Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”
At some point late in his tenure as a Philadelphia 76er, Sir Charles Barkley uttered these words in the only way someone from Leeds, Alabama could do. Barkley was fed up, annoyed, and extremely displeased with his situation in Philadelphia. The team had traded away his friend Mike Gminski in January 1991, let Rick Mahorn go to sign in Italy, signed the wrong Shaq (Charles Shackleford), and finish the 1991-1992 season in extremely poor fashion, missing the playoffs (35-47). The culmination of lackluster teammates, poor management, worse ownership, and personal frustration led Sir Charles to formally ask the team for a trade in the summer of 1992. The frustration grew more and more until the greatest power forward in 76ers history was traded on June 17, 1992 to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang, and Tim Perry. Sir Charles and his reign in Philadelphia, was over.
The team was set to rebuild, hoping to build a foundation around a franchise piece that could live up to the stature and greatness of Charles Barkley, who was later selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1997. In regards to his playing position, the heir to the “power forward throne” has never truly emerged. In the now 23+ years since Sir Charles was traded away, no single player has even been close to the on-court production of Barkley. The team has tried everything to solidify the position, from trading for former #1 overall picks to signing big time free agents and everything in between, but nothing has worked out long term for the franchise.
We look back at the history of the 22 men (so far) who tried to replace one of the greatest players in NBA history:
Tim Perry (1992-1995)
Games played: 211 (started 120), 23.6 MPG, 7.3 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 11.2 PER, 4.6 WS, 0.2 VORP, 0.54 total WAR
– Acquired as the stopgap power forward in the Barkley trade, the former Temple standout was the first to try to fill the void left by Sir Charles. According to Barkley, the Suns only traded him to Philadelphia because he wore Barkley’s #34. Sadly, Perry did not have the ability to make up for the loss of Barkley. However, he did appear in two dunk contests as a Sixer (1993 & 1995), but came in 7th and 5th, respectively. He was traded in 1995 (along with draft bust Shawn Bradley) to the New Jersey Nets for Derrick Coleman.
Clarence Weatherspoon (1992-1998)
448 games played (started 415), 36.0 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.1 BPG, 15.8 PER, 25.9 WS, 6.3 VORP, 17.01 total WAR
– ‘Spoon was the first pick made by the post-Barkley Sixers in the 1992 NBA Draft, taken with the 9th overall pick out of Southern Mississippi. Known as “Baby Barkley” with a similar size, frame, and rebounding ability as the future HOF-er, Weatherspoon became the best player on some pretty bad mid-90s Sixers teams, missing the playoffs every season he was in Philadelphia. He was voted 2nd Team All-Rookie following a solid first year, and nearly was an All-Star in his second season. He put up his solid numbers for six years, but a feud with new Sixers coach Larry Brown over playing time forced a trade to the Golden State Warriors, missing the chance to become a good compliment to Allen Iverson in the coming years.
Scott Williams (1994-1999)
212 games played (started 103), 19.4 MPG, 5.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.5 BPG, 12.5 PER, 7.6 WS, 0.4 VORP, 1.08 total WAR
– Williams signed with the Sixers in 1994 after winning three championships with the Chicago Bulls. His Sixers teams won just 106 games out of a possible 347 games (.305), never averaging more than 23 minutes per game or 8 points per night. He was traded 19 games into the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season to the Bucks, along with Tim Thomas, for Tyrone Hill.
Sharone Wright (1994-1996)
125 games played (started 81), 25.4 MPG, 11.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 14.2 PER, 2.6 WS, -1.9 VORP, -5.13 total WAR
– One of the many busts that the Sixers drafted in the 1990s was Sharone Wright out of Clemson with the 6th overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft (picked ahead of Brian Grant, Eddie Jones, Jalen Rose, and Aaron McKie). Wright never played up to his draft status as a top-10 pick and was traded early in his second season to the Toronto Raptors for a bunch of crap (Tony Massenburg, Ed Pinckney, and two 2nd round picks). He retired in 1999 after suffering multiple injuries in a car accident.
Derrick Coleman (1995-1999)
127 games played (started 123), 33.3 MPG, 15.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.9 APG, 15.6 PER, 7.5 WS, 1.9 VORP, 5.13 total WAR
– DC was acquired in the Tim Perry-Shawn Bradley trade to become a main scoring threat for the team. After missing much of the 1995-1996 season due to injury, DC teamed up with rookie Allen Iverson and 2nd year man Jerry Stackhouse to run a potent, high-scoring offense (7th in the NBA in PPG [100.2]). Problem was that he, along with those other guys played minimal defense (allowed the 2nd most PPG [106.7]). He played out his contract and signed with the Hornets prior to the 1999 lockout season.
Tim Thomas (1997-1999)
94 games (started 48), 20.9 MPG, 9.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 14.7 PER, 3.7 WS, 0.2 VORP, 0.54 total WAR
– Taken with the 7th pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by the New Jersey Nets, he was acquired by the Sixers, along with some crap (Jim Jackson, Eric Montross, and Anthony Parker) for Keith Van Horn (taken 2nd overall) and more crap (Michael Cage, Lucious Harris, Don MacLean) two days after the draft. He was now the 3rd young forward the Sixers acquired since Barkley had left in 1992. Things never really worked out for Thomas in Philadelphia, so like the other power forwards before him, he was traded in March of 1999, along with the previously mentioned Scott Williams for Tyrone Hill.
Theo Ratliff (1999) [at Power Forward]
50 games played (50 started), 32.5 MPG, 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 16.9 PER, 5.4 WS, 1.6 VORP, 4.32 total WAR
– Acquired in December 1997 from the Pistons in the haul for Jerry Stackhouse, Ratliff played center for the rest of that season but transitioned to the starting power forward for the 1999 lockout season when the team signed center Matt Geiger away from the Miami Heat. He was solid in his one season as the starting PF but went back to his original center position once the next man was acquired in a trade.
Tyrone Hill (1999-2001)
165 games played (146 started), 30.3 MPG, 10.0 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 0.4 BPG, 13.1 PER, 12.4 WS, 1.0 VORP, 2.7 total WAR
Hill was acquired from the Bucks in 1999 for two former starting PFs (Williams and Thomas). Already 30 years old, Hill was never going to be a long-term solution at power forward, but Larry Brown knew Hill would work hard, rebound, play good defense, and be a leader on and off the court. Hill did exactly that. He was the starting power forward when the 2001 Sixers improbably made the NBA Finals, led by league MVP Allen Iverson. Following their defeat in the Finals to the stacked Los Angeles Lakers, the Sixers felt that the team needed more scoring to go along with AI, so Hill was traded to the Cavaliers for two scoring forwards.
Derrick Coleman (2001-2004)
156 games played (started 123), 10.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 14.4 PER, 11.2 WS, 2.8 VORP, 7.56 total WAR
– HE’S BACK! Larry Brown let him go once before but decided to bring DC back to provide more scoring. Well, like the first time, it didn’t really work out. The Sixers were bounced in the first round of the playoffs in 2002, lost in the conference semifinals in 2003, and missed the playoffs entirely in 2004. He was the first scoring, compliment player in the 2000s that Sixers management tried to match up with Allen Iverson (none of which worked). He was traded away again in the summer of 2004, gone for good.
Matt Harpring (2001-2002)
81 games played (started 81), 31.4 MPG, 11.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 14.1 PER, 6.1 WS, 0.9 VORP, 2.43 total WAR
– Harpring primarily played small forward but because of Derrick Coleman’s nagging injuries, he spent some time at the 4 (about 15% of his total minutes), the most amount of time he spent at power forward in his career. Harpring was just a solid player on an expiring contract. He signed with the Jazz after the ‘01-02 season, spending the next 7 seasons in Utah.
Keith Van Horn (2002-2003)
74 games played (started 73), 31.6 MPG, 15.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 17.3 PER, 6.5 WS, 1.2 VORP, 3.24 total WAR
– Things came full circle for Keith Van Horn when he came back to Philadelphia in the summer of 2002. He was originally selected by the franchise with the 2nd pick in the 1997 NBA Draft but was traded two days later to the Nets for Tim Thomas & Co. Van Horn was a solid stretch-4 who played primarily on the perimeter that could potentially play together with Allen Iverson. That didn’t work at all. Van Horn was in Iverson’s doghouse all season, acting as an overpaid underachiever, to use a phrase from Bill Simmons. Following the season that resulted in a conference semifinals lose to the Pistons, Van Horn was traded away to the New York Knicks as part of a four-team trade.
Kenny Thomas (2002-2005)
167 games played (started 143), 32.5 MPG, 12.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 15.2 PER, 12.5 WS, 2.7 VORP, 7.29 total WAR
– “K-9” was acquired in December of 2002 from the Houston Rockets and was a solid player during his 2+ seasons as a Sixer. He was a valuable contributor to the ’03 squad that lost to the Detroit Pistons in 6 games in the Eastern Conference semifinals. But that’s all he was, solid. Thomas would be traded away as a complimentary piece to the Sacramento Kings in February of 2005 for another former #1 overall pick, Chris Webber.
Glenn Robinson (2003-2004)
42 games played (started 42), 31.8 MPG, 16.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 15.0 PER, 1.6 WS, -0.2 VORP, -0.54 total WAR
– When the Sixers traded away Keith Van Horn in a four-team trade, they got “Big Dog” Glenn Robinson in return from the Atlanta Hawks. Robinson was yet another player brought in to be a scoring punch next to Allen Iverson. Problem was that he was past his prime (31 years old) with bad knees when the Sixers acquired him in 2003. He didn’t play a game for the team in the ‘04-05 season, largely due to injury, and was traded to the Hornets for Rodney Rogers and a washed up Jamal Mashburn. He signed with the Spurs later in the season and won the NBA title with them that year.
Corliss Williamson (2004-2005)
48 games played (started 5), 22.0 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 14.4 PER, 2.1 WS, -0.5 VORP, -1.35 total WAR
– The Sixers were tired of Derrick Coleman (for the second time, no less) and dumped him on the NBA champions Detroit Pistons netting Corliss Williamson, a key role player for Detroit. Corliss didn’t show much in 48 games (-1.35 WAR) and was traded to the Sacramento Kings, along with Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner, for the next guy on the list.
Chris Webber (2005-2007)
114 games played (started 114), 36.3 MPG, 17.9 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 16.9 PER, 4.6 WS, 1.2 VORP, 3.24 total WAR
– Make C-Webb the 3rd former #1 overall pick to be acquired by the Sixers and was also another past-his-prime, overpaid 31-year old acquired by the team since Barkley’s departure. The Sixers had dumped Kenny Thomas, Corliss Williamson, and Brian Skinner in order to get the 5-time All-Star. Webber averaged more points per game than anybody else on the list (17.9) but was dead last in True Shooting Percentage (.463), 3rd worst in FG% (.421), and 5th worst in WS/48 (0.053). Because of a previous microfracture surgery, Webber had lost much of his quickness and leaping ability. He and Allen Iverson were both fined for not showing up at the 76ers last home game of the 2005-2006 season. He only played 18 of 35 games the next season and GM Billy King decided to buyout $25 of Webber’s contract in order to release him. Webber became a free agent and signed with the Pistons, never showing the same ability that he showed with the Kings years earlier.
Steven Hunter (2005-2007)
139 games played (started 76), 21.0 MPG, 6.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 13.0 PER, 5.3 WS, -0.2 VORP, -0.54 total WAR
– Signed as a stopgap player in the summer of 2005, Hunter provided insurance for center Samuel Dalembert, starting 76 games over two seasons at the power forward position. Hunter was just okay in his two seasons as a Sixer, failing to make the playoffs during his Philadelphia tenure. He was traded in September 2007 to the Denver Nuggets for Reggie Evans.
Joe Smith (2006-2007)
54 games played (started 11), 25.1 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 14.1 PER, 2.6 WS, -0.3 VORP, -0.81 total WAR
– Smith was the second piece (behind PG Andre Miller) in the trade that sent franchise legend Allen Iverson to the Denver Nuggets in 2006. The 31 year-old didn’t do much to help contribute to a Sixers team that finished the season 35-47 and missed the playoffs. Smith would finish out the season with the team and signed with the Chicago Bulls in the offseason.
Reggie Evans (2007-2009)
160 games played (started 68), 18.9 MPG, 4.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 10.8 PER, 4.5 WS, -0.1 VORP, -0.27 total WAR
– The ever-energized, fan-favorite Evans was acquired from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Steven Hunter. He started 61 games in his first Sixers season where the team nearly upset the Orlando Magic in the first round of the playoffs, averaging 23.2 MPG. He was relegated to coming off the bench when the team signed big-time free agent Elton Brand in the 2008 offseason. Following the 2008-2009 season, Evans was traded to the Toronto Raptors for sharp shooter Jason Kapono, who didn’t do too much shooting in Philly.
Thaddeus Young (2007-2014)
516 games played (294 started), 30.1 MPG, 13.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 16.8 PER, 35.5 WS, 9.3 VORP, 25.11 total WAR
– The Georgia Tech freshman project was taken with the 12th pick of the 2007 NBA Draft. Over the years, Thad got more and more playing time and was in the running for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011-2012, finishing 9th. Playing under five head coaches in seven seasons, Thad was the most consistent Sixer in the post-Allen Iverson era, becoming the late-2000s version of Clarence Weatherspoon. Playing some small forward early in his career, Young transitioned full-time to the PF position to the benefit to the team, causing matchups problems with slower, bigger players at his position. Thad had a good eight seven year run with Philadelphia but was never truly viewed as an “All-Star” player. He was traded prior to the start of the 2014-2015 season to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Luc Mbah a Moute, Alexy Shved, and a future 1st round pick.
Elton Brand (2008-2012)
246 games played (221 started), 31.5 MPG, 13.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 17.1 PER, 19.9 WS, 5.6 VORP, 15.12 total WAR
– The 76ers were not really known as a true free agent destination but in the summer of 2008, the Sixers went all in on the two-time All-Star Elton Brand from the Los Angeles Clippers. The former #1 overall pick out of Duke, Brand was supposed to be the franchise piece that could help get the Sixers out of mediocrity and into deep Eastern Conference contention. In that regard, Brand failed. Already 29 when he was signed, Brand only played 29 games in his first Sixers season due to injury. He proceeded to put up decent numbers in the next three seasons with the team. The “Old Time Chevy” was the veteran stability for the Sixers team that was one win away from going to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012, provided solid scoring and good low-post defense. For his modest production, Brand was never worth the 5 year, $80 million contract he received, having the final year of his deal amnestied by the team following the 2012 season to create cap room for the team.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (2014-2015)
67 games played (61 started), 28.6 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 10.6 PER, 1.1 WS, -0.6 VORP, -1.62 total WAR
– The journeyman Mbah a Moute was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Thaddeus Young trade. His role was to play solid defense, play minutes, be a good leader, and become a mentor to fellow Cameroonian Joel Embiid. He succeeded in those phases, but the numbers don’t bode well for him, with negative scores in WAR. Late in the season, the team had young Jerami Grant take more of his minutes, pretty much ending Luc’s time in Philadelphia.
Nerlens Noel (2014-Current)
75 games played (started 71), 30.8 MPG, 9.9 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 15.0 PER, 4.0 WS, 1.6 VORP, 4.32 total WAR
– For at least his first season Noel was supposed to become the franchise center, but those plans have changed in the last two drafts. The team has selected two centers since Noel was acquired on Draft Night 2013, with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Noel played meaningful minutes at the power forward spot for the first half of the season as well as the last ten games of the season. While he didn’t have the same effectiveness as he did playing center, Noel has a better chance of succeeding at the four with Okafor/Embiid than with Henry Sims/Furkan Aldemir. Only time will tell if Noel can be the “guy” at the power forward position, where so many have failed before him.
With all this information in mind, let’s state ten basic facts about these 22 Sixers power forwards since the Charles Barkley trade in 1992:
- # of All-Star appearances: 0
- # of former 1st overall picks acquired by PHI: 5 (Coleman, Smith, Webber, Robinson, Brand)
- # of players selected in the lottery: 5 (T. Thomas, Wright, Young, Noel, Weatherspoon)
- Average WS per 48: .0870 (league average is .1000)
- Total VORP since 1992 (23 seasons): 33.1, Charles Barkley VORP (8 years): 59.7
- Total WAR since 1992: 89.37, Barkley total WAR: 161.19
- Average TRB% since ’92: 13.23, Barkley TRB%: 17.70
- # of Sixers All-Stars since 1992: 6 (PG: Jrue Holiday, Allen Iverson, SG: Dana Barros, SF: Andre Iguodala, C: Theo Ratliff, Dikembe Mutombo)
- # of times Sixers finished above .500 since 1992 (23 seasons): 6
- Average # of seasons in Philadelphia: 2.59
Click on Graphs to View:
NBA history has taught us that it is incredibly difficult to replace the production and stature of a future Hall of Famer, All-Star, and NBA legend like Charles Barkley. The team has been patch working, trading for, drafting, and overpaying power forwards over the last 23 years. While there have been some good, if not solid players (Weatherspoon, Young, K. Thomas, Hill), there have also been plenty of disappointments (Webber, Coleman, Perry, Wright). The power forward position is the only one of the five positions that has not had an All-Star since Barkley left town for good in 1992. Barkley complained of having lackluster talent surrounding him by the end of his Philadelphia run, which is precisely what happened to Allen Iverson in 2007. Years of running out a new power forward to run with Allen Iverson never led to more winning; it just led to more frustration.
As the years go on, even with the importance of a true power forward diminishing in this new small-ball era, the lack of competence over a long period of time at the power forward position has been staggering. For every season since Sir Charles left (23), there have basically been as many replacements (22). Maybe Nerlens Noel can finally end the drought, or maybe he will just become the latest player in the struggle to find the next Charles Barkley in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform.
Note: Open this to see a total Excel spreadsheet breakdown: