STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Sixers finished last season 27-55, their worst record in 13 years. Eddie Jordan did such a terrible job in his first season as the Sixers’ head coach that he was fired and paid out for the remaining two years of his contract. Doug Collins was brought in to replace Jordan as coach, and Rod Thorn was hired to take over the president position from Ed Stefanski, who remains with the team as the general manager. Entering last season, expectations were high after the team finished with a .500 record and gave the Orlando Magic a run for their money in the first round of the 2009 playoffs. However, a 12-game losing streak that started in mid-November and carried into early December ended the honeymoon period for Jordan in Philly, and the team began making desperate moves to try to salvage the season. Allen Iverson came out of a month-long retirement to return to the Sixers but was unable to put up the prolific stats he became known for in his initial 11-year stint with the team, and the experiment failed to improve the team’s production on the court. Jordan’s mystifying rotations and befuddling offense created turmoil for the team on the court that leaked into the locker room and ultimately lead to his firing. Collins was brought in to give the Sixers a renewed focus. In an effort to make Collins’ job easier, the Sixers traded disgruntled big man Samuel Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings this offseason in exchange for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni. With the second pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, the Sixers drafted Evan Turner, the reigning Associated Press National Player of the Year. Expectations have been tempered this season, but with little change in their roster from the team that made a good run at the Magic in the 2009 playoffs, the Sixers have the potential and talent to be a solid playoff contender this season.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Andre Iguodala should lead the team in minutes, averaging anywhere from 38-40 minutes per game this season as the team’s primary shooting guard and part-time small forward, at least until Evan Turner proves capable of handling the SG duties on his own. Jrue Holiday should play almost exclusively at point guard and average a minimum of 32-35 minutes per game. Turner’s minutes may be shorter in the opening months of the season, but as long as he shows improvement in-season, he should finish the year averaging over 30 minutes per game. Hawes and Elton Brand should earn between 26-30 minutes a night. Thaddeus Young and Louis Williams should play about 22 minutes per game, and Marreese Speights and Nocioni will likely round out the rest of the primary nine-man rotation while averaging about 16 minutes a night. Jodie Meeks, Darius Songaila, Craig Brackins, Tony Battie and Jason Kapono will receive random garbage minutes and extended play when the primary rotation players are out with injuries.
Spencer Hawes: Hawes has received high praise from Thorn and Collins since being acquired from the Kings. They believe his youth, talent and size were underappreciated in Sacramento and that he’ll be able to help the Sixers immediately. Thorn has talked about Hawes’ passing ability being a boon to Young, Iguodala and Turner. However, how well he does defensively in the preseason will determine whether he is given the starting center job to begin the season, and whether he starts will be the most important part in defining how successful Hawes will be as a fantasy player. Hawes committed to working on his post game this offseason. Inconsistent play and a lack of discipline through his first two years kept Hawes on the bench for stretches and put his development on hold to some degree.
Tony Battie: Battie gives the team a solid veteran presence on the bench. He will play the role of good soldier in an attempt to show the kind of professionalism the Sixers hope to instill in their young big men. The only floor time he’ll see will likely be in blowouts.
Andre Iguodala: Iguodala should once again be the Sixers’ primary playmaker, but he won’t have the ball in his hands as much this season. With Holiday, Turner, and Williams in the backcourt, the Sixers have several options for initiating the offense. Iguodala has been given the directive to take fewer jump shots and go to the line more often this season. Though his assist numbers may falter slightly, his rebounding, steals and percentages should improve.
Elton Brand: Brand will enter training camp as the starting power forward or center. When Collins was first hired, he envisioned playing Brand at center more than he’d prefer to, because he wasn’t sure how he was going to utilize Dalembert on the team. Dalembert’s departure brought back Hawes, whose talents Collins believes makes the team better and will allow Brand to play in his natural power forward position. With a more traditional coach at the helm, this year should be the litmus test to show whether Brand’s decline the last few season was due to misuse or the specter of age and health.
Thaddeus Young: We initially thought Young might be pushed to a bench role this year based on Philly's offseason acquisitions, but it's looking more likely that Andre Iguodala will start at shooting guard, opening a spot for Young at small forward. Most of his fantasy contributions in his first two years were the result of highly efficient play in limited possessions. If he does start, his fantasy prospects would improve considerably, but it's only a matter of time before Evan Turner moves into the starting lineup, pushing Iguodala to small forward and Young to the bench.
Marreese Speights: Speights’ role on the team will be reflective of how he develops on the defensive end of the floor. How well he does there will decide how many he minutes he plays this season. It would take an injury to Brand, Hawes or Young for him to earn enough minutes to be of use in most fantasy leagues. If given the minutes, he has the potential to be a good fantasy contributor.
Andres Nocioni: Nocioni was traded to the Sixers as part of the Hawes/Dalembert swap this offseason. He’ll back up Young or Iguodala at small forward and could see some minutes at power forward and shooting guard in rare lineup configurations. A willingness to play defense and his reputation as a hustler will earn him minutes over Kapono and possibly even Speights many nights. Nocioni’s ability to stretch the floor and knock down the three-point shot will also keep him on the floor, but he’d likely need an injury to Iguodala or Young to see enough minutes to contribute in most standard fantasy leagues.
Darius Songaila: Acquired in an August trade with the Hornets, Songaila averaged 7.1 points per game last season and made a mark as good free throw shooter for New Orleans, connecting on 81.1 percent from the line. However, he's not an elite defender and will have to battle with Speights and Craig Brackins for minutes off the bench.
Craig Brackins: Another player acquired from New Orleans, Brackins brings size to the table, using his 6-10, 230-pound build to crash the boards and block shots. Brackins brings more athleticism and better defensive potential to the table than Songaila, but minutes will be distributed sparingly due to his lack of experience and the logjam at power forward.
Jrue Holiday: Holiday will be the Sixers’ starting point guard and could turn out to be one of the best value picks in fantasy drafts this season. He chooses his spots well, which keeps his percentages high, but his statistical totals can falter as a result of his selflessness. How much his assist numbers improve will depend on how often the Sixers look to Iguodala and Turner to initiate the offense. Collins will look for Holiday to play strong defense, initiate the offense and hit spot-up threes to help capitalize off the kick-out when Iguodala and Turner attack the rim. He’s a traditional point guard and should put up good stats in the assist, steal and three-point categories this season.
Evan Turner: Early struggles in the preseason may keep Turner out of the starting lineup to begin the season. When he's playing, the Sixers will ask him to rebound, facilitate and score, but he’ll need to play solid defense to stay on the court. He won’t handle the ball as much as he did in college, and playing off the ball was something the Sixers had him working on in the Orlando Summer League. Scouts have compared his game to Portland’s Brandon Roy, but Turner is coming into a situation with more established players than Portland had in Roy’s rookie year. An underwhelming showing in the Orlando Summer League and the early preseason has lowered expectations for Turner’s rookie season, but his ability to put up positive stats in virtually every statistical category makes him a high-potential fantasy prospect.
Louis Williams: Williams will be limited to a bench role this season. In fact, without a significant injury to Holiday or Turner, Williams will likely see a reduction in minutes and production this season.
Jodie Meeks: The drafting of Turner nullified any real opportunity that Meeks’ strong play at the end of last season may have opened up, but he could also be the first player to benefit if Turner suffers any significant injury this season.
Jason Kapono: There’s an outside chance that Kapono could be a regular part of the rotation backing up Iguodala and Turner, but, even if he did get more playing time than Nocioni and Meeks, it’s unlikely he’ll play enough to be of use in anything but the deepest of fantasy leagues.
Spencer Hawes: If you can buy into the argument that Hawes’ struggles and inconsistencies in his first two seasons were a symptom of youth, then Hawes has the highest breakout potential of all the Sixers’ young big men. His ability to extend above his defenders, spread the floor, pass from the center position and alter shots makes him a unique talent. Draft him in the late rounds, and hope that Collins can help the 22-year-old behemoth focus his considerable potential.
Thaddeus Young: Young may begin the year as the starter, but his minutes will shrink when Turner inevitably joins the starting lineup. His style of play requires that he have efficient possessions in order to contribute significantly in fantasy. With Brand eating up most of the minutes at power forward, Young’s primary position, and Iguodala likely to move back to small forward when Turner is playing shooting guard, there won’t be enough minutes left for Young to be the player he showed he could be during his first two seasons.