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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Decision Time For Surprising 76ers

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

The 76ers are in that no-man’s land in which some NBA teams languish forever. The Sixers are good, but they’re not great. Even though they’ve gotten better, they will never be the best, at least not with the players on their current roster. That’s why it’s time for a change, and perhaps not the change you were thinking about.

Part of that restructuring will almost certainly make us of the NBA’s “amnesty clause ‘’ – a one-time, Get Out of Jail Free card that allows teams to dump one burdensome salary – and release forward Elton Brand. That would save them $18.2 million on their salary cap, a nice chunk of change that would give the Sixers some working capital.

It’s also almost certain that a key member or two (or three?) of the current team will be traded. Most fans believe Andre Iguodala is the player the Sixers should trade and most of those same people believe the franchise should build around talented guard Jrue Holliday. But we take the opposite approach – the Sixers should keep Iguodala and trade Holliday.

Why keep Iguodala? Because he’s one of the premier defensive players in the NBA and the Sixers have to have somebody who can match up with LeBron James of the Miami Heat and Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics and Danny Granger of the Indiana Pacers and Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls. Those are some of the best players on the best teams in the Eastern Conference and the Sixers will probably have to beat at least two of them to advance to the NBA Finals. Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships and the Sixers need a shutdown defender like Iguodala, despite his offensive limitations.

Why trade Holliday? He has plenty of talent, but he’s also one of the worst point guards in the NBA when it comes down to what a point guard’s job is supposed to be – run the offense. And that takes more than talent – it also takes court vision and awareness, an innate sense of knowing where players are going to be even before they get there. That’s something all great point guards have and Holliday doesn’t.

That’s especially important on a team like the Sixers, which depends on scoring from lots of different people, whereas a point guard for the Heat just has to make sure he gets the ball to James and Dwayne Wade and then gets out of their way. And the Sixers not only get their scoring from different players, those players do it in different ways and that calls for a point guard in whom everybody has confidence.

Jrue Holliday just doesn’t have that knack and that’s not something you suddenly develop or learn. That’s why the Sixers’ offense this season was usually directed by Iguodala or Evan Turner. Neither has Holliday’s quickness or handle the ball as well, but they see the floor better and make better decisions.

Ironically, the Sixers traded away point guard Andre Miller after they drafted Holliday and Miller is still one of the best in the business at running an offense. Also ironically, Miller just happens to be a free agent-to-be. In fact, there are a couple future Hall-of-Famers who will be free agents when this season finally ends – Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. Hmmm…

Another reason to move Holliday is that he has trade value because of his quickness and talent. He would fit in great with a team like, say, the Los Angeles Lakers, who need quickness at guard to complement Kobe Bryant. And the Lakers just happen to have a talented big man in Pau Gasol who will probably be on the trading block this offseason, so we love the idea of a Holliday-for-Gasol trade. Heck, we’ll even throw in Tony Battie.

 Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.

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