It’s been almost six months since Jason Collins came out in Sports Illustrated, and the 34-year-old center remains a free agent.
Whether his sexual orientation has anything to do with his being unsigned is unclear, but the theory shouldn’t be dismissed. “Nearly a dozen execs say privately that the media glare that would come with a Collins signing just isn’t worth the distraction to most teams,” TrueHoop’s Kevin Arnovitz reports.
Those executives might be right. If the cons of signing a not-that-productive openly gay center outweigh the pros, he’ll remain a free agent. It’s as much about cost-benefit analysis as it is about morals.
The Sixers have a void in the frontcourt. They have more than $9 million in cap room. They are incredibly young, and playing for pingpong balls. They have nothing to lose.
Jason Collins is a 7-footer with a poor offensive skill set but a knack for shutting down elite big men, namely Dwight Howard. He would cost $1.4 million, the veteran’s minimum. He has 12 seasons of NBA experience. If and when he is signed, he’ll become the first openly gay man to play in the league.
Should Philadelphia sign Collins? Maybe. Should they consider him? Absolutely.
In his May 14 introductory press conference, GM Sam Hinkie talked about how the team would move forward with Andrew Bynum. What he said was refreshing:
I think of Andrew [Bynum] like the thousands of other young men walking around the world that are unrestricted free agents that have potential to play NBA basketball, and he is one of those.” Hinkie said. “And I am duty bound to consider them, and to look at them. All of them.”
Paraphrase: everybody’s being evaluated, from the injury-prone All-Star center to the 34-year-old reserve. If we’re to take Hinkie at his word, then Collins has been, or is being considered by the front office.
Now, Hinkie’s calculators are a lot better than the ones at the Hoop76 headquarters. But below is my unquantified, cost-benefit analysis. I’ll leave the conclusion up to you, dear readers.
Financial: Signing Collins to a $1.4 million deal wouldn’t directly affect the team’s bottom line; they’d need to spend that regardless to get above the salary floor. It would, however, hurt the team’s cap flexibility.
This is significant. Come trade deadline, teams may be looking to exchange first-round picks for cap space. The more flexibility the Sixers have, the better position they’ll be in to collect assets.
Developmental: The Sixers are investing in cheap, raw prospects, hoping that a few will turn into impact players or trade assets. Signing Collins would hurt their chances of finding and/or developing some of that talent. Collins, 34, is not, and likely never again will be a valuable trading chip. The Sixers have finite resources, and using some on Collins might cost the team in the long run.
Production: Collins was at the end of the bench before his announcement, and if/when he finds a team, he’ll likely be at the end of the bench after. He’s a sub-par NBA player; last season, his PER was 3.1.
Morale: The worry here is that he hurts team morale by being a distraction. This, to me, seems like a media-invented concern. Especially considering the “distraction” would only be short-term and the Sixers have no immediate desire to win games. And that’s assuming there is any sort of distraction.
Yes, homophobia exists in the NBA. It does in most workplaces. That doesn’t necessarily mean Collins would have any sort of short-term or long-term negative impact on the Sixers.
PR: The Sixers are going to be bad. The Wells Fargo Center will be empty. And inevitably, fans will prematurely turn on the new coach and GM.
On the plus side, the team has little to lose in terms of fan morale. That’s why now’s the time to take a low-risk, high-reward PR gamble. Any press is good press, right?
Not to mention, Philadelphia is one of the more gay-friendly cities in the United States; top-10, according to this study. Are the city’s basketball fans gay-friendly too? I’d like to find out.
Production: Arnett Moultrie is out until 2014, while Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown aren’t necessarily the models for stability. Somebody will need to play in the middle, so why not the former-no-stats-all-star?
Collins’ production is on the decline, but he’s only two years removed from shutting down the game’s best center, Dwight Howard, in the postseason. You could do worse than Collins here. I think.
Veteran leadership: Jason Richardson (injured) or Kwame Brown are the only Sixers born before 1987. Having another experienced player wouldn’t hurt. As a 12-year NBA veteran, Collins might be able to teach the young players a thing or two. Like, how to flop.