first obstacle is the fact that there just aren’t many of those guys. The second is that there isn’t too much evidence that the plan often results in much championship level success.
So what’s the answer? I just don’t know. As much as I understand wanting great draft picks year after year, the idea of watching losing basketball … well … it sucks. So I had Mike Levin of the Sixers blog, Liberty Ballers on to discuss. In the middle of our discussion, I was surprised with a call from Sixers CEO Adam Aron, who politely insisted I finish my conversation with Mike before speaking to him. Mike favors going young, and losing to win, while Aron seems to choose the other path.
I don’t think we came up with an answer on Tuesday. I’m not entirely sure the Sixers front office even knows the direction they’ll take yet. But the conversation was fascinating, and worth a listen.
After listening, make sure you check out Mike’s reaction to the conversation at Liberty Ballers (Sixers CEO Responds To Liberty Ballers, Tips Ownership’s Hand), and Derek Bodner’s piece (Building An NBA Champion and The Curse Of Conflicting Interests).
Listen to the interview with Mike Levin and Adam Aron: