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In Thorn's quest to improve 76ers, a scorer is first step

First of a five-part seriesWhen Rod Thorn watches a 76ers game, a slew of words could be used to describe him: restless, fidgety, impatient, slightly tormented.

The Sixers named Rod Thorn their team president in August 2010. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)
The Sixers named Rod Thorn their team president in August 2010. (David Maialetti/Staff file photo)Read more

First of a five-part series

When Rod Thorn watches a 76ers game, a slew of words could be used to describe him: restless, fidgety, impatient, slightly tormented.

He shifts from one side of the seat to the other, rolls his stat sheet until it's as thin as a pencil, and labors with each made and missed basket. Because he perches in different seats at different opposing arenas, finding Thorn on the road is a lot like playing Where's Waldo.

And after you find him, it's hard to stop watching, so naturally do his movements reflect precisely what's happening on the floor: a shake of the head for a poor rotation, a slap of the stat sheet for a missed three, a quick shift in positioning for a steal and fastbreak.

Thorn, the team president, traveled frequently during the 2010-11 season because, like coach Doug Collins repeatedly mentioned, evaluation was paramount.

But now we're here. Now it's the offseason. Now it's Thorn's opportunity to mesh his basketball pedigree with the existing young talent and find a way to turn last season's surprising 41-win team into a steady-and-climbing 50-win club.

That starts with finding a shooting guard who can score. A guy you can pencil in, or pen in, or Sharpie in, for 20 points a night. A player who, when the game is on the line, inspires confidence that he will create the best possible opportunity.

The Sixers went through this season with far too many offensive variables. Would shooting guard Jodie Meeks catch fire and rain three-pointers? Would swingman Andre Iguodala attack offensively or hang back and focus on the rest of his game? Would center Spencer Hawes find an early niche within the offensive scheme?

Power forward Elton Brand, at 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, was the team's steadiest scorer, and now Thorn must deliver a similar presence on the perimeter.

Before so many games last season, Collins talked about playing an opponent - perhaps a team with one or two consistent scorers - that entered the game with, say, 50 points already in the bank. When you held up a mirror, the Sixers didn't reflect the same offensive confidence.

Each night, Collins was turning the key to his engine and hoping it would start.

How can Thorn add this crucial piece?

Realistically, only one way: through a trade, whether a draft-day trade or standard trade. The Sixers have approximately $11 million - the combined expiring contracts of forwards Jason Kapono and Darius Songaila - coming off their books. But with the rising contracts of Brand, Iguodala, guard Lou Williams, and a few others signed for multiple seasons, coupled with the potential additional salary of a first-round draft pick, the Sixers' wiggle room within free agency is nil.

A scoring shooting guard will come, if he comes at all, through a trade.

What follows is a look at five potential options, in order of likelihood.

Monta Ellis

Shooting guard, Golden State Warriors - 24.1 points, 5.6 assists a game during the 2010-11 season.

The Warriors, who struggled defensively last season, could be looking for a defensive addition and might be willing to part with Ellis because guard Stephen Curry has blossomed into a legitimate NBA scorer.

The deal: A straight-up trade of Ellis ($11 million a year through 2013-14, with that last season being a player option) for Iguodala (approximately $56 million remaining through the 2013-14 season, with the last season being a player option).

Kevin Martin

Shooting guard, Houston Rockets - 23.4 points, 3.2 rebounds a game during the 2010-11 season.

Because the Rockets traded defensive-minded forward Shane Battier to the Memphis Grizzlies at last season's trading deadline, it's possible Houston might consider acquiring Iguodala. The Rockets possess additional outside shooters who would complement Iguodala's game.

The deal: A straight-up trade of Martin ($36 million remaining through 2012-13) for Iguodala.

O.J. Mayo

Shooting guard, Memphis Grizzlies - 11.3 points, 2.0 assists a game during the 2010-11 regular season.

Mayo played very well for the Grizzlies during the Western Conference semifinals. It's unclear whether the Grizzlies would entertain trade offers for Mayo, but he would be a strong offensive addition for the Sixers.

The deal: A straight-up trade, salary-wise, doesn't work, making this potential move more complicated. Mayo will make $5.6 million next season, after which he is due a qualifying offer. For the Sixers to make this work, the deal might have to include big man Marreese Speights ($2.7 million next season) and a third team.

James Harden

Shooting guard, Oklahoma City Thunder - 12.2 points, 3.1 rebounds during the 2010-11 regular season.

Harden is playing his way into stardom during this postseason run with the Thunder, which might make Oklahoma City reluctant to trade him. Even so, his youth and status as an up-and-comer would fit in nicely with the Sixers' under-24 club.

The deal: Like the deal for Mayo, this trade wouldn't be simple. It could likely include a third team, but here's a possible option: Iguodala and the Sixers' first-round pick in exchange for Harden ($4.3 million), Nate Robinson ($4.2 million), and Thabo Sefolosha ($3.25 million).

Danny Granger

Forward, Indiana Pacers - 20.5 points and 5.4 rebounds a game during the 2010-11 regular season.

Word out of Indiana is that the Pacers are willing to trade Granger in an effort to move into the top two of the 2011 draft. While it's unclear whether Granger is available past that offer, the Sixers could bank 20 points a night if they could find a way to make a deal for Granger.

The deal: Iguodala plus the team's No. 16 pick in the draft in exchange for Granger (approximately $50 million remaining through the 2013-14 season).

From September until April, Thorn turned the reins of this young club over to Collins. Thorn laid back, hitched a ride on the team charter, and watched the Sixers against the rest of the NBA competition.

Now it's his turn, and it starts with adding a scorer.

About This Series

As the 76ers watch a crop of young teams ready to ascend to new NBA heights in the next few years, The Inquirer's Kate Fagan explores in a five-part series what the Sixers need to do next to reach that level. If the Grizzlies and Hawks can make playoff runs, why not the 76ers?

Part 1, Centerpiece:

Quest for a go-to player.

Part 2, Euro Tour: Tapping

the talent pool overseas.

Part 3, Tall Order:

The right big man.

Part 4, Growing Gains: Maturing together.

Part 4, Puzzle Piece:

Options in the NBA draft.EndText