Despite spin, Sixers situation still 'dire'

Despite spin, Sixers situation still 'dire'

April 18, 2013, 2:15 pm
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Sixers owner Josh Harris announced Thursday that Doug Collins will not return as head coach but serve as his personal adviser. (CSNPhilly.com)

There was a lot of business jargon. Josh Harris talked about “data” and “advanced analytic capability” and how the Sixers are looking to build a new facility and “spec that out.” He also mentioned “ROI.”

ROI, for the unacquainted, means return on investment. The Sixers’ ROI this season can be summed up with another three-letter acronym: SOS.

Harris doesn’t see it that way. During his year-end press conference at PCOM on Thursday, the Sixers’ owner revealed what we already knew: That Doug Collins will not return as head coach next season. No worries. Harris said he’s “very excited” and “really optimistic about the future.”

The Sixers played 82 games and won 34 this season. A year ago, they played 66 games and won 35. Last season they came within one victory of the Eastern Conference Finals. This season they were four victories short of even making the postseason. They need to replace their coach. They need to replace their president, who is transitioning to a consultant role. They need to replace more than a few players. They have to decide what to do about Andrew Bynum. And they have serious salary cap issues (which we’ll get to in a moment).

If that seems like a lot to you, Harris would evidently disagree. While so many of us see dark storm clouds hovering over the organization, the owner is busy doing his best one-man Annie rendition. He’s apparently convinced the sun will come out tomorrow.

“I feel like we’re going to build a high-quality organization and we’ll attract a high-quality coach,” Harris insisted. “This is a good situation. We have a bunch of young assets. We have a bunch of cap room. We have an All-Star. And then we have a bunch of draft picks. I think you guys are painting this as a dire situation. It’s really not.”

It’s really not? That sounded like a suspect assertion, but fair is fair. Let’s take a close look at the components of his statement before questioning the overall validity.

Some quick fact checking reveals that the Sixers do have an All-Star. Score one for Harris on that front. Among point guards, Jrue Holiday was third in the NBA in minutes per game, fourth in assists and sixth in points. And he’ll only be 23-years-old next season. You can therefore add Holiday to the “young assets” category that Harris mentioned. But do the Sixers have “a bunch” of young assets?

Thaddeus Young will be 25 in June. He averaged 14.8 points and a career-high 7.5 rebounds. He is both young and an asset. Evan Turner will be 25 in October. He averaged 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 35.3 minutes. But he shot only 41.9 percent from the field (his worst mark in three NBA seasons), and he was wildly inconsistent from game to game. He is young, but whether he’s an asset remains a question.

Other young players under contract: Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie are all 24 or younger. It’s hard to imagine other teams looking at any of them and applying the word “asset” after the word “young.”

To review: That’s, at best, three young assets under contract. Maybe four if you mash Hawes, Allen and Moultrie into one giant front-court Frankenstein monster complete with NBA-approved neck bolts.

Moving along to the rest of Harris’s statement: They have three draft picks in 2013. One first-round pick – that, unless the Sixers get really lucky, will be at the back end of the lottery – and two second round picks. By definition, maybe that qualifies as “a bunch,” though the picks aren't in great spots.

Which brings us to my favorite line, the part about the Sixers having a “bunch of cap room.” I’ve written about this a few times, but once more won’t hurt. If the Sixers don’t re-sign Bynum, Nick Young and Dorell Wright, all of whom are unrestricted free agents, they’ll still have about $46 million in salary commitments for next season.

Some of that is because Holiday gets a pay bump from $2.6 million to $11 million. And some of that is because the Sixers have to pay Jason Richardson, Kwame Brown and Hawes nearly $15.7 million next season. After reading that last sentence, go ahead and weep or faint or both; no one will judge you.

So, around $46 million is what the Sixers are looking at for the moment. If, as expected, the NBA salary cap is about $60 million next year, that leaves the Sixers $14 million. Except they’ll also have to pay their first-round pick, so subtract, oh, another $3 million. That leaves them with approximately $11 million for free agency.

As a point of reference, Nick Young and Wright together cost a little more than $10 million this year. The point is, the Sixers don’t have “a bunch of cap space,” and what they do have doesn’t figure to get them high-quality players.

Now let’s put it all together: Few assets, limited cap space, no coach, and no high-level front office personnel with basketball acumen and experience beyond general manager Tony DiLeo to shepherd the transition. Despite what Harris claimed, that doesn’t seem like the Sixers are in a “good situation.” Given those circumstances, it also doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to “attract a high-quality coach.” What high-quality candidate, after all, would give the Sixers a positive evaluation at the moment?

But, hey, it’s not a “dire situation.” Harris said that more than once. He also said, more than once, that “it’s OK.”

If this isn’t a dire situation, what is? And if this is what qualifies as OK, what wouldn’t?