Wednesday at 7 p.m., Sixers fans were supposed to be able to turn on their television set and see where Doug Collins team is compared to last May when it gave the Miami Heat stiff competition in the first round of the playoffs before being eliminated.
The Sixers and Raptors were set to play at the Air Canada Centre to kick off the teams 2011-12 season. Then, the Sixers were to play host on Friday to Minnesota in their home opener. A 2-0 start was a good bet and would go a long way in forgetting last years 3-13 run out of the gate.
What would we have seen? Who would be in the starting lineup? Would there be any significant free-agent signings?
With the lockout now 125 days old and league personnel still under a gag order, we can only speculate what moves the Sixers have in mind. The organization was clear prior to July 1 when the lockout began that signing restricted free agents Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes were both priorities.
Youngs 2010-11 season had more highlights than that of the Sixers starting center, but both guys are just 23 years old. Young flourished under Collins in a reserve role, averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds, while shooting 54 percent. He needs to continue to work on his jump shot and his production on the glass must increase as well.
Hawes averaged 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds a night. He shot 47 percent from the floor, but just 53 percent from the foul line. However, the most telling statistic for Hawes was that he averaged just 21 minutes a game as a starter.
In the guts of a game, Elton Brand was often moved from playing power forward to the center position. Looking at available free agent centers, one particular name was eye-catching as it pertains to the Sixers needs. Dont worry, the name is not Samuel Dalembert, who is a free agent and will land somewhere with a contract somewhere in the 5 million per year range.
The name is Kwame Brown. Before you utter something about him being a bust, hear us out.
Brown is a 10-year veteran who began his career in Washington playing for, yes, Doug Collins. The No. 1 overall pick in 2001 struggled as a rookie, averaging just 14 minutes. He played for Collins his sophomore season as well, but his best year was his third season, when he averaged 11 points and 7.4 rebounds with Eddie Jordan as head coach.
Brown has never been a shot blocker, but he can defend and his 6-11 body alongside Brand would form a formidable low-post presence. He has been a backup and starter throughout his career, but if the Sixers used him as a starter it would benefit the teams bench.
That acquisition would shift Hawes to a reserve role where the seven-footer would likely see his numbers go up, namely because the level of his competition would go down. Hawes had a dreadful first two games of the postseason last year where he scored a total of six points and grabbed just one rebound. He picked it up during the rest of the series against the Heat and then made a conscious decision this summer to drop weight by changing his eating habits and workout regimen. Hawes is skilled and a good shooter that could get at least the 21 minutes he averaged a year ago.
Hawes change likely would not be the only alteration to the Sixers starting group.
After a summer of seeking out shooting help from Herb Magee and putting in the time to change the mechanics of his jump shot, Evan Turner would have found himself alongside Jrue Holiday in the starting backcourt against the Raptors. No disrespect is meant toward Jodie Meeks, who started 64 games for the Sixers a year ago and averaged 10.5 points, while shooting nearly 40 percent from three-point range. Meeks averaged 28 minutes per game and Turner received 23. At the very least, those numbers need to be reversed.
Turner, a No. 2 overall pick, is 6-7 vs. a 6-4 Meeks. The second-year guards length would make it more difficult for opposing two guards to shoot over. Too often Meeks was giving up significant inches to the man he was defending.
And yes, Andre Iguodala and Turner can play together on the floor at the same time. You will see three guards that have unique strengths but are capable of being interchangeable at any given time. Holiday, Turner and Iguodala can all handle the ball and get the team into its offense. None of the three is a pure shooter, but Holiday shot 45 percent from the floor last year and 37 percent from three. As fans saw in Game 4 against Miami, the former UCLA product is not afraid to take the big shot.
Iguodala is great in the open floor and Turner will look more like the slasher he was at Ohio State when he was the National Player of the Year.
Iguodala will have better numbers statistically in 2012 than he did in his first year under Collins and the biggest reason will be his health. Iguodala missed 15 games last year after being absent for just six during his first six years in the league. He averaged 14.1 points, the second lowest of his career, ditto for his .445 shooting percentage. He also shot a career-low 69 percent at the foul line.
If the lockout has benefited any Sixer it has been Iguodala with his body getting the extra recovery time. He spent last off-season playing for Team USA in the World Championships, which took up most of that summer.
Brand will have enjoyed the rest as well. He is 32 years old and entering his 13th NBA season. Brand doesnt have to be any more than he was a year ago when he averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds, shooting 51 percent from the floor. Those numbers do not spell amnesty clause, which is a proposed option in labor talks that would allow teams to dump one player without his salary counting against the cap as he still gets paid. Even when that salary is 17 million this season, minus one months salary given the cancellation of all November games. Using amnesty on Brand would not make financial sense unless there was someone to fill the void when he left. This roster does not have that and you cant guarantee that the Sixers could attract a high-caliber free agent. Hard to believe we are saying this, but Brand is too valuable to just dispose of his salary.
If we were paying 17 million to someone and they were physically able, we would rather they play than sit.
Jason Kapono wont be back, along with Darius Songaila, Tony Battie and Antonio Daniels. Dont be surprised if the team tries to buy out Andres Nocionis 6.7 million contract. Should that happen, the team still has 11 guys under contract, including rookie Nikola Vucevic, who was selected with 16th overall pick last June.
The other rookie, Lavoy Allen, who is currently playing in France, might be advised to finish his year out there because the second-round pick is not guaranteed a spot.
Teams carry between 12-15 players on the roster with 12 dressing on any given night. The Sixers 12th roster spot looms large. If that acquisition is a contributor, the Sixers will have improved from a year ago.
Unfortunately, the 2011-12 product is not available for your viewing pleasure Wednesday night.
E-mail Dei Lynam at firstname.lastname@example.org.