July 28, 2015
The NBA is somewhere in between a 10 and 11-month sport now with free agency and summer league doing a bang-up job of holding our attention almost all the way up until August. Right around now, the schedule is entering that short dead period where news is very scarce and we’ll latch onto anything even remotely related to the Sixers.
Enter Jared Dudley, a valuable glue guy now playing for the Washington Wizards and a sharp interview guest that comes off like a complete basketball junkie. He was recently on Zach Lowe’s podcast and it’s safe to say that the 30-year-old swingman isn’t a fan of how the Sixers are slowly going about building their team. Here was the important section of the conversation:
Lowe: Here’s a question for you, ready?
Lowe: This is another put-you-on-the-spot question. I heard your reaction when I brought up the Sixers. So you have a choice: Would you play right now for the Sixers or the Kings?
Dudley: I mean, hey, when you own a team and GM a team, you have a right to do whatever you want [but] I don’t like what they’re doing. I keep hearing the strategy that you wait, you draft, and you try to get someone. I just don’t like it.
Lowe: You’re talking about Philly?
Dudley: Philly. When it comes to Philly, I don’t like how they sign these second-round picks to four-year deals, to try to lock them up and keep them in there for a long time. And I love what the K.J. McDaniels kid did: bet on himself, took the one-year qualifying offer, and it paid off. I love seeing stuff like that and wish more people would do that because teams are [going for those contracts]. The Rockets do that too at times and I understand guys thinking, “Hey, I’m locked up” but you’re really not because there are team options and they’ll get rid of you if you don’t perform so I don’t like that.
And then, two, it’s just that guys just come in and out. They sign 10-days and they sign this. To me, they give the assumption they’re not trying to win games. And it’s a difference when it’s maybe one year. I had that in Phoenix, we didn’t make it past the All-Star break so hey, let’s start winding it down. It can’t be like this consistently, this long.
Dudley didn’t exactly go on to praise Sacramento (how can you?), so his point was made clear. The line of thinking had much more to do with not wanting to play in Philadelphia than a desire to suit up for the Kings. This was a totally reasonable answer, by the way! From a player’s perspective, those four-year contracts are very unappealing and as an established veteran who helps teams win games, the opportunity of playing time doesn’t matter much to Dudley.
Of course, the Sixers aren’t interested in players like Dudley, either. Not at the moment, at least. The front office has punted on free agency for the third straight summer, and they have punted hard. We’re talking about something closer to Randall Cunningham’s 91-yarder than any of Jeff Feagles’ directional kicks.
That doesn’t mean Sam Hinkie and co. will always spend their summers in this fashion, though. Over at SB Nation, Tom Ziller (who I also presume is starved for interesting things to write about) wrote a strong piece on this very topic. The whole thing is worth a read, but here is how it ended:
Sure, free agents won't readily sign with an avowed loser. But the avowed loser doesn't want free agents. When the team does want free agents, it won't be an avowed loser any more. As such, how players not on the Sixers feel about the Sixers right now is wholly irrelevant!
Given that the Sixers have installed some level of internal culture to make sure players stuck there are reasonably happy -- "opportunity" is the buzz word there -- the whole branding-to-players issue isn't an issue at all. Branding to fans and customers is another story entirely. I presume that as with players, fans will rush back when there is a reason to do so. So in the end, assuming the blueprint works, the only real cost of Hinkie's famous process is time. Hinkie and his bosses are patient enough to let it play out. We'll see how it ends. But it's highly unlikely that permanent damage is being done here.
There are three common ways to acquire players in the NBA: via the draft, trades, or free agency. The optionality Hinkie has talked about is a real thing, but if I had to put my money on it, the Sixers are going to need a major breakthrough or two in the other two phases before they can do the type of damage they’re looking for in free agency.
Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann