The Philadelphia 76ers’ rebuild is all about timing.
Right now, they’re in the stage of acquiring elite young talent. They drafted Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel last summer, and as long as neither player is yet good enough to lift the 76ers from the NBA’s basement, Philadelphia is eyeing even more elite young talent. This summer, they’ll draft two more first rounders, a top-five pick with their own selection and another lottery pick with the Pelicans’. Quite possibly, with four recent lottery picks on the roster next year, the 76ers will remain bad enough to pick high in the draft in 2015, too. Maybe even five recent lottery picks won’t be ready to keep Philadelphia out of the 2016 lottery, either.
Simply, the 76ers are trying to jam as many lottery picks into a small window as possible. Once these players develop, the opportunity to pick high in the draft will disappear. But as long as they’re all young, Philadelphia probably won’t be good enough to escape the top of the draft.
And that leads to the second stage of rebuilding.
For the 2017-18 season, assuming they pan out, these first-round picks will start getting new contracts. That means their salaries will rise substantially. So before then, while the young players are still on cheap rookie-scale contracts, the 76ers will use their cap room.
But this summer is too early to sign good free agents, because that would interfere with stage one – remaining bad enough to keep get bad draft picks before the first wave of young players (Carter-Williams and Noel) get too good.
The 76ers aren’t even hiding the plan.
Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, via Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:
“It’s all aligned to we are not going to be pursuing free agents for a while,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown, whose franchise plans to build a new practice facility in two seasons. “We are about development. Once the alignment with development collides with a bunch of other things in the program, then you can start talking about free agents.
“No free agent is going to want to come to Philadelphia at this stage. Why would a good free agent want to come in and be a part of a rebuild?”
If anything, I’m surprised Brown would be so open about the 76ers not pursuing free agents this summer. But their plan is so transparent, what difference does his admission make?
Besides, as he says, good free agents wouldn’t to sign with Phildelphia now, anyway.
In a year or two, though, expect the 76ers to make a really aggressive push into free agency. With cap space and a blossoming young roster, I suspect veteran free agents will view Philadelphia much differently.