The Philadelphia 76ers entered the 2012 offseason with many unanswered questions regarding the team’s future on the court. Over the last few years, the 76ers’ organization has struggled to choose a defined path for the team. Despite a first-round playoff series win against the top-seeded Chicago Bulls and a grueling seven-game series against a veteran Celtics team, many people, including Sixers President Rod Thorn, believe this past season’s squad has nearly reached its peak.
As the offseason began, the Sixers’ front office was faced with a major decision: supplement the current team with a band of supporting players or completely rebuild the team around just a couple of its premier players?
The first big decision addressed was whether or not to make a long-term commitment to guard and leading scorer Lou Williams. After a brief attempt to agree to a multi-year deal, Williams decided to opt out of the final year of his contract, which would have been worth $6.4 million. He has since signed with the Atlanta Hawks.
The next major offseason challenge was the NBA Draft, in which the Sixers had the 15th overall pick. The Sixers used the pick to draft Maurice “Moe” Harkless, a small forward out of St. John’s University in New York. Harkless is touted as an explosive and supremely athletic player, but many question the choice because the 76ers already have an effective swingman (shooting guard and small forward) in Andre Iguodala. The Sixers simply had more pressing needs, most notably depth in the frontcourt. Fortunately for Sixers fans, the team addressed this exact deficiency in a draft-day trade with the Miami Heat. In the trade, Philadelphia sent Justin Hamilton and a future first-round pick to Miami in exchange for Arnett Moultrie, the 27th overall pick in the draft. Moultrie is a 6-foot-11-inch center out of Mississippi State University with good rebounding skills and versatility.
Soon after the draft, the Sixers continued to establish their frontcourt by signing center Spencer Hawes to a two-year, $13 million deal. However, about a week after signing Hawes, the 76ers took a big step in amnestying forward Elton Brand, effectively ending his contract before the final season and putting a close to the “Brand era.” In July of 2008 Philadelphia signed Brand to a five-year contract worth almost $80 million, the final year of which would have been worth $18.2 million. By amnestying the forward, Philadelphia agreed to pay the remainder of his contract minus his salary for the upcoming year, which will be $2.1 million with the Dallas Mavericks.
In order to fill the void created by Brand’s absence, the Sixers signed forward Lavoy Allen to a deal reportedly worth $6 million over two years. More recently they agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal with center Kwame Brown, the first overall pick in the 2001 draft who has widely been considered a “bust” because he has failed to live up to expectations throughout his career.
Meanwhile, the Sixers were also busy trying to bring in offensive firepower after the loss of Williams. They signed free-agent swingman Nick Young to a one-year, $6 million deal to supply an offensive punch. Young, who knows how to score but offers little more than that, is expected to come off the bench as the team’s sixth man, a role previously held by Williams. Philadelphia also acquired 6-foot-9-inch small forward Dorell Wright in a three-team trade with the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Hornets, sending Bosnian Edin Bavcic to New Orleans in the deal. Wright has the ability to stretch the defense with his strong three-point shooting.
The 76ers’ offseason has drawn attention, not for its ingenuity or creativity, but for its peculiarity. The Sixers now have four small forwards and no backup point guard, which is likely to cause confusion for Philly players and coaches alike come time to play.
Overall, the situation in Philadelphia doesn’t look to be a rebuilding of something new or a revamping of the current team. Instead, it appears to be more of a transition period, where the organization is biding its time, allowing younger players (Holliday, Turner, Thaddeus Young) to continue to mature without using up the salary cap. Perhaps after a couple years, the Sixers will have a more defined plan with cap space available and more developed players around which to build.