Can we all just forget last season didn’t happen?
Seriously, basically no one saw it. There were few victories- and definitely no moral ones. There was a coach, but since he won’t be back, let’s just pretend he was never even there.
Can’t we go back to before last season, when there was at least some level of excitement? Thaddeus Young still had potential. Andre Iguodala seemed to finally be coming into his own. He even hit a game winning shot- in the playoffs! Marreese Speights was playing so well that Elton Brand seemed to be glued to the bench. Better yet, Brand wasn’t even there for most of that season. Now those were brighter days.
The fact is, those days can come back. Ed Stefanksi has made mistakes in his time here, but give him credit for cutting the cord on the Eddie Jordan experiment before it sunk this team even farther. It was clear that this team did not respond to him. The minute he tried to force this team to play some semblance of an offense, and not just let them run, the season started to sink- and it kept going until the Sixers found themselves 20 games worse then they were the season before.
Jordan even managed to turn this town against the team. Sixer’s tickets could not be given away. Announced attendances 10,000 below capacity were even lower then that. Every game felt like a preseason game.
The good news it, it can’t get much worse.
The Sixers might not be a top team, but the fact is, there is a lot of talent of this team. With even a decent coaching job, this team should be greatly improved this season. Also, the Sixers are lucky enough to play in the Eastern Conference, where a .500 record could get you in the playoffs. Before the “season that shall not be named”, the Sixers were a .500 team, and even gave the Orlando Magic a scare in the playoffs.
Since they, they have gotten younger at point guard, added the number two overall pick in the draft, traded Willie Green and improved their head coach. The team, despite what the public thinks it or will watch it, is ready to take a step forward.
Lets take a look at the roster and what we can expect from this team.
Starting Line Up: Jrue Holiday, Andre Iguodala, Jason Kapono, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes.
The Sixers return only 2 of the players that started for them in last seasons opener. The play from the guard positions could very well determine how this season turns out for the Sixers. Many NBA experts- and not just ones that reside in the Wells Fargo Center- are very high on Jrue Holiday. Holiday posted modest numbers last season- 8ppg, 2 apg, 2rpg- and has improved those numbers in pre-season play. The Sixers better hope that he is ready to take the leap many predict, because other then him, they do not have a true point guard on this roster.
If Holiday can play well and run Collin’s offense, it will help this team tremendously. Andre Iguodala is coming off of an impressive performance for USA this summer, but all that really did was confirm what we all believe- he is a great sidekick, but cannot be “the man” on a team. Iguodala is said to be working on his defense, which took a step back last season. Coach Collins is said to be pushing him to be on of the best defensive players in the league once again. Combined with the solid defense Holiday is capable of playing, and the Sixers have a good defensive backcourt.
The frontcourt, however, is a different story. It is good to see Kapono will get minutes this season, after being buried on Jordan’s bench last season. Kapono can shoot the three, but as a defensive player he is a huge liability. With shooting guards and small forwards getting stronger and faster every day in the NBA, Kapono will be a defensive mismatch every time he steps on the court.
Elton Brand is the starting power forward on this team, but he is not the best. That title belongs to Speights. But because of his salary, Brand will be out there when the game starts. Brand has lost a lot of weight, and he says he feels better then he has in years. If the Sixers can get anything- and I mean anything- out of him this season, it will be a bonus. If Brand can even be 70 percent of the player he once was, he can finally be the down low option this hoped he could be. But no matter how well Brand plays, he is not going to get younger or faster overnight. Brand is a square peg trying to fit on a team with only rectangle holes. The Sixers are best when they are out and running- Brand could not beat Charles Barkely in a race.
For the first time since 2003, Samuel Dalembert will not be the starting center on this team. That job now belongs to Spencer Hawes, the former 10th overall pick turned lottery bust. Hawes has talent, and may benefit from a change of scenery. He will not give the Sixers the shot blocking threat Dalembert did, but he does have hands that can actually catch the ball down low. At the end of the day, Hawes is not a player to write home about, but in the Eastern Conference, who can say their starting center is?
Bench: Thaddeus young, Marreese Speights, Andres Noccioni, Louis Williams, Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner, Tony Battie, Darius Songalia, Craig Brackens.
The Sixers starting line up will change a lot at the beginning of the season, with Collins figuring out how to mesh this young team together. One result of that will be a bench that is better then in years past. Young, Speights, and Williams are all players who could come in and give the team instant offense. Those players could also start on a number of other teams. Young is the player who’s game suffered most under Jordan, and if he can improve his play and reach his potential, don’t look for him to be on the bench for long. Andres Noccioni is something the Sixers did not have last season- a tough, proven, veteran player that knows his role. Noccioni also brings a toughness to this team that it lacks.
Evan Turner will start this season coming off of the bench. Turner has not played one minute in a regular season NBA game, and yet he has already been labeled a bust by many. Reports I have read say that when Turner first arrived at Ohio State, people said the same things about him- he was having trouble adjusting. Former coaches of Turner say that he is a player that needs to feel like he belongs before he succeeds. I buy into this train of thought. Evan Turner might not be the stud he was in Ohio State. It’s to early to tell. Bur Turner will give this team something this year, and he helps round out a very impressive bench.
Not many people expect this team to go far. There is no question that this team should not be mentioned in the same breath as the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. Right now, the teams that are unquestionably better then the Sixers in the Eastern Conference are the Heat, Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls. Other then that, there is not much standing in the way of the Sixers. They will battle with the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and the Charlotte Bobcats for those final playoff spots. They only have to beat out 1 of them to make the playoffs. And I think they will. Whether it Is good for this team to make the playoffs this season or not is debatable. They could benefit from another lottery pick. But the East is bad, and the Sixers have enough talent, finally coupled with competent coach, to make the playoffs.
Prediction: 6th in Eastern Conference, First round exit.