Make it Stop

The Philadelphia 76ers are lost. A new coach, a high draft pick, or a superstar would be nice, but let’s be honest; the 76ers are wandering in the NBA’s mediocre wasteland. What they need is a plan.

We’re nearing the midway point of the 2009-10 NBA season and I’m already watching re-runs of Two and Half Men instead of the Sixers. This is unprecedented. The Sixers are bursting with bad contracts, overhyped players, and 43 small forwards. While there is some exciting young talent, the Sixers continue to function in the present. Bad idea. For the Sixers, the future is not now. The future is well, the future.

When GM Ed Stefanski gave Andre Igquodala a superstar contract, he essentially crippled the Sixers for the foreseeable future. Igquodala is a nice NBA player. He’s freakishly athletic, a solid defender, and a decent scorer. He’s not a superstar though. In fact, he’s probably the third (maybe second), best player on most championship caliber teams like Los Angeles, Boston, Orlando, San Antonio, or Dallas.

In my opinion, Stefanski overpaid for Igquodala’s services for two reasons. First, Igquodala was the only “premiere” player on the Sixer roster. Marketing the team without him would have been a challenge (still a challenge even with him). Secondly, the Sixers had money to spend and thought pairing Igquodala with another solid player (Elton Brand) would put them in contention in the Eastern Conference. Obviously, the Brand signing backfired and the Sixers are now barely a playoff contender. They’re never going to win with either player as their foundation.

Committing years and loads of money to unworthy players is bad enough. What’s worse is the impact such a mistake has on the younger talent. Both Brand and Igquodala received contracts worth over $80 million. Sending either player elsewhere is now impossible due to their bloated contracts and the years remaining on said contracts. The future development and improvement of the Sixers is suffering, and will continue to suffer as a result. Instead of allowing the young guys to develop together, the Sixers are forced to balance limited playing time between a handful of deserving youngsters and overpaid veterans. To be clear, Igquodala isn’t a bad player, but his play is certainly not on par with his pay. If I could choose to have him at his current salary or be without him, I’d prefer his absence.

What the Sixers need to do is surrender the next few seasons. Just chalk them up as “investment seasons.” Stop applying band aids to stab wounds. I doubt anyone will fuss if we never see Willie Green or Royal Ivey on the floor again. Are the Sixers going to win with them? No. They have a young nucleus of Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday, Marreese Speights, Jason Smith and Lou Williams. Brand and Iquodala aren’t going anywhere so you might as well as throw them in. Look at Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Sacramento. Unlike the Sixers, they haven’t continually added pedestrian talent to stay playoff competitive. There’s no point. Instead, they’ve improved through the draft and now have a foundation of players to build around. The Sixers keep adding Elton Brands and Allen Iversons to a team that needs a couple of years to gel. Let the young fellas play.

Jrue Holiday should be playing 30 minutes a night. He’s only 19 and could become the Sixers first true (and talented) point guard since Mo Cheeks. Lou Williams is a better scorer than a point guard. The Sixers have been forcing him to play the point. Put Green on the bench and let Holiday and Williams patrol the backcourt together. I love “Sweet Lou,” but they may need to package him to move one of their awful contracts. In fact, the Sixers should move anyone necessary to shed some of their dreadful contracts. Young and Holiday may be the only untouchables, but I question whether either will be a future star. Nonetheless, the Sixers need to build around them and hope the team finishes bad enough to receive a top three pick.

The alternative is to remain in the cycle they’ve been in for the past handful of years. In the NBA, unless you’re competing for a conference title, you may as well stink. Finishing .500 and losing in the first round of the playoffs year after year is not progress. Blowing it up and starting over is the only option. Something needs to be done soon. Charlie Sheen is getting on my nerves.

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