What's this? The 76ers have produced some good news?
After more than a year of poor decisions and poor performances, finally that misery (and a 27-55 record) added up to a lucky break, and the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, scheduled for June 24 at Madison Square Garden.
Although right now the draft pick is just a number -- No. 2 -- it's more than likely it'll turn into a certain player -- namely Ohio State shooting guard Evan Turner -- on June 24. Of course, per usual, there is speculation that Stefanski might entertain the notion of trading the pick. Let's hope not. Here's the quote that is fueling that thought process. It's from last night: "If the first pick, everyone's saying is John Wall, then we have the next, we can take anybody we want. We can entertain offers from a lot of people, so this is important for us. And we needed something positive after the year we just went through."
But Stefanski also said: "I'm looking up on that stage and I see that we have a 19 year old point guard in Jrue Holiday who can flat out play, and now we're going to match that up with a #2 pick in the draft and the other pieces we have with the 76ers, we feel confident that we'll turn this around quickly."
Would you buy tickets to see a Doug Collins-coached 76ers team featuring Evan Turner?
So, the No. 2 pick, what does this mean?
First, does it affect the team's coaching search? It doesn't seem it will. Although the Sixers' job became increasingly more desirable now that they possess such a potent draft pick, it seems the wheels are still in motion towards bringing in Doug Collins as the team's next head coach. Second, does it affect the status of President and General Manager Ed Stefanski? It's possible it could. The Sixers are looking a whole lot better today than they were yesterday. Here's this Inside the Sixers column from two weeks ago: Hanging in the balance. There hasn't been any formal word that Stefanski has the vote of confidence, but it might come soon. Sure, this stroke of luck wasn't Stefanski's doing, but the good feeling might extend to a pat on the back. Third, let's do something we haven't done in weeks: look at the lineup.
Sending rookie point guard Jrue Holiday to the draft lottery was a clear indication that he's the point guard of the future. Did you see that "whew" he offered when the Sixers landed the No. 2 pick (instead of the No. 1 pick and point guard John Wall)? So the Sixers' point guard position, barring catastrophe, is on lock down.
Now, the Sixers add Evan Turner to make a backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Sounds like every Sixer fans' dream? It also keeps open all the team's other assets for trading and bartering. If the Sixers had landed a pick from 6th through 8th, they likely would have taken some unproven big man with lots of upside, but no immediate impact. If they'd landed that mediocre pick, Stefanski would have entered this summer looking to deal for a legitimate scoring shooting guard. He would likely have had to package Andre Iguodala with another player, perhaps Lou Williams, or put together an enticing package of young guys (maybe Thaddeus Young as the core) to find that guy. Or Stefanski would have had to find a way to secure the No. 2 pick and get Evan Turner, trading away assets to do so.
None of that matters now. The team's most gaping hole -- at shooting guard -- can easily be filled. And Stefanski will have the rest of the summer to decide what he wants to do with guys like Samuel Dalembert, Jason Kapono, Andre Iguodala ...
So, for argument's sake, let's say the Sixers draft Turner and next year's training camp opens with a potential starting backcourt of Holiday and Turner.
What about the front court?
The same problem remains for the team: Both Iguodala and Young play small forward. Yes, Young can score well at power forward, but he can't defend and he can't rebound against power forwards. So that leaves the team with an expendable asset -- either Iguodala or Young -- to get a piece it does want. If Stefanski wanted to really turn this team over to youth, he could package Iguodala and Dalembert (whose contract expires after next season). Stefanski has all kinds of options now. So, for argument's sake, let's say Stefanski goes with youth, finds a new home from Iguodala, and goes with a starting trio of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young.
That would get fans excited.
Power forward seems pretty locked up right now as well, but in a different way than Holiday: It belongs to Elton Brand because, with that contract, he's not going anywhere. Considering this is an upbeat post, let's look at Brand's situation through some optimistic glasses: Last season he was coming off back-to-back season-ending injuries. Last season was his first full season back and he looked bad at times, but good at times. For argument's sake, let's say Brand plays much better next season. Not like his old self, but stronger than last season, maybe 16 points, 8 rebounds a game? That would be a starting four of Holiday, Turner, Young, Brand.
Center spot is where it gets tricky. Can Stefanski trade Dalembert this off season? He's more of an asset now that his contract is expiring. Believe it or not (and I know at least one poster refuses to believe it), other teams are willing to take Iguodala's contract, other teams actually consider him a piece of the puzzle, and other teams are willing to take Dalembert's contract if it means they get Iguodala. That's not a rumor, that's a fact. So it's likely Stefanski could make something work this off-season with Dalembert. Maybe in return the Sixers would get as a piece one of the young centers in this year's draft. At this point, there's a good chance Dalembert won't be in a Sixers uniform next season.
That would make the team's starting lineup: Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Elton Brand, and Player X.
That would make the Wachovia Center a much more exciting place to be. All thanks to some ping-pong balls.