2008-09 Record: 41-41
Anticipated Starting Five
PG- Lou Williams
SG- Andre Iguodala
SF- Thaddeus Young
PF- Elton Brand
C- Samuel Dalembert
Key Reserves: Marreese Speights, Jason Kapono, Willie Green, Jason Smith, Jrue Holiday
Below are two tables. The first is the Sixers’ preseason player totals. The second has the players’ preseason averages on a per-36-minute basis so there is a degree of extrapolation. (click the image to enlarge)
A few thoughts on the team as a whole
- 36.5% on 104 attempts from three is very promising. It’s very clear Kapono will make threes. We just need him to focus on shooting threes and not trying to do to much (i.e. pump-fake step-in jumpers).
- Rebounding will continue to be a strength for us.
- There is also some potential for us to improve from the line as a team as well. Last season we were 25th in the league at 74.5%. I’d love to see that number at 78% minimum. The two guys that can get us there are Thad and Brand.
Individual player thoughts
- Speights was a straight beast statistically. He scored and rebounded extremely well and was our best volume free throw shooter. If he plays that way and is just average on defense we will be calling for him to get Elton Brand’s minutes asap.
- Kapono is the best shooter both in terms of making shots but also just the way he looks when he attempts a shot that I’ve seen in a Sixers uniform in recent memory. Every time he catches and shots it looks like it’s going in. It will be enjoyable to finally watch a guy with that kind of skill to shoot the ball.
- Lou Williams is still Lou Williams. A volume shooter whose main focus is to score and get to the line. I was hoping to at least see his assist numbers up a bit – nope. Right now we have two 100% jackers on the squad who play very little defense (Lou and Marreese).
- Andre Iguodala‘s turnover numbers are very disturbing.
- Jason Smith is a spot-up shooter only now offensively. He made his threes at a decent clip, but his 2pt field goal percentage was only 41.9%. And he only attempted 4 free throws on 43 total shot attempts. That’s not acceptable.
- Jrue Holiday‘s per-36 numbers show some promise – IF he can control his turnovers. He needs to adjust to the pace of the game and speed and athleticism of NBA players. He made weak passes often which led to many of his turnovers. Eddie Jordan visibly got on him for that throughout the preseason. More on this in a future post.
- Three things on Thad. He still is a weak play-maker. He still needs to get to the line more. He MUST keep his rebound rate at the level he did during the preseason at a minimum.
- Elton Brand was pretty damn bad. Horrible FG% and too many turnovers. Dude needs to get his shit together ASAP. I am praying his field goal % is more about adjusting and finding his shots in the offense than his inability to really finish at the basket while guarded. More on Brand below.
- Sammy was okay. He is shooting more mid-range jumpers, which I think contributed to his lower field goal %. I actually think that number will rise closer to 50% by the end of the season. But his rebounding is exactly where we want it. Was a little concerned about his blocks rate.
Sixers started hot and floundered late in the preseason. And that’s playing no elite teams during the preseason.
Biggest Strengths: Line-up versatility / transition offense / rebounding
Has this team’s strengths really changed much?
I still believe the strength in this team lies in their versatility. Lou can man the point and score on the wing. Iguodala is one of the better all-around players in the NBA. Thad can play the 3 or 4. Brand, Speights and Jason Smith can face up on the perimeter and bang in the post. Jrue can defend both guard positions, as can Willie Green.
But with that we also don’t have a great player (aside from Kapono’s shooting ability) in anything either. It’s a net positive no doubt and hopefully Eddie Jordan can maximize this to the fullest.
Offensively this team is still going to run, and they will have to if they want to win games early in the season. The half-court offense is going to start slowly; I have no doubt about that. So pressuring opponents and flying up and down the court must remain a calling card of this team. We need those easy transition baskets when the offense eventually sputters.
Thank god Elton Brand can still rebound well when he sucks offensively. He along with Sam, Speights and Jason Smith in the front court and Thad, Iguodala and Jrue on the wings will do at least a top 10 job rebounding the ball, especially on the offensive end.
What could make them a top 5 or better rebounding club is consistently finishing off possessions on the defensive end. Last season we ranked an unacceptable and kind of inexplicable 26th in defensive rebounding rate. There is no personnel or physical reason why they were that bad on the defensive boards. That needs to be a focus for Randy Ayers this season.
Biggest Weaknesss: New coach, new offense, new personnel to incorporate / No flexibility if things don’t work
Look, forget the fact that we don’t have a uber elite player. I’ve harped on that enough. We are a playoff team at best – that’s it. BUT we are only a playoff team if these weaknesses don’t hinder us more than we maximize our strengths.
New coach, new offense and new personnel thrown in the mix. Our half-court offense sucked last season. Two big reasons for that.
- We weren’t running anything but isos, pin-downs for one of the most unproductive guards in recent NBA history and post-ups for our point guard.
- We couldn’t shoot.
This season we have a coach with a system that has and can work. BUT right now that system isn’t entirely put in, and for our players it’s like learning a new language. On top of that Brand needs to find his niche, Kapono needs to find his shooter areas and what is Jason Smith’s role? We have a hell of a lot of stuff to work out, and the season starts tomorrow night against one of the 5 best teams in the NBA – ugh. Because of the ongoing learning process, I think we will struggle early. It’s not that I don’t think they will start clicking, but I think it’s pretty unreasonable to believe they will start the season that way.
Ok so let’s say we are approaching the trade deadline and sitting 10th in the East, a few games out of the playoffs. What do you do? Is there anything? Just suck it up and hope they can turn it around with the current roster? Unless Stefanski wanted to blow it up, the only guys we would want to trade are Brand, Kapono, Green, Brezec, Sam, Ivey, Carney and maybe Jason Smith. The problem: who the hell wants any of those dudes? Kapono has some value, maybe Jason Smith. Even if Brand was playing half decent his contract would scare everyone away. Worst yet, what could we get back of any value? We are stuck for a bit with this roster. Let’s hope it pans out.
Let me quickly address one of the big weaknesses from last season – perimeter shooting. While I am taking a wait-and-see approach, I think this won’t be as big a deal as last year for a few reasons.
- Kapono can shoot and shouldn’t have trouble getting open looks with Lou and Iguodala’s penetration ability and hopefully Brand’s resurgence.
- Lou is an upgrade over Andre Miller from the perimeter. Lou over his career shoots 10% points higher from three and Lou’s TS% and eFG% isn’t that far off. We just need to hope he doesn’t have another career low year shooting the ball. Can someone say shot selection!?
- Carney should help, and if Jrue’s small sample of preseason games are any indication, he at the very least won’t hurt us and could potentially help.
- Speights is probably the second best perimeter shooter on the roster. He will be taking more shots this season no doubt about it (he’s publicly said so).
So while there is still some uncertainty, I am more optimistic this won’t kill us this season.
Key Player: Elton Brand
If Elton Brand stinks, the Sixers aren’t going to be very good – period. There are two reasons why though.
- We have to make up for the wins Andre Miller contributed to last season (8.8 to 11.1 depending which metric you use). That is significant, and I think people are severely overlooking and discrediting that challenge for this team. The thought is you replace Miller’s production with Brand and we at least don’t get considerably worse than our 41 wins last season.
- If Brand is unproductive does anyone think he gets benched for Speights? I don’t even a little bit. That means his lack of production and efficiency would hamper the team all season – and beyond if we can’t move him.
If Brand returns to form we can expect somewhere around 10 – 14 wins produced out of him. Replace Miller’s numbers for Brand’s career averages would put us slightly better than where we were last year, making any additional improvement in the win column coming from the development of our young players and the added contributions of Carney, Kapono, Jason Smith and Jrue. This is where we want to be and have to pray for as a Sixers fan. Anything less will likely result in a dreadful season.
Biggest Question: Can they get the city’s attention?
I think it’s very possible that this is the least-publicized season in Sixers’ history. The Phillies’ popularity is at an all-time high, and the Sixers’ opener happens to be on the same day as Game 1 of the World Series. The Eagles, pushed slightly aside by the Phils still have, and will always have, the same rabid fan base. And the Flyers are off to decent start after adding two premier talents in Chris Pronger and Ray Emery. That leaves the Sixers, who were relatively boring last year, didn’t add anyone big in the off-season, play in a conference with 3 dominant teams, and have their money locked up for the next couple years. We all know how great this city can be when it gets behind a team, but this team would have to really be good to get their attention right now. We have a bunch of exciting players, and they would all have to gel quickly and get us up in the Top-4 of the East for the Sixers to get back on the city map.
The Big Unknown: Defense
We hired a offensive-minded coach. Randy Ayers is back coaching our defense. Lou is the starting point. Are we better defensively? Can we be? Will we be? Will Eddie Jordan emphasize and enforce that side of the ball from the head coaching position?
I actually know how they can get better I just don’t know if they will. Defensive rebounding! We were 14th in defensive rating. We were 12th in opponents FG%. We were 14th in opponent’s 3pt% and 19th in opponent’s eFG%. But the biggest detracting factor was their 26th ranked defensive rebounding rate. Second shots tend to be easier – stop giving them up!
Best Individual Season of All-Time: Wilt Chamberlain, 1966-67
24.1 ppg, 24.2 rpg, 7.8 apg, 68.3 FG%
Like the Celtics and Lakers, the Sixers are real tough to pick one season for. You have Wilt, Moses, Barkley, Iverson and Dr. J to choose from. I choose this season for 3 reasons. First, that 68.3 FG% is absolutely insane. It is the highest FG% by a 20 ppg scorer in NBA history, and no one else is even remotely close. The difference between Wilt and 2nd place (Jabbar, 60.4%) is the same as the difference between Jabbar and 156th place. Secondly, this was the season the Sixers won a club record 68 games and their 2nd NBA title. Finally, just for good measure, Wilt was 3rd in the NBA in assists per game.
Pete’s 2010 Outlook: 2th place, Atlantic division / 7th place, Eastern conference / 16th place, NBA
My personal opinion with this team is that we need to look at it as though Elton Brand will have little to no impact this year. I just don’t think he looks physically explosive, and he lacks whatever strength or aggressiveness that made him a force inside in his previous life. That being said, the success of the team this year will depend on the development of the young players (Young, Williams, Speights) and how the players react to the new coach and offensive system. I think that all 3 of those young guys will show flashes, but none will make the leap to all-star that we need them to to be a contender. I also think that the team will struggle with offense, and some of the players will get frustrated with it, hopefully they react by working harder at it and not quitting on the coach. All in all, this is pretty much the same team as last year, though slightly improved with the youth development and addition of Kapono. Good enough to make the playoffs but not to do much else.
Dannie’s 2010 Outlook: 2nd place, Atlantic division / 7th place, Eastern conference / 14th place, NBA
The outlook is pretty simple for me.
- Most likely scenario: Playoff team.
- Absolute ceiling: 2nd round playoff loss.
- Worst case scenario: 9th or 10th seed who just misses the playoffs but isn’t quite bad enough to get substantial lottery balls in the draft.
What I am hoping for.
- Excitement. I just want this team to play hard every second of every game. I can live with the results if they give me that.
- Signs that we have some real keepers on this roster. We aren’t competing for a ring now or anytime in the next couple years. But we do have some promising young players, and I really want to see them start to shine.
- Good coaching. I am tired of the coaching carousel with this team. I want Jordan to maximize what he has; that is all you can ask for from a coach. Then in time provide him with a championship-caliber roster.
We don’t have to wait much longer, and I can’t wait to start watching some Sixers basketball again.
Check out the Sixers 2010 forecasting with predictions from bloggers and major media alike.
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