|Philly needs to make changes to the lineup this offseason. (Getty Images)|
This is actually a really dangerous time for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Following the run made by the Golden State Warriors in toppling the Dallas Mavericks in 2007, Warriors management thought that it was on to something. It spent another year watching as the Warriors nearly made the playoffs again, and then went to work on trying to bring their guys back on big contracts. Eventually, that season would yield big contracts to Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Stephen Jackson, and attempted to do the same with Baron Davis before the Clippers out-swooped them.
When it turned out that team wasn't necessarily as good as it looked during that playoff run, the Warriors spent the next five years digging out of the hole. They're only now getting into a real next phase in their team's identity.
It's too early to tell if the Grizzlies' extensions for Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol (though there is little question Gasol is independently worth keeping at any cost) will be a similar mistake, but it should be noted that Randolph's extension came immediately after the Grizzlies upset over the top-seeded Spurs.
Now here the Sixers are, having upset the top-seeded Bulls without Derrick Rose, and having pushed the Celtics to seven games, ultimately losing Saturday night.
They have several players in the final years of their deals, several players entering free agency. Is this a core worth keeping? Can they grow from this?
The Sixers have to be wary of confusing a good run with fortunate circumstance with actual success.
That Doug Collins was able to have so much success with this team is a testament to him and his coaching style, and it sows that there is growth among the core pieces of this roster. But like so many teams, the Sixers are without that one central component, a star.
Evan Turner doesn't have the shot making abilities, at least not yet. Lou Williams is a fine bench scorer, provided he's not playing one of the most ferocious defenses in the land, which in the East, he almost assuredly will be come playoff time. Jrue Holiday is a speedster but hasn't taken that next step. Thaddeus Young is a great, versatile forward without a go-to move or defined role.
And then there's Andre Iguodala.
Iguodala turned in what may have been his finest season ever, a terrific amalgam of efficiency, versatility, leadership, and difference-making. But he's just never going to be the scoring threat the Sixers need, and as the best player, he may have to be the piece that is finally moved after having been shopped on the trade block for several years.
Lou Williams is a free agent, Spencer Hawes, who was surprisingly above-average for most of the year before arguably being the difference in the series against the Celtics, in a bad way, is also up for a new contract.
The Sixers have close to $56 million on the books, were they pick up the options on all available players. They retain their amnesty card, with the onl likely candidate Elton Brand and his expiring $18 million contract. Brand may be worth more value on the trade market at the deadline, however, and played surprisingly well this season.
There are options. But options are without value if there's no central identity. The Sixers have to figure out what they're built around. A great defensive team? Sure. But you hvae to have a blueprint for how to score. And Lou Williams running around throwing up off-balance floaters isn't it. But the good news is that they have the pieces in place to form a supporting cast. They have a capable point guard. They have a versatile forward who can play either position. They have Lavoy Allen, who showed to be a standout in the playoffs. They don't need a rug to tie the room together, they need a television so the room has something it actually serves a purpose for.
The danger is in buying into the idea that this run was anything more than the result of multiple injuries. The Sixers deserve all the credit in the world for making the most of their opportunities. But Doug Collins said at the start of the year they would look for any opportunity to add a star. They need to continue to do that.
Patience is a virtue in the City of Something Something.