NBA

NBA AM: 76ers Executed Their Plan Flawlessly

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The Hard Truth:  Last summer during the Orlando Summer League, as front office personnel and media members took in a meal in between game action, Philadelphia 76ers majority owner Josh Harris pulled up a chair at a crowded table. Immediately the topic of conversation shifted from the chatter about the day’s game, to the flurry of transactions Harris’ team had consummated just weeks earlier. Harris, reflecting on his team’s situation, sort of had a “what do you know today that you didn’t when you bought the team moment”, in which it became clear that Harris finally figured out what every NBA owner eventually discovers on their own: There are no shortcuts to getting a NBA championship.

Harris joked with the other executives sitting at the table that it was harder than he anticipated to build a winning team in the NBA and that inserting a high priced coach and throwing around a little cash to players wouldn’t get it done. It surely wouldn’t get it done over the long haul.

Projected 2014 NBA Draft Lottery

 Team  Record  Chances
Milwaukee  (.183) 250
Philadelphia  (.232) 199
Orlando  (.280) 156
Utah  (.305) 104
Boston  (.305) 103
LA Lakers  (.329) 63
Sacramento  (.341) 43
Detroit  (.354) 28
Cleveland  (.402) 17
New Orleans  (.415) 11
Denver  (.439) 8
New York (To Den or to Orl via Den)  (.451) 7
Minnesota (.488) 6
Phoenix (.585) 5

See The Complete 2014 NBA Draft Order

Even during summer league, the 76ers made no secrets of what their plan this past season was going to be. They were going to put all their eggs and their playing time into their young guys and rebuild from the ground up, with one highly ranked insider honestly saying “How good could we have really been if Jrue Holiday was our best player?”. The comment was not a knock on Holiday, because that insider was clear that with Holiday at the helm the 76ers would likely have been an eighth seed candidate every year simply because of how good he was as a player and how good they projected he could be. It was the lack of additional star talent that would keep the 76ers in the hunt for the eighth seed and likely nothing more, which was not where Philadelphia wanted to be. That is why the team opted to trade Holiday to New Orleans on draft night last June.

Sixty three regular season losses and a losing streak of 26 games later, the Sixers find themselves right where they wanted to be during Summer League last July. They got their young guys plenty of minutes. They moved some off some players, they tried out several new young guys, landed themselves in striking distances of a top three selection in the 2014 NBA Draft and what looks like a second pick in the top ten by way of New Orleans and that Holiday trade.

»In Related: Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects.

Harris, in speaking with reporters this week, labeled his team’s dreadful season as “a success”. Immediately that comment drew chuckles and criticism, but the Sixers endured a trip to the bottom for a reason. The plan has always been to come out of this offseason with two lottery level talents from last year (Michael Carter-Williams and a now healthy Nerlens Noel) and two more from this year’s draft, then combine them with the young guys they stumbled upon via trades and free agency such a Troy Wroten, Byron Mullens and veteran James Anderson.

The Sixers had a plan. The 63 losses amassed this season was part of a plan to get the team more assets and talent. While the trip through the bottom was ugly in a lot of ways, the Sixers now find themselves looking at four lottery picks in two years and just $19.47 million in guaranteed salaries for next season.

»In Related: The Philadelphia 76ers Team Salary.

The 76ers also own five second round pick in June’s NBA Draft as well.

The knock from within the 76ers a season ago was they didn’t have much in the cupboard in terms of young future assets. Today, the 76ers not only have a stocked cupboard, they have the chance to build a really interesting team with a tremendous amount of depth.

The ship isn’t going to turn quickly for the 76ers, mainly because of the age and inexperience they will likely put on the floor next year; but when you project down the road, just as the window or contracts of teams like Miami, Indiana and Chicago start to come apart, Philadelphia should be in a position with a lot of young talent to not only compete, but to put themselves in a real position to build a winner either with those young guys or in trades.

As silly as it sounded when Harris said the season was a success, for the 76ers it really was, because they’ll come away from this with more chips and talent than they started with and that was the plan from the first day of Summer League.

Playing For Mark Jackson?:  The worst kept secret in the Bay Area is that Warriors head coach Mark Jackson is on thin ice. How his team does this postseason will go a long way towards deciding his future with the Warriors. The media knows it, Jackson knows it and more importantly his players know it.

During the broadcast it was a topic of conversation with ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy opining for his friend and former broadcasting partner, labeling Jackson’s situation as an embarrassment for the Warriors.

The Warriors practiced yesterday in LA, and after practice several of the players were asked about the distraction Jackson’s situation could create. Almost all of them responded that they heard the talk and wanted to produce for their coach.

“We’re trying to save our coach,” Warriors forward Andre Iguodala said to Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News. “Every game is pressure for us.”

»In Related: Upcoming NBA Chats.

Jackson’s status has been an on-going discussion point all season, and his biggest, most vocal supporter has been guard Stephen Curry.

“If we’re losing and not playing the way we’re supposed to, obviously people will start looking for answers and the head coach will get most of that blame,” Curry said. “If we go out and play 100 percent every night, take advantage of every opportunity out in front of us, there’s nothing they can say about it.

“We’re just trying to win, and our record’s gotten better every year. That’s the standard of good coaching to me. I don’t know what else you’d want from him. It’s just kind of unfortunate that that’s the tone that this season has taken when he’s done so much good.”

Jackson, through all the rumors and speculation, has tried to take the high road, and again yesterday tried to defuse the notion that he was coaching for his job going forward.

“Like I said before, I’m going to be fine. It’s going to turn out fine,” Jackson said.

The Warriors took the opening game in LA on Saturday 109-105 and will open Game 2 tonight at 10:30pm EST.

»In Related: Today’s NBA Playoff Previews.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.