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Where do the Philadelphia 76ers stand now?
By Clayton Ruley
 

The Sixers got the boot from the NBA playoffs and in embarrassing fashion versus the Orlando Magic. After going up 2-1 in games the team lost it's 3 of it's last four games including a game six playing against a Magic team without two-fifths of it's starting lineup in two-guard Courtney Lee and star center (this era's Wilt Chamberlain) Dwight Howard. The team had shown plenty of fight in the first five games and got blown out at home in game six leading to a lot of speculation this off-season on the team as a whole.

While many (including me) believe this won't mark the end of general manager Ed Stefanski's run, it does lead many to question the status of the head coach Tony DiLeo, who replaced Maurice Cheeks in the beginning of the season and led them to the playoffs without their big free agent off-season signing Elton Brand, and whether they should give up on guard/forward Andre Iguodala, point guard Andre Miller and center Samuel Dalembert.

My breakdown is this: Dileo can stay but he's not going to invoke images of Billy Cunningham so maybe change is good, Iguodala isn't LeBron, Kobe or DWade but who is and Miller brings a lot to the team but could bring a lot to the team and Dalembert isn't tough enough to play in this city and needs a change of address.

First, let's start with the head coach DiLeo. DiLeo did a decent job this season after not coaching on any level for 18 years (West Germany) but he didn't reinvent the wheel just the style the 76ers had last season under Mo Cheeks. The partial reason the Sixers got off to a slow start this season was because Cheeks was trying to work in new player and develop a half-court offense. When Brand went down for the season it was easier for the team to revert back to last year's run and gun form because of the athletes in Iguodala, Louis Williams and Thaddeus Young the team possesses. Young slid to the power forward spot and played well.

This upcoming season Brand will return healthy and the same problems may resurrect themselves. Can the Sixers play a good brand (no pun intended) of half-court basketball? Do they have enough shooting? These questions need to be answered and Dileo may not be the guy to answer them. It may be time for a big time head coach with some experience or someone who's young and dynamic and can talk to the team in a relational manner without being their friend similar to a Doc Rivers or Byron Scott led team. If you decide to go with the more experienced coach I'd say someone like a Doug Collins, Jeff Van Gundy or Avery Johnson could be a fit.

I like Collins because he knows the city and what we expect being a former All-Star with the Sixers and he's worked with the best in the game with names like Michael Jordan and Grant Hill being two of them. He is a good x's and o's guy who wouldn't need the help Dileo (and Cheeks) has needed from Jim Lynam and his other assistants and would bring some credibility to the team. Van Gundy and Johnson are good picks because both have actually taken teams to the NBA Finals (Van Gundy: Knicks 1999, Johnson: Dallas 2005) and both stress defense. Both coaches aren't really known as players coaches and while not a necessity both may seem to whine a bit too much at times.

A guy like Eddie Jordan formerly of the Washington Wizards does nothing for me because he couldn't get out of the first round of the NBA playoffs with one of the best threesomes in the league in Caron Butler, Antwan Jamison and Gilbert Arenas. I know Stefanski may want to get someone familiar to him (him and Jordan worked with the New Jersey Nets together) but that's the only thing that hiring would look like because his coaching has bee mediocre at best.

The Sixers, if the decide to send Dileo back to the front office, need to bring someone in hear that is experienced and respected or young, dynamic and respected. They need someone people feel can win this team a title in a few years. A young person's name I've been hearing and like is Mark Jackson, current NBA Analyst for ESPN and former NBA point guard for over a decade. Jackson has played for legendary coaches in Larry Brown and Pat Riley and has always been one of those players you knew got it. While he doesn't have the experience, I feel he could be a great coach if given a chance and knows the game the way it should be played. He's my pick, if he'd accept.

Moving on to Iguodala and Miller. Andre Iguodala has grown up this past season and while he may never be a top flight scorer continues to prove that he's a championship caliber player who does the little things winning teams need to do in order to be successful. Iguodala has also learned to make shots when they really count and get to the free throw line and that's being clutch, something you can't teach many players. Iguodala made several late quarter and game shots to tie or win the game this season and to lose him better be for a great reason.

Will Iguodala be a piece of the long term future in Philadelphia?

It's very possible that he'll never pace the team with 25 a night but that's why Young and Williams are here. If you want to trade him for a two-guard who can score that 25 a game realize that it will come with a price whether it's defense, injury or more! There aren't too many great two-guards out there and those who are great are locked up because of that. I think the Sixers have a nice young nucleus of Iguodala, Williams and Young and need to think twice before they break it up.

Williams may not be a point guard but he is a combo guard who can spell a point guard and he's proven that he can hit the jumper and take it to the hoop strong. He's a great guy to come off the bench as a 6th or 7th man. He's been a great change of pace guard for the 76ers and he's still young! If he leaves I can see him contributing to a championship contender more than say a Daniel Gibson or Shannon Brown is in Cleveland or Los Angeles respectively.

Young can either start at the three or come off the bench and play the two, three or four positions. I'm not sold that he has to be a starter to maximize his talents and would like to see the team either look for a two that can just shoot so he comes off the bench and the team can use his versatility. Young seems to have the right temperment and wouldn't make a scene if he didn't start as long as he got meaningful minutes. Maybe Iguodala and Young can work together and start but the team still needs to have someone at the two/three spot that can sub them and add shooting to the mix.

As for Miller, I like him but wonder if the Sixers are best served keeping him and overpaying or letting him go in a sign and trade if possible. I'm thinking trading Miller could be our solution to our two guard or center needs. Miller is a West Coast guy so a trade further west would be ideal and a team like Portland has the money to pony up for him. If the Sixers could sign him and deal him (in a package of Willie Green and Reggie Evans possibly) for a couple of players like a Jarryd Bayless, Steve Blake and a big man like Joel Pryzbilla or Channing Frye that would be ideal for both teams.

Miller would go closer to home and play point for a team with players like All-Star Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge (one of my favorite big men in the NBA). He'd bring leadership and wouldn't have to worry about scoring as much as he does here.The Blazers bench wouldn't be hurt too bad because they still would have Travis Outlaw, Sergio Rodriguez, Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez and Frye or Przybilla.

For the Sixers, the deal would work because Blake is a serviceable point guard who is smart and could lead a team for a year or two while a young point is being groomed. Bayless could be the two guard that Green hasn't been (the Sixers liked him in the 2008 draft) and I'm sure Iguodala and him are ok with each other because both are University of Arizona products and either big man but especially Przybilla could start if you could find a taker for Dalembert. Przybilla is a tough center who can score a bit and bang a bit as well and that's more of what the Sixers need now.

Finally Dalembert needs to go and the Sixers need to sweeten the pot by paying half of his salary if need be. You know that there are some players who you just feel bring your team down despite what the stats say? Dalembert is that player for the 76ers and the team needs to take a pick or some salary relief for him and let him be another teams project. Dalembert has the size and the athletic ability to be a star in the league but doesn't seem to understand the game well enough and complains about his role when he has no business saying a thing! His play versus Dwight Howard and Marcin Gortat especially is enough for me believe that his time in Philly has past and getting his value in return shouldn't be the Sixers number one priority in trading him.

Gortat replaced Howard in game six of the first round (Howard was suspended for throwing an elbow at Dalembert's face in game five) and proceeded to dominate him scoring 11 points and 15 rebounds. When the Sixers have played their best run and gun ball it's been because Dalembert has been effective and commanded the paint against mediocre to low quality centers. When he plays the top fifth of centers (which the playoffs will usually bring) he's been ineffective. The Sixers need toughness at this position and Dalembert doesn't provide that.

Samuel Dalembert likely getting called for a charge.

While there aren't too many center capable of stopping Howard or Shaq in this league Dalembert lets weaker centers do well because his basketball IQ and drive is low at times (the first being low all the time). Dalembert may be better on a team in the West but in the East it's still a half court game and he takes too many fouls at the wrong time. I'd try to ship him to a team in the west like the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns or Utah Jazz if they' d take him but his time in Philly needs to come to an end if the team hopes to proceed past the first round in the future.

I think the team needs to get rid of Willie Green (terribly inconsistent), Dalembert and Kareem Rush (Did he get a chance to play?) and I'm on the fence on whether to bring back Reggie Evans, Donyell Marshall and Theo Ratliff among the other moves mentioned above. Evans, Marshall and Ratliff gave this team some good minutes and have a role but with Brand returning and Jason Smith coming back off injury it's unclear if they have the versatility to stay on the floor and be effective.

This off-season will tell a lot about the Ed Stefanski and the team moving into the future. Tracy McGrady may be had for the right price but while he's the scorer we have coveted since Allen Iverson left he brings baggage, namely his injury riddled past and the fact that his team is doing better with him gone. I would give up on Iguodala just yet to acquire him unless they sweeten the pot for the Sixers. I'd rather trade Dalembert and Andre Miller and see what the team can get that give up on Iguodala and Young's potential.

Any questions, comments, suggestions email Clayton at clayton@geoclan.com.

Does Tony Dileo stay or go?

Option

 

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