Don't count on Sixers being better next year

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Sixers have to decide whether Evan Turner fits into their plans next season.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The Sixers have to decide whether Evan Turner fits into their plans next season.
Posted: January 24, 2014

IT HAPPENS probably a handful of times a week. A conversation, email, text or tweet will say: "The Sixers might be bad this year, but they're going to be good next year." The communicator will then bring up upcoming draft picks and the possibilities of rookies Michael Carter-Williams and still-injured Nerlens Noel.

But if you take a closer look, and really dissect the roster as to how it might look next season, you begin to realize that this will be a longer process than fans might want or be ready for.

You were warned, fans. General manager Sam Hinkie (when he does make one of his rare appearances outside his GM cave) has said as much. Coach Brett Brown regularly talks of growing the program and the patience that must be exhibited by him, the organization and his players.

Still, I keep hearing about next season. Sorry folks, but it ain't happening that quickly. There simply are way too many holes to fill, no matter how high the first couple of draft picks the Sixers have or how much money they'll have to spend on free agents.

Here goes: There are some givens as to who will be here next season. Carter-Williams and Noel are two. The Sixers own the first-round pick of the New Orleans Pelicans from the Jrue Holiday trade (provided it is not one of the top five overall) plus their own. Best-case scenario is that next season's roster includes two rookies who were chosen in the top 10, preferably with the Sixers' pick being a top-three.

That's four players on the roster. So who else will be there?

* Thaddeus Young: "There is not a GM in the league who wouldn't want Thaddeus Young on their team," an NBA executive told me. But there is a caveat. Young is scheduled to make $9.1 million next year and $9.7 million the next. That isn't exactly looked on as favorable around the league, but for a team looking to compete for a title, it might be worth the risk.

* Spencer Hawes: There seems to be more and more curiosity as to how Hawes and his perimeter offensive game might mesh with Noel. Maybe he's a good complement at the power-forward spot to Noel. He is a free agent after this season. He probably will be offered a little bit more than the $6.5 million he makes this season. That will be a decision the Sixers will have to make.

* Evan Turner: This is the toughest decision of the three. Is the team that drafted him with the second overall pick only 4 years ago ready to give up on him? Can he be a part of the rebuilding process? Can he prosper in Brown's uptempo system? The Sixers have not yet made Turner a qualifying offer of $8.7 million. They have until June 30, at which time he can accept or reject it and listen to offers from other teams.

Of those three I think, at the most, two will be back, though I'd lean more toward one. But let's say two. That takes the roster to six players.

Probably the player I'm asked about the most is Tony Wroten. His good flashes are really good and his bad flashes are really bad. He is a major spark that is best suited coming off the bench for a spell, perhaps 15 minutes a game. If he can handle that, he's a nice piece for next season, which is why he'll be around for $1.2 million. Big man Arnett Moultrie also is signed, for $1.1 million, so that's eight.

Jason Richardson has a player option for next season for $6.6 million, but his devastating knee injury probably will not allow him to be on the court for this team next season, so something will have to be done there.

So that leaves the roster at eight for now.

You have four starters in whatever two stay among Young, Hawes and Turner. Michael Carter-Williams appears to be the point guard for now and the future, and a healed Noel will be out there, also. The need is pretty obvious, and that is for a really good shooter. That will certainly need to be addressed via free agency, if not with one of the first-round picks the Sixers will select.

So the way it looks, the four players coming off the bench could be two rookies, plus Wroten and Moultrie. Not exactly a powerful roster. Of course, the team will have money to spend. But can the Sixers bring in free agents who will make a huge difference? Probably not.

What does it all mean? Probably that next season won't be a lot different from this season, the emphasis on grooming young players, building to the future. Another season of keeping an eye on the college talent, another season of testing the patience of Brown, though he seems to have an abundance of it. It will be another season in which the losses mount, in which the growing pains are evident and the playoffs are an out-of-reach goal.

Good next season? Highly doubtful. But remember, it's all part of the plan that simply can't be rushed at this point.

UPCOMING GAMES

Sixers vs. Toronto Raptors

Tonight, 7 o’clock

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The Raptors, playing their best basketball of the season,erased a 21-point deficit to come back and win against visiting Dallas on Wednesday. DeMar DeRozan had 40 in that game, becoming just the seventh player in Toronto history to hit that mark.

Sixers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: This is the only visit of the season by the Thunder, and if you’re a fan of Kevin Durant, it couldn’t have come at a better time. The high-scoring forward is playing his way into an MVP Award, having scored 30 or more points in nine consecutive games heading into today. The Thunder will be coming to Philly after playing in Boston tonight, if that’s an advantage.

Sixers vs. Phoenix Suns

Monday, 7 o’clock

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: At the beginning of the season, the Suns were considered to be rivals to the Sixers for worst record in the league. But first-year coach Jeff Hornacek has done a tremendous job, and their pasting of powerhouse Indiana on Wednesday boosted their record to 24-17. They play a team game that can go inside and out, and have nice spark off the bench, keyed by Philly guys Markieff and Marcus Morris.

Sixers at Boston Celtics

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: TD Bank Garden

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/ ESPN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: Rajon Rondo’s return gives coach Brad Stevens another option. He’s also getting good production from others as Jeff Green scored a career-high 39 points in Wednesday’s win against Washington and rookie Phil Pressey set a career mark with 20.

BY THE NUMBERS

9.7: That’s how many points Evan Turner averaged in the three games leading up to Wednesday’s contest in New York. He poured in a career-high 34 points in the 110-106 win.

5: Over the past 10 games, that’s how many times Spencer Hawes has scored below 10 points. In the first 30 games, it happened three times.

45.3: That’s the shooting percentage of Hollis Thompson, which leads all rookies in the league.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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