It has been rumored that Sixers General Manager Ed Stefanski has said no one player on the roster is off limits for a trade, so are the Sixers really ready to clean house? The rumors of a fire sale have certainly lit a fire under the players and coaches in Philadelphia as they have won five straight games, their longest streak since winning seven in a row in January 2009. The fact that Allen Iverson has been absent during the streak for personal reasons is something that I am going to ignore for the purposes of this article. (Let's just say he was brought in to sell tickets, which he did for one game, not because he was going to improve the product on the floor...as evidenced by this current streak).
I have to say that the Sixers have been extremely disappointing this year considering the ability they have shown during this streak (Sweeping the New Orleans Hornets, beating the Houston Rockets on the road, and blowing out the Timberwolves after losing to them in overtime). Last year, they made the playoffs and had a competitive playoff series against the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic. Granted Andre Miller is now in Portland going off for 52 against the Dallas Mavericks, but the current Sixers roster has more than enough ability to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference (which does not say much considering a sub .500 record gets you in but none the less).
They are undersized but super fast and athletic, with some great finishers in the open floor (Andre Iguodala, Allen Iverson, Thaddeus Young, Rodney Carney, Willie Green, Louis Williams...even the big men can run). An up tempo style worked for the team last year and has proven effective during this win streak. The question is whether this is a fluke streak which includes wins over the two worst teams in the NBA (Nets and Timberwolves) or can this team really keep it going.
So who should Philadelphia keep and who should go? Who can potentially be a building block in making the Sixers a contender again? Let's take a look at what we are dealing with.
We can start in order of position:
1. Point Guards
* Louis Williams
Can take almost anyone off the dribble to get to the basket. He is in his 4th season and has begun to expand his range. To me, Williams can be a sixth man of the year candidate on a contending team. I wish the Sixers would keep him but he might have the most value as a guy who is waiting to take off.
* Jrue Holiday
The youngest player in the NBA (the only one born in the 1990's) has shown glimpses this season of being something special. He has good court vision and a will to compete on the defensive end. With maturity, improvement on his jumper, better decision making, and an increased basketball IQ...Holiday could be the starting point guard on a quality playoff team. Give him time--he is 19! At least the Sixers see value in him to start him now and let him get minutes in crucial situations.
2. Shooting Guards
* Allen Iverson
Iverson is a Legend whose number will be retired one day by the Sixers...and he should retire in Philadelphia. Considering the way he left Memphis and the response from the rest of the league...I highly doubt anyone will give up value for Iverson right now. He has issues off the court and the Sixers are winning, so hopefully he can find a role as the Sixers continue their winning ways.
Willie can score...and he looks to score almost every time he touches the ball. He also has the best assist to turnover ratio on the team. If he is packaged with someone like Samuel Dalembert or Iguodala...a winning team might find him useful as a slasher and finisher off the bench.
The "lock down defender" leads the team in 3 point percentage and can't miss all of a sudden from beyond. His minutes have increased lately with Iverson gone and he is making the most of the opportunity.
3. Small Forward
Only Iguodala and LeBron James average over 17 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists a game...so he definitely has the numbers to be a franchise player. He certainly has a franchise contract which may make it hard to move...BUT DO YOU REALLY WANT TO MOVE HIM?! He does look more comfortable on the court without Allen Iverson so maybe the answer to his struggles is the absence of "The Answer" (It's hard to write about Iverson without using it at least once...I apologize).
Since playing in front of his family and friends in New Orleans, Young has been a stud. His defense has been fantastic and he has scored at will. I think in addition to having the best first name on the team, Thaddeus is the X factor on the team in terms of success. He plays both forward positions and when he can gets his game going the guy can carry the second unit along with Williams and Speights.
Rodney Carney is a high energy player who can get up and down the floor quickly and provide some range off the bench. The Sixers traded him away once so it is not out of the question for them to do it again because his skill set is valuable for a contending team. Is that team the Sixers? Maybe not at the moment so is it worth it to hold onto him?
4. Power Forwards
Brand was supposed to be the missing piece of the playoff puzzle. A guy you can dump the ball down to in the post in the half court set and allow him to carry you late in the guy. That hasn't happened and with his injuries and big contract people are talking about the second coming of Matt Geiger...(that's not a good thing). Lately though, Brand has fit in well with the team on both ends and has gelled with the playmakers: Iguodala, Holiday, and Williams. He is the teams first option on offense and the only concern in his game is whether he can stay on the floor.
Legitimate threat on the offense end...he has a solid outside jumper and great agility for a guy his size on the block. Can someone coach him up a little to be a presence defensively? Please? Eddie Jordan benched him for a few games due to his lack of enthusiasm on the defensive end and the team sorely missed his 10 point spark off the bench. The Princeton offense is perfect for a big guy like Speights who can drive, pass, and shoot from the high post.
Yes, he is overpaid...by a lot...but he still should be able to get 6-10 boards a night and alter 2-5 shots in the paint in 20 minutes of action coming off the bench on a winning team. On offense, try to pretend that there are only four guys on the floor and just hope Sammy stays out of the paint to avoid a 3 second call. I can't wait until this contract is off the books.
Jason Smith produces whenever he gets a chance. He works hard on both ends and isn't scared to knock a guy to the floor if he has too. Eddie Jordan has to find 10-20 minutes a game to bring Smith in for a couple baskets, maybe a three, and a block or at least a hard foul.
He was brought in to help the Sixers improve on their league worst three point shooting...he didn't...and now the team is among the worst in defending the three (not all his fault but he really can't play defense). He will finish his career only known for being awesome in the three point contest.
He played some garbage time against the T'Wolves in the blowout...he nearly air balled both of his shots.
So there are the players. This is the team, now 20-31 and 4.5 games out of the eighth seed in the East.
It's hard for the team to be talking about a fire sale when they are so close to making the playoffs because that's what every team wants...isn't it? (NOOO!!!!!!!)