Charles Barkley retired from the NBA as a player after the 1999-00 season. Allen Iverson had arrived in the league three years earlier and had already won the 1996-97 Rookie of the Year with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The following season he would win the MVP and lead the franchise to the NBA Finals.
The Round Mound of Rebound departed Philly and was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 1992. But the Sixers general manager who traded Barkley claims that trade is how Iverson eventually became the organization’s No. 1 pick.
Four years later.
Apparently, putting together such a bad trade that your franchise tanks for four years and can’t recover is a sound team-building strategy?
Charles Barkley was traded from the Sixers to Phoenix in 1992
The story of Chuck’s trade that landed him with the Suns is an ordeal unto itself. It’s popped back into the news lately because of the Ben Simmons drama, but Barkley’s deal didn’t exactly go down the same way Big Ben’s (presumably) will.
Philadelphia’s franchise star was coming off a season in which he averaged 23.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.8 steals on better than 55% shooting from the floor.
But the Sixers were 35-47 that year and didn’t have much to look forward to.
According to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jim Lynam had just taken over as the franchise’s GM after being Chuck’s coach for more than four years.
“At some point of time we came to the conclusion — right or wrong — we weren’t in position to be a serious contender,” Lynam said via the Inquirer.
So off went Barkley to Phoenix in return for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry.
In retrospect — not a great deal. But apparently, it eventually turned out to be, according to Lynam.
Four years later, Philly had the No. 1 pick and grabbed Allen Iverson
Perry was a highly-regarded college player.
But Barkley won the league’s MVP the next year and carried the Suns to the Finals (where they lost to MJ, of course. It was the ’90s.)
That’s where Lynam’s (controversial? questionable? iffy?) view on the matter comes in. The lackluster return he got for Barkley caused the team to be so bad for four straight years that they “earned” the No. 1 pick in 1996 and were able to select AI.
So it all worked out for Philly, according to Lynam:
Unfortunately, in our case, obviously we did not get enough in return. … So you lose a player of Barkley’s talent and really don’t replace him at a comparable level. But in my mind trading Charles Barkley — if you connect all the dots — led to Allen Iverson.Ex-Sixers GM Jim Lynam on trading Charles Barkley and drafting Allen Iverson
Maybe Lynam was just ahead of his time. Plenty of teams now trade away disgruntled superstars and try to tank to land a generational player.
In this case, it worked. But it’s quite the logic puzzle to follow.
Iverson did what Barkley couldn’t and carried the Sixers to the Finals
The Answer did become one of those generational players. A bit like how Stephen Curry has done with his shooting, AI changed the way the game is played for small guards with his absolute fearlessness.
Maybe, retrospectively, it was worth four years of losing basketball to go from Barkley to Iverson. But looking back on a poor trade you made and justifying it by saying, “Hey, look what happened four years later!” isn’t the best team-building strategy.
And the poor Philly fans — ask them how they feel about The Process — basically Lynam’s “strategy” but on purpose — these days as the Simmons saga rages on.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.
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