Since the sun set on the Sixers’ dreadful ’09-10 season, a handful of significant things have happened. They fired a bad coach, hired what might be a good one, lucked into the two pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, used it to procure the reigning national collegiate player of the year, traded the wildly unpopular but productive Sam Dalembert for two players who are significantly worse than Sam Dalembert, traded the wildly unpopular and unproductive Willie Green for two players who are probably worse than Willie Green, and hired an old man who just built the worst team since the first Bush administration to ameliorate theirs. Ohh yeah, and they signed Tony Battie.
So while this offseason was a mixed bag (mixed in the sense that a bag full of broken glass with a couple Milky Ways in it is mixed), here in the offices of Philadunkia, while Oceans have risen, and cities fallen, hope has survived (This both false and stolen from Deep Impact).
Here’s our season preview. Enjoy it, because given Comcast’s preseason coverage of the Sixers, this might be the last you hear of them for a long time.
Predictions for the Sixers this season are all over the map, so long as “the map” is defined as anything between 31-43 wins. ESPN’s summer forecasters (of which we are one) are the bearish lot. Their thinking…
Even a new coach (Doug Collins) and the No. 2 pick (Evan Turner) didn’t give Philly much of a boost in our forecast. While the Sixers have the raw materials to emerge as a surprise team in the East, our panel fears their roster of bad contracts, mismatched pieces and redundant talent will render them mediocre at best.
While we feel that their mediocre talent is ultimately what will render them mediocre at best, we find ourselves agreeing with at least the general thrust of the forecaster’s prediction.
ESPN’s experts concur. They have them finishing anywhere from 7-14 in the East, with a mean prediction of 10.6. Mean? I think it’s realistic, say we.
John Hollinger, the outlier who picked the Sixers to make the playoffs (2nd in the Atlantic; 7th in the East), evidently sees something different in the numbers. Here is Hollinger’s “Insider” take…”Even if Evan Turner bombs, the 76ers will surprise. Sure, Doug Collins will nit-pick them to death, but in the short term he’ll improve them substantially. He lacks an A-list star but has serious young talent with Iguodala, Speights, Williams, Young and Holiday.”
Also from ESPN.com “Insider” access we have these quotes from an anonymous NBA scout….
“I’m one of the few people that see this, but toward the end of last season, I thought Elton Brandwas showing flashes of what he used to be. He’s a low-block guy who you’ve got to punch it to two feet from the basket, clear it out and let him go to work. I think with the addition of Doug Collins, he’ll get back to doing that because they’ll be more of a half-court team. If [Andre] Iguodala will listen to Collins, get the ball in the low post and attack the rim, he can get to the foul line and be deadly…I like Jrue Holiday, Marreese Speights is underrated and Thaddeus Young can be an All-Star. He’s a great athlete with a high basketball IQ. Evan Turner is a wild card who was horrible during the summer….Best-case scenario: “They could get 39 wins and sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed.”…Worst-case scenario: “30, 31 wins.”
tuff loss 2 da rapters tnite. n e body know n e dope spots to eat in toronto?
– Mo Speights (@MoSpeights)
On The Record (the defining quote concerning the team from the past 12 months)
“I’ve never been a guy to fill the stat sheet”
– Tony Battie, after agreeing to terms with the Sixers
The Almanac (Key stats concerning the team)
There are two numbers that I’m most concerned by. -7.6 and 40.3.
RE – 7.6 : This frontcourt is staggeringly, possibly unprecedentedly, terrible. If you set out to deliberately get the most expensive, worthless guys you could find to man the post, you could do no worse (better?). It’s really kind of incredible actually. The players projected to eat minutes at four and five combined to produce -7.6 victories last year. The guys who are theoretically responsible for producing 40 percent of our wins produced negative seven point six of them (Yes, negative 7.6. If the irony were any thicker we’d sign it to play center)
A couple months ago, we speculated that this may be the worst frontcourt in NBA history. Oh yeah?said the Sixers, you think we’re bad now, then watch this s***. In the intervening period, they’ve added to that already colossally terrible unit the worst player in the NBA last season (Songaila), and in the same move, surely with their rebounding issues in mind, a guy who couldn’t rebound in the Big Ten (Craig Brackins).
Here’s how they look now.
The ’09-10 Production of the Sixers’ Current Frontcourt
Concerning number, number two is considerably less concerning than its predecessor, but still a bit of a stick in the mud. The Sixers shot 40.3 percent in the preseason. This is a worrisome clip. And while this number isn’t concerning comparedwith the one that came before it, it’s downright frightening when compounded with it. A team that’s awful down-low and can’t shoot either is a team that will struggle to not be awful. (Writing about the Sixers really strains my knowledge of synonyms for “bad.” I’m going to have to invest in a thesaurus.)
The Play (Down a single point with 9.2 seconds remaining, what’s the play?)
Monday, December 27that Golden State. The Sixers trail 98-97 with 9.2 seconds remaining.
Evan Turner shakes Monta Ellis, and races from the far baseline to catch Jrue Holiday’s inbound pass. Turner drives to his right, then, when he hits the first elbow, kicks it back to Jason Kapono, who’s heavily covered at the top of the key. Rather than swing it over to a wide open Lou Williams, Kapono forces a shot over former Sixer Rodney Carney. The ball clanks off the back of the rim and into the expectant and sure hands of David Lee. The buzzer sounds. On the sideline, Doug Collins grimaces, clutches his left arm, and drops to his knees.
After being rushed to the cardiac care ward at Penn Presbyterian, Doctors diagnose a mild heart attack and successfully implant a stent in the offending artery. He’ll have to take it easy for a few weeks, but he’ll be ok. Mrs. Collins will call Jason Kapono to share the good news with him. “Was it my fault?” he’ll ask her.
“Yes,” she’ll say. “Almost definitely.”
This is the year Jrue Holiday will claim the mantle of the most popular athlete on the Sixers, and the 34thmost popular athlete in the city of Philadelphia (sandwiched between Phillies middle-reliever Chad Durbin, and Eagles reserve tackle Antonio Dixon). He won’t relinquish it any time soon.
If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The Sixers’ fortunes, both present and future, lay on the disconcertingly narrow shoulders of Evan Turner. Based on his preseason and summer league performance, where he’s looked a step slow (fortunately he’s usually headed in the wrong direction), this may not be a good thing. He’ll also suffer comparisons to Demarcus Cousins, who’s primed to have a monster year for what promises to be an exciting young Kings’ team.
This Monday-morning quarterbacking will be ill-founded though. Cousins was never really on the table for the Sixers (Steanski would have taken Derrick Favors if he passed on Turner) and Turner, mark my words (print this out and highlight them?) will produce. While he may lack the athleticism, and in the early going, the savvy, to get his own shots, he’ll make up for it by doing a solid job on the boards (he pulled down 5.9 in 29 minutes a game in the preseason), and playing three (maybe four) positions if not spectacularly, effectively. We’re in good hands with this kid.
Andre Iguodala is good. Exactly how good is in dispute, but he’s good. He rebounds really well for his position, he’s an able and willing passer, he plays superlative defense, and while he’s got a lousy jump shot, his ability to get to the rack keeps his scoring percentages at a reasonable level.
And here’s the kicker: After his FIBA experience this summer, he’s gonna be even better. He got one-on-one time with one of the biggest (and most difficult to spell) names in the sport, and most importantly, he finally got a chance to play basketball the way he’s best suited to play basketball.
I’m not sure the Sixers have the personnel to relieve Iggy of his prime scorer responsibilities (though if Evan Turner’s offensive game develops ahead of schedule, and he becomes more demonstrative, it’s certainly possible) and allow him free to roam, play lock-down defense, and do the stupidly athletic things on the fast break he did in Turkey, but I expect that after seeing the beautiful music he can make when properly utilized, both he and the Sixers will make it a priority to stop jamming a square peg in a round hole.
And he’ll thrive.
There are plenty of terrific candidates for this designation (the Sixers have three of last season’s ten worst win producers – Songaila, Nocioni, and Kapono), but the smart money’s on Spencer Hawes. Young Spencer is that rare and perfect marriage of lousiness and high usage. Plus, who doesn’t love a starting center who averages 5.5 rebounds a game?
How’s It All Gonna End?
“I knew it would be bad. I did not know it would be this bad”
–Gutter Man, PCU
Optimism notwithstanding, this is going to be a tough year for Sixers fans. Here are three scenarios for the ’10-11 iteration of our boys.
Best case scenario:
“Dad, when’s our family going to get together again?” asks a freckle-faced young boy from the lawn of his foster care facility of his leather-jacketed father as the dead-beat Dad mounts his Harley, another visitation cut short. “When the Sixers win the Atlantic,” he gruffly mumbles before speeding away.
After our earnest, and not over-bright, young lad spends a night in intense prayer, asking the Almighty if he could find the time in his busy schedule to help the Sixers win the Atlantic, unusual, magical things start happening with the team. They reel off a fifteen game winning streak, highlighted by a Tony Battie buzzer-beating dunk from halfcourt of Madison Square Garden to top the Knicks.
Despite the divine intervention, the Sixers finish 44-38, eight games behind the Celtics.
“I said if we won the Atlantic,” the father tells his broken-hearted son. “Second place ain’t s***.”
Worst case scenario:
9-73. I wish I were joking.
Most likely scenario:
The Sixers weather an early storm – they start 3-21 – and rally to win 20 of their last 58 games.
Where amazing happens!