March 3, 2015

2008-09 NBA Preview: Philadelphia 76ers – Part 1

Andre Iguodala

Philadelphia 76ers

Last Year’s Record: 40-42

Key Losses: Rodney Carney, Jason Smith (out for the season with knee injury)

Key Additions: Elton Brand, Kareem Rush, Donyell Marshall, Royal Ivey, Marreese Speights (R), Theo Ratliff

1. What significant moves were made during the off-season?

Elton Brand SixersThe Sixers had perhaps the busiest, and most successful, off-season of any NBA team. The biggest move was filling their absolutely gaping hole at PF by stealing Elton Brand away from the Clippers. Their second biggest need, a shooter, was filled by the signings of Kareem Rush and Donyell Marshall. Finally, they filled out their roster with a defensive-minded back-up PG and C in Royal Ivey and Theo Ratliff. All in all, the team added a lot of veteran talent to a roster already filled with young talent. A great job by Ed Stefanski.

2. What are the team’s biggest strengths?

Transition offense.  This was the Sixers’ core strength last season and will be again this year.  Brand’s defense and rebounding will help get our guys out on the break where they clearly are at their best.  With Thaddeus Young at the small forward he should be better positioned (on the perimeter more) to get out and run not being buried under the basket like he was last season as the temporary power forward.  We already know Iguodala and Louis Williams are two of the best in the league in transition.  With Andre Miller making the right decisions and tossing lobs, the 76ers will not only be winning more games but doing so in very exciting fashion.

Line-up versatility. We know Sammy and Brand are in the front court, and Miller is the starting point guard.  We also know Andre Iguodala will start.  But the wing positions in general are not as certain.  Especially considering Mo Cheeks has suggested that he never said Iguodala was officially moving to the shooting guard position.  In fact Kareem Rush ran with the first team in the first scrimmages during training camp.  None of this perceived uncertainty is a bad thing to me.  I love that there is competition at the wing positions; it will only make all the players better.

The reality has to be: the last starting position is Thaddeus Young’s to lose. With Young at the three we have size, athleticism and the best defensive line-up we can put out there.  The difference this season from last is now we can slide Iguodala to the three and bring in Rush for three-point shooting.  Or sub in Donyell Marshall for perimeter shooting and rebounding at the small forward position.  We could put Lou at the point and have both Marshall and Rush on the floor with Brand.  That is probably the Sixers’ best shooting line-up surrounding Brand and the one I would put on the floor if teams try to play zone.  With Lou at the point he should have better driving lanes as well with two three-point shooters on the floor.

As you guys will continue to hear me say, it will all come down to how Maurice Cheeks manages and adjusts his line-ups to take advantage of opponents’ weaknesses and create mismatches.

3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?

Perimeter shooting.  This still remains the biggest concern for the Sixers going into this much anticipated season.  Ed Stefanski did what he could by acquiring Kareem Rush and Donyell Marshall to address this hole in the 76ers’ offense.  But I am still not sold.  Maybe it is the “bad stuff always happens to us” or “we never get lucky” mentality I have, as a long-time Philadelphia sports fan, which keeps me skeptical.  In my opinion the addition of Rush and Marshall and having them on the floor only provides a “threat” of perimeter and long-range shooting.  That is a good first step.  But I need to see these guys in game action knocking down shots for this weakness to be realized as a new weapon.

Offensive chemistry.  When the Sixers’ defense and rebounding isn’t igniting the fast break, they will be forced to play a slower half-court game.  That unavoidable situation is exactly why we needed and went out and got Elton Brand.  We now have a consistent inside scorer to solidify the half-court offense.  Therefore, the expectation is that the offense will now run through Brand.  That means:

  • Samuel Dalembert will have to figure out his spacing (not getting in the way) and how he can be effective (being ready for passes if the defense uses a big to double Brand in the post) on offense.  Can he be a high-post passer?
  • Andre Miller and Brand have to find their harmony on the pick-and-roll.
  • There will be less room for Andre Miller to back down smaller point guards into the low post and short corner area.
  • What does Andre Iguodala do while Brand is posting up?  Does he resort to becoming just a spot-up jump shooter which is obviously not his strength?  Iguodala will need to find his niche in the half-court offense as the number two scoring option.

The good thing about the Sixers’ weaknesses is that they may only be growing pains due to the all the new personnel.  By season’s end we expect Rush and Marshall to spread the floor and make double teams pay.  Word from training camp is that Rush’s jumper is top notch.  It shouldn’t take long for Miller and Brand to find their rhythm.  I just worry about Iguodala settling for too many jumpers if much of the offense is running through Brand.  That is where Mo Cheeks needs to be the coach we all want him to be and put guys in positions to succeed.  Time will tell, and I can’t wait.

4. What are the goals for this team?

The players will tell you, as they always do, that the goal for this team is to win a championship. Is that a realistic goal for this team? It’s possible, but a lot of things will need to happen. We will call these “mini-goals” that need to happen in order to reach the main goal. First, this team needs to develop a rhythm and incorporate Elton Brand into their run-and-gun style that helped them finish the season 22-12. Second, Andre Iguodala needs to transfer all that energy he spent in the off-season improving his jump shot onto the court. Third, young stars Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young have to grow up fast and become big-time (and efficient) contributors. Finally, Andre Miller and Sam Dalembert need to not suffer a dip from career seasons last year. If all of these mini-goals are reached, the Sixers have championship potential.

Thaddeus Young5. Who will be the key player to the Sixers’ success?

Thaddeus Young.  We know what we are going to get from Andre Miller.  We know what Sammy is going to bring to the table.  I am confident in Elton Brand’s health and what he will give us on offense, on the boards and defensively.  The two biggest question marks from a player standpoint are can Iguodala succeed at the shooting guard position and will Thad make another leap in his progression?  I’ve already written my thoughts on Andre Iguodala at the shooting guard.  But in order for this team to really move to elite status and compete for a championship, we will need Thaddeus Young to turn his potential into production.  He will be at his natural position and won’t have the weight of an entire team on his shoulders like other promising young players.  I’d like for Young to be the team’s 3rd leading scorer and have our aging point guard play much more of a distributor role.  Thad is in a good situation to continue his development without very much pressure.  Let’s hope he does it.

Predicted Record: 52-30

The Sixers were quietly one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference for the second half of the season and burst onto the national scene by giving the mighty Pistons a battle in the first round. Going into this season, Philadelphia is more excited about a Sixers team than they have been since the 2001 Finals. They have a great core of young talent with Iguodala, Williams, Young and Dalembert. Added to this is a pair of all-star veterans in Andre Miller and Elton Brand as well as several solid bench players. The talent is there; the only unknown is how this team will gel and whether or not they will continue to excel with their running offense and tough defense. If it all comes together, a trip to Eastern Conference finals is possible.

NBA Blogger Previews for the Sixers

This 2009 Sixers preview is part of the NBA Blogger Previews put together by Jeff Clark from Celtics Blog.

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  1. dre says:

    Great job as usual guys, but you missed one key point. Unselfish play, is the last ingredient needed to contend. Sammy is kinda weird and hard to figure out. Can he keep his ego in check playing along side Brand?

    I know last years team didn’t show much in the ego department, but with the expectations of this season I wonder.

    Can Iggy go back to #2 with an “Iverson” star level player in the post?
    If Thad plays to potential and Iggy hits a slump, could Cheeks bench Iggy for long stretches? And go with Rush? or Greeen?

    Cheeks can’t keep Lou Will off the court, it will be interesting to how the minutes are handed out. 

  2. deepsixersuede says:

    Hope Mo handles Willie and Rush properly; if either is off than play the other that is on, he has the luxury of three 2 guards off the bench that can score [Green, Williams and Rush] take advantage of that. With his knack for small lineups we could see 3 guards at times and Spieghts may be the odd man out. We are in good shape in case of injury at every position [Miller/Ivey: Iggy/ L.Will. : Thad/Iggy : Elton/Reggie: Sam/ Theo /Spieghts. How many teams are this deep ?

  3. Dannie says:

    Dre – We are always worried about Sammy’s mental but check out this article dedicated to exactly what you just said.  Sammy (and Cheeks) has already said he knows the offense runs through Brand and that he will find ways for him to work with him.

  4. bski says:

    Very nicely done guys.  Two things you said really stand out to me. 

    First, “…it will all come down to how Maurice Cheeks manages and adjusts his lineups to take advantage of opponents’ weaknesses and create mismatches.”  I have spoken about this before.  Until now the question remained as to how much our struggles were due to Cheeks and how much was because we didn’t have the personnel.  Well, Stefanski has mostly eliminated one side of the debate.  We may not have quite enough yet to be a championship contender, but I think we have more than enough to determine whether or not Cheeks has what it takes to coach us to a championship. 

    Second, “…None of this perceived uncertainty is a bad thing to me.  I love that there is competition at the wing positions; it will only make all the players better.”  Suede mentioned our depth.  You’ve got to love it for a few reasons.  One reason is that if one guy is struggling for whatever reason, we have a quality player to take his place on the floor.  Another reason is that guys will know that if they struggle there is a capable player waiting to take their spot.  The last reason is that, because of the first two reasons, pretty much every guy on the roster is going to have to stay on top of his game and work hard to earn and then to keep his minutes.  Only good can come from that.

  5. bski says:

    Oh, I forgot.  How many more parts of the Sixers preview can I look forward to?

  6. Dannie says:

    BSKI - we will have one more part right before the first game of the season at the end of the other previews.

  7. Dave says:

    I think the Sixers need Thaddeus Young to replicate Tayshaun Prince’s contribution on the Pistons title winning side.

    Interesting that both are second year players at the time. Be the fourth leading scorer plus good rebounding … but more importantly be a huge piece defensively. I love the idea of Iggy-Thaddeus together on the wings defensively, those two could really put the clamps on the opposition.

  8. raro says:

    Good job guys.  Like you said, the biggest question mark revolves around Iguodala and Young.  How will they play their “new” positions?  Will they play together?  Can they play around and with a traditional low-post threat? 

    While thinking up answers to these questions, I tried to think of other teams or players who might have faced a similar pairing of players.  Golden State’s functional/dysfunctional playing of Jason Richardson and Stephen Jackson came to mind, but that doesn’t really fit the bill.  It seems like a pretty unique situation no? 

    @Dave:  This pairing (Andre II and Thad) has the potential to be nightmarish (in a good way) on defense.  I can see Thad as Tayshaun, but I can also see him as Marion.  Does that make me delusional?

  9. Rob says:

    Wow, part I!  What can I say about the Sixers in an unbiased approach? 

    Greatest strength(s):
    -ATTITUDE (great professionalism, from top to bottom)
    -Give Mo Cheeks credit for keeping his team intact
    -Ed Stefanski, welcome home and great job thus far!!
      1)Good call on playing uptempo/playing the young guys more
      2)Great job  this offseason–filled many holes!!
    -Fastbreak scoring
    -Highly  Young & Athletic
    -Versatile Roster (2nd to the Lakers)
    -Offensive rebounding (thanks to Evans and it’s contagious!!)
    -Wachovia Center(best fans, best stadium-and we need more fans!!)
    -Second half record(Feb-April):22-14    (home13-6,road 9-8)
    -Best winning month: March  (11-4)     (home 5-2,road 6-4)
    -Second half was the reason why free agents signed with us!!
    (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, BUILD ON IT!!)

    Greatest weakness(es) (or should I say question marks?):
    -Perimeter shooting (especially the Starting Lineup)
    -Perimeter defense
    -Do we have bug spray to repel the team from the injury bug? 
    -Who is the odd man out on this roster (other than invitees!)
    -Responding to the additional pressure, the league has now acknowledged our existence!!
    -First halves of the season(including the dreaded West Coast Trip)

    Their Thaddeus:  Thaddeus Young.  He has to show to his fans who Thaddeus Young is?  Can he make a big difference for us at SF in the starting lineup?  

    More analysis will be present once Part II is available and once we evaluate the rest of the NBA, that way I can tabulate the Sixers potential record!!

    Also, Hip Hop, I wish you speedy recovery this season!!  Very few mascots ever do their own stunts.  (If unavailable, bring in a mascot named Ben “Jammin” Frankin!!!)


  10. Rob says:

    Also, are we are going to a MUCH better job from the free throw line?  We lost a lot of games due to poor free throw shooting!!

  11. Mikey says:

    I’m a Hornets fan from New Orleans, but I can’t help but root for these sixers. Hopefully these guys will be great on the court, and great character guys off the court as our beloved Hornets were last year. You definitely have a great core, and signing Brand, keeping Iggy, and signing Ivey (who is pretty under-rated) are huge. You guys definitely have a legit shot of being a 2 or 3 seed in the much-improved East. Good luck this year.

  12. Rob says:

    Thank you Mikey and some of us are definitely are looking forward to seeing the Hornets play.  I must admit I am a Chris Paul fan!  I can’t wait to evaluate the Hornets hopefully by this month.  But thank you for your support!! 

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