In preparation for the series, I sent each staff member instructions to come up with some questions to answer. I also answered them. Here’s what we think:
1. Many Sixers fans, possibly even a majority, believe it would have been better to miss the playoffs than make it only to lose in round one. Do you share that opinion?
Sean O’Connor: Considering what direction the team decided to go in to start the season, no, I don’t share that opinion. The Sixers decided that playing to win this year was the goal, while also developing their young players. Sadly, they fell short of the goals for both player development and win totals. Dropping out of the playoffs intentionally for a pick that’s 3 spots higher or so would have made the entire season pointless. You can argue that they should have gone in a different direction from the start, which I’d reluctantly agree with. But considering their choices, tanking down the stretch would’ve been completely pointless.
Kyle Bright: No I don’t. Late lottery picks really aren’t very useful, and when you are a young team like the Sixers, the experience of a playoff series that could be competitive definitely tops landing a pick in the 12-14 range. You’ll pick 15 anyway if you are the Sixers, and it’s not like those couple picks mean the difference between a fringe role player and Anthony Davis. I guess you could make the case that the changes that would come with missing the playoffs could help, but it’s on the front office to improve the team regardless. Give me the playoffs anytime.
Dante Nelson: I was one of the front runners for this idea, so yes. The reason why I thought missing the playoffs was a good thing for this franchise was because I was hoping that it would somehow shock the team into making changes to get out of mediocrity. It seems like to me, team management is content on being “young” and “exciting” to go along with the “anything can happen” type thing. Hey, did you know that ever since round one of the playoffs were in the best out of 7-game format, nobody in the 8th or 7th seed in the east has won a series? Since 2003 I believe. Only 3 times in the west. But, in any case, you need to have a real team that can make some noise in the playoffs. You can’t just “anything can happen” your way to the top. But, looking at the large picture, as long as the Sixers are relevant in the NBA world, it seems like no major changes will be made to build a contender. Or at least there won’t be a heavy rebuilding project going on. I was hoping that maybe missing the playoffs would kinda force the rebuilding.
Stephane Hardinger: Yes I do share that opinion. While missing the playoffs wouldn’t have gotten the Sixers Anthony Davis, it would have forced the new ownership group to make some tough decisions this offseason. In today’s NBA, the Sixers are in the worst place to be: mediocrity. They aren’t bad enough to be competing for one of the top picks, but they aren’t good enough to contend for a championship. When you’re in no-man’s land like they are, the best thing to do is tear it down and rebuild. Missing the playoffs would have forced the ownership group to make significant changes in the offseason. Instead, they can hang their hat on “a record over .500″ and a “playoff appearance” and keep the same core around for next season.
Danny Solis: No, I don’t share that opinion whatsoever. I understand it though, it’d be more than amazing to bring some more young talent to Philly, but I’m tired of drafts. I also understand the Sixers are falling into another first-round exit, but as a fan, I want to see this group get slapped around to learn their lesson — to prep them for next season. I also despise watching the playoffs without the Sixers, it’s not as exciting when your home team is also sitting at home watching it with you.
2. What starting five would you have used for this series? (Note: this was asked before Lavoy Allen was given the start)
SO: Holiday, Meeks, Iguodala, Young, Brand. I think that matches up best with Chicago’s first five. Turner’s numbers against the Bulls this year are miserable, and we’ll need some floor spacing against the Bulls stingy defense, so I’d leave him out. Without Jodie or another shooter I think the Bulls can clamp down on the paint without any consequences against the rest of these guys. Meanwhile, Young adds even more of a shooting punch, which the first five needs badly. Chicago’s bigs aren’t huge, so Young and Brand wouldn’t be too disadvantaged.
KB: Holiday, Turner, Iguodala, Brand, Hawes. Jrue, Dre, and Brand are givens, with the other two spots more up in the air. Despite Turner’s inconsistency, when he is on, he can really be the Sixers scoring force. Meeks floor spacing is nice, but he really isn’t that much above average on threes than the rest of the NBA, and that’s basically all he contributes. Someone has to get by Chicago’s stellar D, and Turner can be that guy. As for Hawes, I really just think he is better at most things than the alternatives, and his passing can really help in the half court.
DN: Holiday, Turner, Iguodala, Brand, Hawes. At first I was going to just pull out names out of a hat. Would rather not see Jodie Meeks out there. I guess I’ll put Spencer Hawes in there at center. Lavoy Allen could start maybe. I don’t even know nor care as it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference who starts at center.
SH: Holiday, Turner, Iguodala, Brand, Hawes. Jrue, Iggy, and Brand are all self explanatory, but I went with Turner because he has the potential to play good perimeter defense and be a threat to get penetration on the Bulls defense. He offers a dimension to the offense that Jodie Meeks doesn’t. As for Hawes, he’s simply better than the other options. I think Lavoy Allen is too small to deal with Noah, Vucevic is too inexperienced, and Tony Battie is too awful. By process of elimination, it’s Hawes.
DS: Holiday, Turner, Iguodala, Young, Hawes.
3. Who is the Sixers’ biggest X-Factor?
SO: Spencer Hawes. If he can play like he did to start the season, then the Sixers absolutely have a chance to make this series outcome competitive. If he plays decently, he can make the series plain competitive. And if he fails to show up, then maybe someone can challenge him to a political debate. Hopefully in that debate someone reminds him that his contract expires as soon as the season ends, and then he tries to play well. All joking aside, the Sixers have two effective bigs and need three. Hawes has the ability to become that third guy, if he plays to his potential.
KB: Evan Turner. The second year guard has shown flashed of brilliance but hasn’t been on nearly often enough. If he can get hot for this series, he could be huge for the Sixers offense. Also, the better he plays on offense, the more he can help on defense instead of Jodie Meeks, as he is superior on that end.
DN: If Jodie Meeks does end up starting (he probably will), and if he can get out of his shooting slump, he’ll be valuable for the Sixers’ offense. He doesn’t have to go off for 21 points per night. He can’t do that anyway. But if he can spread the floor, it can open up the lanes for players to take it to the cup and then either score or kick it out to Meeks if defenders collapse. I personally don’t think that it will work out because the Sixers obviously don’t deal with all that contact stuff as they are dead last in FT attempts. Even when they get to the line, they’re one of the worst there anyway so wether the Sixers take advantage remains to be seen. But the potential is there I guess if Meeks can hit his shots.
SH: The biggest X-factor for the Sixers is Jrue Holiday. He needs to be able to score consistently, penetrate and find open shooters, and play good defense. He cannot be passive in this series or the Sixers will get run out of the building.
DS: I think Lou Williams is the X-factor heading into the series. Here’s a player that averaged 15 points all season, but has his ups and downs. There’d be nothing better to see him go off during a few games during this series against Chicago.
4. If the Sixers were to upset the Bulls in the series, what would have to go right for them?
SO: As I mentioned above, Hawes will need to play insanely well. The Bulls would need an injury or two, including one which significantly hampers Derrick Rose. They would also need to perform well in close games, since I doubt the Sixers can blow the best team in the Eastern Conference out 4 times. And someone will have to put points on the board. I’m looking namely at Meeks and Lou.
KB: Spencer Hawes would have to find his early season grove, Elton Brand would have to come up huge on the boards (The Bulls are the best rebounding team in the NBA), and either Jodie or Evan Turner would have to get super hot. It’s really unlikely, but if Hawes gets in that really early season grove, that could open a lot of things up, and really help neutralize the Bulls rebounding. Brand could also help with that, and like I said before, if Turner gets hot, it would really help. Jodie hitting his threes like he does in stretches would also help open up the offense.
DN: Rose has been unhealthy recently. But he’s still the man. If Sixers want a chance at winning this series, they have to stop penetration. Rose will be slowed down with his back issues but he will still be the number one player to take it to the cup. Keep Rose out of the paint, and the Sixers can certainly stand a chance. Defense will have to be solid overall.
SH: It’s going to be tough, and doesn’t seem very likely, but the Sixers need 3 things to happen in order to beat the Bulls in this series. First, they need Derrick Rose to be less than 100% healthy. This team is very reliant on Rose’s ball-dominant scoring and penetrating from the perimeter, and if Rose isn’t healthy the offense is much less effective. Secondly, they need to play suffocating defense. The Bulls have one of the best defenses in the league, but the Sixers can match them in that regard. Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand have anchored this defense all season long, and both will need to continue to play well in the series. Third, the Sixers need Evan Turner and Jrue Holliday to step up in the series. Turner needs to be a consistent offensive threat for the Sixers, since they’ve struggled with consistent scoring at times and that won’t be easy against the Bulls. Holliday needs to try to neutralize the Bulls’ PGs Rose and CJ Watson, who had a very good season himself. Too often Jrue plays passively, but he needs to assert himself and take good shots or find the open man.
DS: Pretty much everything would have to go right. Hawes couldn’t miss his 18-footers, Meeks will knock down his open three’s, Jrue will somehow limit his turnovers, Iguodala will grow a brain and drive the ball to the hole. An upset is so unrealistic, to be a realistic Sixer fan — the Sixers would need to connect in every phase of their gameplan, as if they were playing the Bobcats or the Wizards.
5. Is there actually a chance for a series upset? What are the odds?
SO: So Rose must get injured, Hawes will have to play well, and the Sixers will have to perform well in the clutch. I don’t see all of that happening, but I guess it can. I’d put the odds at well less than 5%, but it’s not totally impossible.
KB: There’s a chance. Not a very good chance, but a chance. For example, Rose could reinjure any of his problems, and maybe Deng goes down. Obviously that’s a low chance, but I also think there’s a slight chance with no injuries. If the Sixers just get hot on offense, they can already shut down Chicago on D, and they can win some low scoring grind it affairs. It’s slim, but it’s hard to deny it’s there.
DN: I don’t think Sixers can get it done. For one thing, he’s Derrick Rose. There’s a reason why he was MVP last year. Injuries slowed him down but I think he can still make a great impact. It’s not all on Jrue although Jrue needs to be able to stay in front of Rose for as much as possible. Pick and roll defense will need some work too. Odds of this happening consistently over a span of 4-7 games is low. A game or two can maybe be stolen, but there’s no chance Sixers pull off an upset unless Rose was out completely.
SH: There is a chance. I mean, as Kevin Garnett once said, “Anything is possible!!!!!”. I’d say there’s a 10% chance for the upset. But all of the factors I mentioned in #4 have to come together. Jrue and Evan have to play well, the defense has to be consistently good, and Rose has to play poorly. The If all of these things don’t happen, they won’t win more than 1 or 2 games, let alone the series.
DS: The odds are nothing. Philadelphia doesn’t have the group of guys dedicated and talented enough to take down Chicago. Regardless of Derrick Rose’s status, the Sixers are doomed in this series. We can also thank Evan Turner for running his mouth eventhough he was right about the Bulls being a better match up. Chicago will burn the Sixers in this series, be it five or six games. As a fan, I can only hope to be wrong.
6. How is the series going to end? Also, what’s one bold prediction you have for the series?
SO: Bulls in 6. I’ve been wavering between 5 and 6 but the homer in me pushes the series to 6 games. Now here’s a bold prediction: the Sixers will win both of their games by 10+, while the teams will have an even point differential when the series is over. I don’t trust the Sixers to win close, but I think the Sixers can pull a couple of big wins (by 10 or more) out.
KB: Bold prediction? Bulls take it in 7. Derrick Rose hasn’t been playing much, so he’ll be rusty coming back. If the Sixers can take game 1 in that scenario, and then take 3 or 4 at home, they’ll just have to win five or six to get to game seven. I expect either game 3 or 4, and I think six at home would be such a great atmosphere maybe the Sixers can pull one out at the end. I really was trying to talk myself into a Sixers win, and I almost succeeded, but too much has to break right, like a great start to the series. Still, I like this matchup for the Sixers, and I think they can push Chicago to the brink.
DN: My prediction is that Sixers do not get swept. I think there is a reason why Sixers have been able to hang with the Bulls for the past two seasons. And, with just about the same roster during this time, we can almost expect the same result. But that’s not all. I think I’m looking for that 20-9 team to show up for the first round. I have no idea why. If the 20-9 Sixers come back, along with Rose and even Luol Deng having some trouble with injuries, Sixers could grab 2 wins. I’m leaning towards 20-9 Sixers coming back though and in that case it would be a series going 6 games. Bulls win in 6.
SH: Bulls win in 5 games. Despite Rose being less than 100% coming in, the Bulls have proven that they are still able to win games (including beating the Heat) without him at his best. The Sixers offense simply won’t be able to overcome the depth and quality the Bulls have on defense, and Joakim Noah will have a very good series in the paint on both ends of the floor and the Sixers will not be able to contain him. This would have been a much more competitive series if it had been played at the midway point of the season, but the Sixers have faded down the stretch and this series has all the signs of a gentlemen’s sweep in the making. Hopefully I’m wrong, go Sixers!
DS: Bold prediction: Elton Brand is the Sixers’ best player this series. Carlos Boozer isn’t great defensively and Brand has the ability to step out and knock down jumpers, taking him and Noah away from the basket. Brand always plays hard and quietly had a very good season defensively. I say the Bulls win in 5 games. The Sixers will keep each game close, but their lack of crunch-time execution will be their downfall.