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News » Bob Ford: Sixers played it wise and prudent on draft day

Bob Ford: Sixers played it wise and prudent on draft day

Bob Ford: Sixers played it wise and prudent on draft day
Fourteen trades in the NBA coincided with the league's draft last week. The deals included everything from the glitzy transfer of big names - the trades of Shaquille O'Neal to Cleveland and Vince Carter to Orlando - to the more mundane shuffling of future second-round picks or wads of cash for current second-round picks who might or might not ever see the court.

The 76ers stayed out of the flurry of swaps, which featured 21 teams, although they considered trading up in the first round to ensure the selection of UCLA guard Jrue Holiday. Later, they attempted to trade into the second round in order to pick off a targeted player.

With an uncertain economic environment in general, a sizable core of season-ticket holders not beating down the door to renew, and some hefty salary commitments, it didn't seem as if the Sixers were willing to throw caution - let alone those wads of dough - into the wind on draft night.

They sat tight with the 17th pick when it became clear they would be able to land one of the point guards they liked; if not Holiday, then either Ty Lawson or Eric Maynor.

"It would have cost us [to move up]. And we said, 'Let's just stay pat,' " general manager Ed Stefanksi said. "There were another couple of people that we liked who were still there, too. As it got further and further . . . we knew there would still be point guards left in the draft."

No mistaking that Holiday was at the top of their board for the remaining group - he canceled a workout with the Sixers because his advisers felt he'd never last until No. 17 - but also no mistaking that there was a price, whether in picks or money, they weren't prepared to pay in order to cement the selection.

It turned out that their prudence worked just fine. Teams that are practicing patience with their roster can afford to make those decisions. Teams like Cleveland, so close to a championship, so close to seeing LeBron James opt out of his contract, have to leap from the high dive and hope there is still water in the pool.

Orlando did the same thing in acquiring Carter, although he's not a bad bet for the short term - still only 32 years old, and has missed just 11 games over the last four seasons with New Jersey, averaging 23 points during that span.

The Nets succeeded in dumping a whole bunch of salary, though, getting back as part of the deal a pair of players, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie, whose contracts expire after this season - music to a GM's ears.

Carter has two years and $34 million left on his deal, and it might be that he earns it. Orlando is willing to take the chance, Carter gets to go home, and everyone is happy - with the possible exception of Hidayet Turkoglu.

So, two Eastern Conference teams are pawing the ground and pointing to the coming season. The Sixers aren't there yet, still a season or two away from the moment when they swoop down from a precarious perch to take the Last Guy Needed.

They also aren't, apparently, in the same situation as the Houston Rockets, who essentially bought three second-round players on Thursday night. The Rockets sent cash to Washington for No. 32 pick Jermaine Taylor, cash to Denver for the rights to No. 34 Sergio Llull, and cash and a future second-rounder to Detroit for No. 44 Chase Budinger. For their largesse, according to the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets shelled out $6 million, which is a lot of shelling for second-rounders.

Nevertheless, Taylor is the kind of shooting-guard prospect the Sixers would have liked to add but not at any cost. It might also be they didn't care for Taylor and his small-school background and preferred a guy like Jodie Meeks of Kentucky but couldn't get in position to grab him. Again, the cost didn't offset the gain in their view. In any case, the Sixers stayed on the sideline and waited this one out, showing both patience and fiscal responsibility.

So far this off-season, they have drafted Holiday, made a middling trade of Reggie Evans for Jason Kapono, and announced that Theo Ratliff will pursue his life's work elsewhere. Making bigger trades isn't practical for them since the little contracts of their younger players wouldn't bring much in a swap - trades in the NBA have to more or less match up financially - and the huge contracts of Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, and Sam Dalembert have either too long to go before they expire (Brand, Iguodala) or a less-than-attractive player attached to them (the other guy).

"A lot of times you need big pieces with big contracts to do [a trade]. Because of the system, I don't think it's easy to do that," Stefanski said. "We like our young nucleus, and we think we're building and going in the right direction."

The rest of the plan for this season is still to come, with much of it hinging on what happens with free agent point guard Andre Miller. Stefanski said there were backup plans, all of which likely involve other players on the free-agent market.

"It's like fantasy Basketball," Stefanski said. "We play the same game. But it's real once you do it."

It's also potentially expensive. When the time comes, the Sixers will take their plunge. Every team eventually does. The leap from the high dive is still a-ways away, however. They stand on a middle rung now and wait for just the right moment.

Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read

his blog at http://philly.com/postpatterns.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: June 29, 2009


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