How will Sixers rebuild? Options are limited

How will Sixers rebuild? Options are limited

April 19, 2013, 2:15 pm
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They made it sound so simple. A wave of the draft wand here. Sprinkle a little free agency dust over there. Say the special trade spell. Presto. Suddenly the frog franchise turns into a prince of an organization.

On Thursday, while they were saying their goodbyes, Doug Collins and Sixers owner Josh Harris talked about hitting the reset button. Harris said that, while the Sixers must start with “more of a blank sheet of paper” than anticipated, the team has an “opportunity to build.” He sounded optimistic.

“When you’re building a high-performance organization, being able to pick each piece, including the coach, to make sure they work together, it also gives you an opportunity to make good decisions,” Harris said.

Collins, who will serve as a consultant in some capacity, talked about how the team “swung for the fences” and whiffed.

“You can look it at a couple of different ways: Boy you made a mistake, or you took a chance and it didn’t work so now what are you going to do?” Collins said. “You’ve got to move forward. Did we give up some assets? Absolutely. So now you’ve got to rebuild the assets.”

OK. Rebuild the assets. Makes sense. But ... how might they do that?

My initial idea for this column was to figure out a way for the Sixers to fix what’s broken. During his year-end review, Harris mentioned how the Sixers have significant cap space, implying they could grab some players in free agency this offseason. He might have overstated the team’s position a bit.

The Sixers currently have $46 million in salary cap commitments for next year –- and that’s if they let unrestricted free agents Andrew Bynum, Nick Young and Dorell Wright walk. When you factor in what they’ll likely pay their first-round pick, they’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of $11 million in free agent funds (provided the salary cap is around $60 million, as expected). That’s not much.

(It’s important to note that the $11 million is an estimate. It’s possible the Sixers could use one or several exemptions –- the mid-level exception, the rookie exception, and/or the stretch provision, among others -– against the NBA’s soft cap to free up more money. Doing so, however, might push them up or over the luxury tax threshold. For simplification purposes, and also because we believe it’s a likely scenario, we’re going with the $11 million figure. If you’re a wonk who wants more information about the NBA’s complicated cap, this is an excellent reference.)

Trying to rebuild through free agency this offseason seems tough. Which is why my original plan was to have the Sixers wait until 2014 to attack free agency.

Not a popular position, but it would have allowed the Sixers to let Jason Richardson, Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown –- owed a collective $15.7 million next season -– come off the books. If the Sixers did that and dumped a few players in trades (maybe Evan Turner and/or Thaddeus Young) for expiring contracts, they might suddenly have some serious cap space to attract multiple free agents next offseason without flirting with the luxury tax. Yes, that would likely render them less successful next season, but that would only help on the draft-pick front moving forward.

So that was the plan. Then I looked at the 2014 free agent class and my plan cratered. It won’t be easy for the Sixers to rebuild through free agency this year. And next year, even if they clear a lot of cap space, what would they spend their money on?

A look at some of the unrestricted free agents a year from now:

Kris Humphries is a big body and a frontcourt player the Sixers could use. But he’ll be 30 before the 2014-15 season ends. If the Sixers are trying to build around Jrue Holiday, and they should, will they be ready to win and in a position to add someone as old as Humphries?

Same goes for a wing like Loul Deng. He’ll also be 30 years old before the 2014-15 season expires.

More available players in that class: Danny Granger is dealing with a knee injury, and he’ll be 31 before the 2014-15 season. Pau Gasol will turn 34 shortly before that season starts. Zach Randolph will be 33 that year, and his reputation as a teammate isn’t stellar.

Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade could be on market because of early termination clauses, but it’s unlikely they’d take their talents to South Broad.

Carmelo Anthony isn’t heading south, and Dirk Nowitzki isn’t heading north.

Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani might be out there. But then you’re rebuilding with two Toronto Raptors, which is a little like asking the corpse in the next grave over to help you dig through all the dirt you’re buried under.

What a depressing exercise. And yet we continue.

DeMarcus Cousins. Marcin Gortat. (The other) Isaiah Thomas. No. No. And maybe, but then either he or Holiday would have to move to shooting guard, which probably makes it a no.

That’s about it for the big names two years from now. Perhaps, while groping in the dark for a solution, I missed someone. (Oh yes. Here’s one. A fellow named Hawes will be available. Maybe they can sign him.)

It appears it might take some shrewd decisions to correct the Sixers’ problems. Which brings us to another problem for another day: Who will make those maneuvers?

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