Bye Bye A.I.: Why the Sixers did the right thing
Well, it took a few years, but the Philadelphia 76ers finally heeded the advice I’ve been offering them all along(free of charge no less) and traded enigmatic superstar, Allen Iverson, along with backup forward Ivan McFarlin, to the Denver Nuggets for point guard Andre Miller, former Sixer and No. 1 overall draft selection, Joe Smith and the real prize, two 2007 first-round draft picks that should go a long way in helping the Sixers get back on the road to respectability.
With the transaction, which the Sixers should have made quite some time ago, they can finally move forward with a comprehensible plan to rebuild their franchise around some of their younger players, namely, Andre Iguoadala, Kyle Korver, Samuel Dalembert and this year’s first round draft pick, rookie, Rodney Carney.
Now, whether general manager Billy King makes the correct moves from here on out, which is highly questionable looking his spotty track record, the Sixers could find themselves back amongst the land of the living sooner than they think.
However, the Sixers and more specifically, chairman and part owner, Ed Snider, realized that this transaction was long overdue – and necessary to improve the Sixers, who weren’t going to win any time soon with Iverson anyway.
"It was time for us to take a deep breath and say, ‘OK, we’ve got to move in a different direction,’ " Snider said. "Allen wanted to move in a different direction, and we accommodated him. Now we have to do what we have to do to try to build a team."
Speaking of building, the Sixers helped themselves immensely by acquiring the 6-foot-2, 30-year-old Miller, who is still one of the top point guards in the NBAand a player who led the league in assists in 2001-02 while with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Miller is currently third in the league assists with 9.1 per game to go along with averages of 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.61 steals this season, his eighth as a pro.
Smith, 31, was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1995 draft and spent part of the 1997-98 season with the Sixers. He has played in just 11 games this season, his 12th in the league, averaging 5.1 points and 3.6 rebounds. With Smith’s contract, which pays him $6.8 million, expiring after the season, the Sixers will also be getting their payroll down closer to the salary cap. Miller’s contract runs through the 2008-09 season at cap figures for the next two seasons of $9.3 million and $9.9 million, although the Sixers will be paying him less because his current contract was front-loaded.
"I think what we were trying to do was give ourselves the most flexibility financially and get players that could help us and get draft picks," King said. "This does that. We were going to have cap room that year  anyway, and this gives us a lot more cap room."
By acquiring two No. 1 draft picks, Denver’s own and one acquired from the Dallas Mavericks, the Sixers now have an opportunity to be a major player on draft day next June. While it’s probable neither pick will be a lottery selection, the Sixers could either work some trades to move up in what experts are calling the deepest draft in quite some time or keep the selections, along with their own and draft three talented young players to help build a solid core of young players that can help them win in the near future.
Trading Iverson also means that the Sixers will get a better chance to see what their crop of young players can do in game situations, although King was careful how he phrased it.
"Any time you take a great player off a team, it’s a big loss," he said. "I’m not going to discredit what Allen has done for this organization. I think now we can just evaluate and we’ll do that, and if we still need to add pieces, we’ll do that."
Before closing out this column, I want to once again, say that, although I think the Sixers undoubtedly made the correct decision by trading Iverson, the real measure of how well the Sixers did on this deal will come after next summer’s draft.
Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be surprised to see King blow this deal by either drafting some kid who can’t make the transition to the pro game or by trading one or two of the picks for some overpaid veteran with too many miles on his odometer. Let’s hope this isn’t the case, but again, only time will tell. At any rate, here is a quick glimpse at the two newest Philadelphia 76ers.
Age: 30. Height: 6-foot-2. Weight: 200. College: Utah. Years pro: 8.
I’ve always like Miller who is a resourceful and durable player that generally makes his teammates better. Miller has played in all 82 games in a season five times and has missed just three games in his entire career. He has also played in 309 consecutive regular-season games, the fourth-longest active streak in the NBA. Miller also led the league in assists in the 2001-02 season and has been named Eastern Conference player of the week twice in his career as well as being named all-rookie first team in 2000. Miller was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round (eighth pick overall) in the 1998 NBA draft.
Age: 31. Height: 6-10. Weight: 225. College: Maryland. Years pro: 12.
Smith is a 12-year veteran who has played for six franchises, including a brief stay with the Sixers in 1998. He is averaging 13.5 minutes in 11 games but his offensive numbers have steadily dropped since his sophomore season when he 18.7 points per game. Smith had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last December, sidelining him for 30 games. Smith was the No. 1 overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in the 1995 draft, but has never truly lived up to his potential or expectations.
Eric Williams is a sports columnist for the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, and Sr. NBA analyst for basketball.com as well as a nationally syndicated freelance writer for both, print and online publications who can be heard weekly on BetUs.com radio at 2:15 eastern each Wednesday.