Sixers ’10-11 Preview
30 teams in 30 days.
by Doobie Okon
Well, if there’s one thing that this upcoming season for the Philadelphia 76ers will prove is that the term ‘rebuilding’ does not denote a short term process. The Sixers hit rock bottom last year, at least for a market as large as Philly and for a town that expects so much from its basketball team. Rock bottom, however, is what was necessary in sparking a serious change in the organization and the 2010-2011 season should be the first step in the right direction. Things can only go up I hope….at least that’s what they say, right?
The Sixers finished with a 27-55 record last season, the franchise’s worse mark since 1997. Even though Philly had made the playoffs in 2008 and 2009, the squad hasn’t finished above .500 since the ’04-05 season. It’s been a very slow dive deeper and deeper into the mediocre range of teams in the NBA, of which there are an abundance.
And in a League like this one, an organization cannot afford to get lost in mediocrity. A team is either a serious contender or a pretender with a chance to slip into the postseason, but whose chances for a long playoff run are highly doubtful. And then there’s the few franchises that are just straight horrible, which is the mold the Sixers fell into last year.
By some miracle of the basketball gods, Philadelphia finally got the ball to bounce their way – literally – when they drew the number two draft pick and selected National Player of the Year, Evan Turner, which can only be a good thing. I love Turner on the Sixers, and he certainly has an incredible ceiling, but he’ll probably suffer through rookie mistakes this season. Again, this is not the year where it’s all going to come together…like I said, rebuilding.
Last year, new Sixers coach Eddie Jordan was horrible. Really, really bad. Exceedingly terrible. And not just on the court with his in-game methods. Those methods, by the way, included a total lack of defense (Philly gave up 101.6 points a game and ranked last in opponents 3P% at an insane 39.3%) and implementing a Princeton style offense to a squad who excels on running in the open court. No, he was also quite bad as a coach in the personal sense. He had an uncomfortable and unaccountable relationship with his players which led him to throw them under the bus to the media a number of times. Just one of the worst hirings in franchise history.
Eddie Jordan out. Doug Collins in.
It only makes sense. Collins is a defensive minded coach who has a ton of experience and a fair amount of success on his coaching resume, but has also been away from the game for seven years. So he definitely has something to prove alongside the players. I thought it was the best choice for 76ers at head coach – not to mention that General Manager Ed Stefanski was demoted when Rod Thorn was hired as team president – also a smart move. Stefanski needs assistance, stat.
Aside from retooling the defensive approach of the Sixers, Collins’ other goal should be maximizing Andre Iguodala. I’m not so sure Collins will succeed in this venture though, as to many it seems like Iggy’s as good as he is ever going to get, at least on this team. And it doesn’t hurt to have depth at Iguodala’s position where Turner and Thaddeus Young can always step in, especially if Iggy is traded at some point this season.
As far as the front-court goes…oh boy. I like Elton Brand, and he used to be such a great player but the reality is he is just not hugely effective anymore. I don’t doubt that Collins may find a better way to utilize him then past coaches, but Brand still isn’t getting younger and it’d be a good sign to see him merely play a full season at this point. Marreese Speights has some great offensive skills but is certainly way too undersized for the center position.
Speaking of centers, good riddance to Samuel Dalembert who Philly finally traded after years of frustration to Sacramento, acquiring Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni in return. Hawes should be a good back up at center and Nocioni will provide some offense and toughness if he’s healthy.
Willie Green was as discouraging – if not more so – as Dalembert was on the court so I can safely say the majority of Sixers fans loved the deal Philly made last week to send Green and Jason Smith to New Orleans for Darius Songalia and rookie Craig Brackins.
Hey, if we’re rebuilding, give me all the promising rookies I can get. If Brackins can become a solid low-post player at 6-10, 229 pounds, the Sixers might’ve just stolen a big man for the future.
Biggest strength: Three words – Jrue Randall Holiday. Yes, the same Jrue Holiday who was the youngest player in the NBA last year. Had Holiday started from the get-go, he might’ve received some Rookie of the Year consideration, although his numbers wouldn’t tell you so. Among rookies, he certainly ranked among those who improved the most from beginning until season’s end. The 20-year-old has some serious offensive game, can run the half-court effectively, and is also a stingy defender with pretty good size (6-4, 185 lbs) for a point guard. Doug Collins recently said Jrue Holiday could become one of the top five point guards in the NBA, and I wholly agree.
Biggest weakness: Half-court offense. Even though I love Holiday at point, the Sixers don’t have the bangers they need at the 4 and 5. Brand and Speights will struggle against the stronger competition, and the Sixers don’t have a big man they can run the offense around and consistently feed the ball to. Because of this, Philly will need to rely on their speed in the open court and their guard’s great ability to drive the lane. Holiday, Turner, Iguodala and back up point guard Louis Williams should be able to get to the hole….at least they better be able to if the front court fails to produce.
Prediction: Any record over .500 would be a great step, but that’s probably the most Philadelphia can expect from this year. 39-43 seems about right and, considering last year, should be enough to keep Collins in favor with the city. He can’t do much worse, but that doesn’t mean the fans will believe in this team. Attendance was laughable last year, fifth worst in the League in fact. And until this organization makes some serious progress, the Sixers are going to continue to fall by the Philly wayside, light years behind the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers.
Onward and up…time for the long, arduous rebuilding process to actually begin.
Previous Season Previews can be found in the archive.