One of the biggest narratives still talked about today. A story that no one forgets and one that created the legacy of a player along the way. Allen Iverson is notorious for carrying the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers team to the finals against the Kobe and Shaq Lakers. This 76ers squad had an offensive game plan called “Give to Allen and grab his rebound.” So, what if Pat Croce and company brought in some offensive help for Iverson?
First, let’s not downplay the fact that this team was not led by Iverson on defense. Dikembe Mutombo was the anchor to the defense, and the others played well in Larry Brown’s defensive system. Mutombo even won defensive player of the year and the team was fifth in the league in opponent’s points per game and defensive rating.
The offense was a completely different story. Compared to the league, the Sixers were ranked 15th in points per game. Allen Iverson was the only Sixer to average more than 12 points per game throughout the entire season. Their offense was solely run through Iverson and every team knew it. So when the Sixers ran into a team who could throw solid double teams at AI, they normally took the loss. Looking at the starting five’s stats, plus the first two off the bench, a championship caliber team is not the first thing that comes to mind.
So now I bet you’re thinking, “Well who could they have acquired to help out Iverson?” That’s a great question if you really were thinking that, if not, well you might be now that you read it. Anyway, there are a few players they might have been able to keep or even just acquire sooner. I’m not saying that these things could have necessarily worked out contract wise. If I could use the ESPN Trade Machine for past seasons then I’d give you a definite answer.
One player that comes to mind, that used to be a Sixer, is Jerry Stackhouse. Let’s put aside egos for a second and say that he was fine with being the number two guy behind AI. If the stats held up, they could be the top scorers in the league that season. Plus, Stackhouse would draw a lot more defenders at the small forward spot than George Lynch. Stackhouse averaged 29.8 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game that season with the Detroit Pistons. It was the best season of his career and he shot a better three point percentage than any of the Sixers starters. He may have been a volume shooter like Iverson, but we’ve seen that work to an extent with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. Last but not least, Stackhouse could have given Larry Brown a player that could be a problem for Kobe Bryant in the 2001 Finals.
The Sixers tried to have Stackhouse play alongside Iverson and it didn’t work out, so on to option number two. What if the Sixers acquired the services of Chris Webber sooner rather than later? This would have added another element entirely to the Sixers’ offense. None of their big men were that great of offensive threats. The biggest threat they posed was getting a rebound and a put back. Add Chris Webber into the mix. Not just any Chris Webber, I’m talking about prime Chris Webber. The same one who averaged 27.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game in the 2000-01 season. Webber would be giving the Sixers more rebounds per game than Tyrone Hill and Theo Ratliff respectively. He would give the Sixers an inside presence on offense that the Lakers would have to respect. During the finals, the lakers main concern was obviously Allen Iverson, but putting Webber down low would force them to shift their focus on a second big time offensive threat.
Finally, let’s throw a really fun option into the stew. What if Philly wanted to get a young gun big man that could keep up with the pace of Iverson better than Webber? What if they went for The Big Ticket who was wowing all of the fans in Minnesota? That’s right, instead of a duo of Marbury and Garnett, how about we make it the duo of Iverson and Garnett. Kevin Garnett was fresh off of his fourth all-star appearance in the 2000-01 season and he was averaging 22 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 5 assists per game. The big attraction about Garnett was not his numbers though, his heart and attitude is what made him so exciting to watch. Which would have went incredibly well with the heart and attitude of Iverson. The one thing that Philly fans really fell in love with was how Iverson left his blood, sweat, and tears on the court. Garnett is another player who has that kind of heart every single game, so just imagine what kind of celebrations they would have in these playoffs. KG probably would have even tried to fight Shaq in the finals while telling him how his girlfriend tastes like honey nut cheerios.