By Kyle McKeown
General manager Ed Stefanski worked feverishly this offseason to improve the team's power forward position. When Elton Brand unexpectedly opted out of his contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, Stefanski had opportunity he couldn't let slip away. While the Clippers played chess with Brand during negotiations, the 76ers offered Brand the lucrative five-year contract he desired and Brand was eager to accept.
Regular ten and 12 team leagues will also want to keep their eyes on some of the fringe players from the roster. Louis Williams should be the team's sixth man, playing 25-30 minutes per night. Williams can score in bunches and has the ability to both get to the line and distribute the ball. He should be on all fantasy managers' watch lists. Willie Green should see the largest deficit in playing time this season. His role has been diminished due to the emergence of Young and Williams, as well as the additions of Marshall, Ivey, and Rush. Ratliff will be asked to clog the paint for about 10-15 minutes a night, but he could see his minutes diminish if the 76ers decide to keep Speights with the big club instead of sending him down for seasoning in the NBA Developmental League. Marshall will struggle to see more than 8-12 minutes per game, and he won't even see the floor some nights. Jason Smith won't play with the team this year as he rehabs a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Reggie Evans lost his starting spot to Young late last season. With Brand manning the four now, Evans will serve the same role for Brand as Ratliff will for Dalembert. Expect Evans to see between 10-15 minutes a night and to spend a few nights cheerleading.
Rush and Ivey will battle Green for minutes backing up the guard spots. Neither should have much value, but one or the other might emerge as a three-point threat -- the one that does has potential to contribute in deep leagues.
Theo Ratliff: Ratliff was brought in after having revived his career in Detroit last season. He won't provide a lot of punch for most fantasy teams, but he is a solid blocks contributor even with limited floor time.
Thaddeus Young: Young began last season on the 76ers' bench, but his quality play in limited minutes earned him a spot in the starting five for 22 games near the end of the season. Coming off the bench, Young averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and shot 53 percent from the floor in 17.6 minutes per game. As a starter, his production jumped to 10.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and .550 field goal percentage in 29.1 minutes per game. Young's numbers didn't extrapolate in unison with his floor time, but another year in the rotation and a commitment to have him play his natural position of small forward instead of pushing him to power forward -- where he played most of last season -- should give him an opportunity to excel.
Reggie Evans: Evans will primarily be a bench player this season. He'll be asked to come in to provide energy and rebounding on the second unit. With Dalembert, Brand, and Young now locked in as the starting five, four, and three respectively, Evans will be counted on for much less this season. He'll be backing up Brand this season, which limits his minutes severely as Brand has been a workhorse his whole career and Stefanski has mentioned the possibility of running Brand at the five and Young at the four when Dalembert needs a break. Evans' only real hope of providing significant fantasy production would be if Brand or Dalembert were injured. Even then, he'd have to fight off Speights from claiming those minutes.
Marreese Speights: Speights is an explosive rookie who could see time at power forward and center this season. He slid in the draft as many teams questioned his work ethic and passion. Speights' strong showing in the summer league erased any question of whether this he deserves a place on a NBA roster.
Donyell Marshall: Marshall was brought in to provide veteran leadership and shooting from outside the perimeter. He's a career 35 percent 3-point shooter, a creative rebounder, and a consummate pro. Marshall will spend most nights on the bench while the 76ers rely on their guards to knock down the three.
Jason Smith: Smith tore his anterior cruciate ligament and is not expected to play during the 2008-09 season.
Andre Miller: Miller is the teams undisputed starting point guard. He came over to the 76ers in the 2006-07 season from Denver in the Iverson trade. His leadership allowed Iguodala and Dalembert to relax last season, giving them the opportunity to have career years. Miller is 32 years-old and in a contract year. Stefanski has said that the team is interested in re-signing him, but Miller's lack of representation has any contract talks on hold. If Miller re-ups with the 76ers and signs a contract during training camp then you can expect the same consistent output that fantasy owners have come to respect Miller for. If the 76ers allow Miller to play out the season without an extension, expect his number to rise a little. He was counted on for a significant amount of scoring last season that will not be required with Brand on the team. Look for Miller's assists to rise as his scoring dips slightly this year.
Louis Williams: Williams came off the bench to relieve Miller and Green at both guard spots last season. He's more of a scorer than pass-first point guard. Williams excelled as the team's sixth man last season and had periodical value throughout the season. Look for Williams to ingrain himself as the team's go-to scorer off the bench. If he can come to truly accept the sixth man role, he could be a valuable scoring and assist option for fantasy teams.
Willie Green: Green should see a significant reduction in playing time this season. With Young sliding into the small forward spot in the starting rotation, Iguodala will start at shooting guard every game and that pushes Green to the bench. He could create a time share with Williams, but the Detroit native has never been much more than a bench player.
Kareem Rush: Rush was brought in to provide further depth at the guard position and help expand the team's 3-point corps. With Brand manning the post down low, the 76ers have been furiously looking to load the team with quality 3-point shooters who will punish teams that collapse their defense on Brand.
Royal Ivey: Ivey signed with the 76ers this offseason to serve a bench role with the team. He'll back up both guard positions but will see very limited time. While playing for Milwaukee last season, he averaged 5.6 points, 2.1 assists, and 0.6 steals in 19.1 minutes per game. Ivey would be lucky to see that much playing time with the 76ers this season.