Inside the Sixers: Put the pieces together, and Sixers are a better team

Posted: July 13, 2012

Because they haven't made a blockbuster move in free agency (something that puts them comfortably in the majority), the 76ers have come under interesting scrutiny.

They didn't fork over a truckload of money to European power forward Ersan Ilyasova because they believe that on some nights he plays like a force but on others he looks as if he has mentally checked out by halftime.

They quickly turned their gaze away from power forward Kris Humphries, one of the better rebounders in the NBA, because some in the league question the type of teammate he is, having played for four teams in eight seasons.

Of course, free agency is really the time when would-be general managers lick their lips and then get disappointed with their team when the professionals entrusted with improving the Sixers don't make the moves that they would have, moves that naturally would have made their team the favorite to supplant the Miami Heat as NBA champions.

The Sixers' brain trust, however, has not engaged in any type of deception since the end of the season. Not since coach Doug Collins and president Rod Thorn asserted that the Eastern Conference semifinalists must become two things: bigger and more athletic on the wings and better shooters.

Have the Sixers not done exactly that?

Wednesday marked the first day that teams could consummate free-agent signings and trades, and the Sixers began by re-signing center/forward Lavoy Allen to a two-year, $6 million deal.

Can anyone look at the additions to the roster and deny that the Sixers are a better-shooting team and more athletic than they were when they walked off the court against Boston after Game 7?

Gone are Lou Williams and Elton Brand. Williams is a 6-foot-1 shooting guard who led the team in scoring during the regular season (14.9 points per game) but was good for only 11.1 ppg. on 35.2 percent shooting (16.7 percent from long distance) in the playoffs.

As for Brand, the Sixers promised they would consider cutting ties with him. And earlier this week they did, using the amnesty provision to keep the $18.2 million they owe him from counting against the salary cap for the coming season.

Nick Young, 6-7, comes cheaply, signed to a one-year deal at $6 million. He's a good scorer who averaged 17.4 and 14.2 points in the previous two seasons, and he's not a bad shooter. He's more of a shooting guard than a small forward, and there will be plenty of nights when Collins, especially if he's not pleased with the way Evan Turner is playing, will be much happier that Young is on the roster rather than Jodie Meeks.

Young is also in a contract year, one of the primary motivators for NBA players.

For whatever reason, things didn't go as planned in Golden State for Dorell Wright under new coach Marc Jackson last season, when the 6-9 Wright's scoring average fell from 16.4 points the season before to just 10.3.

But Wright, who can play both shooting guard and small forward, gives the Sixers versatility and length off the bench that they didn't have last season. Used to starting, Wright is also in the last year of his contract and will be playing for that great motivator, cash.

Re-signing Spencer Hawes won't move the needle much, but the two-year deal for the center ($13 million) is also a good contract that wouldn't be hard to move. Hawes, when healthy, is probably among the top 12 centers in the league.

The Sixers are more athletic and longer, and they should be a better shooting team than they were in 2011-12. They have easily tradable contracts and they are not ruling out trading anyone on the roster. And while they haven't made major moves, the removal of Brand is a clear indication that the Sixers are not comfortable with the status quo.

"We feel as though we've acquired some nice pieces - guys who can shoot and guys who give us length," Thorn said from Florida. "We've got some good contracts and we've also put ourselves to do things in the future. You have to improve your team - we think we've done that - and you have to set yourself up so you are in position to really pursue something that will make your team better in the future. I think we've done both."


Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com.

 

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