Inside the Sixers: Sixers hint at strategy that looks at rebuilding in 2013

The 76ers have to decide what to do about unrestricted free agent Lou Williams, the team's scoring leader.
The 76ers have to decide what to do about unrestricted free agent Lou Williams, the team's scoring leader. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: July 02, 2012

The more closely you listen to members of the Sixers front office, the more you suspect they have their eyes set on free agency in 2013 rather than 2012.

When asked whether selecting 6-foot-8 Maurice Harkless and acquiring 6-11 center Arnett Moultrie by trade later in the first round of the NBA draft - two players the Sixers had ranked in the top 10 - would in any way influence what the team will do in free agency, which begins Sunday, coach Doug Collins opened a small window to allow a look at what the team's thinking may be.

"Well, I think it plays a big part," Collins said, making it easy to surmise that the acquisition of a small forward and a power forward, respectively, might make the team more eager to trade Andre Iguodala and to perhaps use amnesty on Elton Brand.

"You can't rule it out," Collins continued.

In the same breath, however, Collins said some things that made it sound as if the Sixers, who have approximately $49 million committed to six players next season, will proceed conservatively through free agency.

"When you look at what we'd like to be able to do, it's maybe add a guy who can add some shooting for our team," Collins said. "We are very young. Could we add a veteran guy who could come in and be a good locker room guy and a mentor? Not only that, but can he play [and] mentor them? Those guys become invaluable. We want to think about adding some shooting."

That sounds as if the Sixers expect to be big players in next summer's significantly better free-agent market, when they could potentially be more than $25 million under the salary cap.

Next summer's free-agent class includes Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Andrew Bynum, and Al Jefferson. Considering that superstars are the core of the NBA's best teams, it's clear that the acquisition of a superstar for a young Sixers roster is worth the wait.

Meanwhile, the Sixers have not ruled out keeping their own free agents.

Team president Rod Thorn said that attempting to sign unrestricted free agents Lou Williams and Spencer Hawes - moves that would put the Sixers over the salary cap - would be the team's first order of business.

This, of course, can all change if the Sixers decide to place the amnesty clause on Brand. In doing so, as much as $18.2 million can come off of the cap, although the Sixers would still be responsible for paying most of his salary. They could then sign a player such as Nets unrestricted free agent power forward Kris Humphries or New Orleans' restricted free agent guard Eric Gordon.

Williams' situation is by far the Sixers' most polarizing.

Williams is the type of player whom Philadelphians either love or hate. Those in his corner say that if he's not on the team next season the Sixers, who could barely put the ball in the basket at times, will be even more offensively challenged. Those who don't like him say it's because he's a one-trick pony capable of shooting the ball and nothing else.

If they keep Williams, the Sixers will have a significant advantage in that they can sign him for more years (five) than any other team in the league, although a source close to Williams said there are "five, six teams" ready to offer him a contract.

If Hawes does not return, who is going to play center? Lavoy Allen played well in spurts. And Nik Vucevic wasn't bad in the pivot - until he completely fell out of the rotation by the end of the regular season and the playoffs.

Of the two players, Hawes, a 7-footer, will probably be hardest to keep, primarily because teams always overpay for size. The Sixers will most likely keep Allen, also a restricted free agent. Craig Brackins, Tony Battie, Sam Young, Jodie Meeks, and Xavier Silas will all be looking for work.


Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com or follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer. Read his blog, "Deep Sixer," at www.philly.com/deepsixer

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