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NBA Team Previews: 2008 Philadelphia 76ers Preview

Kyle McKeown

Kyle McKeown

Kyle McKeown is the Managing Editor of NBA Content for RotoWire.com. He hosts the Fantasy Basketball Podcast and writes about fantasy basketball. Kyle used to run an after school program and approaches his work as an editor with teaching in mind. He genuinely cares about helping others win their fantasy basketball leagues, which seems really dorky when it's written in the third person. kyle@rotowire.com


PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
By Kyle McKeown
RotoWire Writer



STATE OF THE FRANCHISE



The 76ers are coming off an impressive run in the playoffs last season in which they took the perennial Eastern Conference powerhouse Detroit Pistons to six games in the first-round. Lacking a low-post presence that Andre Miller could feed when the rest of the offense was sputtering; the 76ers weren't able to overcome the Pistons.


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.


To compliment the addition of Brand, the 76ers drafted Marreese Speights and signed Kareem Rush, Royal Ivey, Theo Ratliff, and Donyell Marshall.

PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION



Barring injuries, the 76ers should rely on a strong and consistent starting five. Last year coach Maurice Cheeks employed several different lineups while trying to find the right mix. This year's team will have a more defined rotation and give players specific roles to play, all cascading outward from Brand's post play. Brand, Andre Iguodala, and Miller will see between 35-40 minutes a night, Samuel Dalembert will get 33-35 minutes a night, and Thaddeus Young will get between 30-35 minutes a night. In terms of fantasy production, everyone in the starting lineup should be worthy of a roster spot in all but the shallowest of leagues.


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.

PLAYER OUTLOOKS



Center:



Samuel Dalembert: At the age of 27, Dalembert is entering what is traditionally considered a NBA player's prime years. The 76ers want him to be a defensive stopper in the vein of Ben Wallace. Dalembert is expected to rebound, block shots, and put-back any lay-ups that don't fall true. He averaged career highs in minutes (33.2), points (10.5), rebounds (10.4), and blocks (2.3) last season. Expect him to enjoy similar production this year playing alongside Brand. His points-per-game may dip slightly but his other numbers should stay consistent.


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.

Forward:



Elton Brand: Brand was the steal of this year's free agency class. Brand gives the 76ers the low-post presence they lacked in the playoffs last season. He's a consistent 20-10 power forward who also contributes in blocks, steals, field goal and free-throw percentage. Brand only played in the final eight games of last season as he spent most of the year recovering from a torn achilles injury that occurred during offseason workouts. His production at the end of last season displayed Brand's resiliency and ability to return from the injury while maintaining the same production he enjoyed prior to the injury. Brand's numbers won't change much as a 76er from his career averages. Depending on how his achilles holds up in training camp, he may see slightly tempered playing time at the beginning of the season.


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.

Guard



Andre Iguodala: Iguodala has been the 76ers go-to scorer since Allen Iverson was traded to Denver in the 2006-07 season. He saw time at shooting guard and small forward last season but should get most of his minutes at shooting guard this year with Green being moved out of the starting lineup and Brand and Young sliding into the starting five. Expect Iguodala's production to change a little bit this season. With a strong low post presence in Brand joining the team, he should be asked to step behind the arc more. That will reduce his rebound numbers, but it should also increase his 3-pt totals.


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.

Sleeper:



Louis Williams: Anything is possible in the magical world of the NBA. The 76ers are committed to Andre Miller as their team's point guard, but if the team flounders early in the season, Miller falls to injury, or there are chemistry concerns at some point, the 76ers could turn to Williams to take over the point guard role. Williams has the talent to score over 20 points a night and average over seven assists per game as a starting point guard.

Bust:



Willie Green: The inexperience of last year's team allowed him to steal 26.6 minutes per game in 74 starts in the regular season. The team's emergence in the playoffs included Green's role being decreased to 23.7 minutes per game. He's only 27 years-old, but, with a career .309 3-point percentage, he doesn't fit the needs of the 76ers' current configuration. Unless he can hit the deep ball consistently, he won't come close to seeing 26 minutes per game this season, and he'd be lucky to see floor time as a starter, even with an injury to a teammate.

Article first appeared on 9/16/08