Surpassing our win total from last season and being playoff contenders on the last day of February was far from expected.  At 30-29 the Sixers have gone through many trials and tribulations this season but playing this successfully under new head coach Doug Collins should be applauded. 

Without a single All-Star, a quality center and a disappointing — thus far — No. 2 overall draft pick in Evan Turner, the Sixers will be looking to pull off a first-round shocker this postseason.  Philly fans have grown accustomed to competitive winning teams in the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers, while the Sixers have been out-casted in recent years.

Not anymore though.  This team is starting to make noise and gain recognition with a core roster that features six of it’s top eight scorers under the age of 25.  The two older players (keep in mind Iguodala is only 27) that round out the remaining top eight scorers are Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. 

Yes his enormous contract sucks, but Brand has played exceptionally after disappearing under the supervision of former coach Eddie Jordan.  Brand leads the team in scoring and rebounding. 

Andre Iguodala is the only player in the NBA besides LeBron James to average at least 14 points, five rebounds and six assists.  He’s not throwing up as many field goal attempts but there is no disputing the result:  More victories for the 7-6. 

With all that being said, I must bring attention to some flaws from the current NBA year.  Don’t mean to be a ‘Negative Nancy’ but this has been far from a perfect year.  Let me bring attention to you five major issues we made a mistake on (in no particular order).

1)  The Slow Start

The 3-13 start in the early months was torture.  I almost plucked my eyebrows out during that rugged stretch each time I wrote a recap.  At the time I thought it was going to be a long year and Doug Collins would fail to relate to his ball club.  Instead they mightily bounced back. 

Some blame the rough start on lack of chemistry and not understanding Collins’ new system.  Some contribute the losses to lack of consistency in the lineups as Collins was still trying to figure out how to utilize his players.  Whatever it was, the Sixers still lost.  And they had some nasty losses to crummy opponents that AI9 and Co. would love to have back.  Here are the games and each team’s current record the Sixers should dwell on. 

Game Opponent Result Opp. Current Record
3 @Pacers L99-86 26-30
4 @Wizards L116-115 (OT) 15-41
6 Cavaliers 123-116 10-47
11 @Cavaliers 101-93 10-47
12 Raptors 94-86 16-42
14 @Wizards 116-114 15-41
15 @Raptors 106-90 16-42

Really?  Losing twice to the Raptors, Wizards and Cavaliers who are all fighting for a lottery draft pick.  Those are just inexcusable.  Slipping up once is understandable, it happens now and then, but losing twice to crappy teams should never happen for a playoff club.  The Pacers had Jim O’Brien at the helm when that loss occurred, they’ve been playing much improved with new coach Frank Vogel. 

2)  Lack of a First Five

Mo Speights and Spencer Hawes have randomly had good spurts of production.  As a whole though, they simply suck.  Speights is a horrible defender and rarely boxes out.  Hawes is constantly in foul trouble and hardly an athlete.  Both lack an ability to create their own shot and seize decent mid-range jumpers.  The 35 year old Tony Battie is another option but he seldom sees minutes only appearing in 30 matches.  Elton Brand is playing remarkably but needs a compliment down low in the block. 

The Sixers should’ve addressed the big man situation via free agency or trade.  We could’ve used a guy like Jason Kapono in a trade, teams are always looking for a quality shooter.  Or how about going after a free agent like Tyson Chandler, Kurt Thomas or Erick Dampier prior to the start of the 2010-11 season.  Those are affordable veteran players who are all superior to Hawes and Speights. 

3)  Lacking a closer

As a Sixers fan do you ever feel comfortable with the game on the line at the end of the fourth quarter and the outcome resting on one Philadelphia possession?  You likely responded no, and I can’t blame you. 

At the end of ball games we constantly see Andre Iguodala or Lou Williams try to create for themselves via one-on-one or pick-and-roll.  However, rarely these guys connect.  Iguodala loves to settle for pull-up jumpers even when his strong suit is attacking the rim.  Lou Williams chucks up fade aways that clank off the basket. 

The problem is we saw them struggle last season.  If we were in dire need of a bucket, with the game on the line — looking for a go-ahead or game tying score — these two failed to deliver.   Yet, this season were suffering through the same nonsense. 

I’m not saying we need a ‘closer’ because those are hard to find, but their has to be other options late in games.  Why hasn’t Collins used more set plays with off-ball screens to try and free up a shooter like Jodie Meeks?  Or any plays which involves more away from the ball movement that strays from our traditional spread the court one-on-one plays. 

4)  Hiring Rod Thorn

Thorn has had great moments in his career as a franchise executive.  Some include being instrumental in the drafting of Michael Jordan for the Bulls during the 1984 NBA Draft.  However more recently, he put together one of the worst teams of all-time in last season’s New Jersey Nets who accumulated 70 L’s.  Thorn’s Nets were an abysmal 80-166 in the last three seasons under his watch.

A healthier option would’ve been Kevin Pritchard formerly the GM for the Portland Trailblazers.  In the 08-09 season, Pritchard’s Trailblazer team was the second youngest roster in the league and still managed 54 wins.  Some of his draft picks include Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, as well as quality late 1st rounder’s Rudy Fernandez and Nicolas Batum. 

Pritchard is only 43 years of age and could’ve stuck around for years with this young core the Sixers possess.  On the other hand Rod Thorn is seasoned at the age of 69. 

5)  DeMarcus Cousins > Evan Turner

The book is far from closed for Evan Turner as a 76er.  He’s been a nice addition off the bench this year still trying to unearth his role.  He has a whole career ahead of him and could develop into a fine player.  However, he is too similar to Andre Iguodala and at this point of the season DeMarcus Cousins talents would’ve been the PERFECT fit. 

Cousins has excellent size and strength, is a good rebounder, has great footwork, finishes exceptionally well around the rim and holds an impressive arsenal of post moves.  He’s averaging 13.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.  Granted, he is a headache and regarded as immature throughout the League.  But I credit that to a horrible situation in Sacramento and the consistent losing.  Keep in mind this kid is ONLY 19.

If he was donning a blue and red 7-6 uniform his attitude could be heavily improved with a more lovable coach and a more competitive team.  The fact of the matter is DeMarcus Cousins is what this team desperately lacks: A big-bodied center to pair up with Elton Brand and cause havoc against Eastern Conference opponents.

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