PHILADELPHIA 76ERS PREVIEW 2011
STATE OF THE FRANCHISE
The Sixers are returning their top 12 scoring, rebounding, and minutes leaders from last year; a shortened pre-season should not be a problem . After starting last season 3-13, the Sixers went 38-28 the rest of the way, making it to the playoffs as the seventh seed. They lost in the first round to the Miami Heat but held their own throughout most of the series. They will be led by veteran big man Elton Brand and breakout point guard Jrue Holiday. Andre Iguodala returns for his eighth season with the Sixers and will again anchor them at small forward. Their weakest position is center. Spencer Hawes will begin the season as the starter in the middle, but he was inconsistent last season, which will have first-round pick Nikola Vucevic pushing for a bigger role. Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams will be the first off the bench for the Sixers. Young was very effective in that role last season, finishing third in the Sixth Man of the Year voting. Their biggest strengths are their youth, which will come in handy during this shortened and vigorous season (66 games in a 123 days), and their continuity, having returned basically their whole team. The biggest key for the Sixers will be the development of second year guard Evan Turner. The 2010 second overall pick struggled with his confidence in his rookie season, shooting a dismal 42.5% from the field. He has worked diligently on his jump shot this off-season. Coach Doug Collins has raved about how comfortable and confident Turner looks so far in camp and wants to figure out more ways for him to control the ball on offense. If Turner continues his struggles, look for Jodie Meeks to take on a bigger role at shooting guard like he did last season.
PLAYING TIME DISTRIBUTION
Holiday will start at point guard and will see around 35 minutes per game. Williams will back him up and will also get a few minutes at the off guard position. Look for Williams to get something between 20-25 minutes per game. The starting shooting guard position is still up in the air between Turner and Meeks. Regardless of who starts, each player should see somewhere between 20-30 minutes per game. Iguodala will start at small forward, and being their best all-around player, should see over 35 minutes per game. Brand will get the majority of the minutes at the other forward position, seeing somewhere between 30-35 minutes per game. Young will be the first reserve forward and Philadelphia's best player off the bench. Expect him to get near 25 minutes per game. Marreese Speights will get around 10 minutes per game at center backing up both Brand and Hawes. Hawes will start at center and should see over 20 minutes per game. Look for Vucevic to challenge Hawes for playing time at center as well. He'll start the season getting about 15 minutes per game. Veteran Tony Battie will help stabilize the Sixers' frontcourt with about 10 minutes a game. The remainder of the bench will be filled by forwards Craig Brackins, Lavoy Allen, and Andres Nocioni, but they will likely get limited playing time.
Spencer Hawes: The seven-footer is expected to be the Sixers' starting center again this season. He struggled with his consistency and toughness last season , averaging 7.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and .88 blocks per game. He was Philadelphia's 10th overall pick in 2008 and they are 14-6 when he scores in double figures. As for fantasy value, Hawes should be considered a late option for a starting center.
Nikola Vucevic: The first-round draft pick (16th overall) will have an opportunity to play some significant minutes at center. Coach Doug Collins has mentioned that he expects Vucevic to get about 15 minutes per game, but if Spencer Hawes continues to struggle with his inconsistency, Vucevic could capitalize on the opportunity to earn more floor time. Collins likes his mobility, his feel around the post, and his strong jump shot. He could provide fantasy value in deeper leagues.
Tony Battie: Battie signed another one-year deal with the Sixers this season. He is the oldest player (35) on the team and will provide them with a solid veteran leadership. As far as playing time and numbers, he will be strictly a role player off the bench, providing defensive and rebounding help.
Elton Brand: Brand was durable last season, playing in 81 games, averaging 34.7 minutes per game. He has professed his healthiness when he came to camp and coach Doug Collins expects him to get 17 points and nine rebounds per game. That might be a stretch for the veteran power forward (entering his 14th season), but expect him to put up numbers close to last season (15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game).
Andre Iguodala: Iggy is entering his eighth season as probably the most talented player on a well-rounded team. His scoring was down last season - 14.1 points per game compared to 17.1 two seasons ago - but he averaged a career-high 6.3 assists per game. He's also a decent rebounder from the small forward position, averaging 5.8 per game for his career. The Sixers have gotten better and he has not had to take as many shots. Expect Iguodala to play a similar role this season.
Thaddeus Young: He finished third in the voting for the Sixth Man of the Year award, flourishing in coach Doug Collins' system. He averaged 12.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, and 1.1 steals in 26 minutes per game. He will continue to be the Sixers' most valuable bench player. Expect him to put up the same solid numbers.
Marreese Speights: Speights is a bruiser off the bench at 6-10¯ and 255 pounds. He played in 62 games last season, averaging 11.5 minutes per game. He's strictly a role player and should continue in that role.
Andres Nocioni: Nocioni is entering his eighth season (second with Philadelphia) in the NBA. He averaged a career-low 17.2 minutes per game last season and will likely play even less this season. He's still an above-average outside shooter (37.4 percent from long range) and there could be times this season when he gets significant minutes replacing an injured teammate.
Lavoy Allen: Allen was the 50th overall pick and has made a bit of an impression on coach Doug Collins early in camp. He's Temple's all-time leading rebounder, he's athletic and physical, and the Sixers are not very deep in their frontcourt. Allen could be a surprise to get a few extra minutes, especially when the injury bug hits the Sixers.
Craig Brackins: Brackins is a second-year swing man that is probably best suited at power forward (6-10¯, 230 lbs.), but coach Doug Collins wants to play him at small forward to create matchup problems for opponents. He's willing to shoot from the outside but he's not terribly accurate. He only appeared in three games last season and doesn't figure to make much impact this season.
Jrue Holiday: Holiday had a breakout year last season, averaging 14.0 points, 6.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game. He's the floor leader, and at only 21 years old, he is poised to become one of the top point guards in the game.
Evan Turner: A very athletic and all-around talent entering his second season, Taylor has worked extensively on his jump shot this offseason and coach Doug Collins is looking for major improvement from last year. He was drafted second overall in last year's draft and is still considered the backbone of the Sixers future. At 6-7, 205, Turner can cause matchup problems for opponents at shooting guard, and if his jump shot has truly improved, he should be able improve on his subpar rookie numbers ( 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.0 assists).
Jodie Meeks: Last year's starting off guard for the Sixers, Meeks will have tough competition from Evan Turner for that starting spot and most think that Turner will be the starter. Meeks is the team's best outside shooter (39.7 three-point percentage), averaging a career-high 10.5 points per game. The big question is the emergence of Turner. If Turner becomes the player he's supposed to be, Meeks will take a hit in playing time and his numbers will suffer.
Louis Williams: A solid back-up point guard entering his seventh season, Williams played well last year, averaging 13.7 points and 3.4 assists per game. He's not a great shooter, but he can score if gets opportunities. Look for Williams to be in the same role as last season, possibly playing a little less due to the continued growth of Jrue Holiday.
Evan Turner: It's hard to name a former number-two pick a sleeper, but expect Turner to improve his numbers drastically from his rookie season. Coach Collins is confident that this is going to be a breakout year.
Jodie Meeks: Although Meeks will continue to be a valuable player for the Sixers, his numbers are going to take hit when he gives up playing time to Turner. He will still be used off the bench to stretch defenses with his long-range shooting ability, but expect his minutes to drop down to near 20 per game.