Heading into a new season, fans and pundits are calling for more wins. But it will take at least a 50% jump in wins to be even talking about playoffs. A winning season is a possibility, but probably not something we can count on. But this can still be an exciting and compelling season - because this could be 'the year' for so many players on this roster.
Looking at the main storylines of the past few years, it's easy to tell why this year is different:
- 2005/6: Can AI and CWebb bring winning back to Philly? (nope)
- 2006/7: The AI trade
- 2007/8: Overachieving with Miller leading the young guys
- 2008/9: The Brand Plan, pt 1 (derailed)
- 2009/10: The Brand Plan pt 2 - the Princeton/Jordan edition (failed)
Well at least 2007/8 was a fun ride ... and this year should be another enjoyable season because of all of the interesting sub-plots. Can Thorn come in and both stabilize the front office while shaking up the roster? How will the team respond to a "real coach" and how will Collins coaching translate to a new generation of young players? Is the third time the charm for a SG/SF combo of Iguodala/Thad? Will Iguodala emerge as a better leader and smarter player after his medal winning summer?
And most importantly, how will these players respond in their personal Make/Break or Break Out years?
I list players in order from most likely to break out to most likely to break. I assign percentages that don't add up to 100%. The in-between meaning we are left in the gray area (like we are entering the season.) And for most of these players it truly is make or break, and we will know by the end of this season. How would you assess their chances?
1. Jrue Holliday:
The trendy, consensus choice to break out toward stardom. Certainly not a make or break year at age 20, but where do you place the odds of Jrue having a truly break out year where he earns the right to be talked about in the same breath as the top 10 PG's in the NBA?
Establishes himself as a top tier NBA starting PG. 60%
Lack of offense and pure PG instincts lowers his ceiling (another rookie -> Soph disappointment.) 15%
2. Evan Turner:
Rookies should not be seen as make or break. But the high expectations and chorus of doubters means Turner needs to prove himself, or be the next in a long line of Philly whipping boys.
Shows signs of future stardom while making an impact by the second half of the season. 65%
Is overmatched physically and overwhelmed emotionally by the pressure of his rookie season. The critics start to close in. 10%
3. Thaddeus Young:
Yesterday's wunderkind has lost some of his luster. In this his contract year, will he finally put it together now that he has been penciled in as the starting PF?
Establishes himself as a legit NBA starting SF. 25%
Defensive and execution flaws relegate him to a change-of-pace bench scorer. 50%
4. Lou Williams:
Were last season's improved numbers an anomaly playing in a flawed system?
Becomes even a more efficient and deadly scorer and emerges as a leading 6th man. 50%
Unable to succeed in more of a team concept and regresses into a less efficient chucker. 35%
5. Mo Speights:
Always productive offensively in spurts, while pure numbers on defense hint at ability that fails to materialize on the floor. But this year he will finally get regular minutes and is "in shape."
Keeps his per 36 min production as a near 20/10 guy while logging 25+ minutes/game. He steps up into Sam's absence as the best (and at least serviceable) interior player on both ends of the floor. 30%
With the team really needing him, Speights shows he is nothing more than a jump shooting big who cannot cash in on his natural gifts and talent. Or shows he is fragile and can't stay in shape to deliver regular minutes. 50%
6. Elton Brand:
Slim, trim and ready to roll (take 3.)
Finally healthy and ready to anchor the post (instead of just being an anchor), Brand, emerges as a comeback of the year candidate by being a productive starter. Similar to how K-Mart became a solid player on a winner in Denver - even if his star days are gone. 35%
Last chance to contribute. The same "old" Brand probably means a bench role after next year's lock-out, and then waiting to expire. 50%
7. Spencer Hawes:
A second chance at making a good first impression. Discarded from The Kings, he is now the only true center on the roster.
Positive impact on offense through passing and decent shot selection, without being too much of a liability on defense. Probably too much to ask for him to be the answer at center - but at least he could be part of the answer? 25%
A repeat of last year's league-worst post defense and settling for low percentage jumpers. Part of potentially the weakest defensive frontcourt in the NBA 2 seasons in a row on 2 different teams is a distinct possibility. 35%
The heir apparent to Willie Green, but will he even get a chance to show he is a legit NBA rotation guy?
Opportunity knocks and Meeks responds by putting up efficient scoring/shooting in regular minutes. 15%
Another year nailed to the pine or a failure when he gets the chance. 60%
See Meeks above (both are 23, so need to show something.) The next Roy Hinson J 10%/60%
Older, potentially washed up guys known for their shooting and varying degrees of toughness, chippyness and willingness to give hard fouls (or in Kapono's case a complete lack of all 3, but he can hit the 3.) Trying to show they should not be watching in street clothes.
Positive impact in (very) small doses. 25% any one emerges in a good role.
Anything else (including Nocioni playing too many minutes, and playing them poorly.) 65%
Give me your take on who will be the break out players for this season, and who will simply break.