Sixers' best deal for Iverson would be with Celtics
Posted: Thursday July 13, 2006 12:42PM; Updated: Thursday July 13, 2006 4:41PM
By throwing gobs of money at Chris Webber and Kyle Korver, the Sixers have few tradable assets aside from Allen Iverson.
Submit a comment or question for Chris.
Quick -- rattle off a list of franchise players in the NBA today. LeBron James. Dwyane Wade. Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki.
Shaquille O'Neal is still on the list even if the Diesel will be 35 when the 2007 playoffs roll around. We can't say the same for Kobe Bryant, not when the only person Kobe makes better is, well, Kobe.
Kevin Garnett used to be on the list. But KG has logged more miles than a 747. And New Orleans' Chris Paul? Well, he should be on the list within a year or two.
Which brings us to Allen Iverson. From all of the reports that the Sixers star is available (for the right price), one would assume that he is no longer a member of that club. But you'd be wrong.
Last season Iverson's scoring average actually rose from 30.7 in '05, when former coach Jim O'Brien made him the focal (and sometimes only) point of the offense, to a career-best 33.0 under friend and mentor Maurice Cheeks. And his assists may have fallen from 7.9 to 7.4, but that number that is still 1.3 more than his career average. How many 25-year-olds, how many players, can produce those numbers? And when you think about watching the 76ers, is there any legitimate reason to do so if Iverson's not on the floor?
The fact that Iverson has been so ardently shopped by Philadelphia general manager Billy King is hardly surprising. King is a man teetering ever so slowly at the edge of his plank. Since taking over as the Sixers' top basketball official in '03, he has seen move after move blow up in his face. He's had a Steinbrenneresque run of coaches (Larry Brown, Randy Ayers, Chris Ford, O'Brien, Cheeks) while handing out or assuming rich contracts of players who can't play defense (Kyle Korver, Chris Webber) and one who can't remember them (Samuel Dalembert). Since Brown departed after the '02-03 season, Philadelphia has gone an unremarkable 114-132 and made one playoff appearance.
The reality in Philadelphia is that there is only one more move for King to make. Cheeks isn't going anywhere; the popular coach would likely have to struggle for another season or two to be shown the gate. The draft isn't producing, unless you're a fan of Louis Williams, Rodney Carney or Bobby Jones. And the Sixers' "core" of Dalembert, Webber and Korver are owed more than $100 million in salaries over the next few seasons. It's unlikely that they can be traded for anything of much value. For King, the only answer lies in dealing The Answer.
The problem is that unless King is able to land one of the aforementioned franchise players (which he can't), any deal for Iverson will be the equivalent of getting 30 cents on the dollar. From a sheer marketability standpoint the Sixers would need Rocky Balboa to start a couple of games to fill as many seats as Iverson is capable of filling. Despite its woeful record, Philadelphia was fifth in the league in road attendance last season (ahead of powerhouses San Antonio and Phoenix), a testament to the drawing power A.I. possesses.
Assuming King ignores all of that and places his own motives above those of the team, the smartest deal he can make will be with a club in his own division. Boston has pieces that King wants: young talent at the forward positions (Gerald Green, Al Jefferson) as well as a pure point guard (Sebastian Telfair) that Philadelphia hasn't seen the likes of since Eric Snow left town. Boston has a GM, Danny Ainge, who is as desperate to make a deal as King is. And the Celtics have a usable salary (Wally Szczerbiak) that would help match up with Iverson's $19 million-a-year contract.
This isn't baseball. Dealing within the division is no worse than dealing within your conference. There are no Red Sox-Yankees schedules where two teams play each other 27 times a season. At the end of the day, the eight best records make the postseason, regardless of division.
Will King pull the trigger? It says here he will, but likely not until September, when training camps open up. Iverson will be gone and the Sixers will be left to rebuild a once-proud franchise. What King gets for Iverson and how those players perform will determine if King will be the one to do it long-term.