The Sixers have a lot of issues to address this offseason and beyond. They need talent and depth at every position, and they certainly need to improve upon their defense, which has been dismal.
There has been a ton of speculation about what the team should do with its two potential lottery picks in the stacked 2014 NBA Draft. While this struggle of a season and their financial flexibility gives the franchise options going forward, one move that will be central to the Sixers’ climbing back into contention is securing a scorer.
By scorer, I don’t simply mean someone who can put the ball in the basket, as there are a lot of those floating around, but rather a go-to guy. The guy that gets the ball (and everyone knows he is going to get the ball) in the closing seconds of a close game and is expected to make a play. The type of guy you go to when you need a basket, or when the offense breaks down because he can generate his own.
Such players are not necessarily easy to come by, as the Sixers haven’t had a true go-to guy since the recently retired Allen Iverson departed for Denver. Not so coincidently, the Sixers haven’t had too much success since then either.
Since Iverson was traded during the 2006 season, this is what the Sixers leading scorers per season have looked like:
2012-2013: Jrue Holiday, 17.7 ppg
2011-2012: Lou Williams, 14.4 ppg
2010-2011: Elton Brand, 15.1 ppg
2009-2010: Andre Iguodala, 17.1 ppg
2008-2009: Andre Iguodala, 18.8 ppg
2007-2008: Andre Iguodala, 19.9 ppg
They haven’t had a single player average over 20 points per for a season since A.I.
Iguodala came close a couple times, but his enhanced scoring stats are likely the result of the team pushing him to become that go-to guy, rather than his personal preference of play. He hasn’t averaged over 13 points per any of the past three seasons, and is averaging only 9.3 points per game this season. So, while Iguodala is a nice, very versatile player, he isn’t that go-to guy that can lead a championship charge.
Check out the leading regular season scorer on each championship team during that same span:
2012-2013: LeBron James (Heat), 26.6 ppg
2011-2012: LeBron James (Heat), 28.0 ppg
2010-2011: Dirk Nowitzki (Mavericks), 24.1 ppg
2009-2010: Kobe Bryant (Lakers) 27.5 ppg
2008-2009: Kobe Bryant (Lakers), 27.6 ppg
2007-2008: Paul Pierce & Kevin Garnett (Celtics), 19.6 & 19.2 ppg
Every team that won the title during that time had a clear go-to guy who averaged well over 20 points per game on the season (except for the Celtics, who had three players who fit the bill, but had to cut back their scoring stats for the overall good – this revolutionized the "players joining forces" movement).
Each of these players improved in the playoffs, and consistently provided an offensive option for their team. (The great ones get it done on both ends, but that often comes with time.)
In fact, going all the way back to Michael Jordan’s days of dominance, no team, except for the defensively-dominant Detroit Pistons of 2004, took home a title without at least one of the league’s foremost offensive forces.
Players of that ilk are few and far between, and securing one is easier said than done. However, if the 2014 draft class is as good as advertised, then it may provide the Sixers a shot at such a scorer, and give them a chance to get their first true go-to guy since the original A.I.
Considering the current state of the franchise, top-flight free agents aren’t going to come flocking to Philly. Thus, draft and development will be the team’s best bet at this point.
The Sixers, who are struggling through one of the ugliest seasons in recent memory but continue to promise a brighter tomorrow, can’t afford a misfire here. The team can’t have another Evan Turner-type situation, and they certainly don’t want a Greg Oden-ish scenario, which comes to mind when you see the injury issues of Joel Embiid.
Sam Hinkie, Brett Brown and company want to build this thing the right way, from the ground up, and that is done through the draft. They want to model the team after a well-formed franchise like the Thunder or Spurs, and those teams develop through the draft.
Of the Sixers past five first round picks (Maurice Harkless, Nik Vucevic, Turner, Maurice Speights, Holiday) none remain on the roster. That has to change.
With all of that said, the ideal pick for the Sixers is not set in stone. There is still a lot of the college season to be played, in addition to pre-draft workouts and all else that comes with entering the NBA.
Andrew Wiggins has shown extremely promising potential, as has Noah Vonleh. Jabari Parker looks like a young Carmelo Anthony, and Julius Randle has shown some signs as well.
Embiid is somewhat worrisome, especially with his recent injury issues. Throughout the season he has looked good, but good enough to pass up on all the (potentially) elite offensive talent in this deep draft? I’m not so sure.
The Sixers need work everywhere, and all of their issues cannot be addressed in a single draft. They can, however, take a big step toward fortifying their future by securing a scorer that can serve as the team’s go-to guy.
The talent is out there. Now, the future of the Sixers’ franchise sits in their ability to develop through the draft, and to choose wisely.