Even recently departed Elton Brand, the No. 1 overall pick two years before Brown, proved more valuable as a contract to amnesty than as an injury-worn veteran who actually contributed to the team's emergence last season.
There is a huge difference this time, however. The Sixers didn't sign Brown just to look as if they were spending some money. He is not coming here with hype and pressure to be a star. He is a 30-year-old piece of an increasingly interesting puzzle who signed a very modest (by NBA standards) two-year contract worth $6 million.
To their credit, the Sixers didn't break out the giant confetti cannons and flashing lights and smoke machines to introduce Brown, Young, and Dorell Wright. As coach Doug Collins made very clear in a half-hour media session Tuesday, the team has a very realistic view of where it stands in the NBA landscape and how far it needs to go to win a title.
"We had a plan," Collins said. "We had a plan, if we amnestied E.B., we had some guys in mind that we thought we could add to our team. They weren't necessarily going to be home runs, but they were going to be guys that fit exactly what we thought we needed."
The stark, interrelated truths: It takes home run moves (adding LeBron James or Kevin Garnett or Jason Kidd) to create an instant championship contender, but the Sixers are not in a position to swing for those particular fences just yet.
So think of these moves - adding Brown, Young, and Wright, re-signing Spencer Hawes, drafting Maurice Harkless and Arnett Moultrie - as a bunch of singles. If the Sixers can load the bases, they will be that much stronger if they do hit a home run, either with a midseason trade or, more likely, in free agency next summer.
"We don't have a bad contract," Collins said. And it's true. You see the Nets sign Kris Humphries for $12 million a year, to go with the four years, nearly $90 million they'll owe Joe Johnson, and you can't help seeing the kind of trap the Sixers used to build for themselves.
Instead, they concluded they had gone about as far as they could (maybe a little farther, considering injuries to their first-round opponents, the Chicago Bulls) with Brand as their top-paid player. Parting ways with Brand allowed them to do some thrift-store shopping. To the core that showed signs of promise in the shortened regular season and longer-than-expected playoff run, Collins added a few complementary pieces.
Brown carries around the stigma of being a first-round bust. Young can shoot but isn't considered much of a defensive player. Wright is a decent enough player, but the Sixers weren't exactly short of 6-foot-7-ish wing players.
There isn't much there to excite you, except for this. Each player comes with Collins' promise to get the most out of him. That's more than idle bragging. Collins knows his team, knows what it needs, and has a feel for how each of these guys can fill some of those needs.
Collins was Washington's coach when the franchise took Brown with the first pick in 2001.
"He was 18 years old," Collins said. "He wasn't ready. He's 30 now. He's a big, strong, rugged guy."
Collins thinks Thad Young needs to play with just such a physical presence alongside him. As for Young, Collins is confident he can get the 27-year-old to buy into playing hard at both ends of the floor.
If Collins is right, he'll have a deeper, more versatile group at his disposal. But, crazy as it sounds, the real beauty of the plan is what happens if Collins is wrong, or even if being right doesn't translate to progress over 2012. There isn't a single contract here that will weigh the Sixers down the way Robinson's and Coleman's and Webber's did.
There is no guarantee, of course, that they hit that badly needed home run next year. But at least the Sixers will have a chance to swing for the fences for a change.
Contact Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @Sheridanscribe. Read his blog, "Philabuster," at philly.com/philabuster and his columns at philly.com/philsheridan