10 Thoughts on the Philadelphia 76ers in 2011-2012 (NBA Season Preview)

1.       I know no one outside of Philly has noticed, but Jrue Holiday, all of 21-years-old, is a rising star.  He can already run a good offense, shoot, and create for himself and others.  He’s developing into a lockdown defender at the 1 who can handle 2s as well.  Once he learns to get the line and tweaks his defense to be better at covering the screen, Philly has a major building block.


2.       That block is important because, along with Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, this squad has a seemingly bright future.  Turner had a weak rookie year, but that’s mostly because he’s extremely similar in play-style to Andre Iguodala, the team’s incumbent star.  His rebounding, passing and defense make up for a weak shot and lesser athleticism.  He won’t be a star, but he’s a very good building block for a team that can compete, as he has ideal size and length to match up with other teams top wing scorers while creating for others on offense.


3.       It’s a huge shame that Turner can’t shoot, though, a recurring theme, as it makes him really tough to play with Iguodala, who is an ace defender, among tops in the NBA on the wings, and a good passer and rebounder, who also can’t shoot.  Still, his immense talents would fit better on a team where he could be the second option and he could really put a playoff team over the top.  As is, this is a low seed playoff team without hope for much more without significant development from young players.  With the far cheaper Turner offering so much of what he does, one gets the feeling Andre is only around until the right offer comes up.


4.       Another young player who can’t shoot, Thaddeus Young actually led the league last year in shots from the rim.  He’s perfect off the bench since he can’t shoot enough for the 3 or defend enough for the 4, but this is a top bench player in basketball for a long, long time with the potential for more if his shot develops.  Again, though, the team needs shooters!


5.       Lou Williams has a reputation as a shooter, but he’s actually terrible percentage wise.  What he does do well, though, is make opponents bite on his shot fake and use that to get to the line.  He’s too small for the 2, but with Jrue Holiday, the team’s backcourt actually makes sense, as Jrue capably handles that position defensively, allowing Lou to focus on offense.  He likewise goes well with Turner or Iguodala, but not both, since they can handle the creating for others.  He may be a little too similar to Jodie Meeks, but at least Meeks can shoot and offers some floor spacing.  Ideally, Meeks fits off the bench, but there he and Lou badly overlap.  Trading Iguodala and the next player would likely net them a good enough draft pick or player to fix these issues, though (UConn’s Jeremy Lamb seems an unusually good fit for them).


6.       Elton Brand has bounced back enough to make his contract less than the huge albatross it seemed, but he’s no longer elite as a scorer or rebounder.  Still, for this team to get to the playoffs, he’s the main component, as he’s the easiest guy on the team to create offense for in pick and pop, and he’s a capable defender, if not athletic enough to be lockdown.  No one is likely to take that contract though, so, if Iguodala goes, look for him to be a throw in, or amnestied for true rebuilding. 


7.       Spencer Hawes is soft.  There’s no getting around it – he plays too far from the basket to protect the rim, shies from contact and, all around, isn’t very good defensively.  Since this is a defensive team and he isn’t a big scorer, he should be a backup, but there’s no starter, as Nikola Vucevic has many of the same issues, but is at least more willing to attempt to mix it up.  Expect their roles to switch, with Hawes on the bench and Vucevic taking major minutes by season’s end.


8.       The rest of the team is made up of the veteran defenders that Coach Doug Collins loves.  They help make this a very good defensive team and show youngsters how to make it in the league, so are valuable, but there’s a lack of upside that only some trades seem likely to fix.


9.       The one exception is Mareese Speights.  Speights could be a special scorer and rebounder, but isn’t in proper shape, doesn’t try hard enough, and is actively bad on defense.  If Collins can’t get through to him, it’s hard to imagine who would, so perhaps he just is what he is – a good enough to be a solid reserve 4 with tantalizing potential.


10.   Another low -8ish seems likely- playoff seed is in this team’s future, unless someone (the Bucks are my guess) improves and they miss out entirely.  That was nice as a surprise this year, but some trades are necessary for this team to really move forward.  The 76ers are a talented bunch who play hard, but lack the franchise talent to really get to the Heat/Bulls/Celtics level.  In a stacked draft, any slippage should mean trades of top players for picks and a brighter future.

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