Here’s our season preview, done with the input of myself and Dante Nelson. We went over some basic questions on the team including record predictions, surprises, and disappointments. Everything’s after the jump.
1. What are you thinking with the upcoming season?
Sean: Like others, I am excited for the season to finally start. We see almost no changes from last year on the roster. They should have the same strengths and weaknesses and the exact same rotation going into the year that they ended with last year. But you have to wonder what the future of this franchise is. Will the torch pass from Andre Iguodala to Jrue Holiday this year? Will they make any moves for the future? Are they set up for a playoff run? What more do we have than last year? Can they pick up where they left off?
For a team with a lot of continuity, that’s a lot of questions.
Dante: A shortened season in the NBA. Not the first time it’s happened, and probably not the last. It’s the first I’ve experienced, though, and while I think the Sixers can compete with some of the best teams in the league, I think that I’m letting the schedule mess with my outlook on this season. My biggest concern is whether can they hang on through this tough schedule. This roster is pretty much the same as last year so the short training camp wasn’t awkward for these guys since they know the system, unlike teams with a new coach like the Lakers or Warriors. With these “advantages” going for them, Sixers should be able to keep up with the rest of the league.
2. Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
Sean: The shortened schedule and structure of it will greatly help the Sixers. While the condensed training camp has been thought to favor the Sixers, the schedule seemingly did them no favors. But I think it will help them, as I wrote before. Road streaks of five to start AND finish the year are going to be rough, but they will take place when the team is just starting (and should have fresh legs and the continuity) and ending (when they should have a playoff series in sight, and hopefully a clinched spot). Meanwhile, during the middle of the year the Sixers spend most of their time at home. Middle of the year road trips are always rough, so the Sixers catch a bit of a break with an amazing stretch of home games, even if they seemingly start off difficultly.
Dante: It’s risky to say this but after that second pre-season game against the Wizards, I feel Jrue Holiday can be used more for taking last second shots instead of Andre Iguodala. Also, Evan Turner handled the point well coming off the bench. He looked confident. Most of the season I’ll be looking at these two players and how well they play, and whether they can start together in time. If Turner and Jrue play well together in the starting lineup (and I think it has to happen eventually) then Sixers will be OK.
3. Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
Sean: In my opinion, I think the hype surrounding our younger players has gotten out of hand. Turner still has a ton of work to do, even if this season is a massive improvement, to become a very good player. Expectations for Holiday have him becoming near all-star level. Thaddeus Young is expected to all of a sudden have a consistent mid-range shot. I would love for all this to happen, but I think the progress of our younger players has been overstated.
Dante: Our bigs are my greatest concern. I’m not sure Hawes is going to become a decent player. And Nikola Vucevic? I can see why they call him Hawes 2.0. Lavoy Allen and Craig Brackins? Oh dear, oh my. Speights is rumored to be on the market so he may not be here much longer. Elton Brand? He’s obviously the best big man on the team, but I don’t like that he’s spending some good amount of minutes guarding players 2 and 3 inches taller. And, with a brutal season like this, with EB getting up in years, I really don’t see a repeat of last season from him. Brand is going to have to sit down for long periods of time, especially if we want him to be somewhat fresh for the playoffs.
Sean: I see the Sixers benefiting from the schedule a bit (though 4 games with each of the east’s top playoff contenders stings). I can see some downside and upside, but 35-36 wins should be attainable. I’ve previously said 38 should be the team’s goal. While they finished 38-28 to end last year, expecting the same health situation as last year would be a mistake. Only Iguodala went down for any significant time among regulars. With key players in Brand and Iguodala getting older and health being unpredictable, I think 38 could happen, but it’s unlikely.
Record: 35-31, 6th seed in the Eastern Conference
Dante: I see the Sixers landing somewhere 24-34 wins. Big span but I’m not too sure what to expect in this situation. The Sixers of the past 3 non-Eddie Jordan seasons have followed this pattern: Slow start, surging middle and sputtering finish. Anyway, I see the Sixers doing that same pattern again this season. A slow start with a road trip, start picking up the pace a bit in front of the home crowd, then lose some of the intensity towards the end of the season. I think they can make the playoffs, and will likely be battling the Pacers and Knicks in the final playoff spots, as well as possibly the Hawks.
So as you can tell, we have kept expectations low – many fans have predicted the team should maintain the 38-win pace that the team ended last season with. Others have gone even further, predicting a division championship and home court in the playoffs. Maybe we’re pessimists. We hope that we’re wrong, that these others are correct, and that the Sixers have a wonderful season.
And let us know of your predictions in the poll: we want to know what you think.