Beyond the Key Episode of the week
By Adam Fornwalt
The Philadelphia 76ers need help. In every way possible. Dead last in almost every meaningful offensive and defensive category, the youngest team in the league finds itself with just one win this season. With help seemingly not coming until next season, here are seven ways the Sixers woes can be healed.
1. Trade Jahlil Okafor
Okafor is the best thing going for the Sixers right now. Averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds a game, he is the leader in the clubhouse for Rookie of the Year honors. Off the court Okafor is a disaster. After two street fights, a fake ID, and a reckless driving stop (108 in a 45 M.P.H. zone) he’s now been suspended for two games and will be accompanied by security for the foreseeable future. Despite all this, there’s still a market out there for a rookie who has shown he can play in this league on the offensive side of the ball. The move which makes the most sense is a straight swap with the Lakers for D’Angelo Russell. Russell has struggled mightily to fit in L.A., and the Sixers desperately need a point guard. Okafor would slide in nicely alongside Julius Randle or coming off the bench to replace Roy Hibbert. This move makes sense for both teams.
2. Fire Brett Brown
This is the least likely to happen out of all seven, but would still shake things up. He’s produced and horrendous 38-145 record since becoming the Sixers head coach at the start of the 2013 season. Take one look at the roster and it is easy to see why. However, he clashed with 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams who would be moved to the Bucks last year as a result. He also has not shown an ability to control younger players (see Okafor, Jahlil) on a team which the average player age is 24. There’s been no rumblings of a coaching change and considering the team’s lack of talent Brown is safe for at least the rest of this season.
3. Fire Sam Hinkie
The #trustinhinkie movement was strong when the Houston Rockets statistical guru jumped ship in 2013. Since then, he’s traded away any and every player worth a dime for draft picks, draft picks, and more draft picks. Although the future of the team may be bright, the picks will have to pan out for Hinkie. Things seemed bright with Michael Carter Williams winning the Rookie of the Year award, but he quickly fell into the Hinkie/Brown doghouse and was moved for a 2nd round pick. Dario Saric still hasn’t seen an NBA court, Joel Embiid can’t get healthy, and Nerlens Noel has struggled to find his spot on the floor. It would be a bold move to fire Hinkie, but one that the Philly fan base might understand if it happened.
4. Trade for Demarcus Cousins
It has been well documented that Demarcus Cousins and Sacramento Kings Head Coach George Karl don’t see eye to eye. The Sixers have the picks and the players necessary for this move to happen. The question however, lies in whether or not Kings general manager Vlade Divac would pull the trigger on a Cousins trade. Divac has been a firm supporter of his during his time as GM, but was also the man who brought George Karl in. On top of that, would Cousins even be interested in a move to Philadelphia? Jahlil Okafor, a 2016 and 2017 first round pick should be enough to get the deal done. This trade however, relies solely on the Kings.
5. The D-League
If the Sixers want to get better right away, this is where they need to look. It’s a little more complicated than just plucking players off a D-League roster, but players like Jimmer Fredette, Lorenzo Brown, and Elliot Williams could all step in and make some kind of difference on a roster lacking offense production at the guard position. The Delaware 87ers, an affiliate of the Sixers, also has several players which deserve a shot to play this season on the big stage. Cut the dead weight and start with a fresh crop of hungry players looking to prove they belong.
Similar to the D-League route, the free agent market has several players which could make a contribution to Sixers right away. With an average player age of 24, the Sixers are in desperate need of some veteran leadership. Ben Gordon and Carlos Boozer have seen better days, but still have something left to give to an NBA team.
7. Get the 2016 Draft Right
This will be the most crucial point in Hinkie’s tenure. As of this moment he has four 1st round picks and a 2nd to work with. It’s still early in the year, but it’s looking like he’ll have the best chance at the number one pick if the lottery balls bounce right. The draft class is looking solid thus far and it’ll be awfully hard to mess up all 5 picks. No more international stash away players. No more big men. No excuses.