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2011-2012 Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On December 22, 2011 @ 12:37 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Philadelphia 76ers may not have landed a big name in free agency, but that doesn’t preclude them from improving upon last season’s 41-41 record. Doug Collins’ team has a subtle combination of youth and experience that bodes well for the immediate and long-term future of the franchise. Point guard Jrue Holiday is starting his third year at only 21 years of age and he’s flanked by young talents like Jodie Meeks (24-years old), Lou Williams (25), Evan Turner (23), Spencer Hawes (23), Marreese Speights (24), Thaddeus Young (23), Craig Brackins (24) and rookie center Nikola Vucevic (21), so team president Rod Thorn has the pieces to work with. Now he has to decide what to do with veterans Andre Iguodala, Andres Nocioni and Elton Brand. Maybe that will be a challenge, but it’s one most front office executives would envy.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2011-2012 Philadelphia 76ers:
|Five Guys Think…|
Coming off of a surprise playoff run in which they put forth a solid effort against the Miami HEAT, the 76ers come into this season with much more confidence and experience. Head coach Doug Collins has proven to be the right guy to lead this young team, which should make significant strides in his second year on the sidelines. A lot of attention is going to be on Andrei Iguodala and whether or not he should be traded. What the 76ers need to do is actively seek a star who can push him into the number two role. Their improving young core could provide them the assets they need to make a big move. Even if they stand pat, though, this is a team that will only be behind the championship contenders in the Atlantic.
3rd Place, Atlantic Division
- Yannis Koutroupis
The Sixers ended last season on a definite high note, holding their own with the Miami HEAT, for the most part. Doug Collins instilled a level of confidence that they all needed, from Elton Brand to Evan Turner. Internal development is the key for Philly, and with young players like Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young in town the future is certainly bright. It will be interesting to see how long Andre Iguodala and Marreese Speights are in town.
3rd Place – Atlantic Division
- Bill Ingram
If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, and we should be, the Sixers completely overachieved last season. Doug Collins did an amazing job with a group that had no business going .500 last season, but the fact that they overachieved and barely broke even doesn’t bode well for 2012, because they’re bringing back the exact same team. I have a hard time seeing them do better than a year ago, and the Eastern Conference has only gotten tougher. They’ll be lucky to get back into the playoffs.
4th Place, Atlantic Division
- Joel Brigham
Head coach Doug Collins changed the culture in his first season in Philadelphia. The result was a return to the postseason which gave the team’s young core of Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes valuable experience on what it takes to win at a high level in the league. Collins was also able to maximize the production of veteran forward Elton Brand who played 81 games – his most since 2007. Forward Andre Iguodala also earned his first All-Defensive team selection. The 76ers didn’t make any splashy moves during the offseason and are counting on their emerging core to continue its growth. If the youngsters continue to compliment the established veterans, expect another return to the playoffs.
3rd Place, Atlantic Division
- Lang Greene
The Philadelphia 76ers have stockpiled young talent in recent years and their goal is to eventually make the transition from promising team to legitimate contender. While that could happen down the road, this doesn’t seem to be the year that the team takes that next step forward. They still have one of the youngest teams in the entire league and they’ll have a difficult time competing in the stacked Atlantic Division. Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young may show improvement, but Philadelphia is still a few years away from being competitive in the East.
3rd Place, Atlantic Division
- Alex Kennedy
|Top Of The List|
Top Offensive Player: Like almost any category on this team, there are a number of players that could be considered for the “Top” superlative. But in this case, a bold prediction is warranted: This is going to be Jrue Holiday’s offense in 2011-2012. Yes, Andre Iguodala has dominated the ball in the past and Lou Williams might be the best pure scorer on the team, but this year Holiday is the man to watch. At 6-4, Holiday sees the floor better than most smaller point guards. He dramatically reduced his turnover rate from his first to second season (15.7% of his possessions ended in a turnover in 2009-2010 as opposed to just 11.8% last year) and he’s maintained a solid, if not spectacular, shooting percentage from 3-point range (37.5% for his career, although he’s averaged less than one 3-pointer per game). Now it’s time for him to become more assertive and establish himself as a consistent scorer (14 ppg last year) and distributor (6.5 apg).
Top Defensive Player: Holiday can definitely be considered for this as well, but Andre Iguodala has made a living locking down Paul Pierce, Vince Carter and the rest of the top perimeter players over the past seven years. Of all the top wing defenders in basketball—and Iguodala definitely belongs in that group—Iguodala is one of the few that also contributes significantly on offense. If there’s a team that anticipates having to defend the likes of Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant in a seven-game series, they’d do well to give Thorn a call and see what it would take to make a deal. Iguodala has had one foot out the door for the past two seasons and now seems like the last chance to get a major haul for the 27-year-old swingman.
Top Playmaker: Holiday and Iguodala both had assist rates (percentage of possessions that end with an assist) of over 28%, but it’s the third-year point guard that gets the nod in this category. The offense was slightly more efficient in 2010-2011 (up to 104 points per 100 possessions from 103.4 points per 100 possessions in 2009-2010) and a lot of that has to do with the Holiday’s progression. Holiday also doesn’t play favorites, which means anyone on the floor could be taking the shot on any given possession. The 21-year old isn’t among the best point guards in the NBA yet, but that seems like an inevitability as time goes on.
Top Clutch Player: In the past, Iguodala would have been considered the team’s top last-second option, but now Lou Williams might be stepping into that role. The 76ers were close to being swept by the Miami HEAT in the first round of last year’s Eastern Conference Playoffs until Williams sank a high, arcing 3-pointer over Dwyane Wade to give Philadelphia an 86-82 lead with 8.1 seconds remaining in Game 4. The 76ers fell in Game 5, but it was still a thrill for Philly fans to see Williams step up and confidently sink a game-winning shot.
The Unheralded Player: It seems odd to consider a former All-Star an “unheralded player,” but that is exactly what Elton Brand has become. How many people noticed that he still averaged 15.0 ppg and 8.3 rpg last season? How many people noticed him blocking 1.3 shots per game or his 55.3 true shooting percentage? Brand is still a leader on and off the court, and when people want to know why he hasn’t been amnestied, it’s because the dude can still play.
Best New Addition: Nicola Vucevic isn’t so much the “best” new addition as he is the “only” new addition. That shouldn’t discourage 76ers fans though. The USC product is 7-0, 240 pounds, and although he isn’t dominant in any particular area, his even smattering of skills is a nice change from the all-O, no-D Spencer Hawes and the foul-prone Marreese Speights. Vucevic logged 22 minutes in the first preseason game, and while he didn’t register a rebound or a point, he somehow managed five assists. It’s not quite clear if that means anything, but it sure is an interesting stat line for a center.
- Alex Raskin
|Who We Like|
1. Jrue Holiday – A 21-year-old point guard who stands 6-4, makes good decisions with the basketball, plays solid defense and already has two NBA seasons under his belt… Yes please.
2. Doug Collins – Not every coach gets better with age, but Collins is mastering that process in front of our eyes. He’s comfortable letting veterans like Brand and Iguodala do some of the leading, but he’s also been firm with some of the younger players. In his first season back on the bench, the 76ers went from ranking 23rd in defensive efficiency to ranking eighth. Another improvement like that and Collins would deserve Coach of the Year consideration.
3. Thaddeus Young – The combo forward is signed through 2015-2016 at $7 million per year. So is that a bargain or a mistake? At the moment Young is one of the best bench options in the NBA because he creates so many matchup problems. He’s too strong for small forwards and much too quick for power forwards. Throw in his ability to drive the lane like a locomotive and you have a real weapon. The question is, how will those skills mature? He’s still not a great shooter and it’s unlikely that, at 6-7, he can transition to power forward as he gets older. Fans generally don’t like it when their team plays small, but for right now, Young is most dangerous when he lines up at the 4.
4. Andre Iguodala – As a trade chip or just a savvy veteran, Iguodala makes the 76ers a much better team. The best perimeter defenders in the NBA tend to be guys like Tony Allen, who don’t offer much offensively. The fact that Iguodala can pass and score makes him a truly unique player. It’s a shame we’ve never seen him play for a consistent winner, because Iguodala is the type of player stars should be asking their general manager to trade for.
5. Lou Williams – You have to pair him with a big guard who can distribute the ball because Williams is a pint-sized score-first, pass-last kind of guy. Fortunately the 76ers have three such players (Turner, Holiday and Iguodala) who can defend shooting guards while letting Williams play off the ball on offense. The great thing about Williams’ game is that he gets into the lane, draws fouls, hits layups and generally creates havoc for opposing defenses. Maybe Collins didn’t ask for this type of a player, but the fact that Williams plays significant minutes shows how Collins has become more open minded.
- Alex Raskin
The 76ers bench ranked fourth in the NBA in scoring last season, seventh in field goal percentage, ninth in rebounds and sixth in free throw attempts per game. The bottom line is, Philadelphia’s second unit is just an extension of its first unit. The league-wide model of having a couple of stars surrounded by role players doesn’t really apply to the 76ers, who have around seven or eight players who can drop 25 points on any given night. Throw in solid defense and you’re looking at a team that could definitely surprise a higher seed in the playoffs.
- Alex Raskin
The team relies too much on Jodie Meeks’ perimeter shooting and they’re still lacking a dominant defensive presence in the paint. It’s also a bit strange to see the 76ers ranking in the bottom half of the NBA in rebounding rate. Some of that has to do with Hawes’ allergy to the paint, but he actually became a better rebounder last year. Beyond perimeter shooting and rebounding, the 76ers are still looking for a go-to guy.
- Alex Raskin
|The Coach’s Chair By Anthony Macri|
We had a great thing going last year. Now it’s a matter of turning into results out on the floor at a greater rate over the course of an entire season. Jrue, Evan, we need you to take the next step in your personal evolution as players. Elton, Andre, be the steady forces you have been your careers and help these young guys mature and develop. That recipe gave us some success last year, and it will be even better this year. With a team as balanced as ours is, the real calling card for our success must be on the defensive end. We need to find way to turn stops into scores. We share the ball well, that isn’t a question. However, the real key is whether all that work that folks have heard about this past offseason from guys like you, Evan, translates into value-added on the floor. If it does, we can take the next step into contention for a higher seed. That’s the goal… move one step up the ladder each and every year.
- Anthony Macri
|The Burning Question|
When will the final piece arrive?
The 76ers have three young options at center, young point guards, wing players and forwards. However Thorn still needs to land that centerpiece, which is why Iguodala might get flipped for future assets during the season. Yes, the veteran swingman can help the team now, but Philadelphia isn’t going to win a title this season. The best bet is to look toward the future by stockpiling as many draft picks and young players as possible.
- Alex Raskin
How do you see the 76ers this season, leave your comments below…
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