By Mike Angelina
While the Philadelphia 76ers’ CEO Adam Aron was looking ahead to the off-season, the Sixers were nearing their second consecutive playoff berth, which they achieved Monday night. Aron, an active tweeter, posted this on his Twitter page Wednesday:
“Real thinking and ACTION needed over the summer. Until then five games left. Playoffs still around the corner for @Sixers if they play hard.”
He followed this a few hours later by asking his Twitter followers to identify a player the basketball team needs to keep, as well as one or two players they should trade and why.
I heard a lot of people call in to 94WIP last week suggesting the Sixers are better off tanking, skipping the playoffs, and playing what would be their less than one percent chance to win the draft lottery.
Aron appears to be overlooking the playoffs and ahead to the off-season. At many points, Aron has come off as a fan of the team more than a leader of the organization.
This team will greatly benefit from another playoff run for a number of reasons.
The number one issue we’ve all noticed with this Sixers squad that has kept them from being an elite team is that they lack a star. They have no premiere player, just a core of role players and “second fiddles.”
If they did miss out on the playoffs, they would get about the 15th or so pick in the draft, as the chances of winning the lottery and get the top pick would be less than one percent. So they have about the same chance of being able to land a star with the pick as they would of actually winning the lottery, so it’s more than unlikely they will not a star through the 2012 draft. With the type of pick, they likely would get, they simply will be getting another Marreese Speights or Rodney Carney.
The best way to get a star would be to attracting one to your team.
For any player that has the freedom to choose where they would like to play, whether with a no-trade clause or as a free agent, which sounds like a better destination: You could have a team that made its second consecutive playoff appearance under coach Doug Collins, and rode a strong at 20-9 start to return to the playoffs, or, a team that was close to the playoffs but struggled at the end of the season and so they missed.
You would have to think the team coming off consecutive playoff appearances and improving instead of regressing sounds better. It is what will separate them from the Milwaukee, Houston and Portland type “bubble teams”.
Philadelphia will also be able to showcase what it already has on a national level and against some of the game’s’ best players that could be matched up against them. On the trade front, some of their own players could make a name for themselves and give Aron’s twitter survey more lucrative options to trade as they can make a name for themselves in the playoffs.
Think Raja Bell in 2001, who only had a handful of games in the league under his belt going into the playoffs. His name and his game were put under the spotlight covering stars like Ray Allen and in the 2001 Finals when he was the man matched up with Kobe Bryant. Since then, he’s been enjoying a career of longevity in the league and that may not have been the case if he made himself go unnoticed in 2001. In other words, his stint in the playoffs created value.
It would only help their chances of being able to land a big-time player, or at least a scorer if they had pieces other teams could value.
And maybe they find the star that they need on their own team, as well as anattractive bait to bring in another player.
Think back to the 2004 Playoffs when Dwyane Wade established himself as a legitimate NBA player and star. We all saw him shine at Marquette, but that doesn’t mean he would shine in the NBA and be a star. Just the year before, Juan Dixon went from collegiate star to mediocre NBA player so it was no guarantee.
First, he hit a big game-winning shot in the opening round, and then his big moment came in the second round when he dunked on Jermaine O’Neal. At that moment, Wade became a star and he opened the eyes of the entire NBA.
Only few weeks later, future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal expressed his interest in playing with Wade in Miami, and eventually was traded there, and teamed up with him to win a championship two years later.
So not only did Miami find a star on their own squad, they attracted another one. This was after they finished just two games over .500, and if they really wanted to, they probably could have tanked and went for the better draft pick.
Could Evan Turner, former top pick and collegiate superstar, like Wade, show us something in the playoffs and step up? We won’t find out by tanking the season for a mid-round draft pick.
You find a lot out about your team in the postseason. The decisions are made faster, teams play better defense, you face more intense looks and matchups.
Spencer Hawes is in the final year of his deal. Seeing how he does against, say, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer on both ends of the court if the Sixers were to meet the Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.
Maybe Jrue Holliday, who at times seems a bit aloof or distant on the court, enters another gear in May. If not, it can give the Sixers an indication that they need to address the point guard position.
The other thing is it could be a reality check. Being matched up against the top seed could show management, the coaching staff, and the players just how far away, or maybe just how close, they are to competing with a top team. If they can limit Derrick Rose to less damage than expected, it gives them renewed confidence in their personnel, and gives players confidence in their talents. If not, they see in a set of four to seven games what are some of the areas which they need to address.
If Rose runs up and down the court and makes play after play, it will show a harsh reality that the team is still far, far away.
There is only one way to find out, and it’s not by stacking the team with even more mid-round picks.
Mike Angelina is a Producer at 94 WIP-FM / 610 WIP-AM and contributes to CBS Philly on both local and national sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeAngelina