Inside the Sixers: Tanking may bother some, but at least 76ers have a plan

Rookies Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel (right) may be the only current Sixers still with the team a few seasons from now.
Rookies Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel (right) may be the only current Sixers still with the team a few seasons from now. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 30, 2013

We all know the 76ers have no intention of producing a winning product this season.

Who can blame them?

The Sixers couldn't come close to contending for an NBA title even if they tried. Teams such as Miami, Brooklyn, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio are simply on another level.

Even the best-case scenario would have them becoming a seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and making an early exit from the postseason.

But the objective is to win an NBA title, right?

When the Sixers traded away Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and weren't active in free agency, folks went ahead and called it the beginning of a "tanking" season. They were right. But tanking is a part of what's called rebuilding.

Some will argue the Sixers are making a mockery of the game by overhauling their roster with young and inexperienced players to get higher draft picks in 2014.

But no one questions a championship contender's resting its best players the final three games of the regular season because of "minor" injuries. On those occasions, the reaction is: "Oh, they're just putting themselves in position to win down the line."

Isn't that the Sixers' long-term plan?

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors are prime examples that tanking works.

The Thunder were the Seattle SuperSonics before relocating to Oklahoma in 2008. The team reshuffled the roster heading into its final season in Seattle.

The Sonics selected Kevin Durant out of Texas with the second overall pick in the 2007 draft. A month later, they traded future Hall of Famer Ray Allen and Glen Davis to the Boston Celtics for Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West. Then in July 2007, the Sonics conducted a sign-and-trade that sent Rashard Lewis to the Orlando Magic for a future second-round pick and a $9.5 million trade exception. They used the pick, another second-round pick, and the exception to acquire Kurt Thomas and two first-round picks from the Phoenix Suns.

The Sonics lost their first eight games and went 3-14 through the first month of the 2007 season. They finished with the second worst record (20-62) behind the Miami Heat (15-67).

But after relocating to Oklahoma City, the franchise selected Russell Westbrook (fourth overall) and Serge Ibaka (24th) in the first round of the 2008 draft. The Thunder reached the playoffs in the 2009-10 season. Two seasons after that, Oklahoma City reached the NBA Finals, losing in five games to the Heat.

In March of that 2011-12 season, the Warriors traded standout guard Monta Ellis along with current Sixer Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh to the Milwaukee Bucks. In return, they received Andrew Bogut (who missed that entire season with an injury) and Stephen Jackson. The Warriors quickly traded Jackson to the San Antonio Spurs for Richard Jefferson and a conditional first-round pick.

The Warriors also shut down Stephen Curry and David Lee toward the end of what turned out to be a 23-43 campaign.

That summer, the Warriors selected Harrison Barnes (seventh) and Festus Ezeli (30th, from San Antonio) in the first round.

This past season, Golden State posted its first winning record (47-35) in five years while making its first playoff appearance during that time. The Warriors also advanced to the Western Conference semifinals, eventually losing to the Spurs.

So don't study the Sixers' current 20-man preseason roster too hard. There's a great chance that Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams will be the only holdovers by 2015-16. There's a greater chance that veterans Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young will be gone sooner.

Tanking doesn't always work. Nor do free-agent signings, trades, or draft picks.

But at least the Sixers have a plan. If it works, they'll grow into an Eastern Conference contender while an already-ancient Brooklyn squad rebuilds and Miami grows old or breaks up.


Inside the Sixers: Issues Facing the 76ers

What will be the 76ers' final record? The Sixers are expected to finish as the NBA's worst team this season. And that might happen, considering they have only six players with more than two years of experience. There's a consensus that this squad will struggle to win even 16 to 20 games.

Can Michael Carter-Williams develop into a serviceable point guard? The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder out of Syracuse wants to become the rookie of the year. To do that, he'll have to make teams respect his outside jumper and be able to score on the left side of the basket. If he's able to do those things, he'll endear himself to Sixers fans.

Will Evan Turner have a breakout season? The 6-7 guard-forward received a lot of criticism last season despite averaging a career-best 13.3 points. Part of the reason was his inconsistency and perceived lack of passion. But don't be surprised if Turner thrives as a go-to player on this inexperienced squad. While he denies it, the Chicago native appears motivated to prove naysayers wrong. - Keith Pompey

PRESEASON SCHEDULE

Oct. 6   at Bilbao (Spain)   noon   

Oct. 8   vs. Okla. City (Manchester, England) 3   

Oct. 11   vs. Boston (Newark, Del.)   7   

Oct. 14   vs. Brooklyn   7   

Oct. 17   at Charlotte   11 a.m.   

Oct. 21   vs. Cleveland (Columbus, Ohio)   7   

Oct. 23   vs. Minnesota   7   

Home games in bold.


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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