A Sixer-Sized Setback
How the impending lockout would affect Philly’s progress.
by Doobie Okon
It’s almost September now and looking pretty slim-to-mega-nil that NBA basketball will be played in Dallas on November 1, the first scheduled game of the ‘11-12 season. And honestly, who the hell knows when the inaugural game of this season will actually take place, if at all.
While there is still plenty of time for some kind of deal to magically appear to at least salvage a shortened session, a la ‘98-99 when we were ‘treated’ to 50 games, my money would have to go toward a fully stricken season. Judging by both sides’ unwillingness to cooperate and the dozens of players escaping to Europe like the US just went third-world, who really envisions any shortened year happening?
Let’s assume that bleak, unnerving situation for now where we won’t see NBA ball played until at least ‘12-13. All 30 organizations would be affected in certain ways, not all necessary bad. Take the Heat for example, who have their big three locked up until 2014, even before player options kick in. They also have key bench contributors Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Mike Miller signed until then as well, so Miami doesn’t have much to worry about. Their talent alone will swiftly spark back the chemistry once the League resumes again.
While other strong teams will sit rather unfazed by a lockout, it’s the mediocre and up-and-coming squads who will be hit the hardest. The Philadelphia 76ers, at times last year, were extremely average and then at other instances materialized into a truly competitive opponent to the stronger teams in the East. While only taking one game against Miami in the first round, three out of the four losses could have gone either way, and they showed America that they might be ready to take the next step in 2012… but ohhhh no. Next year, ye shall not be.
Not to say that a lockout would produce completely negative consequences for the Sixers, still struggling to find their post-Iverson identity. Ironically enough, the shortened ’98-99 season actually helped AI and the Sixers to reach their first Playoffs in eight years. Philly only went 28-22, which was also their first .500+ campaign in those eight seasons as well, but it was enough to qualify for the 7th seed. But now we’re looking at zero games instead of 50, so let’s see how Philadelphia would be affected:
Andre Iguodala‘s bloated contract
Iguodala’s horrible contract will be up after 2013, with a player option for the next year. Iggy knows that GM Ed Stefanski has tried to deal him several times and I highly doubt he’ll be here once the 2013 season begins. Listen, while Iguodala gives me agita on a nightly basis, he would be a fit on this team if he had a much smaller contract and wasn’t counted on to be “the guy.” Sadly, that’s not the case…and with young gunners Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams building the new core, Iggy is just no longer necessary. He should’ve been dealt years ago, so one year closer to his contract being done has to be considered a positive.
Elton Brand‘s bloated contract
I like EB. I really do. He’s a great guy, a solid veteran leader for the 76er youth, and used to be one of the best power forwards in the game. That’s what the Sixers thought they were getting when they signed the then-29-year-old back in 2008 to a five-year, $82 million deal. Problem was he was coming off a ruptured Achilles with the Clippers and then proceeded to miss most of his first year with Philly due to a dislocated shoulder which later required surgery.
Brand was actually a pleasant surprise this past year though, as he averaged 15 points and 8 boards per contest, as well as playing 34.7 minutes in 81 games, both the most since his ‘06-07 season in L.A. And while those are pretty solid numbers, Elton suffers from the Iggy status where his play and dollars just don’t match. He will be in Philly until 2013 as well, so this lockout just brings the organization a step closer to being rid of these two financial impediments.
A gigantic task will for arise for David Stern and Co. if every team finishes this year 0-0, and its name is the 2012 NBA Draft. The only instance a major professional league cancelled an entire season was the ‘04-05 NHL lockout, and thanks to Kevin Arnovitz over at ESPN‘s True Hoop blog, we have an idea as to how the NBA could handle its Draft if they look to their ice-counterpart’s similar predicament. If all the teams do indeed some get some type of shot at the lottery, despite what they did this past season, then the Sixers have a fighter’s chance at some sort of high pick.
Philly has spent the better part of the last decade mired in mediocrity, either making the Playoffs as a low seed or slightly missing out on the second season, which has given them minimal lottery balls anyway. They’ve been drafting mid-first round for as long as I can remember except when receiving a gift from the basketball gods last year where they shockingly drew the second pick. But they ended up with Evan Turner, and no offense to the 2010 NCAA Player of the Year, but let’s look at some of the second picks of the recent years: Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Emeka Okafor. Not to mention that the two players ET was sandwiched between, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, already look like near-superstars. Turner might grow into an elite guy himself someday, but so far it’s looking like the Sixers got unlucky after getting very lucky.
So even if the Sixers end up landing a really low pick, it won’t change the trend much since there really is a small difference these days between the 15th and 25th selections. The real talent lies in the top 10 and everybody knows it. Here’s to a league-wide lottery!