The Sixers’ probably should be 4-1 right now, with a bad loss to a mediocre Jazz team, but I’m not going to complain coming home from an unprecedented 5-game road trip to start the season at 3-2.
5 games isn’t enough to make full blown proclamations about players, but it does give you a chance to see how players’ games might have changed from the prior year. Let’s take a look at the 9-man rotation, sorted by minutes played per game.
Jrue Holiday (35.8 min) – Was horrible in the opener but has improved since and capped it with an excellent performance last night against New Orleans. He’s showing improved shooting from the field, 3pt line and FT line. I think Jrue needs to become our “go-to” scorer in the 4th quarter and he did it last night. Assist numbers need to come up as well. It’s easy to forget he’s still only 21 years old – but games like last night (23 points, 8 assists, 0 TO, and a couple dagger 3′s) show why people are so excited about him. Early Return: Improved jumper and confidence
Andre Iguodala (33.2 min) - Tremendous in the first three games, horrible in the last two (on offense). We all know Dre by now. He is best when he plays to his strengths (defense, fast breaks, passing) and can be hard to watch when he doesn’t (jump shooting). I’m happy to still have him on the team. Gotta do something about the 13-22 start from the FT line though. Early Return: Same ‘ol, same ‘ol, for better and worse
Spencer Hawes (32.2 min) - OK, how much time do you have? I’d argue that there isn’t a player in the NBA who has had a more surprising start than Hawes. He’s 3rd in the NBA in rebounds at 11.2 and has averaged 2.2 blocks per game. The most rebounds he averaged over any 5-game stretch last year was 8.2 and he only had more than 2 blocks four times. He’s passing the ball (3.6 assists) the way Doug Collins has said he could. On the offensive end, he leads the NBA in FG% and has been automatic with his jumper and even good with a couple post moves. Whether it is health, coaching, motivation or what, he just looks more energetic and active out there. He’s not the best athlete, but he’s making up for it with effort right now. Part of me is thrilled that he is coming into his own, and part is terrified as he is in a contract year. If he can keep this up for the whole season (or even just be 75% as effective as he currently is) the Sixers will have an tough decision on their hands as 23-year old skilled 7′ 1” guys don’t come around very often. Early Return: Complete transformation
Elton Brand (27.8 min) - Collins says Brand needs to get his legs under him, and that might be the case. Our leading scorer last year (at only 15ppg), he’s currently 7th on the team, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. His minutes are down (good, in my opinion, we will need to keep him fresh) and he isn’t scoring with efficiency, but he is still busting it on the boards and on defense. Early Return: Not quite the same as last year, but still a quality player
Thaddeus Young (26.8 min) - Coming off his big contract, Thad has been disappointing for me. He’s been doing a ton of settling for bad jump shots (many of which are the fade-away variety) and not contributing much else. To earn his contract, he needs to improve on last year. It might take him a little to get in the swing of things since he missed most (all?) of training camp. Early Return: Needs to improve
Evan Turner (26.6 min) - Not the starter, but getting the most minutes at SG. In his three best games, Turner has been great (14.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.7 apg, 59% from field) and in his two bad games, not so much (4.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3 apg, 15% FG%). Overall, he’s been a net positive, playing with a lot more confidence, showing some crafty moves around the basket and playing great defense. Early Return: Moving in the right direction
Lou Williams (26.4 min) - Currently our leading scorer at 18.2 ppg despite being 7th in minutes, Lou has been hot from everywhere (46 FG%, 47% 3-pt, 84% FT). He’s the best pure scorer on the team, and if he can continue to be more efficient than in year’s past – that would be a huge boost. He’s been around forever, but he’s only 25 years old and can still refine his game. Early Return: Scoring more efficiently
Jodie Meeks (21.8 min) - Ew. Easily the worst player on the team so far. His best attribute is shooting, and he’s not doing that. 33% from the field, 21% from 3. He can’t do much else (as he showed by getting TORCHED by Eric Gordon last night), so if he can’t shoot, he should be on the bench. Early Return: Worst rotation player thus far
Nikola Vucevic (12.3 min) – Has been decent in his couple appearances. Certainly an offensive-minded player, he’s shown touch around the basket, the ability to shoot, and a good passing skill set. I would prefer a defensive-minded center to back-up Hawes, but it looks like we’ve got Hawes Jr. Early Return: Skilled offensively, room to improve otherwise
So how would you rate the Sixers’ performance over the first 5 games?