The season is approaching (but not quickly enough), so that means it’s NBA preview time. Starting with the league’s worst team and working our way to the top, we’ll preview one team per day.
Last year’s record: 27-55
Head Coach: Doug Collins
Projected Starters: Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes
The 76ers’ best player is a third- or fourth-banana on a title contender. Their best big man is well past his prime and may steal Greg “The Fossilman” Raymer’s nickname if his play continues to deteriorate. Their top draft pick, Evan Turner, the number two pick in the entire draft, looked like he didn’t even belong during summer league. And their best center is like the feel of Hawaiian sand underneath your toes: incredibly soft. Add to that an utter lack of perimeter shooting or a true point guard, and Doug Collins should be considered a god if he can coax 35 wins out of this group.
I thought last year would be Thaddeus Young’s breakout year. Only 20 years old in 2008-09, Young averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds, looking like a young star in the process. And then, just when I expected another leap… he regressed? Still just 22, Young hasn’t lost any of his star potential. There’s no reason why he should have already plateaued. Then again, there’s also no reason why I should still be waiting for his breakout year.
Biggest Question Mark:
The frontcourt. But I’m not so sure it’s a question mark. It’s more like a frowny face emoticon. Because a frontcourt of Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Mareese Speights and Tony Battie couldn’t hold their own in my summer league, never mind the NBA. Speights, though, could evolve into a beast at some point.
Most important newcomer:
Evan Turner. Look, I try not to put much stock into summer league. I really do. But shouldn’t a number two pick play well against other rookies and vagabonds, even if he’s out of shape, even if he hadn’t played five-on-five basketball in awhile, even if he wasn’t really trying? Matt Janning and Jeremy Lin were both more impressive than Turner this summer. No matter how little you trust summer league statistics, that’s unsettling. Before the summer, I expected that Turner would have a Brandon Roy-like career. Now, I wonder.
I never thought I’d say this, but the Sixers will really miss Samuel Dalembert. It’s not that his contributions were irreplaceable. They weren’t. It’s just that the duo of Spencer Hawes and Tony Battie can’t replace them. Philadelphia will especially miss Dalembert’s 1.8 blocks in only 25.9 minutes per game. By the way, folks? Any time a team will really miss Samuel Dalembert, its frontcourt inevitably invokes visions of a bodily function people normally flush down the toilet.
Most compelling storyline:
I want to see if Doug Collins still has it. I realize his players will most likely want to choke him out within three years, but Collins knows how to inspire young players and demand the best out of them. For an NBA team looking to rebuild, Collins fits perfectly. As a player, Collins told NBC Sports, “I know I gave everything to Philadelphia, including both my hips and my left knee.” As a coach, if Collins succeeds in his rebuilding project, he’ll have to be just as dedicated.
Player to watch:
Andre Iguodala. Anyone who watched Iguodala play in the World Championships knows he has been poorly casted in Philly. Iggy wasn’t put on this earth to be a premier scoring threat. He was meant to stop people, to lock opponent’s down, to score points without plays being run for him. When Iggy was in Turkey, I watched him put shackles on every player he defended. He was incredible. But defensive aptitude isn’t what most impresses me about ”the other AI.” So what is? He’s in a shitty situation in Philadelphia, on a team with no hopes that doesn’t — or can’t — utilize him correctly, yet Iggy punches in every night and never complains. I’m telling you, the man deserves better. But you’ll never hear that from him.
Descriptive movie quote:
“You take a look at her. Cause once you step on that bus you aint got your mama no more. You got your brothers on the team and you got your daddy. You know who your daddy is, doncha? Gary, if you want to play on this football team, you answer me when I ask you who is your daddy? Who’s your daddy, Gary? Who’s your daddy?” – Coach Boone, Remember the Titans
Philadelphia 76ers, Doug Collins is your daddy. Do everything he asks and you might have a fighter’s chance of being halfway decent. (*Looking back at roster, sees Spencer Hawes penciled in as starting center.*) Then again, maybe not.
Projected Record: 25-57. At some point in the next few years, I would love to see Andre Iguodala help out a contender. But it probably won’t happen in Philadelphia.