While the NBA playoffs kicked off in earnest last night, fans of 14 lottery teams have turned their attention to the offseason and the rays of hope that go along with it. The main cause for optimism is the chance of obtaining a franchise-changing player through the draft. Unfortunately for the Sixers, they weren’t quite bad enough to find themselves near the top of what is rated as an extremely weak draft. Though Philadelphia won a coin flip tiebreaker with Toronto for 11th position, they have just a 0.8% chance at the first overall pick and not much better odds at second or third. However, teams can still find at talent at 11 as Sixers immortal Tyrone Hill, Allan Houston, Terrell Brandon, Robert ‘Big Shot Bob’ Horry, and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller were all taken with the 11th overall pick. So when the the actual draft rolls around June 27, what areas should Philadelphia focus on to mine for talent.
First, let’s examine the Sixers under contract going forward:
PG: Jrue Holiday (through 2016/17)
SG: Jason Richardson (through 2014/15)
SF: Evan Turner (through 2013/14)
PF: Thaddeus Young (through 2015/16), Arnett Moultrie (through 2015/16), Lavoy Allen (through 2013/14)
C: Spencer Hawes (through 2013/14), Kwame Brown (through 2013/14)
The young pieces in place long-term consist of Jrue Holiday (wisely signed to an affordable contract extension last offseason), Thaddeus Young (with a player option for 2015/16), and Arnett Moultrie (team options in 2014/15 and 2015/16 and qualifying offer in 2016/17). The point guard and power forward positions are ostensibly covered, but there are plenty of other holes to plug on this sinking ship. Three main areas of weakness immediately jump out:
- A dead-eye three point shooter – While league average from three this past season was 36.0%, Holiday (36.8 3PT%) and Turner (36.5%) were the only two players not below average among Sixers returnees. Holiday could use a young teammate with which to build chemistry and help bolster the drive and kick game. Think Bradley Beal alongside John Wall in Washington or Klay Thompson in Golden State (also taken 11th overall in his draft).
- A rim protector – It’s no secret this has been an area of weakness for the team since Samuel Dalembert’s departure three seasons ago. This past season, the Sixers finished among the lower half of the league in block rate. An athletic shot-blocker center goes a long way to erases mistakes made by poor defense on the perimeter. Think Larry Sanders in Milwaukee.
- An aggressive guard – Philadelphia ranked next to last in the league in free throw attempt rate, and needs someone who can attack the rim and generate easy points at the foul line when the team is going through an offensive lull. Lou Williams used to be the sole Sixer who brought that skill to the table and they team struggled even more in that area without him this past season. Think James Harden (obviously the Sixers wouldn’t expect to get someone quite as dynamic) or Ramon Sessions in Charlotte.
The NBA draft lottery takes place on May 21st with the actual draft happening June 27. Leading up to those events, we’ll be taking at look at players available to help fill these needs for the Sixers. Until then, enjoy the NBA playoffs and hope Sixers management makes the right moves to help the franchise return to late-April action next year.