As the 76ers start their unofficial second half of the season tonight in Minneapolis, we seem to have deja vu about how the Sixers should approach the final 29 games of the NBA season.
Last year, the dust was still settling from the Allen Iverson trade to Denver, and the Sixers found themselves within punching distance of the 8th and final playoff spot in the East. However, the census around the city was the Sixers should play their young talent extensively and try to position themselves for the best LOTTERY pick possible. In other words; TANK.
They finished the season playing hard and inspired basketball and ended up 35-47. This landed them five games out of the final playoff spot, gave them very few balls in the lottery drawing, and knotted them the 13th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. Not quite what the ferocious Philly fans (myself included) had in mind.
Coming off this years All-Star break the Sixers are 23-30 and are in a three-way tie for the 7th seed in the pathetic Eastern Conference at the moment.
So what to do this year???
After landing two additional first round picks last year, people were foaming at the mouth at the chances of a top 7, or 8 pick, a mid-first rounder, and a late first rounder. They ended up with the13th pick and the 21st pick after the lottery and a couple draft day deals.
This year, the Sixers need to build for the future going forward. The best way to do this in my mind is to do all they can to get that into the playoffs and gain some experience (however short it will be) that is so valuable to a young and growing team. The Sixers have been sort of stuck in sports hell; that being mediocrity. And once again, the Sixers are on pace (even if they don’t make the playoffs) to be assured an 11th, 12th, or 13th pick again. However, a team full of Lou Williams, Thaddeus Youngs, Andre Iguodalas, and Rodney Carneys; gaining playoff knowledge from most likely the Pistons or Celtics over four games, is something that could potentially be extremly valuable to the growth process of these young players and could pay off huge dividends down the road.
Back in heyday of Larry Brown, when Allen Iverson was running the team with a flurry of randoms and in-experienced guys at his side, playoff disappointments were a normal conclusion to the end of a few boring, middle of the pack seasons. They were swept back to back years by the Pacers, but they continually matured and grew together as a team and eventually put it all together and made that memorable 2001 Finals run.
In order to have that the same growth and learning curve like the ’01 Sixers had, a playoff berth for this years version (no matter if it is a 4 game sweep) will definitely be more beneficial to this group, then falling out of the playoff picture and into another lottery debacle like last year.