Sixers Are Better; But Not Close to Contender

This really is a message to those who thought Sixers were a great team close to winning it all. I’ve heard and seen some things that are really overrating this team. And once Hollinger from ESPN put the Sixers 1st in his power rankings, things really got out of control. Call me negative, but I don’t believe this team is anywhere close to contender status. They won’t be able to hang with the elite of the NBA long enough to somehow pull an upset.

Now, the Sixers are a better team than what we saw last year. Much better? I don’t want to say that just yet. Look at who they beat this season: Kings, Pistons, Pacers, Raptors, Hornets Warriors, and Suns. None of these teams are much better than Sixers. Sixers should have won those games. The losses came to Blazers, Jazz, and Knicks. Blazers are probably only team there that might be contender. We can go with the whole, “You can only play who they put in front of you” thing and that’s all well and good. But, to say that the Sixers are a great team is way too premature.

Let’s take a look at what the weaknesses are of this team and why they are more far off than many people may think.

Lack of solid front court.

This one is the most obvious one and can almost be blamed for the Sixers’ losses of this season. Whether it was LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby of the Blazers, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors of the Jazz, or Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire of the Knicks, Sixers have shown just how bad their front court is. I knew Elton Brand wasn’t going to have as good as a season as last year, and that was before the lockout. That’s why I was really pushing for Brand to get traded while his value was at his best. Too bad. Now the Sixers will have to either wait for him to expire, or amnesty him. And it really became apparent that the Sixers were in trouble when Tony Battie ended up starting for Sixers against the Knicks. Sixers will not win anything until they have a solid frontcourt.

Vucevic is a nice piece but may only be a good off the bench player. But it’s too early for me to make up my mind about him. I was okay with the Speights trade but then they only got picks for him. So that thinned out the frontcourt even more.

Still no half court game, but it’s developing.

That kind of stems off of the lack of front court thing but Sixers will not be able to survive long in the playoffs with out being able to make something happen in the half court slow ball. We saw this really become a factor in the 2008 playoffs against Detroit where the slow-go Pistons suffocated the run-n-gun Sixers. It’s not just because the Sixers don’t have a big man that can score at will, it also comes from perimeter players not attacking the rim. We’ve seen signs of it. Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, and even Evan Turner have been taking drives to the rim more often. Sixers could use a big man who can score and defend down low.

Seeing Spencer Hawes on offense this season got me thinking this: If Hawes’ offense and Dalembert’s defense were combined into one, Sixers may legitimately have one of the best Centers in the NBA. As bad as Sammy was with consistency, and offense, I always trusted he would do a good job of rebounding and getting the blocks. When Sixers faced the Magic in the playoffs, Sixers were able to guard man-man because Sammy did such a great job of slowing down Howard. Hawes has been showing what kind of scoring machine he could be. The injury may slow him down now but boy he was hitting shots. Crazy. Whether that was just a phase or if this is the new and improved Spencer Hawes remains to be seen for me. Plus he was rebounding. My goodness.

Yes the half court game is developing but it’s not going to get the Sixers far. Elton Brand and Spencer Hawes will not be starters on this team if Sixers win a championship. And if they are, then Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday would have to be the next Dwyane Wade and LeBron James combo. Seriously. So work needs to be done but on the right track.

No go-to guy…yet.

Lastly, Sixers still have no one to turn to in crutch time. Could it be Jrue Holiday? Andre Iguodala has hit some big shots but I wouldn’t trust him with the buzzer beater. Lou Williams? He’s hit big three pointers for us so many times. Evan Turner? Not yet. All season it looked like Jrue was hitting some big 3-pointers. He would step back from the screen and purposefully shoot and hit the three-ball. It seems like the Jruth is a top candidate for the go-to guy award. He can hit from anywhere on the floor at a decent enough pace. Of course, he’s taken some bad shots and his turnover problems continue but I’m not too sorely concerned about that yet. Sorry for the pun but it looks like the Jruth could set the Sixers free.

We all know how bad Sixers were in the last few minutes of a close game. Besides having a player who can take over the game, they can help themselves by hitting their free throws. The effort has been unacceptable this season. I don’t understand it. Sixers could’ve won more games last year if they just simply made their free throws. They are 20th in the league at 72%. No. That has to go up. I don’t care about the ranking. 72% is too low. They could be last place and shoot 77-83% and I’d be okay with that.

But it’s not a negative look on the team. Last season they had problems closing out the bad teams last year. Now, they are putting bad teams away early. That’s an improvement. Defense seems better than before. Turnovers could use some work but they are still one of the best at taking care of the ball. Sixers are young and have room to grow internally but could use a star PF or C to grow along with Jrue and Turner. And these guys are fun to watch. I’ve said it many times but I’ve been watching these guys since the year they last made the finals. And this year I think I’ve been the most excited to watch this team. So we’ll see.

We can enjoy the ride. Sixers winning games is a good thing. But, looking at the big picture, they’ve got a long way to go. And things won’t really start getting much better until Brand and Andre contracts run out.

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  • bluehen97

    I’m sorry but your outlook is horribly negative about our beloved 76ers. First off they don’t have a spuerstar, yes but they are 9-10 deep and playing TEAM ball. As you indicated the three loses were to “on paper” better teams but they were all on the road and close. Heck, I think that the absence of Hawes was huge against the Knicks on the road in the tail end of the backtobacktoback. I don’t know how you discount that at all but I guess some people are happy in misery. Are they championship contenders? Probably not, but they certainly could be 4th or 5th in the East. Chill out and enjoy the ride, unless you’re “that guy”.

  • Toney2Turner

    While you are busy making bold statements about what the Sixers aren’t, some things to consider.

    “Lack of a solid front court” This is garbage. If there is anything you should admit it is that they have a solid front court. There are not 5 centers in the league who are playing better than Hawes right now. He didn’t just have a lucky game or two. Heck, he never had two games in a row prior to this year performing at this level. He’s a very young guy who is finally figuring some things out. Brand and Iguodala are the very definition of solid.

    “Lack of half court game” Perhaps the biggest area of improvement for this team, save the Knicks performance is the half court game. Your comments at the end are telling “They’d need Turner and Holiday to play like Lebron James and Dwayne Wade”. If your point is that no one else is a contender because they don’t have those two players, then state your opinion as such. Then check yourself, because none of the teams that meet your superstar criterion [Miami, New York, OKC, maybe Chicago, and the Lakers] happened to win a championship last year, did they?

    “No go to guy yet” The Sixers have 7 players averaging in double figures and will likely have 8 by the end of another week [Meeks currently 9.1 and starting to shoot better]. The assumption that teams should all play the Old Head Celtics, Magic, Lakers, Knicks ISO game is a dinosaur mentality. There is more than one way to win.

    The Sixers are playing the most consistently intense defense in the league, and that is a factor that translates well into the playoffs. They run 9 players deep with significant minutes, meaning they’ll be able to wear out opponents down the stretch in most games. That is the reason they will be a 3 seed or higher in this year’s playoffs, and will be a feared opponent for anyone who faces them.

    I’m not saying this team is the best in the league. They have some very tough schedule stretches in which they’ll definitely take a step back. But they will win the Atlantic division, and they play a style of basketball more akin to the sound basketball of the pre-Jordan era than the star focused stylings of the last decade. That is a superior style of play, and only Chicago could be mentioned in the current NBA as playing that style. [Chicago, by the way, has superstars but less offensive punch than the Sixers.]

    Depending on how you define contender [in my opinion, that means a team with potential to make a conference finals and make a 6 game or longer series of it] I think you are dead wrong.

  • bluehen97

    I’m sorry but your outlook is horribly negative about our beloved 76ers. First off they don’t have a spuerstar, yes but they are 9-10 deep and playing TEAM ball. As you indicated the three loses were to “on paper” better teams but they were all on the road and close. Heck, I think that the absence of Hawes was huge against the Knicks on the road in the tail end of the backtobacktoback. I don’t know how you discount that at all but I guess some people are happy in misery. Are they championship contenders? Probably not, but they certainly could be 4th or 5th in the East. Chill out and enjoy the ride, unless you’re “that guy”.

    • dantewrites

      @bluehen97 Well, a superstar is a go-to guy, but a go-to guy doesn’t have to be a superstar. I’m not really asking for a superstar, I’m just looking for somebody to take over the game. I leave the door open with a “…yet” part because there are options that the team can use. But, all of last season, the team showed how bad they were in clutch situations from not having a go-to guy. I’m not saying to kill the team ball thing. It’s fut to watch, and I have no problem with a group of guys putting their pride aside for the good of the team.

      Again, that New York game was great. I was impressed by how they fought. But the Sixers are winning games they are suppose to win. And you don’t have to believe me but I’m hype. I’m loving winning basketball again. This is surely better than 03-04 and 09-10 seasons. At the same time, this team is at its max and until some moves are made or until players develop in a few more years, this team is not going far. And my ultimate goal is championship. I’m enjoying the ride. I’m also looking at what else the team can improve on. Looking ahead. Grow on the success. And those three things I mentioned are what contenders are good at or have.

      All I can do is agree with you with the points you made about how well this team is doing. But, before I see this team as a legit team, that can win it all, I have to see how well they do against much better teams. This team has shown improvement by destroying teams they would have had close games against last season. That’s a sign of a great team. Another sign of a great team is that you defeat other great teams. Sixers haven’t had that chance to prove themselves so I can only go by what I’ve seen last season and this season. I still see the same problems with this team but with all of the bad opponents, they were able to survive these same problems. But once the Sixers start beating the elite, then we can start saying this team is ready. Until then, they are a fun team to watch lose in the first round. And year after year of that gets boring. Time to get better and take things to the next level. And I don’t see that happening until Brand and Andre’s contracts are up.

  • Toney2Turner

    While you are busy making bold statements about what the Sixers aren’t, some things to consider.

    “Lack of a solid front court” This is garbage. If there is anything you should admit it is that they have a solid front court. There are not 5 centers in the league who are playing better than Hawes right now. He didn’t just have a lucky game or two. Heck, he never had two games in a row prior to this year performing at this level. He’s a very young guy who is finally figuring some things out. Brand and Iguodala are the very definition of solid.

    “Lack of half court game” Perhaps the biggest area of improvement for this team, save the Knicks performance is the half court game. Your comments at the end are telling “They’d need Turner and Holiday to play like Lebron James and Dwayne Wade”. If your point is that no one else is a contender because they don’t have those two players, then state your opinion as such. Then check yourself, because none of the teams that meet your superstar criterion [Miami, New York, OKC, maybe Chicago, and the Lakers] happened to win a championship last year, did they?

    “No go to guy yet” The Sixers have 7 players averaging in double figures and will likely have 8 by the end of another week [Meeks currently 9.1 and starting to shoot better]. The assumption that teams should all play the Old Head Celtics, Magic, Lakers, Knicks ISO game is a dinosaur mentality. There is more than one way to win.

    The Sixers are playing the most consistently intense defense in the league, and that is a factor that translates well into the playoffs. They run 9 players deep with significant minutes, meaning they’ll be able to wear out opponents down the stretch in most games. That is the reason they will be a 3 seed or higher in this year’s playoffs, and will be a feared opponent for anyone who faces them.

    I’m not saying this team is the best in the league. They have some very tough schedule stretches in which they’ll definitely take a step back. But they will win the Atlantic division, and they play a style of basketball more akin to the sound basketball of the pre-Jordan era than the star focused stylings of the last decade. That is a superior style of play, and only Chicago could be mentioned in the current NBA as playing that style. [Chicago, by the way, has superstars but less offensive punch than the Sixers.]

    Depending on how you define contender [in my opinion, that means a team with potential to make a conference finals and make a 6 game or longer series of it] I think you are dead wrong.

    • dantewrites

      @Toney2Turner Ok, ok let’s make sure you understand what I’m saying here. For the solid half court thing, I’m not saying they suck, but there are better options than both players. They are good players. To say they are solid, I’m talking in contender terms so I apologize for not making that clear. To me, having a solid C or PF means at least one of them is a star and really good defensively.

      You try to quote me and take my comment out of context here: They’d need Turner and Holiday to play like Lebron James and Dwyane Wade.” Meanwhile, I said this: And if they are, then Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday would have to be the next Dwyane Wade and LeBron James combo.”

      So why does that matter? Well my point is not that these two players need to be Wade and James in order to win. What I’m saying is that if Hawes and Brand are going to be starters for this team when they win the championship, then Holiday and Turner are going to have to be some of the best players in the NBA. I’m not giving an example of success. I’m using an example of skill. James and Wade are one of the best best duo in the NBA.

      And the go-to guy thing. I do apologize, I didn’t make my case clear. When I said lack of a go-to guy, I meant that we could use a guy to take over the game when the team needs points. The balance effort that the team gives is fine. But, I’d like to know who will take the last shot. I mentioned possible players. Also, when the team is trailing and need someone to give a scoring boost, who’s going to do it? Everybody? Fine. But history shows having that guy to take over helps. And again, last season showed that this team has that problem. I’m thinking 1 or a few players will develop into a consistent late game scorer. I’m not saying kill the ball sharing and multiple double-digit scorers. I’m just concerned for the end of the game and when the team is trailing and need somebody to able to catch fire and bring the team back to life. That’s all. I just don’t know a lot of teams that win championships who didn’t have that go-to guy. Doesn’t have to be a superstar. It just needs to be somebody who can create his own shot.

      I agree, Sixers should win the division. Celtics are too old, Raptors and Nets are not a threat, and Knicks are overrated. I don’t think they are contenders status yet though. A contender, to me, has at least one player who is a top 10, maybe 5 player in the league. They have one of the best post players as well as one of the best outside players. Sixers don’t have that. I need to see them vs the league elite before I say they are ready for anything.

  • dantewrites

    @Toney2Turner Ok, ok let’s make sure you understand what I’m saying here. For the solid half court thing, I’m not saying they suck, but there are better options than both players. They are good players. To say they are solid, I’m talking in contender terms so I apologize for not making that clear. To me, having a solid C or PF means at least one of them is a star and really good defensively.

    You try to quote me and take my comment out of context here: They’d need Turner and Holiday to play like Lebron James and Dwyane Wade.” Meanwhile, I said this: And if they are, then Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday would have to be the next Dwyane Wade and LeBron James combo.”

    So why does that matter? Well my point is not that these two players need to be Wade and James in order to win. What I’m saying is that if Hawes and Brand are going to be starters for this team when they win the championship, then Holiday and Turner are going to have to be some of the best players in the NBA. I’m not giving an example of success. I’m using an example of skill. James and Wade are one of the best best duo in the NBA.

    And the go-to guy thing. I do apologize, I didn’t make my case clear. When I said lack of a go-to guy, I meant that we could use a guy to take over the game when the team needs points. The balance effort that the team gives is fine. But, I’d like to know who will take the last shot. I mentioned possible players. Also, when the team is trailing and need someone to give a scoring boost, who’s going to do it? Everybody? Fine. But history shows having that guy to take over helps. And again, last season showed that this team has that problem. I’m thinking 1 or a few players will develop into a consistent late game scorer. I’m not saying kill the ball sharing and multiple double-digit scorers. I’m just concerned for the end of the game and when the team is trailing and need somebody to able to catch fire and bring the team back to life. That’s all. I just don’t know a lot of teams that win championships who didn’t have that go-to guy. Doesn’t have to be a superstar. It just needs to be somebody who can create his own shot.

    I agree, Sixers should win the division. Celtics are too old, Raptors and Nets are not a threat, and Knicks are overrated. I don’t think they are contenders status yet though. A contender, to me, has at least one player who is a top 10, maybe 5 player in the league. They have one of the best post players as well as one of the best outside players. Sixers don’t have that. I need to see them vs the league elite before I say they are ready for anything.

  • dantewrites

    @bluehen97 Well, a superstar is a go-to guy, but a go-to guy doesn’t have to be a superstar. I’m not really asking for a superstar, I’m just looking for somebody to take over the game. I leave the door open with a “…yet” part because there are options that the team can use. But, all of last season, the team showed how bad they were in clutch situations from not having a go-to guy. I’m not saying to kill the team ball thing. It’s fut to watch, and I have no problem with a group of guys putting their pride aside for the good of the team.

    Again, that New York game was great. I was impressed by how they fought. But the Sixers are winning games they are suppose to win. And you don’t have to believe me but I’m hype. I’m loving winning basketball again. This is surely better than 03-04 and 09-10 seasons. At the same time, this team is at its max and until some moves are made or until players develop in a few more years, this team is not going far. And my ultimate goal is championship. I’m enjoying the ride. I’m also looking at what else the team can improve on. Looking ahead. Grow on the success. And those three things I mentioned are what contenders are good at or have.

    All I can do is agree with you with the points you made about how well this team is doing. But, before I see this team as a legit team, that can win it all, I have to see how well they do against much better teams. This team has shown improvement by destroying teams they would have had close games against last season. That’s a sign of a great team. Another sign of a great team is that you defeat other great teams. Sixers haven’t had that chance to prove themselves so I can only go by what I’ve seen last season and this season. I still see the same problems with this team but with all of the bad opponents, they were able to survive these same problems. But once the Sixers start beating the elite, then we can start saying this team is ready. Until then, they are a fun team to watch lose in the first round. And year after year of that gets boring. Time to get better and take things to the next level. And I don’t see that happening until Brand and Andre’s contracts are up.

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