The Philadelphia 76ers began the season on a tear, for a time leading the league in offensive and defensive efficiency. The team's record has come back toward rational expectations as the season has wore on, though the Sixers still boast one of the league's elite defenses. With eyes on long-term contention in the East and a surprisingly young core, the Sixers are at a bit of a crossroads: does Philadelphia hold tight and augment the roster in July, or consider major moves to improve the team on the fly?
NEEDS & TARGETS
The Sixers don't have a weak position, with advantage in PER matchup data at all five spots. The two slimmest margins are up front at center and power forward (+0.6 and +1.9 respectively). The center issues are certainly tied to Spencer Hawes' injury; the young man was performing brilliantly before getting knocked out of action. At power forward, expensive Elton Brand is in place as a starter, but Thaddeus Young, a legit Sixth Man of the Year candidate if only James Harden weren't so dominant, is actually getting the bulk of the minutes. Per 82games.com, Young has played 55 percent of Philadelphia's power forward minutes, both when Brand sits and in small lineups with Brand at center. The team has been incredible overall with those lineups.
While being able to bring Young off of the bench is certainly an advantage that Philadelphia exploits, his production makes a deal dropping Brand (and his $18 million salary scheduled for 2012-13) tenable. Unless the team moves Brand, signing Hawes to a market value contract -- he'll be an unrestricted free agent in July -- could put Philadelphia right up against the luxury tax. That'd be the incentive to move Brand above all else.
Of course, losing Brand only adds to the frontcourt worries in terms of depth. Hawes remains out, and might not be effective as expected when he finally returns in late March or early April.
SALARY CAP SITUATION
The Sixers are at $65 million in salary this season, according to ShamSports.com. As noted, the luxury tax is a concern for next season.