The second pick belongs to the Philadelphia 76ers their GM:
Dean Thomas Carrano

With that pick, the Sixers select:
Ron Mercer

I. Team History/Needs
   Position by position analysis of the team

It could not have been a more disappointing year for the Philadelphia
76ers.  Despite the addition of #1 draft pick Allen Iverson, who was named
Rookie of the Year, the Sixers only improved four games on their 1995-96
record, finishing at a putrid 22-60 in their first year playing their home
games in the new CoreStates Center. First year coach Johnny Davis was
totally overmatched, reminding no one of an NBA quality skipper, and was
fired as soon as the season ended.  Some speculated that Davis' refusal to
corral the controversial Iverson - culminating in the calling of a timeout
in the final seconds of a blowout so that Iverson could continue his late
season streak of 40+ point games - was a factor in his firing.  Not a
single person in the city of Philadelphia was disappointed to hear that
owner Pat Croce nabbed Larry Brown to a reported $25 million, 5 year
contract as Davis' replacement.  Brown will for all practical purposes
also replace GM Brad Greenberg, who was fired as well; Brown will have
final say on all personal matters.

Despite some big names in the starting lineup, Brown will have his hands
full.  The team has major weaknesses, has developed a culture of losing,
and has some big, ill-advised contracts which will make it difficult to
maneuver.  Some statistics that explain their failure this season: In
1995-96, the Sixers were outrebounded by 5.5 boards per game. They evened
that up in 1996-97, but still shot .438 while their opponents shot .470. 
They also committed 17.5 turnovers per game, 2 more per game than their
opponents. Thus, they scored 100.2 points to their opponents' 106.7, and
went 22-60. See how that works?  When you can't shoot, turn the ball over
a lot, and play bad defense, you lose.

CENTER: The Sixers probably have the worst center situation in the NBA, as
Scott Williams (5.8 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Michael Cage (1.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg) 
split time in the pivot. Williams, the starter, would be a fine backup. 
Despite having the starting job handed to him, he has failed to deliver on
whatever greater promise he showed as part of the Bulls' four-headed
center rotation.  He can bang some, and if he played for minimum salary,
you might appreciate a guy like him; but since he makes $2.4 million a
year and has four years left on his contract, he has negative value to the
team.  The 35 year old Cage now has no offensive game whatsoever and is,
in two words, washed up.  His only accomplishment this season was playing
in all 82 games, meaning he continues on his quest for the consecutive
games record that A.C. Green rendered meaningless.  He won't make it.  A
sign of how weak the Sixers were inside: Small forward Clarence
Weatherspoon led the team with 86 blocks.

POWER FORWARD: Derrick Coleman can occasionally be seen in this spot. 
Coleman is a good fantasy player, averaging 18.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg, and 3.4
apg...but you don't want him anywhere near your real team.  DC was out of
shape (despite the efforts of fitness consultant/owner Croce), missed
games with phantom injuries (disappearing at the end of the year), and
sported horrible shot selection.  He shot .435, which is pitiful for a
power forward, and kept putting up three-pointers despite a 27% success
rate.  Coleman makes $6.7 million per year.  Don MacLean had a couple of
big games on offense, but missed over half the season with injuries, and
no one could begin to explain why Greenberg felt the need to sign him to a
$15 million, 7 year deal.  Adrian Caldwell and Mark Bradtke were bodies. 

SMALL FORWARD: With Iverson and Coleman on the scene, Clarence
Weatherspoon became the forgotten man, but he was a rock.  As the fourth
option, his scoring was down (12.2 ppg), but Spoon played every game as
usual and contributed all around with 8.3 rebounds, a steal, and a block
per game.  He was also one of the league's field goal percentage leaders
for most of the year, until Dikembe Mutombo blocked him like six times in
one sequence...anyone see that?  It was sad.  Anyway, Spoon did especially
well considering he's out of position at small forward; his game is a
power forward's game all the way.  His past performances at PF reflect
this; even though at 6'7" he is small for the position, he can bang with
the big men, and that's where his skills lie on both offense and defense.
Swing man Mark Davis was the Sixers' most pleasant surprise. Signed by
Greenberg for league minimum (the only good deal Greenberg ever made), he
scored 8.5 ppg off the bench, forced a lot of steals, and delivered some
spectacular jams.  He picked up a Sixth Man of the Year vote from some
deranged guy (no Cy Young votes, though).

SHOOTING GUARD: Jerry Stackhouse repeated a solid rookie season, but that
disappointed those looking for improvement from a player many considered
to be (wait for it) "the next Jordan."  Stack scored 20.7 ppg and did a
little of everything else.  But he's not doing much from downtown (29.8%
on 3-pointers), and in the modern NBA game, it's tough to win with a
shooting guard who can't knock down the outside shot.  His outside
inaccuracy led to his woeful .407 shooting percentage.  Moreover,
Stackhouse simply has to learn how to handle the ball; his 3.9 turnovers
per game are totally unacceptable.  Lucious Harris was another Greenberg
signing which made no sense to anyone (7 years, $14 million), and his .381
shooting percentage and lethargic play didn't clarify much.  This is a
guy, you may remember, who couldn't get minutes for the Mavericks. 

POINT GUARD: Allen Iverson, the 1996-97 NBA Rookie of the Year, had the
largest impact of any rookie since Shaquille O'Neal.  "The Answer" 
averaged 23.5 ppg (7th in the league), 7.5 apg, 2.1 spg, and 4.1
rpg...tremendous numbers for anyone, especially a rookie.  But that wasn't
the main source of his impact.  Iverson spent the year as the subject of
controversy.  It began early in the year, when Michael Jordan reported
that Iverson had told him, "I don't have to respect anybody on the court."
The criticism continued all season.  Reports surfaced that his Sixers
teammates were angry because they felt Iverson hogged the ball.  An
unconfirmed report that Iverson and Stackhouse's entourages had battled
with each other refused to die, and Iverson and Stackhouse themselves
definitely sparred later in the season. "It was a fight between a guy who
doesn't know how to fight and a guy who didn't want to," said Stackhouse,
but he didn't say which one he was. 

At first defensive, Iverson soon began to ignore the controversy
surrounding him, and in fact his Reebok ad campaign sought to use it to
his advantage.  He carved out the niche of the "basketball gangsta"; kids
loved the image, but many fans couldn't stand it.  To critics, Iverson
symbolized the concept of selfish play.  Charles Barkley called him "the
playground rookie of the year."  Critics pointed to Iverson's poor .416
shooting percentage, and noted that his pathetic 4.4 turnovers per game
basically canceled out his assist total.  Defenders noted that, as the
year went on, Iverson's assists steadily went up while his turnovers
declined.  They also pointed to his other stats, as well as his
unbelievable athletic talents which are manifested every time he steps on
the court.  In April, Iverson had a streak of five consecutive games in
which he scored 40 or more points.  This probably won him some Rookie of
the Year votes, but probably lost him some also since the Sixers went a
well-publicized 0-5 in that span.  In any case, Rookie of the Year voters
obviously shared some of the doubts, since Iverson didn't win the Rookie
of the Year award by all that much despite obviously having the best stat
line of any rookie. 

One thing is for sure: the future of the Philadelphia 76ers is the future
of Allen Iverson.  The organization has made it quite clear that he is
going to be The Man in Philly.  Iverson is only 6' tall (the shortest #1
pick since Isiah Thomas), so unless the Sixers can acquire Grant Hill,
Iverson has no choice but to play the point. The team's success will
depend on how well he can do that.  Iverson critics claimed that the team
seemed to run better when backups Rex Walters or Doug Overton were on the
floor with Iverson, and neither Walters or Overton has much of a
reputation as a playmaker.  Walters seemed a little underutilized; despite
some big games, highlighted by a 27 point/9 rebound/11 assist game against
Boston, his playing time never really increased substantially.

II. Your selection
With the #2 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Ron
Mercer, from Kentucky.

Mercer, in my opinion, is clearly the best player available.  The fact
that he plays SG is a nice bonus, as that allows Spoon to move to PF, his
proper position, and Stackhouse to move to SF.  Until Stack's perimeter
game improves, his offensive game is better suited for that position, and
more importantly, his terrible ballhandling would be much less of an
issue there.

What would be 100% ideal for the Sixers would be a tall SG who could
handle the ball and distribute, taking pressure off Iverson to be a pure
point.  Mercer doesn't fit that prototype exactly, as he is an average
passer, but does have size and is a good ballhandler, turning it over only
1.7 times per game last year.  Given how well he fits the team in other
areas, and that he is the best talent available, he has to be the pick.

III. Other players you considered

Obviously, I would have taken Tim Duncan had the Spurs' management lost
the ability to reason.  Barring that, since I envision Weatherspoon and
Stackhouse as the Sixers' forward combination of the future, I didn't give
a lot of consideration to drafting a forward when Mercer was available and
was better in my mind than the available forwards.  That included Tony
Battie (who I don't see as an NBA center), Keith Van Horn, and Tim Thomas. 
The guy I was planning to pick before the lottery results were announced
was Adonal Foyle.  He's a very nice fit for the Sixers, as he doesn't need
to score, is a great inside presence on defense, and has a good attitude. 
But at #2, he was just too much of a risk.  Trading down for him could
work out very well indeed. 

IV. Who the team will probably take
They will be choosing among the players listed above.  It's not at
all clear to me who they'll pick.

V. other Offseason Moves
   own FA's to keep or let go
   Other FA's to go after

The Sixers must get rid of Derrick Coleman.  In the parodic phrase adopted
by Iverson critics, he is "The Cancer".  He has no desire to play defense,
or to play at all in the face of any type of adversity.  In four words, he
is a loser.  Coleman and Weatherspoon are best suited to play the same
position, so one of them should go.  Since the attitudes of the two
players couldn't be more different, it's easy to decide which one.  Given
Coleman's salary, he'll be very difficult to trade. The Sixers traded
Shawn Bradley to get him; they couldn't get Stickboy for him now.  But
they need to make the effort. I'd take Danny Ferry, honestly.  If the team
can't deal DC at all, it's better off buying out his contract.  The money
is blown no matter what, and doing so would create cap room for the big
free agent class next year. The same applies to the contracts of MacLean
and Harris, and perhaps Scott Williams as well. 

Brown is much less likely than Davis to put up with a lack of commitment
by Coleman.  The same applies to Stackhouse.  The events of this season
will determine whether Stackhouse will wish to resign with the Sixers when
his contract is up at the end of the season, and whether the Sixers will
want to resign Stack.  Even though he's not the next Jordan, Stackhouse is
someone the Sixers will want to keep if he wants to stay in Philly and go
with Brown's program.  If things don't work out as the Sixers would like,
Stackhouse could be dealt. 

I gave a profile earlier of the type of SG who I think would be ideal for
the Sixers.  Well, except for height, Jeff Hornacek fits that prototype
even better than Mercer, and he's a free agent.  But does Hornacek want to
go from one of the league's best teams back to Philly? And play with
Stackhouse, who punched him a couple years ago?  And can the Sixers create
cap room to sign him?  I think we can rule that one out.  The free agents
this year are weak, weak, weak.  The Sixers should and will look to free
agency to strengthen their bench, but it might not get them too far.
Obviously, center and three-point shooting are the main needs, but the
bench really needs to be upgraded everywhere.  Mark Davis should be
resigned if possible.

In general, the Sixers could use some veterans with postseason experience
to help out off the bench and provide some wisdom.  This is almost
entirely a team of guys who have never been anywhere near the playoffs.
But the most important thing for the Sixers to remember if they dip into
the weak free agent pool is that they must be sure to avoid overpaying for
mediocrities as Greenberg did.  If they continue to have salary cap
problems, of course, they won't have the option of overpaying anybody. 

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