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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