Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pre-Hibachi's: Philadelphia 76ers

In the 2007-08 season, the Philadelphia 76ers were pretty good. They were average. Nothing special. They managed a 40-42 record, not quite crossing the .500 line, but not a bad record nonetheless. This showing in the subpar Eastern Conference was good enough to earn the 76ers a 7th seed in the playoffs, which ultimately led to them falling to Detroit in 6 surprising games. The Sixers were still recovering from the 2006 headlining trade of Allen Iverson, the face of the franchise. This notable trade sent court leader Andre Miller, two first-round picks of the 2007 draft and Joe Smith (who has since then signed with the Bulls, traded to the Cavs and traded to OKC) to the Sixers while their mini-controversy laden guard was shipped to Denver to provide his services in the Rockies. This trade had been hard on them for the last year and a half because they lost their leader, and top player in most team and league stat categories for guards. This also left the role and label of "team leader" and "franchise player" vacant for the moment, which was thrusted on gifted young G-F Andre Iguodala, who was 23 at the time. As you would imagine, this would be a difficult spot to put a younger guy, and Dre's case was no exception. But since the trade he has shown that he is up for the job, and the rest of the Sixers team has improved dramatically. After a great offseason of signing and drafting, the Sixers look ready to contend in the Eastern Conference.

(Probable) Starting Five

PG: Andre Miller
Andre Miller is one of the most underrated players in the game of basketball. YES, he may be a bit out of shape, YES, he is getting on the older side at 32 years, YES, he isn't as fast as he used to be (though he still ain't slow). But this guard is special in the sense that his decision making is near-flawless, and he is also one of the best transition players in the league, a part of any player's game that is often casually overlooked. Standing at 6 foot 2 inches and 205 pounds, he has great scoring ability, averaging 17 points per game last year, although he isn't a great shooter. He doesn't take three pointers at all, but his ability to hit the pull-up jumper is another one of the sometimes overlooked features of Miller's game. He is also a superb rebounder for a point guard, averaging 4.2 boards per game for his career. He is an average passer, and he picks up a good deal of dimes, holding the 13th spot all-time for career assists per game at 7.5. Andre can also throw up the alley-oop better than most everyone, finishing third last year in dunk-assists at 149 behind Steve Nash and Chris Paul. YES, Andre Miller is aging, but the iron horse (averaged 36.8 MPG last year while playing in all 82 games) can still get the job done as well (and often better) as anybody.

SG: Andre Iguodala
The second Dre on this Philadelphia team, Iguodala signed a six year deal with the Sixers worth over $80 million this August. It's big money for the young gun, but from what we've seen, the dude is more than worth the investment. Moving from his regular spot at swingman to the two guard to make space for the budding Thaddeus Young, Iguodala, the 6 foot 6 207 pound jumpmeister out of Arizona, was picked 9th overall in the 2004 draft, and so far it has proven to be a great pick for Philly. With outstanding scoring ability, averaging 19.9 points per game in 07-08, Iggy is good all around in other categories, averaging 5.4 boards and 4.8 dimes per game as well, and also adding a superb 2.1 steals per game, ranking 6th in the league in that category. He isn't terrible at shooting the long ball, averaging .329 in 07-08, though it could be better and it is improving. A slasher who can do it all on offense has a game to match on the other side of the court as well. He is an adequate shot blocker for a guard, and he averaged .6 rejections per game last year. But his perimeter, outside and transition D is outstanding, and his quickness is incredible on both ends of the floor. This athletic wonder is (one of) the marquee player(s) on the young Sixers and up is the only way that he can go.

SF: Thaddeus Young
The beginning of the endless potential of the Sixers starts at swingman Thaddeus Young. The second year player out of Georgia Tech, drafted 12th overall in the 2007 selection, is a fan favorite for his defense and hustle. Standing tall and lanky at 6 foot 8, 217 pounds, the 20 year old is starting for the first time in his career this year, and expectations are high for this rising star. Last year, in 21 minutes, he averaged 8.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and a steal, getting the bulk of his minutes afer Kyle Korver was traded to the Jazz, splitting the time with fellow youngster Reggie Evans. But his game on offense can't touch is game on D, which is where Thaddeus prides himself. Young does a great job of halting penetration of the lane by opposing players, and is a great defender on the transition. Not much of a shot blocker, his ability to stop the open shot from happening is a skill that Philly should cherish. Given an opportunity this year, Thaddeus Young has a chance to impress, and the signs show it is more than likely that he will live up to his limitless potential.

PF: Elton Brand
On July 9 of this offseason, the Sixers signed power forward Elton Brand to a five year deal worth $82 million, a pickup that ultimately put the Sixers on the the radar to be Eastern Conference contenders. Last year, in his final season playing on the LA Clippers, a ruptured left achilles tendon left him out for the season but eight games, not nearly enough time to make an impression on the year at all. But, even with him coming off of a big season-affecting injury, there isn't much question that Brand will bring an immediate star presence on the floor. For his career since the 1999-2000 season, Brand has averaged a stellar 20.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 2.0 blocks and 2.7 assists per game, great numbers, especially for a man of his role. An undersized four man, short (for his position) and stocky at 6'8", 254 pounds, he makes up for his lack of height with his strength and wingspan, both being great assets of being such a superb shot blocker and post offender as he is. A deadly low-post threat on both sides of the floor, Brand also sports a fairly reliable 18 foot jumper, keeping the defense honest. The addition of Brand improves their half-court game dramatically, a problem of the Sixers' that was revealed in the first round of the playoffs last year against the Pistons. Something that is of small concern in Philly this year with Brand is that there's a chance he will slow down their fast break, which they rely on heavily; they averaged 18.2 points per game off of it last year. But the Brand signing was a great move by the Sixers, adding a great star power to the team.

C: Samuel Dalembert
Samuel Dalembert is one of the most underrated defensive big men in the league. He has flown under the radar for a good deal of his career, while averaging 10.5 points, 10.4 boards and an outstanding 2.3 blocks per game last year, which is certainly worth recognition. The 6'11" 27 year old's numbers have increased year by year since he came to the NBA from Seton Hall in the 2001-02 season. On the offense he has subpar post moves, though he is a somewhat capable scorer. Terrible at driving to the hoop, handling the ball and passing, he isn't really an offensive guy. Remember, I only called him an underrated defender. But on the defensive side the dude is a great shot blocker, a good post defender and good on the glass, averaging almost as many boards as he did points last year. He is a good presence inside because of his above average strength. Dalembert is a pretty decent big man, and the frontcourt of him and Elton Brand should be up there with one of the best.

Key Bench Players
  • Louis Williams, PG: The 21 year old 6'2" speedster is one of the young players on the Sixers who is quickly on the rise, averaging 11.5 points and 3.5 assists per game in 23.3 minutes last year. He is also great at penetrating the lane on offense.
  • Reggie Evans, PF: Another undersized four man at 6'8", the 28 year old is a good backup for Brand and is a great rebounder, taking Philly from the worst rebounding team in the league to the top 15 in 2008-07.
  • Royal Ivey, G: Standing at 6'4", the 26 year old combo guard brings a fairly good three point shot to the bench, something sorely missed by the Sixers.
  • Kareem Rush, G: At 6'6", the 27 year old two guard is another attempt at a three point shooter; he shot .389 from long range last year.
  • Theo Ratliff, C: The (semi) ancient Ratliff has been in the league since '95; he carries loads of experience and good shot blocking (2.6 per game average for his long career) to the bench.
  • Marreese Speights, F-C: Standing at 6'10", the 21 year old rook from Gainseville has impressed in the Summer League; now let's see what he can do in the real one.

Bottom Line:

After a great offseason of signing Elton Brand and re-signing youngsters like Louis Williams, the Sixers look ready to take the the East by storm. With a great bench and good guards and post players, their biggest weakness, and it is a big one, is their outside shooting. Last year, for the second straight year, they finished last in three pointers made, sinking just 302 out of 952 attempts. Iggy was the leader on the team, hitting 101 of the 302, and he was ranked 58th in the league. Very unsatisfactory in this category. But the Sixers have a great starting five and are one of the deepest teams in the league with a great bench, and are attempting on improving their shooting. So, for the Sixers I predict 2nd in the Eastern Conference, with a great chance at a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. There, I said it. You read it right. Yes, over Cleveland, Detroit and Orlando. Yes, it's a bold prediction. But watch it happen, y'all!



Moose said...

Yes, I just predicted the 76ers as 2nd in the East. To coin a phrase from my man DP, play wit it.

Hursty said...

They wont be 2nd in the East moose. C's, pistons and cavs should all be higher. Then either them or the magic. Washington for 7th place!

Moose said...

Hursty, I think they will surprise this year. I am aware that my prediction is potentially very stupid, but I'm taking a risk. And I think they can pull it off.

Eboy said...

No this season, Moosey. Maybe next year, though.

Moose said...

Eboy and Hursty and everyone else--I am aware that this prediction could fall flat on its face, but if the Sixers are at their best with no injuries and top performances, this ranking is correct.

Moose said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Moose said...

I deleted the last comment because I accidently posted the same thing twice. Don't think I'm all not open to criticism or anything.

B. Long said...

The Sixers are gonna disappoint alot of people this year.

Moose said...

I'll take that bet, B. Long.

BETCATS said...

They need more time to gel together. I predict a 2nd round exit this year and Eastern Confrence finals and possibly beyond next year. If they upgrade their shooting guard slot (Ben Gordon maybe?), movie Iggy to Small Forward, and have Thad Young come off the bench for 20-30 minutes a night playing Small/Power Forward then they could have a good chance at winning everything.

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