N THE DAYS immediately following the conclusion of the 76ers' season, I forgot to mention that . . .
* A team that wins 40 games and is farther away from Detroit and Boston in the NBA East than it wants to admit should have no untouchables in the trade market.
But, to me, the Sixers have one:
If the Sixers' prize rookie of 2007-08 continues on his upward path, he should be the starting small forward for the foreseeable future and as good a candidate as any to blossom into an All-Star. He plays hard and, for the most part, strong; he will get better - and increase his range - as a shooter, making him a difficult matchup for opponents. If, situationally, they choose to go small, he can move to power forward, as he did frequently during his maiden voyage.
Still, that creates another issue . . .
* Assuming they re-sign Andre Iguodala, where does he fit?
He's not a traditional shooting guard; in fact, his perimeter shooting has been the most inconsistent element of his game. I'd like to believe he can improve in that area, and if taking hundreds of shots every day in the offseason is all it takes to make a difference, I'm certain he will do that. But all of those shots in an empty gym won't be the same as trying to get open against the Pistons' defense. It's like trying to get past the VIP ribbon at a posh club; you need credentials to get in. It would be significantly easier for him if he had a couple of sniper teammates stationed on either side of the floor. And while it's nice to think that Young and Lou Williams can help in that area, it would be helpful to see at least one credible new face.
* As for re-signing Iguodala, I agree that should be a top priority, as long as the price is right. He had a fine season, then saw his limitations somewhat exposed in the six-game, first-round series against the Pistons. I won't just write him off as a potential No. 1 guy, because he might yet grow into one, but he hasn't gotten there yet. Would he make that jump if he had a back-to-the-basket post player who could score and rebound, not to mention a legit three-point threat?
But what if other teams, despite his restricted free-agent status, show interest? Wouldn't the Sixers have to listen to potential sign-and-trade scenarios? And wouldn't they have to be
verrrrry careful of not losing a major chunk of the culture and chemistry they have been nurturing?
* Despite what you might have read elsewhere, there doesn't seem to be any reason to rush into discussions about an extension for Andre Miller. As excellent as Miller was, emerging as the team's MVP, he's 32 and has a year remaining on his contract. There's no reason to believe Miller's skills will drop off as he approaches 33, but they say that when it happens, it can sometimes happen fast.
For now, Miller represents an expiring $10 million contract at the end of next season, and - depending on circumstances - a huge chip at the next trade deadline. On the other hand, if he gets off to a start that rivals the level of this season, I wouldn't be surprised by an in-season extension.
Still, to me, the more pressing problem is . . .
* Despite the development of Williams, there is no viable backup point guard on the roster, and there definitely needs to be an option in the event of a drop-off or injury with Miller.
Williams is an energy guy, a power boost off the bench, playing in bursts at either backcourt position. As much as I like unrestricted free agent Kevin Ollie as a possible emergency piece, locker-room voice and mentor, they need a young point guard who can play some minutes in the rotation and big minutes if necessary.
* Have I mentioned being verrrry careful about the culture and chemistry developed under coach Maurice Cheeks? If the Sixers don't want to offer Cheeks a long-term extension, I would suggest adding 2 years to his deal, keeping him under contract for a total of 3, and I would suggest paying him more than the $2.5 million reportedly due next season. In a profession that doesn't exude stability, that would give Cheeks the security - and clout - necessary to help maintain the attention of his players.
* One last thing: Everything they do this offseason is critical for another, bottom-line reason. Their strong, encouraging finish in 2006-07 didn't translate into box office results for much of 2007-08. Even this season's emergence and two somewhat stunning playoff victories over the Pistons didn't have that effect on the Game 6 playoff crowd. I don't think the team's marketing and sales people want to start from scratch next season. They need an improved product to sell:
Thad's Lads: Grow With Us.
The Andres: The Next Step.
Mo, Mo, Mo: The Future Awaits.
OK, OK, I'll stop now. *