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The Sixers Need To Choose A Direction

Get worse and build through the draft. Get better, keep an eye on the cap, and convince a superstar he can win a ring in Philly. Either option works. The only thing Joshua Harris can't do is maintain the status quo with the Sixers.

Joshua Harris and his group of investors are waiting patiently for league approval of their deal to take control of the Philadelphia 76ers. There's no rush. Once they officially sign on the dotted line and move into the Sixers offices, they're going to be sitting around, waiting for the lockout to end. Waiting for the ground rules to be set before they can officially put their plan together. A plan that will hopefully bring a championship back to Philadelphia.

Questions about the makeup of the roster, possible additions, subtractions and modifications linger, but they're mostly just window dressing. Whether or not Harris and Co. decide to trade Andre Iguodala doesn't mean a whole lot. What matters is their plan. What matters most is that they have a plan. Not a plan to squeeze a couple more wins out of the team this season, but the plan to turn this team into a contender.

I'm making the leap here in assuming they'll have a well-defined plan, perhaps that's not a leap I should make after the past couple of rudderless seasons by the front office, but call me an optimist. I believe they're going to step in knowing exactly where they want to take this franchise, and at least a loose outline of how they're going to get there.

There are three ways the Sixers can go, but they aren't mutually exclusive. (1) Blow it up. Clear as much cap space as possible and stockpile draft picks. (2) Augment the current roster to make the next step - say increasing from 41 wins to 50 - then once you get there, figure out how to make the next step to contender. (3) Do everything and anything to obtain a legitimate superstar. Once you get him, do what you have to do to put the right pieces around him.

A lot of people will tell you that option three is the only one that matters. You can't win in this league without a legitimate superstar. History is certainly on their side, and I'm sure the new CBA won't change that fact of life. If you're going in with the assumption that you need that top-5 player in the league, then it's really a flip of the coin. Do you either (A) blow it up and hope to use a lucky bounce in the lottery to draft that franchise-saving talent, or (B) manage your cap space wisely, put a winning, attractive team on the floor, and bide your time until the superstar becomes available in free agency or via trade. 

There's no right answer here. There are just as many teams who have tanked for a high draft pick and wound up with Hasheem Thabeet as there are teams who always thought they were one move away from contention only to never see that move present itself. Both paths are littered with fired general managers, overpaid second-tier players and burnt out coaches. The difference between the teams that make it happen and the teams that no one cares about is two parts luck, and one part fortitude. It's the wherewithal to make a solid, smart plan and then the gumption to make hard decisions to see the plan through. The ability to watch a guy who you drafted walk away as a restricted free agent because even though you like him, and even though he might be a good player, signing him for too much money would make the plan untenable. It's the wisdom to know when you've missed on the right player in free agency, you don't have to overspend for the next-best guy. It's negotiating your contracts with team options, rather than player options tacked onto the end. It's being a position to strike immediately when another team is willing to give away valuable assets for nothing more than cap relief.

The question swirling around the Sixers immediately prior to the lockout was whether or not they would trade Andre Iguodala. Once the CBA is in place, I'm sure that debate will resume. When it does, the question isn't whether he should be traded. The question is why. What's the plan? Which path did they choose and how does the trade, or lack thereof, fit into the plan?

As a fan who watches 82+ games per year, it's much easier to stomach the incremental improvement plan. I'd love to see them improve on what they did last season and start making calculated, even heartless decisions on who they sign and re-sign. But after years of hovering around 40 wins, I'd settle for any kind of plan. Get better, get worse, just have an end game in mind.