The Sixers came into the season with two perceived advantages: depth and continuity. One of those was completely on target, the other a little bit iffy.
Let me explain: going into the season, we knew the Sixers had a roster of nine guys who were decent or better NBA players. Beyond that, the roster was a barren wasteland of veteran ‘savvy” and the “potential” of youth. We had no idea how Nikola Vucevic would play. I thought Lavoy Allen would be cut from the roster. We knew Tony Battie and Andres Nocioni stunk, and we knew Craig Brackins should have his bags packed for his eventual European career.
We thought Evan Turner would improve. We thought Spencer Hawes could maybe give us something. We thought Thaddeus Young might possess a real jumper. We thought Jrue Holiday could make a leap. We thought everyone else could roughly duplicate their performances from last season, whether it was Jodie Meeks‘ shooting or Andre Iguodala‘s defense or Lou Williams‘ point barrages or Elton Brand‘s strong post play. And we hoped Marreese Speights could give us anything, or else get out of town.
Most of these thoughts came to fruition. Speights is gone. Turner has improved markedly. Hawes has given us more in like 15 games than anyone could have imagined. Young’s jumper has been surprisingly decent, though he probably attempts too many of them. Iguodala’s defense has been superb, as always. Meeks struggled to start but has come to match last year’s performances. Lou’s still doing his thing. Brand and Holiday have failed to live up to expectations, but neither has been terrible on the whole.
But notice that, with Speights not playing, we were down to eight contributors from the preseason. We had the continuity, as the same eight guys played here last year. But if one or two players suffered injuries, the Sixers lack of proven talent beyond their top 8 would have been exposed. In their first game, the Sixers played only those eight guys, many of them more minutes than would be ideal. Collins didn’t want to rely on anyone else, because the rest of the bench players were either unproven or proven to be awful.
But then injuries and blowouts happened, and some players received time to shine, forced into action or not. Vucevic played well enough in blowouts to the point where Collins had to play him meaningful minutes. Then Spencer Hawes injured his back and leg, giving Nik even more of an opportunity, a chance to start against the Heat. The Sixers went from eight-deep to nine-deep. Then he got hurt during the Heat game, which caused SO MUCH BATTIE but also created a chance for Lavoy Allen to play meaningful minutes. Then he contributed. And kept contributing, up to the point where he took Vucevic’s rotation spot (granted, for some reason Battie was still playing, but whatever). The Sixers now stretch ten-deep, which includes five bigs, plus Tony Battie, Craig Brackins, and Francisco Elson as sixth, seventh, and eighth bigs.
We can now safely say that, aside from the Denver Nuggets, the Sixers have the deepest roster in the league. While they could still use a fifth guard (the Turner-Nocioni-Brackins-Allen-Elson lineup was painful to watch in blowouts), the Sixers have both extra players to use for trades or subs when injuries inevitably impact the team again. Unfortunately, some players will get squeezed out of the rotation, but as a coach and as fans that’s a nice problem to have.