Just like the Detroit Pistons, the Philadelphia 76ers are a franchise still in search of The Franchise.
Like the Pistons, the Sixers are having an identity crisis, with aging links to a more successful past still hanging around like outdated political figureheads — Rip, Ben and Tayshaun in Detroit; Allen Iverson in Philly — and only further confusing the younger talent who should have that No. 1 status in their sights. Like the Pistons (Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva), the Sixers are paying two non-franchise players franchise-level money (Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand) without franchise-level results.
And like the Pistons, who have seemingly pegged Rodney Stuckey to be their next potential star, the Sixers appear to be banking on their own talented young West Coast guard who can play both backcourt spots and showed flashes of future All-Star ability in his rookie year: Jrue Holiday.
I might be reading too much into nothing, but I think it’s significant that Holiday is reportedly going to represent the Sixers at tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery drawing. Teams only send players to the Lottery whom they see as a face of the franchise; In the last few years Brandon Roy has repped the Blazers, Dwyane Wade has gone for Miami, and Rudy Gay for Memphis, to name a few. Going to the Lottery doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being handed the reigns right away, but there’s a reason it wasn’t Jamaal Magloire, Mark Blount and Stromile Swift sitting behind those logos.
Is Jrue Holiday the future of the Sixers? The 6-4 guard was the youngest player in the NBA this season (he turns 20 next month), averaging 8.0 points, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals in just 23 minutes a night as a rookie. Earlier in the schedule his playing time was up and down as Lou Williams and Iverson were in and out of the lineup, but he started every game for Philly after Jan. 22, and following the All-Star break Holiday put up 11.9 ppg, 5.5 apg and 1.5 spg. Holiday got better as the season went on, and if the Sixers weren’t so bad and the League didn’t have so many other standout rookie point guards, he would have gotten more attention.
Again, Holiday is young — his older brother is still a junior in college — but he was one of Philly’s few bright spots this year. He’s strong and athletic at a position that demands strength and athleticism, he’s a better passer than he was given credit for coming out of UCLA, and he gets after his man on defense. If not a bona fide franchise centerpiece, down the line Holiday will at least be able to hold his own against the likes of Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Brandon Jennings at point guard.
But the Sixers are still looking for a head coach, and depending on how the Lottery balls bounce tonight, their next marquee name could be introduced as early as next month. (Philly has a five percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick.) The team could decide to go in an entirely different direction for next season, and with Iguodala and Brand locked into contracts through 2013, and Sam Dalembert‘s $12 million expiring contract tough to unload, there’s not much flexibility. If the Sixers want to make moves this summer, Holiday might be one of their best bargaining chips.
What do you think? Should the Sixers keep Holiday in place as a franchise building block, or make him available if the right opportunity presents itself?