YOU LOVE the 76ers,
because they're 17-10 since the All-Star break, because
they've played hard, because they didn't tank.
You grump about the Sixers (we don't like the word "hate"), because you believe they blew a chance to be in the thick of the lottery, with at least a puncher's chance of getting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant.
But all of you know the roster is going to change. That's what has to happen when a team finishes in the lottery for the third time in 4 years, when it's holding three picks in the first round of the draft, plus an early second-round pick.
So, who stays? Who goes? Who's on the bubble?
That will come into clearer
focus when the picks are transformed into actual players, when the front office begins discussing free agency and trades.
But here are one man's thoughts on where everyone stands right here, right now:
Maurice Cheeks: He was much better coaching in his second season than in his first. Let's see how he does with more pieces with which to work, as expectations grow.
Andre Iguodala: He's not "the other A.I." any more; he's the leader of the team. The face of the franchise? "I want the face of the franchise to be the 76ers organization," president and general manager Billy King said. "Within that, we want to have a lot of players with the ability to be successful." Iguodala is in line for a major, but probably not max, extension this summer. He has earned it. The question is, is he better suited as the No. 1 player, or as the No. 2 guy, the one who can fill in whatever is needed on a given night?
Kyle Korver: He's the best - only? - three-point shooter on the team. It would be helpful to have shooting options. That's what one of those three first-round picks should be for. It would be nice if the Sixers could finally do to teams what teams have been doing to them, spreading the floor with snipers and forcing defenders to pick their poison.
Andre Miller: You can't win without a quarterback, and he's an old-school, pass-first point guard with an ability to score when needed. The cynics will tell you his contributions are the reason the Sixers are holding the 11th-worst record rather than the fourth- or fifth-worst. The optimists will tell you he's a major reason Iguodala and Korver have progressed as much as they have. Does any guard in the league have a better up-and-under move?
Samuel Dalembert: The only one to start every game, this was the season in which he showed durability and double-double ability. He still doesn't, and might never, have a go-to move, and he sometimes wanders from the game plan. But look around at the centers in today's NBA. You could do a lot worse. It would be helpful if they could pair him with a rugged power forward who can rebound and demand a double-team in the post.
Rodney Carney: He came in as the No. 16 pick in the draft and generally played to that level. But he was a successful 4-year college player at Memphis with a reputation as a defender and a three-point shooter. He has room to grow, and he'll get that chance in the Las Vegas and Salt Lake City summer leagues.
Steven Hunter: He'll never be a rebounder to count on, but he played better for Cheeks this season than he had for any coach during his spotty career. Once the games become really significant, it would be hard to keep him on the floor down the stretch because of his foul-line struggles. If the Sixers change the roster as much as they probably should, he could be one of the ones to go.
Willie Green: He fought knee problems all season, and probably was never 100 percent. He was usually good early in games, then sporadic in the latter stages. He's streaky, but determined. He could be helpful off the bench, or he - like Hunter - could be included in a deal.
Joe Smith: They should keep him if they can, if he is willing to play for significantly less than the $6.8 million he earned this season. He can still play, and he's a voice of reason in the locker room. But he's also a free agent. Who's interested, and for how much? Who knows?
Kevin Ollie: He handled his fluctuating situation - starter, backup, almost never-used reserve - with grace and professionalism. He's a good veteran for a young roster. But it's hard to see them keeping him, Alan Henderson and Smith.
Louis Williams: He showed he can play in the late stages of a below-.500 season. It's not a question of whether he's good enough; it's a question of whether they can win with him as the backup at the point. The Sixers almost certainly will pick up his $700,000 option. It's a minimal risk, but it would be nice to see a talented prospect or veteran pushing him in training camp and the preseason.
Bobby Jones: He plays at warp speed on defense, but has little more than the bare essentials at the offensive end. He needs to show significant progress this summer. As a favorite old coach I know likes to say, he could be a year away from being a year away.
Alan Henderson: The rest of the players were genuinely shaken when, because of an accounting error, he was traded to Utah. The same guys were ecstatic when he re-signed. It's always nice to have aging vets at the end of the bench, but it's helpful if they can still contribute when necessary.
Shavlik Randolph: He came through the preseason as the most improved of the young players, then went down with a fractured and dislocated ankle. This is a big summer for him. He's raw, but there's room in the rotation for a banger.
Louis Amundson: He was an emergency addition, a battler who was impressive with Sacramento during training camp and the preseason. Can't see him as a factor. *