With the NBA trading deadline coming this Thursday, the Sixers find themselves in quite a pickle. At 25-27, they know, as currently constructed, that they are not title contenders. Heck, at two games below .
500 and holding on to the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, they're barely playoff contenders. This franchise is pretty darned mediocre, and everyone knows it. So, the question that GM Billy King has to answer is, where do they go from here? The 76ers are at a crossroads, and King must look at this roster and ask himself the question that no one wants to answer.
Should the 76ers trade Allen Iverson? It's become apparent to most observers of the Sixers that the window of opportunity for them to win an NBA Championship with Iverson on the roster has closed. That magical run in 2000-01 will go down as the high-water mark for the A.I. administration, and there doesn't seem to be any way back there.
While Iverson is still one of the five best players in the NBA and his overall team game has improved dramatically over the last few seasons, it's apparent that without massive defensive help around him, this team just can't function with him running the show. It's also pretty apparent that with Allen Iverson on the roster, there is no such thing as a #2 option. It's A.
I. or nothing. The Sixers have some legitimate #2 options in Webber and Iguodala, but neither seems able to elevate their game playing alongside of A.I. In order for Chris Webber to be most effective, the offensive has to flow through him. He's one of the NBA's best passers from the low post, and he's most effective when he's running pick-and-rolls and distributing the ball from the blocks.
As for Iggy, he seems reluctant to take on the mantle of a "go-to" guy with Iverson on the same team. The guy can dunk, but he can't score. At least, not playing alongside Allen Iverson. I say all that to say this. I don't think the state of the Sixers is the fault of Allen Iverson. A.
I. still takes a lot of shots, but as the years have gone by, his shot selection has improved dramatically, and he does a much better job of getting his teammates involved in the action. But for whatever reason, his teammates can't seem to play their best basketball when they're on the same team as him.
Billy King has to decide if it's time to end the Allen Iverson era and start anew. He has to decide if trading A.I. would allow guys like Iguodala, Webber and Kyle Korver to step up their game and be more aggressive in his absence. And he has to decide if there is a way he can improve the team defensively by trading A.
I. Clearly, there will be teams out there interested in acquiring Iverson, bloated salary and all. But none of those teams are going to give up equal value for A.I.
, and King knows that. He would have to go into any trade discussion knowing he can't hold anyone's feet to the fire. If King could acquire a lock-down defensive point guard who can run the offense through Webber and put Iguodala into positions where he can score, then King would have to seriously consider making that deal. Of course, King also has to think about the public relations ramifications of trading one of the NBA's most dynamic and exciting players. When it's all said and done, Allen Iverson will be in the NBA Hall of Fame, and every Philadelphian who grew up watching him will be able to tell their kids all about his exploits on the court.
Not many people can see it now, but we've been watching one of the greatest athletes to ever play in this town. Appreciation for his time here won't be truly understood until 15 years from now, when we're sitting in a bar talking about Allen's cross-over, or the 50-point playoff performances against the Raptors back in '01, or that memorable Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Lakers. Allen Iverson may be one of the five greatest athletes in the history of this city and watching him play should be something none of us will ever forget. However, it's apparent to me that A.
I.'s presence on the 76ers is holding back the younger talent. His style of play was one of the main reasons Larry Hughes and Tim Thomas were never really able to flourish here, and I think it's the reason Andre Iguodala has had a disappointing second season (this weekend's slam-dunk performance aside) so far. The Philadelphia 76ers are what they are.
Mediocre. We've seen what they can do, and it's not great. And while I would be OK with watching the Sixers struggle along at .500 for the next few years if it means we can watch A.I.
ride off into the sunset and retire as a life-long Sixer, I think it may be time for the Sixers and Iverson to part ways. If King does decide to pull the trigger and trade Allen Iverson, we will all feel a great amount of sadness, because this town will have lost one of the brightest stars in this city's storied history. But in the end, King may have made the move that will be best for the long-term future of the franchise.
After all, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. And I think it's time for Chef King to break out the cookware. .
By: John Stolnis