Posted on: October 14, 2009 9:22 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2009 9:51 pm
A team ready to take the step above mediocrity, the 76ers still have many questions heading into the new season. From Lou Williams taking the reigns at point guard to Elton Brand returning from two injury laden seasons to Eddie Jordan replacing Tony DiLeo as head coach, this is a much different team than last season. Here is a breakdown of the key players heading into next season.
PG- Lou Williams
Entering his 5th season out of South Gwinnett high school and still only 22 years old, “Sweet Lou” still has many question marks in his game. Although lightning quick and aggressive to the basket, he has a career assist/turnover ratio less than 2:1 and a career field goal percentage of 41.5%. Even though he’s 6-2, he struggles to see the floor well for a point guard. While having a nice chemistry with rookie Marreese Speights last season and other role players, Williams has seldom played with the other starters. While he may still shoot a low percentage while taking some questionable shots, Williams should be able to develop a better passing game this year as he gets most of his playing time with the likes of Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. Because of the loss of our former facilitator, Andre Miller, Lou Williams’ play becomes crucial to the success of the 76ers this season.
SG- Andre Iguodala
With Eddie Jordan coming in as head coach, expect Iguodala to start at shooting guard, similar to Mo Cheek’s lineup at the beginning of last season. Iguodala is entering his 6th season out of Arizona, still 25 years old. Since last year, “Iggy” has been refining his game to that of an offensive superstar. While developing a Kobe-esque fadeaway, Iguodala has also improved his passing game averaging 5.3 assists per game which is 3rd among shooting guards. Despite taking well-contested fadeaways whenever trying to score in the half court, Iguodala is a very efficient scorer shooting 47.3% from the field. Another strength from this rising superstar is his ability to hit clutch shots. At Amway Arena in the 1st round of the playoffs against the Magic, Iguodala nailed a game-winning 20 footer right in the grill of Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu. Everyone knows Iguodala for his defense and uncanny dunking ability, but this year look for Iguodala to take his game even further and make his first career all-star game.
SF- Thaddeus Young
Young is another blossoming talent, entering his 3rd year as a pro and his 2nd as a starter out of Georgia Tech. Because he left college as a sophomore, he is only 21 years old. “Yungsmoove” played last season mostly at power forward because of the absence of Elton Brand, but this season he will get to start at his natural position of small forward. A lanky yet athletic forward, Young has improved his shooting most notably from the 3 point line, over the last couple summers. Young shot a dismal 20% from the 3 point line in his first season. Last year, he improved to 41.7%. Like Iguodala, Young is a great defender and can perform spectacular dunks. While he is not as consistent of an on-ball defender as Iguodala, Young is great at blocking the passing lanes and had 100 steals last season. Because Young is back at his natural position and gets to guard smaller players, expect a big year from this rising star.
PF- Elton Brand
“El Train” enters his 11th season and 2nd with the 76ers at the ripe old age of 30, having played for Duke back in their glory days. Being the lone veteran on the team after the loss of Andre Miller, Brand becomes the crucial piece to this 76ers puzzle. Without him, they are a mediocre team that lacks an offensive force in the post. With him, they could very well be the same. Having signed Brand to a lucrative 5 year 80 million dollar offer two summers ago, 76ers General Manager Ed Stefanski has placed the future in the hands of Elton Brand. Although undersized for the power forward position at 6-8, Brand possesses great power in the post. Because of his strength, Brand has averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for his career, mostly with the Clippers. However, because of an Achilles injury and a dislocated shoulder, Brand has barely played for the last two seasons, playing 37 out of a possible 162 games. It still remains a mystery whether Brand has fully recovered from either of these injuries. But only one fact remains certain. The 76ers success this year is completely dependent on Elton Brand.
C- Samuel Dalembert
Along with other team stars Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand, Dalembert makes over 10 million dollars a year. While not quite worth the check, “The Haitian Sensation” remains a solid role player who sometimes doesn’t understand his role. Entering his 8th season, Dalembert still complains about his role with the team and rightfully so. While averaging at least 30 minutes a night from 2007-2008, his minutes dropped to 25 minutes a night in 2009. Dalembert is a solid defensive player who generates fast break opportunities with his blocking ability, averaging 2 blocks a game for his career. Unfortunately, Dalembert is inconsistent in the rebounding department. Dalembert has averaged over 9 rebounds per game in a season only once. Another weakness for Dalembert is his lack of basketball I.Q. Last season, he averaged over 6 turnovers for every assist which was the worst in the league. Another criticism for this hapless man is his lack of post game. Attributed to a lazy work ethic, Dalembert has failed to work on his post game while focusing on his “mid-range” game. Now it is evident why Ed Stefanski desperately tried to trade him at last season’s trade deadline. Because most of his points came from Andre Miller alley-oops, look for Dalembert’s play to continue to decline and his frustration to rise.
Key Role Players
Another weak spot for the 76ers may be their bench. Spot up shooter Jason Kapono, newly acquired from the Raptors in a trade, looks to get only a minimal amount of playing time. Even though jump shooting has been the key weakness for this team, Kapono will struggle for minutes because of his inability to play defense. Shooting guard Willie Green, who started last season, will see the most playing time and will even start some games. He’s primarily a defensive specialist and most of his scoring comes in the 1st quarter before he gets tired. Power forward Marreese Speights is heading into his sophomore year and is another part of this team’s young nucleus. With a solid post game and a good outside shot, Speights has shown a lot of potential. If Speights proves he can play defense, look for him to continue to take more minutes from Dalembert. Another new addition to the team is UCLA rookie Jrue Holiday. Despite underperforming in his short college career, Holiday was a top recruit coming out of high school and still has a lot of potential because he is only 19. Unlike Lou Williams, Holiday can play shut down defense, which is a lost art for the point guard position. Holiday should get some minutes this season, but he is still far away from being NBA ready.
Coach- Eddie Jordan
Signed by Ed Stefanski last offseason to replace interim coach Tony DiLeo, Eddie Jordan will attempt to implement his version of the Princeton offense into a traditionally high-tempo team. Jordan believes that his offense will make the 76ers a better jump shooting team, while still attempting to score as efficiently as possible. While at Washington, Jordan helped develop 3 all-star players and never had a losing season. In 2005, he led the Wizards to the Eastern Conference Finals. However, this was his best accomplishment as a coach. Stefanski acquired Jordan believing he could incorporate Elton Brand into a high-tempo, fast-paced offense. While former coach Mo Cheeks failed to do this, it is certainly possible for Eddie Jordan to achieve this. As long as Brand remains healthy and Lou Williams can step up his game, Eddie Jordan will have a successful year in his 1st year as a coach for the 76ers, meaning he will lead this team past the 1st round of the playoffs.