The “first-half” of the 2010-11 NBA season has been an interesting and wild ride for the 76ers.  From heartbreaking losses to glorious upset wins and everything in between, we have truly been watching the transformation of a franchise this season. 

Here’s the good we’ve discovered about the 2010-11 Sixers…Teams around the League don’t like playing the 76ers (27-29).  They know they’re going to have to fill their gas tanks and work for buckets.  They know the Sixers get some of the best bench contributions in the entire League.  They know that the 7-6 hardly ever turns the ball over and thus rarely beat themselves.  

On the flip side, everyone knows that the Sixers are still learning how to play “the Doug Collins way”and some glaring weaknesses have been exposed in the process.  They have trouble closing out tight games as the squad is still developing a killer instinct.  Philadunkia’s home team also struggles to get buckets at clutch time.  At the other end of the floor, defending opposing bigs is still a huge issue.

Today I’ll break down the good and the bad of this first half of 2010-11 by handing out my mid-season grades to the eight player rotation that Sixer fans have seen on a consistent basis during the first half of the season.

Grades after the jump…

Elton Brand (15.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG,.522 FG% and missed just one game) : A-

Brand’s having his best season as a Sixer and has reinvented his game as a mid-range shooter, luring other bigs outside of the paint so that Philly’s height weakness can be covered up.  February has been Brand’s best month and his 33 points against the Knicks out-dueled Amare in what was in my opinion the biggest victory of the season.

Improvement:  Elton’s leading the Sixers in scoring with his 15.2 per game, but that ranks 53rd in the League.  Brand often disappears in close games down the stretch.  Most of his scoring outbursts come in the 1st and 3rd quarters.  It would be great to see Brand torch some teams in the fourth.   

Lou Williams (13.8 PPG, 3.4 APG, .406 FG% and 23.7 minutes per game) : B+

Sure his shooting percentage may be down, but Lou Williams quite possibly could win the NBA’s Sixth man award.  Williams has put this team on his back in several games during January (Chicago, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Utah) making Doug Collins look like a genius for handing him the keys to the offense.  For a second round pick, Williams has developed into a go-to fourth quarter guard.  The stats he puts up in limited minutes is eye-opening on the surface. With that being said…

Improvement:  The number of isolation plays drawn up for Williams still irks at my skin.  I know he’s very capable of getting to the free throw line but too many times other players get cold on the court with Lou.  I’d like to see him work the two-guard spot more often and create for himself without the basketball.

Thaddeus Young (12.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, .542 FG % and 25.8 minutes per game) B+

Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis is the only other forward off the bench I can think of that means more to an Eastern Conference team.  The glaring statistic has to be Thad’s field goal percentage.  Not many other hybrid forwards get the position down low he does.  Loads of his points come with ease on fast breaks, but if you disrespect his jumper, he’ll catch you napping.

Improvement:  Thad is one of the few players who has seen his defensive ratingdecrease under coach Collins.  Against certain teams having him on the court in close games almost isn’t worth his energy.  Our Sixers are going to receive multiple phone calls for the 22-year-old soon-to-be free agent.  Rod Thorn and Doug Collins need to devise a plan for the future with Young.  I’m not sure losing him for a veteran center will be worth it.

Jrue Holiday (13.8 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.9 RPG and 1.5 steals a game) B

He’s manned the NBA’s second best turnover margin team for majority of the season.  Bill Simmons recently put him in the DJ Augustin/Darren Collison group, but I think he’s better than both.  Holiday’s left hand finishes are so tremendous that Doug Collins recently has experimented with the 20-year-old at off-guard.  The trial run wasn’t a success but it was warranted.  Holiday is still in the embryonic stages of his NBA career.

Improvement:  Consistency.  There’s a reason Lou Williams often handles the ball in close games.  Jrue needs to make quicker decisions.  Often times he ignores Elton Brand.

Jodie Meeks (9.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, .402 3P %, 24.5 minutes per game and started 38 times) B-

Because of Evan Turner’s lack of readiness, Meeks was thrust into the starting lineup in early December, prompting the sharpshooter for 20 first-quarter points against the Bobcats.  From that moment on Meeks has become a fan favorite, scoring in double figures 18 times already this season.  Many wondered if Meeks would ever take his warm-up gear off let alone became the Sixers main three point specialist.

Improvement:  Become more of a complete guard.  Meeks struggles on pull-up two pointers and is averaging only one assist per contest.  Eventually Evan Turner will take his spot in the starting lineup but until then the Sixers will ride Meeks’ silky stroke.

Andre Iguodala (14.2 PPG, 6.1 APG, 5.8 RPG, .445 FG % and 44 games played) C+

If not for his locksmith-esque defense, this grade would be even lower.  Why is it that the 76ers usually come out with the shorter end of the stick in close games?  Because Iguodala isn’t a crunch time offensive player.  His PPG are as low as they have been since the end of the 2006 season.  Now that you know that, you should also be informed that his AST/TO ratio of 3.35 is the highest of his career. And he joins LeBron as the only player in the league to average over 14 points, 6 assists and 5 boards.  He is everywhere on the court.

Improvement:  How about attitude.  It’s not that he has a bad one. But it certainly isn’t as fiery as other teams star players are. I’d like to see him light a fire under some of our younger guys’ asses.  His shot selection has been better since January.  If the Sixers start to struggle, I bet it’s because he’s forcing long two’s.

Evan Turner (7.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 12 starts and averaging 24.6 minutes) C-

November and December were painful months for Turner and fellow Sixer fans.  But he’s starting to figure things out on the court and is one of the top rookie defenders and rebounders.  I read an intriguing piece on Turner which detailed the tales of his bad years early on in high school and at Ohio State.  The problem is that Turner play too similarly to AI9.  Something may have to give in the upcoming months.

Improvement:  When he’s handling the ball he slows things down too much.  He seems afraid of contact or getting his shot blocked, which is why he shies away from taking it in the paint.

Spencer Hawes (6.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, .8 Blocks in 22.5 minutes) D+

Disappointing statistics for a top 10 pick. And Hawes almost always is riding the pine in the fourth quarter.  Still on several occasions the 76ers have rode his hot starts to extending leads for much of the game.  Hawes shook off a horrendous January to becoming a key ingredient to Philly’s February success (averaging nearly 9 points and 7.6 boards).

Improvement: Get to the foul line! Hawes averages just one free throw attempt a game this season.  Rarely will you see an opposing big man in foul trouble. Spencer loves to creep atop the key and launch jumpers.  The Sixers will be better served if he stays on the block and frustrates other bigs.


Philadunkia Notes:

I’ve done some elaborate research and I want to present to you some fast facts, both good and bad, that probably will paint the picture of the 2010-2011 season.

The good Fast Facts on the 76ers:

  • The Sixers started the season 1-4 at home but have gone 16-5 since
  • Post All-Star break, the Sixers have 26 games, including 15 at home and 11 on the road.
  • Seven of the next Nine games are at the Wells Fargo Center
  • Philly is averaging a league 39.8 bench points per game this season
  • Since starting 1-10 on the road the Sixers have gone 9-10 including winning 5-of-7.
  • Of the Sixers 27 wins this season, 17 have been by 10+ points
  • Philly is 11-9 against teams from the Western Conference this season… the Sixers were 1-10 against teams from the West at one point last season
  • The Sixers will not play back-to-back games until 3/8 at Indiana and 3/9 vs. Oklahoma
  • Philly has scored 100+ points in seven of the past 10 games (102.0 ppg;), including 110+ points three times
  • The Sixers are 17-9 when scoring 100+ points
  • The Sixers scored at least 94+ points in 18 straight games from 1/5-2/9, their longest streak doing so since a 27-game span from 11/28-1/25/91.
  • the Sixers are 25-12 when holding opponents below 100 points this season
  • Over the past 40 games (Sixers 24-16 mark), Philly is averaging 1.6 more FTA per game than the opposition (930-867 total) after opponents averaged 6.1 FTA more per game than the Sixers the first 16 games of the season (Philly 3-13 mark).
  • Over the past 13 games, the Sixers are shooting 83.0% (229-276 FTs) from the line…
  • the Sixers are 15-5 when having 12 or fewer turnovers this season.

The bad Fast Facts on the 76ers:

  • Philly shot 50.0% or better six times prior to January (33 games)…
  • Sixers are 8-18 in games decided by eight or fewer points this season,
  • Sixers are 1-4 in overtime games
  • Philly is 5-11 in the first game of back-to-backs this season and 7-9 in the second game
  • The Sixers are 2-17 when allowing over 100 points this season
  • The Sixers are 10-20 when scoring less than 100 points

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