Thursday, September 18th, 2008 at 8:01 am  |  74 responses

Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview

Hop on the Sixer bandwagon now or wallow in tears later. Your call.

We continue previewing the Atlantic Division with the Philadelphia 76ers. You can read past previews here.

by Khalid Salaam

For you guys and girls who have already lost faith in your team (yeah Wizards) I will offer you a one-time, no-questions-asked opportunity to join the Sixers bandwagon.

Usually, I’m much less agreeable about such things, but hey, I’m in a giving mood. I will tell you this though: it’s a limited-time offer. Look, we just completed the best off-season in my 21 years of Sixer fandom. I mean, seriously, we’ve made more moves lately than Vladimir Putin.

Don’t come to me when we’re the cool media darlings. When we’re 14-5, and everyone is wondering how it happened for a team that looked irrelevant just 10 months ago, don’t come to me. Don’t start commenting on how fun we are to watch and wonder why we aren’t on national television more often.

By then it will be too late. I will slam the bandwagon door on your monkey-ass face. Wafflers, you are officially on the clock…

Now, for my season preview. I won’t bore you or myself with rehashed commentary about the changes we made over the summer. What I will do is tell you – position-by-position – why we will be a contender.

Starting Five

Point Guard – Andre Miller

He of the earthbound, but highly effective point guard play, had one of the best seasons of his career last year. He played in all 82 regular season games and averaged 17 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 1.3 steals per contest. He also was one of the few Sixers who played well in their first round loss to Detroit. On the low he was the best player on the team and led its after-All-Star break surge. He will ensure the team plays efficiently by putting the ball in people’s hands where they are comfortable. He’s best in the half-court, but can play an uptempo game too. Now that we have the players for both styles, look for Miller to have a big year.

Shooting Guard – Andre Iguodala

Fans across the country look at Iguodala highlights and see him catching low-success percentage alley-oops and bang them down with ease. Or they hear sports analysts rave about his ability to lock down opponents (he’s good, but under stalwarts like Bruce Bowen and Tayshaun Prince) and how’s he’s such a versatile player. Sixers fans see you guys gulping down the Kool-Aid and we shake our heads in disgust. See the truth is, Dre Dala is a really talented dude with (at times) seemingly illogical athletic ability. He also exists within the team concept – rarely ever jacking-up bad shots or forcing his self upon the team.

But last year it was Miller who was the most consistent player. Iguodala hasn’t developed much of an offensive arsenal and remains at his most dangerous on the break. His handle is here and there, he doesn’t have a go-to move and at times I’ve seen second (and third!!) tier guys get points on him. Still, I’m glad he’s on my team. Here’s why.

As long as you have a good point guard who can get him good shots, he’s lethal. After Iverson, he’s bar-none the most athletic player we’ve had in the last decade and change. And he uses that athleticism to not only amp-up the fans but to intimidate his opponents. Additionally, when his teammates stay disciplined, meaning he doesn’t wear himself out having to play the weak side defensively, he has the ability to make other dudes disappear. He’s not the prototypical shooter you’d like your 2 guard to be, but he makes up for his deficiencies with intelligence (his court awareness especially). You can see it particularly on defense where he uses his IQ to anticipate steals. And on a team where he no longer has to be the main offensive force, this season Dre Dala will have his coming out party. He’ll challenge for an All-Star spot, mark my words.

Center – Sam Dalembert

I’m on some Dennis Green sh*t when it comes to Dalembert. He is who I thought he was. Seriously I know he’s never going to totally understand floor spacing and will always pick-up cheap reaching fouls when he shouldn’t. His low basketball IQ is especially befuddling to me since he’s a hardcore techie who tricked-out his own house with the latest gadgets. It is what it is; we’re all blessed in different ways so I’ll take the good with the bad. The thing is it’s hard to be consistently mad at a guy who you know is trying (sidebar: writing about Dalembert makes me think of Haiti. Just want to wish well all of those struggling with the effects of this year’s hurricane season). Still, he is a presence and his ability to run the floor, rebound and block shots makes him a solid contributor. Last year’s averages of 10 points, 10 rebounds and 2.3 blocks are good enough.

Small forward – Thaddeus Young

Sixer fans don’t want to talk about it outside of select company, but mention Young’s name and I guarantee you will get some variation of the following statement – He’s the future. The real reason the Sixers turned things around last year was Head Coach Maurice Cheek’s decision to insert Young Thad (that’s not a typo. That’s just what I call him) into the starting line-up. Dude just has natural ability and is a dominating rebounder, a relentless scorer and is willing to defend. Of course, he just turned 20 this summer – he’s still raw and turnover prone. Additionally, he still needs to work on his jumper but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t reach stadium status. We’ve just scratched the surface of his talent. We know he won’t remain a secret for long so let me officially introduce him. NBA fans meet a future member of the 2012 Olympic Games. Yep I said it.

Power Forward – Elton Brand

We’ve haven’t has a legit PF since Charles left. So naturally I’m excited and still a little surprised. See, we NEVER get free-agents like this so when word broke, I was in disbelief. I never thought he’d leave L.A., so my hopes weren’t dashed. It was really a pleasant surprise and a power move for an organization that is done sitting on the sidelines. Brand’s career averages of 20 and 10 automatically add legitimacy to our front line. Brand not only improves our interior defense, but it helps our outside shooting (which was literally the worst in the League last year; how we still managed to make the postseason, I’ll never understand). Now Dre Dala will find getting to the hole easier, Miller has someone to pass into for easy shots, Thad will learn how to be an even better rebounder, etc. As far as I’m concerned the Exec. of the Year Award is Ed Stefanski’s to lose. After years of pain under the direction of Billy King (I guess King did his best, but his best just wasn’t good enough. Larry Brown co-signed him so we had some hope. He sure looked the part with his snappy suit game but we soon learned that it doesn’t matter if you put lipstick on a crappy GM, he’s still a crappy GM), it seems like another world with this regime. Of course, my fingers are crossed that Brand stays healthy. I know it was a risk, but sometimes you have to roll the dice. This was – and is – a phenomenal addition to our roster.

(Up there with the best in the L, by the way)

Lou Williams – I admit it. I slept on him hard. I just didn’t think he was ready coming out of the preps ranks straight into the NBA. This kid is good and is a lethal scorer averaging 11.5 points per in just over 23 minutes per game. The more he plays the better.

Reggie Evans – The beast on the boards that every team needs. This guy is straight physical energy. He’s like Wolverine or something.

Theo Ratliff – Good solid vet. Brought in to spell Dalembert and take up some of the frontcourt slack we lost when promising back-up Center Jason Smith blew out his ACL earlier in the summer.

Kareem Rush – As I mentioned, we had the worst 3-point shooting in the L last year. Rush will help on that at the very least.

Donyell Marshall – Another vet. Will help in the locker room and give us a few points from outside the arc every so often.

Royal Ivey – A hardcore defender. Will stick to other guards like gov’t peanut butter.

Marreese Speights – The team is big on the rookie big man from the U of Florida. He was killing in the summer leagues. Whether or not that transfers to the L I don’t know, but the Sixers seem to believe in him. Should provide back-up minutes when the injury bug hits.

Kevin Ollie – Dude seems like he’s been around long enough to have kids my age. Locker room presence mostly but will play sometimes as a back-up to Miller when Lou plays the 2. And that’s if he makes the team.

Willie Green – Does nothing great. Does nothing bad either. Undersized and streaky as hell, but talented and plays with a chip on his shoulder. Not a lock to make the team but as of now is on the roster. Would be surprised if he didn’t make the team, honestly.

52-30 is my prediction. A trip to the ECF is within reach too. So there you have it. I bet you can’t swagger like us.

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  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    A 12-win improvement and declaring Thad a 2012 Olympian is pretty huge…and I completely agree.

  • Benoit Benjamin

    I think that’s kind of a stretch. Give ‘em another year and they’ll get to the ECF. But a second round exit sounds good already.

  • http://myspace.com/jrcfl Justin

    Off topic (sorry)….Ryne, I hear that you are the “guy” to ask if the Magic season preview is still open.

  • http://www.jchtv.com iconjohn

    Great preview of the team. I’ve been looking forward to the season since the Olympics. Chris Bosh and Toronto on opening night.

  • Lz – Cphfinest3

    I believe I must be riding at least shotgun on Khalid’s bandwagon after all the praise I’ve been lavishing on him these last couple of weeks. But the guy simply makes too much sense. Great read and once again I absolutely agree with everything (maybe besides that I feel he bench although good, is not one of the best in the L; Lakers, Pistons, Rockets, maybe Spurs & Celts have the edge imo).

  • Clockwork

    Please Elton, don’t get hurt. I don’t think they are better than Cleveland and Detroit though…but it sure won’t bother me if they actually are.

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    52-30? Wow…. That would be a great accomplishment for a team that has little to no outside shooters.
    At least you aren’t as down on them this season as you were last season…….

  • http://www.ice2ice.ca Tunez

    Team looks good… a threat to the Raps for that second spot in the East… but it’s still the Raptors for the taking… I don’t see the addition of Brand being as smooth of a transition as others

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    @Justin: You’re right, I’m the one to ask, but all the season previews are taken…including the Magic. Of course, feel free to shoot me an email sometime.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Yeh Ryne can I do the Rockets preview? PLEASE!? That’d be great. Thanks. Since I dont think theres a resident HOU fan in the slamdome and the only other guy I can think of would be RV (which is fine, hes great) and Teddy – but hes a rookie commenter :)

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Oh….. thats ok then. Next year I’ll get in quick Ryne. I didnt even know when to ‘apply’ for this until E and TAD mentioned it, also I HOPE that you have RV doing it.

  • http://myspace.com/jrcfl Justin

    Thanks for the answer Ryne. Darksaber suggested the e-mail route, but couldn’t find it. So, I ended up posting comments in an effort to find out. On topic, I think everyone in the East (including the Celts) should fear what the Sixers may bring with a healthy EB42.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    I love the confidence Kha, but I think the Sixers ceiling is 47 wins. Elton still needs to prove he will be healthy, Miller has no true backup (is Lou a 1 or 2?), Dalembert is still prone to mistakes, and as you mentioned, no outside shooting.

  • http://www.lkz.ch/basket Darksaber

    Witness the stance of the Kha. With his puffed out chest and proud, optimistic demeanor… Ah, success and it’s virtues. By the way, i utterly agree with Khalid on this one (and i usually do not, since he can’t stop bashing Dirk). This 76ers team is STACKED. Probably moreso than the one that got to the finals against the lakers. Yours to lose, coach.

  • http://www.lkz.ch/basket Darksaber

    Aww, Ryne. You giving up your mail data that easily? And here i was feeling like one of a select few. Devastated.

  • http://www.lkz.ch/basket Darksaber

    Kidding by the way. Glad you could get the info Justin.

  • http://www.lkz.ch/basket Darksaber

    Reggie Evans = Wolverine, eh? Lucky he didn’t pop the claws when he was grabbing guy’s nuts two playoffs ago.

  • http://www.myspace.com/2536545 Bryan

    I like the sixers to be the 4th seed and secound round out this year.

  • neaorin

    If they figure out a way to defeat a good zone I could see myself agreeing with the ECF prediction. If not, second round it is, maybe.

  • http://sixers4guidos.wordpress.com/ Ricky – Sixers4guidos

    Great article and I love that you are not afraid to show your optimism, you must be from some other city, not from Philly :-)

    if our bench was a starting line up I think it could win a good 22-24 games

    just for the record Ollie won’t make the team, Ivey was brought in to take his spot as 3rd PG. The old bum won’t be missed, though

    regards from Italy

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Better than the Magic Bryan? C’s, Pistons and Cavs are ahead I assume.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Holly MacKenzie

    best closing sentence yet. Khalid, you kill me.

  • http://www.myspace.com/2536545 Bryan

    Better than the magic and/or the cavs.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Ricky, LOL yes i know my optimism betrays my traditional hometown stance. I just have a feeling about this team. I’m very optimistic, its crazy i know.

  • http://www.brisbane.basketball.net.au Deuce21

    I love this team and 52-30 sounds right but they are a spot up shooter and a shotblocking C (and don’t say Ratliff) short from the ECF.

  • http://www.brisbane.basketball.net.au Deuce21

    And I know Sammy D blocks shots but I don’t see anyone who’ll intimidate off the bench. Boards yes, maybe a few points but not stop guys. Elton can’t take care of it all….

  • guruvoodoo

    Dalembert improved on both ends last season, but especially on D. His ability to play 4th quarter one-on-one defence on your, Timmys, Yaos and KGs contributed to some big wins. 09-10 Second-team All Defence, at 13 and 10 with 2.7 blocks per?

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    Did you get your swagger from Old Spice Khalid? :)

  • guruvoodoo

    Koach Kool Mo’ “D” was a 4-time First Team All NBA- Defence and the team plays like it. If we make the ECF, is he a lock for COTY?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    No Co Co, i got it from the man in the mirror

  • Ron

    This team will win 50 games easy. Cleveland might be the best in the east, but If my memory serves me correctly guys usually have injury issues after playing in the Olympics. It happened in 2000 and 2004. With that being said, if we stay healthy we have shot. The Celts and Pistons are a year older and less motivated, and Toronto will not be as good as people believe. Orlando will be a possible problem, but I think in the end the Sixers will be one of the top 3 seeds in the east.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    Michael Jackson?

  • thesubwayconnection

    I laughed at the Barack reference.

  • fluxland

    I remember saying the franchise was back 10 years after the A.I. trade, only because Khalid dissed my Raps. (no, I didn’t forget Kha!.. you know, winning the Atlantic is like winning… you know the rest) Looks like I was wrong.
    Good luck with this team Khalid. Looking forward to opening night. ;)

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Fluxland it seems you have company regarding rooting for the raps. good luck on the season but honestly i do feel we have a better squad. we’ll all find out soon.

  • fluxland

    Oh no doubt! I never said the Raps were better. I have stated on some Raps blogs that they (Raps) suck and believe Philly is a playoff lock. Gettin rid of TJ and getting JO was a huge mistake. My good luck had no sarcasm attached to it.
    Hey, they meet twice in the first couple of weeks. Should be fun. I predict a Philly win on opening night.

  • fluxland

    And I guess this means the Raps preview is due tomorrow. Mutoni? Holly? Clement?

  • http://slamonline.com/ Ryne Nelson

    Flux, the Raps will represent pretty strong tomorrow. Be here or be square.

  • double-clutch

    allow me to jump onto the bandwagon

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    good preview

  • http://www.myspace.com/hemantsbeats what

    “His low basketball IQ is especially befuddling to me since he’s a hardcore techie who tricked-out his own house with the latest gadgets.” Well that’s because sports IQ doesn’t imply actual intelligence. Sports IQ is about instincts, not being brainy. It’s the same reason why Brett Favre can be dumb as a rock and be a Hall of Fame QB.

  • http://www.myspace.com/hemantsbeats what

    Otherwise good preview. That’s one less playoff spot my Hawks have available.

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    Okay just because everyone else agrees with Khalid, I must disagree. There’s no way in hell the Sixers will win 52 games. :)
    I feel a lot better now.

  • Jake

    Yessss,time to break out my Theo Ratliff jersey from back in the day.I would love to see them in the ECF against Boston,that would be one for the ages.Now if they can just bring AI back next year….the real AI

  • http://housethatglanvillebuilt.blogspot.com Joe B

    Truth. Philly is back bitches! For the first time since, well, Barkley was drafted, the Sixers have a legit bench. And a sick starting 5. We’re coming for ya Boston! (And probably going down in 6)

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    They still need an outside shooter. But hey maybe they can overcome that.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    ^Kareem Rush?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Co Co and what do the Hawks need? Huh?

  • http://coco-vents.blogspot.com Co Co

    We aren’t talking about the Hawks. This is a Sixers preview. ;)

  • http://www.nba.com/celtics/ Moose

    Definitely my second favorite team. Even though I am a Celtics fan, I can’t help it. Gotta love them.

  • http://www.truthismygame.com/ Kevin

    Thaddeus for the 2012 Olympics.. hmm, didn’t see that coming, but i agree with everything else you wrote in this piece.. I think you think a bit too highly of Iguodala at this point, but his ability isn’t the issue – I just don’t think he’s as aware or mature as a smart basketball player as you think he is. He DOES jack up low percentage jumpers (long twos) quite a bit still.. as for Thad, i hope you’re right but potential doesn’t always translate into the real deal so the 2012 Olympic squad is a booooooold prediction. good piece

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    Kevin: As the number 1 offensive option, Dre had to take most of the shots. Even the bad ones. With Brand on board he won’t have nearly the burden he had last season.

  • Bubba Chuck

    Sorry kha im on tha ai bandwagon 4 life & he dont play 4 tha sixers no more

  • B. Long

    Khalid doing the Sixers preview would be like me doing the Lakers one, except not as well written.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    I suppose that Jose Calderon is coming up next, since there is no way that Bosh is 33.

  • http://www.nba.com/celtics/ Moose

    Hurst, why are you so sure that a raptor is next?

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Where do I sign up to officially be on the bandwagon…?

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Also as a “B” component to that question, I am currently straddling the PHX bandwagon at present…may I be aboard two seperate teams, albeit 1 in each conference…? WHat about one in each division…? That would give me 6 teams to follow!?

  • Todd Spehr

    Nice piece Khalid… I hope Philly lives up to the hype that had been heaped on ‘em since Brand arrived. By the way, I’m assuming Spoon and DC weren’t “legit” enough at the PF spot?

  • Young Chris MP3

    When I read Kevin Ollie’s name, I literally said out loud “He’s still in the league?”

  • Young Chris MP3

    And so much for those “Leastern Conference” jokes. The way Philly re-upped (and to a lesser extent, Cleveland) makes four legit contenders from the East that very well could be the favorites in a series with pretty much any team out (in the aging ) West. New Orleans and Portland aside, there aren’t many contenders, or possible contenders, coming out of the West that look that scary for years to come (and I know there are a lot of Kobe fans here who will vouch for the Lakers, but unless Andrew Bynum plays OUT OF THIS WORLD over the next few years, his healthy return will be seen only as a band-aid to the wound that is their soft and erratic play that became far more evident once they played the Celtics).

  • Josh

    The reason I don’t see the Sixers as legitimate contenders is where are the elite players? All the contenders also have a capable bench and talent at multiple positions but they also have elite players at several of them. Where are the Sixers’? Even brushing aside the question of whether Elton will resume being an elite power forward after achilles surgery and just putting him there, Iguodala and Miller just aren’t there. I like them both, Iguodala is so multifaceted and unselfish, Miller is a great mid-range shooter but when the great players of other teams raise their level, I don’t think they can match. To me it comes down to the peak level ability of the Sixers not being good enough to contend. Definitely the playoffs, but 45-49 wins is what I’m guessing.

    What I’m most interested in seeing is how Thaddeus Young fares playing the small forward position. I’m interested in seeing if he holds his value without the big athletic advantage he held at power forward. He’s going to have to rely on his skills more, which was the knock on him in the draft, that his handle and outside needed work, that his small man skills weren’t developed enough. He did show some good one-on-one moves however, shot fakes, drop steps, the jumper looked alright and he’s a great and acrobatic finisher, so I’m just interested to see how it plays out this year.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Moose- because Ryne said the raps would represent ( so its an article or Calderon is next on the list). Also, NO WAY they win 52 games next year. 48-34 is more realistic.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    OK, so season preview it is.

  • Evil Jon

    Dude…..I love Thad too, but a dominating rebounder? Settle down young man. Thad will get his fair share of boards this season, but he will never be a dominating rebounder…probably never come close to averaging double digit rebounds. He’s gonna be really good, but relax for a minute

  • Patrick H.

    wow, breaking news–a team who made the playoffs last year, took 2 games from the Pistons, and signed Elton Brand is going to be good in the East. You’re really on the razor’s edge. and thanks for the bold prediction that ‘the ECF is in reach’, something that almost any Eastern playoff team can claim.

  • http://www.passionandpride.com Jon

    Willie Green has a long term guaranteed contract, so why is he not a lock? He’ll be the fourth guard this year. The best lineup for the Sixers will actually be Miller-LouWill-Iguodala-Young-Brand.

  • Ty

    Where is Allen Iverson when ya need him?!.

  • Ty

    Elton Brand will still be in the 20/10 area, Andre Miller will be as steady as ever, and Andre Iguodala is one consistent jumpshot away from being the new Shawn Marion without the rebounding stats but Dre Dala still gets his. The wild card is Louis Williams cause I thought he was headed to the Yay Area but staying in Philly is a good look. Hopefully Lou can be something like the next AI cause its funny since they have a similar skill set.
    Its good to see that the Sixers didn’t really miss a beat after the Iverson trade hey turns out that Dre Miller was better than everybody else initially thought and he ain’t even a household name. Fifty wins is realistic in the Eastern Conference but don’t sleep on Milwaukee.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Andre Miller = One of the most underrated point guards in the league.

  • D.Rod

    I dont remember to many teams with no shooting making it very far. The bench added a few 3pt bangers, but its very little. I’m excited, but its asking to much to project an ECF birth. They still lack physical size in the front court. Sam is easy to push around the block, Brand is strong, but KG or Rasheed can shoot over him. Evans is a perpetual foul. And Ratliff and Marshall can’t have much left.

  • Orlando Woolridge

    “NO WAY they win 52 games next season”, but 48 is more realistic? That reminds me of comments like: “How in the hell can he be rated 44th!?! I think somewhere in the 39 to 42 range is more like it.”

  • Dom

    i’m a huge sixers fan…i go on they’re website every morning juss to see how the players are doing and see what changes and updates have occurred in the roster…i go to their games when i have the opportunity of doing so (i live in trenton, nj)…i think the sixers are equipped with what they need to make a run at the ECF…let’s eliminate the ficticious thought that the sixers are to young and inexperienced; they have plenty of veterans on the team that come with more than knowledge, but also skill…Let’s eliminate the thought that the sixers don’t have anyone to shoot the three; As far as my memory serves me, Lou Williams was pretty good from the 3 last season (as a team they weren’t good but that individual was good) and now they have Kareem Rush and he shoots out of this world…the sixers also have Donyell Marshall but i’m not depending on him too much but i know that the sixers have to have been working on the 3 game this season, being that it was a huge weakness and with the new additions i feel its no longer a factor…let’s eliminate the thought that the sixers don’t have an inside presence; the sixers have signed Elton Brand, a player who averaged 20 and 10…HELLO! its much harder to play in the west and he had great success there so i see his stats rising if he is healthy…Andre Miller is such an underrated player in the nba, i really can’t see his performance faultering at this time…he can shoot the jumper he can give the ball where its needed, hell he even posts up players smaller than him…He’s phenomenal…we have shot blockers…yes plural form…Samuel Dalembert, Elton Brand, and Theo Ratliff…don’t think theo isn’t a presence because he still averaged 2 blocks a game last season and only played about 15 minutes a game so he’s still a threat…i feel the problem with everyone nowadays is they feel you have to have a star player to win instead of pure team work…if you take all of this into perspective, you realize that this is a championship CALIBER team…i’ll take the extra step and say the sixers will take the 1st or 2nd seed playoff position

  • http://myspace.com/kelvino98 wedemhornets

    im living in jersey right now so i am hitting up the 76ers games but how bout dem hornets..pargo was a big lose but there preseason is amazing..nawlins rep