Despite the lack of respect on the national level for Sam Hinkie and his reluctance to deviate away from his original plan for the Sixers, the majority of the fan base is stoked about what the future holds for their basketball team. With that said, Philadelphia is a proud city with a tradition of successful franchises in the four major sports.
The objective of this column is to break down exactly why the Sixers have the best chance to bring home a title before the Phillies, Flyers, and our beloved Eagles.
For starters, I will dive into where each franchise currently stands.
1. Eagles – Football
While the Sixers’ front office into the team’s future, the Eagles are sitting pretty as well. Following a disastrous season and Andy Reid’s departure, most experts had the Birds picked to finish at the bottom of the NFC East. However, rookie head coach Chip Kelly was a huge question mark entering the season. Many were skeptical of how his offensive philosophy and aggressive coaching style would translate to the NFL.
Chip Kelly lived up to the expectations of Eagles’ fans and then some, leading them to a 10-6 record and first place in the division. Despite a loss in Wild Card weekend to the New Orleans Saints, there was an excitement surrounding the team that was lost in the final years of the Reid era.
Moving forward, the Eagles have some cap space, but the $24.8 million number that they entered free agency with is misconstrued. While they will certainly look to add some pieces to their core this off-season, such as safety Malcolm Jenkins that they added yesterday, most of the money that they have available will have to be saved to re-sign their own free agents next off-season. Nick Foles, Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, and Brandon Boykin will all be coming off their rookie contracts, and by the looks of their careers thus far, they will be looking at a hefty pay day.
So while it seems as though to the naked eye that the Birds have as much flexibility as the Sixers, that isn’t exactly the case. With LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and company locked up, Jeffrey Lurie’s team is in far from bad shape, but depending on a few variables, they could end up being hamstrung by the salary cap after this season.
2. Phillies – Baseball
For Phillies’ fans, they saw their biggest fear become a reality. The team’s core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins was not only riddled by numerous injuries, but looked as old as dirt.
After an off-season that didn’t see the typical big moves that we have become accustom to during GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s time in Philly, the only major difference entering the 2014 season is that everyone is a year older. Amaro brought back some old faces, and I mean old, in Bobby Abreu and Marlon Byrd.
It appears as though the Phillies are close to blowing up the whole roster to start a fresh re-build. With the exception of budding star Dom Brown, there isn’t too much to be excited about moving forward. Not only are the Phillies old and injury prone, but they still have the third highest payroll in all of baseball despite coming off a 73-89 record and basically staying pat this off-season.
Ryne Sandberg is also entering his first full season as a manager in the MLB. If the last 42 games of last season were any indication, that is one of the only things to be excited about for the 2008 World Champions. After firing Charlie Manuel late in the season, there was a visible increase in the effort of the entire team under Sandberg’s watch.
Regardless, the Phillies have a lot of questions to answer before contending for another World Series.
3. Flyers – Hockey
Similar to the Eagles, the Flyers have outplayed expectations after their head coach to start the season, Peter Laviolette, was fired just three games into the season. Since the firing, Philly’s hockey team is 11 games over .500 at 33-22, 33-25 overall.
With a payroll of $66.3 million, the Flyers are approximately $2.1 million over this season’s salary cap. $8 million of that gets wiped off the books after this season, but so do 11 players. The Flyers have over $58 million wrapped up in 15 players for next season and over $57 million in 13 players for the following season.
Of course, that ratio changes drastically due to some of the contract extensions that the young talent on the roster, such as Claude Giroux and Brayden Schenn, have received.
The good news is that the core for the Flyers will exist for the next few years, and the younger players should only get better. The bad news, on the other hand, is that they owe some significant money to older players that will likely only decrease their production over time. For instance, Vincent Lecavalier is owed $4.5 million per year until the conclusion of the 2018-2019 season. Lecavalier will turn 38 in April of 2019. Mark Streit, a 36-year old defenseman for the Flyers, is owed $5.25 million for the next three seasons not including 2013-2014.
As you can see, there is potential window in which the Flyers may be able to contend, but Paul Holmgren will need to stay away from bad contracts and carefully manage the team’s cap situation moving forward.
4. Sixers – Basketball
The 2013-2014 Sixers have been center stage in the recent NBA tanking debate, but regardless, Sam Hinkie has given the team something it hasn’t had in years: flexibility.
For as long as I can remember, Philadelphia basketball has been stuck in mediocrity. Even when Allen Iverson took that team all the way to the NBA Finals in 2000, we all knew that the chance of them winning was as slim as Andrew Wiggins’ frame.
Speaking of Andrew Wiggins, it appears as though if Hinkie is on the clock with the first or second pick in this summer’s draft, he may be joining Michael Carter-Williams in the back court for the foreseeable future. Wiggins was pegged as the consensus No.1 pick out of high school, but it didn’t take long for people to begin knit-picking his game at the college level. Still, Wiggins has shown flashes of greatness at Kansas and his upside is tremendous.
The future doesn’t rest on the shoulders of Wiggins however. After sending their first-round pick to Philly in order to land Jrue Holiday in a trade, New Orleans has struggled mightily, and may even end up giving Hinkie and company a second top-10 pick in a loaded draft.
Add two of the top ten-to-twelve talents in this draft with Michael Carter-Williams, the favorite to win this season’s Rookie of the Year award, and Nerlens Noel who was considered the best prospect by far in last year’s draft before tearing his ACL, and the future already is bright.
It doesn’t stop there though. Nobody knows what he will do with it, but Sam Hinkie will have plenty of money to spend over the course of the next two seasons. The Sixers only have $17.3 million guaranteed on the books for next year, but that number could get even smaller. Thaddeus Young has been involved in countless trade rumors since draft day this past summer, and there still remains the chance that he gets moved elsewhere this off-season. Moving Thad would also eliminate the $9.4 million he is guaranteed for 2014-2015.
In addition, Jason Richardson has a player option for next season totaling $6.6 million. It’s unlikely that he will turn that down because simply put, he won’t get even close to that anywhere else. However, the possibility of a buyout was mentioned last summer and will likely be brought up again.
Last but not least, the Sixers have five second-round picks in the upcoming draft as it currently stands.
Not only has Sam Hinkie lined the team up to acquire tons of young talent, but he has given them financial flexibility, and the potential to package picks together to do whatever he desires. The Sixers finally have assets, and in three to five years, there is no doubt in my mind that this will be a formidable NBA team again.
Look out. The Sixers are my pick to be the next team to bring Philadelphia a major sports’ championship.