Don't know about you, but when the 76ers got everyone excited with their chest-puffing talk of moving up boldly in the first round of the NBA draft, I was expecting a little more than jumping from the 21st pick to the 20th. Maybe it's just me, though.
That's all the moving up the Sixers did on Thursday, giving away a wad of cash and a future second-round pick to swap spots with the Miami Heat for the honor of securing a player the Heat front office probably wasn't going to take anyway.
For the rest of the night, the Sixers worked assiduously to get their money back and avoid another guaranteed first-round contract. They traded down from 30, the last pick in the first round, to 42; then traded down again, from 38 to 55, getting money (and, of course, a lesser player) in return for each transaction.
Meanwhile, at the top of their draft sheet, the Sixers had to stay with the 12th pick, and team president Billy King said the club was "ecstatic" with the selection of Thaddeus Young, a 19-year-old with one year of college ball who might or might not develop into a good player and one who occupies a position the Sixers already had adequately filled.
"We're not looking at this draft and saying we addressed all our needs," King said when the long, dull journey was over just after midnight Friday morning. "We've got more work to do. I don't think this roster will be the same when we start the season."
It better not be, or the Wachovia Center will be half-filled on most nights and the Sixers will be a hodgepodge of young players who, collectively, still don't shoot and rebound well enough to warrant much consideration.
No wonder the fans attending the team's draft party slinked away quietly after an evening in which the promise of red-hot excitement turned into the reality of just another lukewarm day at the office. Check back in a year or so, folks. Remember, this is a process.
To recap: The Sixers went into the draft with the 12th, 21st, 30th and 38th picks.
They came out with the 12th, 20th, 42d and 55th picks.
Whoo, boy. You've got to really hold onto your hat after a wild ride like that.
"October 1st is a long way away," King said.
Again, a very good thing.
So where are the Sixers, exactly?
They are nearing the end of Step 1 of the recovery program after their 10-year addiction to Allen Iverson. It is a one-day-at-a-time kind of thing. The first step involved purging the roster of Iverson and the larcenous Chris Webber, and then using the draft to replenish the shelves with a bunch of decent, bright-faced prospects. They have done that.
It would have been better, naturally, to report that King was able to package his picks, throw in a couple of current players, and move up in the draft far enough to take a potential franchise player. Whether it had been Yi Jianlian or Jeff Green or Joakim Noah, the Sixers would have been in position to be hit by lightning - which is what it takes for a team to escape the large pack of pretty good NBA teams and become one of the great ones.
Alas, that didn't happen, although not for a lack of effort, according to King.
"It just didn't work out," he said. "I think we offered some great situations and the other teams just chose not to do them. We were being as aggressive as we could."
If that is accurate, then other teams obviously were not that enamored by what the Sixers had to offer. Was Andre Iguodala on the table? Kyle Korver? Andre Miller? King, naturally, can't get into those specifics. Whatever he was selling, the others weren't buying.
Unless King can somehow pull off the eye-popping trade between now and the start of the season that he couldn't manage on Thursday, then Step 1 is just about over - minus some free-agent wrangling here and there. The next real step doesn't arrive until the following summer, when the true coin of the realm - salary-cap space! - will allow the Sixers to pursue whatever big names and big talents might be out there to complement their hardworking, hard-trying, hard-to-watch team.
It is possible, of course, that Young will become Donyell Marshall overnight. Perhaps Jason Smith will be strong enough to get rebounds in a conference better than the Mountain West. It is even plausible that the two second-round picks will be more than just training-camp fodder.
None of that seems likely, though. And, here in the wake of the draft, the Sixers cruise along having addressed neither of their gaping needs - a bruising stud of a power forward and a reliable spot-up shooting guard. If you want to be brutally honest, when it comes to next season, not only wasn't Thaddeus Young the best player to draft, he wasn't even the best Young. That would be Nick "The Quick," the Southern Cal shooter who went to Washington at the 16th pick.
But this isn't about next season, when Iguodala will obviously have to move back to the shooting guard position for which he is ill-suited. This is about the gauzy future in which everything comes together and the Sixers actually find "the guy." Every team that competes seriously for a championship has to have "the guy." The Sixers clearly haven't found him yet.
Several were out there on Thursday, but it didn't work out for King and the Sixers this time. Maybe next time. Maybe the time after that. Maybe the time after the time after that. Maybe...
Well, you get the idea.
Bob Ford |
What was your reaction to the 76ers' draft?
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InsideThe West got taller, the East got shorter, and other draft thoughts.
On the NBA, E2.
Thaddeus Young, the Sixers' first pick, shows off his charisma
to the media. E3.
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