Tuesday, March 30, 2010

State of the Sixers

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Hindsight being 20/20, it's now clear the 2009-10 Philadelphia 76ers were doomed the minute Ed Stefanski made the disastrous decision to hire his old bobo from New Jersey, Eddie Jordan, as head coach.

Jordan has made Maurice Cheeks look like Billy Cunningham. He's made Tony DiLeo look like Red Auerbach. In fact it's hard to look at the Sixers bench and not think Randy Ayers or Jimmy Lynam could do a better job piloting the Sixers.

Sports Illustrated recently quoted an unnamed Western Conference scout calling out the Sixers' players for being unprofessional and quitting on Jordan.

That's undoubtedly true but Jordan has worked for it. Players like Elton Brand and Willie Green are class acts and would run through a brick wall for you if you were able to earn their respect. Jordan lost his locker room in record time and will lose his job even quicker when the season wraps up on Apr. 14.

A new coach and possibly a new general manager will then have to pick up the pieces and try and start the rebuilding process for a once glorious franchise yet again.

With that in mind, here's the state of the Philadelphia 76ers...

Elton Brand - Injuries have robbed the Sixers' high-priced power forward of the lift and explosion to be a consistent force down low. To make matters worse, his contract makes him virtually untradeable. You can see Brand still knows how to play the game but his body is betraying him. So, Stefanski spent $65 million dollars on a gloried role player. You can blame the medical people if you want but Brand's signing, along with the Jordan hiring, are the two reasons Stefanski will be joining his coach on the unemployment line.

Andre Iguodala - Jordan has finally admitted that Iguodala is not a top-tier offensive player and he never will be, something the rest of us knew three seasons ago. The jump shot is just not there. That doesn't make Iguodala a bad player and it's certainly not his fault that he is forced to take on the
role as go-to guy since the Sixers have no other options. Iguodala is at his best when he sticks the three in his pocket and slashes to the basket. He's an upper echelon defender and the team's best all-around player by far. The next general manager should think long and hard about moving Iguodala but he's the only Sixers' commodity that could actually bring something significant back in return. That said, his lack of leadership skills and poor body language can wear on you at times.

Samuel Dalembert - Dalembert gets a bad rap because of his massive contract, lack of offensive skills and low basketball IQ but he is the Sixers' only top- tier rebounder and shot-blocker. His deal expires after next season so Dalembert will now be tradeable in the offseason. That said, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if the Sixers held on and took advantage of the expiring deal themselves.

Jrue Holiday
- Probably the only positive in a dismal season. Since the Sixers took the training wheels off, Holiday has proven he can be the point guard of the future. He's a true quarterback that thinks pass first and he's one of the few point guards in basketball that could turn into a lockdown defender.

Thaddeus Young - In a season full of disappointments, Thad was the biggest. He was a terrible fit for Jordan's offense and his confidence eroded by the day. Young's biggest attribute before Jordan arrived was his touch around the basket and that was totally gone by February. Conventional wisdom has the Sixers trying to move Iguodala in order to hand the small forward spot over to Young but that's a real shaky proposition now. Young has always been a poor defender and rebounder and now he has to rebuild his confidence to get his offensive game back.

Lou Williams - Williams is one of the guys who finds it very hard to mask his dislike of Jordan's coaching style. Both sides are at fault here. Jordan's problems with rotations are well-documented and something a competent high school coach could have solved by midseason. However, Williams lacks the maturity to take the next step at this point and was likely one of the players that Western Conference scout was talking about. Right now, LouWill's upside is instant-offense off the bench and that's it.

Marreese Speights
- Speights is another Jordan victim but I will also throw Stefanski under the bus when talking about Mo. The Sixers' GM gushed about Speights like he was the second-coming of Kevin McHale, despite his glaring deficiencies on the backboard and the defensive end. I understand people get excited about big guys with offensive skills around the basket since so few young players come into the league with any. But, Speights has to contribute in other areas if he's every going to get major minutes in this league.

Jason Kapono - I'm aware that Kapono is a deeply flawed player that only does one thing well (shoot the basketball). But, that one thing is the Sixers' greatest weakness and the fact that Jordan couldn't find a role for this guy until Young went down is a testament to his inadequacies as a coach.

Willie Green - Green is a really nice guy but the fact he is still getting consistent minutes on this team reflects poorly on the front office. Willie is a borderline NBA player that would be a 12th man on a solid basketball team.

Jason Smith - Smith is another guy that was jerked around by Jordan all year and never got into a flow. Next year should be a make-or-break season since he will be a year removed from his ACL surgery. I'm not sure Smith has the athleticism to be more than a 10-to-15 minute a night guy, however.

Rodney Carney - Another victim of Jordan's rotations. Carney has the athletic skills to be a lockdown defender and has a nice stand-still three-pointer. The Sixers should feed him tapes of Bruce Bowen in his prime in San Antonio and say copy that.

Jodie Meeks - Meeks was a shooter in college at Kentucky but has showed very little in his rare opportunities after being acquired from Milwaukee. About the only thing you can say is he probably has a bigger upside than Royal Ivey, so it was worth rolling the dice.

Francisco Elson
- Elson was also acquired from the Bucks in the Jodie Meeks deal but hasn't played because of hernia surgery. He's just a body.

Eddie Jordan -  I didn't think Jordan was a good hire by Stefanski but I also didn't expect this type of disaster. Clearly a system coach, Jordan had no idea what to do when his system failed. He has lost his players and there is absolutely no way Comcast could sell this guy to its season ticket holders for another season. Ed Snider and Peter Luukko probably should have forced Stefanski to fire him by the All-Star break when it was clear things weren't salvageable.

Ed Stefanski - The Brand and Jordan moves have sealed Stefanski's fate. He's a Philly guy and everyone likes him but when your two high-profile moves are abject disasters in every conceivable way, it's time to update the resume.

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