The Toronto Raptors and their talented big man, Chris Bosch, are heading into Philly tonight to take on our Sixers. The Raptors have already run away with the Atlantic Conference, and they’re now trying to hold off the Miami Heat (TO has a 1 game advantage) for the third seed in the East. So they do still have something left to play for. Toronto has won both meetings so far this season, 106–104 in Toronto on a miracle 3 by Bosch at the buzzer, and a blowout in Philly in January.
The Sixers are coming off a somewhat-ugly win over the Knicks in NY, the Raptors a road win in Orlando. Bosch and T.J. ford are the stars for the Raptors, and they’ve got deep threats in Joey Graham and Anthony Parker. This team isn’t clicking on all cylinders, especially since losing their euro-rookie Andrea Bargnani. This is a winable game for the Sixers, but they need to take care of the ball, hit the boards and shoot a better percentage from the foul line (60.6% over the past week).
It’s a bone of contention on Sixers message boards and this blog, as to whether the Sixers are better served to be losing all of these games. It may be a moot point if Mo Cheeks is going to depend on Lou Williams and Bobby Jones for heavy minutes the rest of the way, but I thought I’d give it a little space here.
When the Sixers first traded Iverson, I was firmly entrenched in the “tank the season” camp. I wanted them to lose every game. This was partially a knee-jerk reaction to the exit of the most exciting player in the league, partially because I just didn’t think the Sixers had the talent to compete. I thought they were going to be mired in the basement of the Atlantic for years if they didn’t get a superstar in the draft (Oden or Durant). The past 4 months have completely changed my mind. The Sixers don’t need to get a superstar to be competitive. In fact, they don’t need anything to be a playoff team next year.
The reason: Andre Iguodala has grasped the opportunity to become a leader, and a superstar since Webber and Iverson exited stage left. He’s gotten a taste for winning, he’s realized he can take over games on both ends of the court. The Sixers have hovered around .500 since the Iverson trade, if they come back with the same roster next year, there’s no reason to think they won’t be able to do that over 82 games. .500 gets you into the playoffs in the East.
Now, is being a .500 team that gets bounced in the first round something you should strive for? Absolutely not. The Sixers need to do something with their 3 first-round picks, and I think they will. This is projected to be one of the deepest drafts in NBA history, they should have a pick in the top 12, and two late first-rounders as well. Maybe they use those later picks to move up in the first, maybe they get lucky and win the lottery. Who knows, anything can, and has, happened in the NBA draft lottery (it certainly seems as though it’s been fixed a couple of times, why not this year?). My point is that no matter who the Sixers get in the draft, they’ll be coming into a team with a bonafide leader, and some confidence going into next season.
Iguodala and company have gotten a taste for winning this year. If they tanked the season, and Andre stayed in his “complimentary” role, they’d be five steps behind where they are right now. Basically, they’d absolutely need to get a player similar to the one Iguodala has become to even mutter the word playoffs. As things stand now, add one or two pieces to the puzzle and they move up the ladder in the Atlantic. Add another player like Iguodala and they could be challenging for the East in a couple of years.
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