It's hard to put your finger on exactly where the 76ers are in the rebuilding process. After two playoff appearances in 2008 and 2009, Philadelphia limped to a 27-55 record in 2009-2010, their worst showing in 13 years. This summer, instead of adding pieces to a playoff puzzle, it appears that it's time to start making the tough decisions.
Philadelphia is already on the hook for 11 contracts next season, to the tune of nearly $66 M. Of that, about $16 M will go to Elton Brand, who despite his impressive career exploits averaged only 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds this past season, appearing to be a shadow of his old self. Brand's contract is considered to be one of the most toxic in the NBA, with the 76ers reportedly requiring that any suitor for their #2 overall pick also be willing to take back Brand.
While Brand's deal may be as bad as it gets, it's not the only bad news for Philadelphia. The 76ers are also on the hook for $12.2 M to Samuel Dalembert and $6.6 M to Jason Kapono next season. Thankfully, however, those are both expiring deals, which should be much easier to unload if the team decides to go that route.
It's not all bad news, though. Rookie Jrue Holiday was a real revelation down the stretch, averaging 12.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.7 steals in March and April. Second-year center Marresse Speights started the year strongly, averaging 15 points, 7.1 rebounds, and a block per game over the season's first eight contests before sustaining a partial torn MCL. He never quite regained that form, but after a summer to heal, the 22-year old promises to be better than ever.
The most pivotal decision for the 76ers this summer may be determining the role of 23-year old combo guard Lou Williams. Williams was given an increased role in his fifth season, making the first 38 starts of his career. He played in 64 games, averaging 14 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in 29.9 minutes per contest, while increasing his shooting percentages across the board.
The teams has hired a veteran coach (Doug Collins) and holds the rights to the second overall pick in the 2010 draft, but there are many decisions yet to be made. As mentioned, finding a way to move Brand's contract is priority number one, but that will prove to be easier said than done. The services of Ohio State's Evan Turner, the projected #2 pick, may be enough, but the price will have to be right.
The most discussed move centers around Minnesota trading Al Jefferson and the fourth pick to the 76ers for the second pick. Minnesota would look to receive another asset back, and I doubt that Brand fits the bill. He wouldn't be a bad fit behind Kevin Love if a third team could get into the mix and send back a proven perimeter player. As shown below, Philadelphia could offer Dalembert to the third team for Michael Beasley or Delonte West and then pass that player along to Minnesota.
Best Case Roster for 2010-2011
PG- Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams
SG- Andre Iguodala, Jodie Meeks, Willie Green
SF- Thaddeus Young, Jason Kapono, Rodney Carney (FA)
PF- Al Jefferson (Trade), Marresse Speights
C- DeMarcus Cousins (#4), Jason Smith
28-44 (13th in Eastern Conference)