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The Haitian Sensation.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images North America)

Part two of our Looking Ahead series will feature none other than the Haitian Sensation, Sammy Dalembert. After the jump we'll try to use historical statistics and player comps to guesstimate what we can expect from our center in the coming season. Click here for the complete Looking Ahead archive.
First, the baseline. I'm going to use per game numbers, because I find them easier to swallow than per minute, or per 36 minutes. Sammy averaged 33.2 minutes if you want to do the math. Also, all stats used below were grabbed from basketball-reference.com.

Minutes/game: 33.2
Points/game: 10.5
Rebounds/game: 10.4 (career high)
Assists/game: 0.5
Steals/game: 0.5
Blocks/game: 2.3
Turnovers/game: 1.9
FG %: 51.3
3pt %: 0
FT %: 70.7

Last season was a coming of age story for Dalembert. He spent the first five years of his career learning the game (he's still in the process). Billy King gave him what looked like a head-scratcher of a contract and he's been trying to live up to it. In '07-08, he started to do the things this team needs him to do, guard the basket, clean the glass, and at times he was a dominant defensive force against some of the best big men in the game. His hustle was up, his intensity was up and he was able to maintain the energy through all 82 games (the second year in a row he's played all 82 games). There is obviously room for improvement, mostly in the hands and maturity departments, but Sammy put in the work and it paid dividends.

I've seen many Sixers fans talk about Sammy's ugly jumper, bad hands, et cetera and while to a degree the criticisms are fair, I do think he's under appreciated. Take a look at his numbers above, now take a look at the company those numbers put him in.

In the past 20 years, a player has averaged 10 points/game, 10 rebounds/game, 2 block/game while playing in more than 70 games a total of 60 times. Here are the players, and the number of times they accomplished it.

  • Dikembe Mutombo - 10 times
  • Hakeem Olajuwon - 8 times
  • Patrick Ewing - 8 times
  • David Robinson - 7 times
  • Tim Duncan - 7 times
  • Shaquille O'Neal - 6 times
  • Jermaine O'Neal - 3 times
  • Alonzo Mourning - 2 times
  • Elton Brand - 2 times
  • Kevin Garnett - 1 time
  • Vlade Divac - 1 time
  • Benoit Benjamin - 1 time
  • Marcus Camby - 1 time
  • Kevin Garnett - 1 time
  • Shawn Kemp - 1 time
  • Samuel Dalembert - 1 time
I'm not comparing Sammy to any of the other players on that list, all I'm saying is that for a big man to be that productive and that durable is a rare thing, only accomplished by some of the best bigs in the past two decades. He shouldn't be overlooked.

Now let's get into a couple of comps, first age-based. I loosened the statistical requirements a bit, here are the other 6 players who averaged 9.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, while playing at least 70 games, in their age 26 season.
  • Elton Brand
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Tim Duncan
  • Vlade Divac
  • Dikembe Mutombo
  • Benoit Benjamin
And here are the 9 players who met the same statistical standard in their 6th season in the league.
  • David Robinson
  • Patrick Ewing
  • Hakeem Olajuwon
  • Tim Duncan
  • Elton Brand
  • Jermaine O'Neal
  • Vlade Divac
  • Dikembe Mutombo
  • Benoit Benjamin
The main problem I have with these comps is the offensive component. In each list, Dalembert is at the very bottom of the scoring column, and I really don't think he's going to improve to the level of these other guys, so I ran another comp, this time I disregarded age and years in the league, and used a floor of 7 points/game, and a ceiling of 12 points/game. Here are the 6 players who fit the criteria.
  • Dikembe Mutombo (multiple years)
  • Marcus Camby (multiple years)
  • Ben Wallace (multiple years)
  • Ervin Johnson (age 29 season)
  • Jayson Williams (age 30 season)
I think that's a more representative list of comps for Sammy. So, how quickly, or slowly, did these defensive-minded big men develop? Camby spent the first seven years of his career fighting off injuries. It wasn't until his eighth season that he played more than 70 games. He's been one of the best defensive bigs in the game since that point, but it's hard to tell if he's progressed to that point, or just gotten healthy.

Mutombo came into the league at 25 and was consistently good for the first decade of his career. There really wasn't much growth in any statistical category.

Ben Wallace is a good comparison. His defense and rebounding were better than Dalembert's, but Sammy's offensive game is more developed. Both players spent the first 4-5 seasons of their careers trying to harness physical skills. Both saw significant jumps in production in their sixth season. Wallace's upward trend continued for the next 4 seasons before a steep fall in his 10th season.

Looking Ahead

There are a couple of pitfalls Sammy needs to avoid this season. He wants to be the man. He wants to be the big guy in the middle. He wants shots. He's not going to be any of those things playing alongside Elton Brand, and he's not going to get the same kind of shots he got last season. I think we're going to see less of Sammy 15 feet away from the hoop, we're going to see less jumpers. If Sammy can get his mind around this, and play the sidekick role for Brand down low, he has a chance to greatly increase his production.

Brand is going to draw a ton of attention. This is going to create creases and openings for Sammy around the basket. Iguodala and Miller will find him. He should get easier opportunities, all he needs to do is catch the ball. If he can rise to the challenge on defense, and the boards, on a nightly basis, get out and run the floor, and keep his eyes open under the hoop, he's going to have a huge season. He may not have his number called as often, but when he does get the ball, he should be in great position to score. He needs to check his ego, let the game come to him on offense, and exert his will on defense.

Mo Cheeks is going to have a lot to do with Sammy's success or failure this year. If he can manage Sammy's expectations, and pride, he's got a shot to continue his development. If Sammy starts acting like a petulant child, his effectiveness is going to drop. I'm leaning toward Mo being able to handle Sammy better than the Canadian national team could.

Taking all of this into account, here is my early prediction for Sammy's stat line for 2008-09:

Minutes/game: 34
Points/game: 12.0
Rebounds/game: 9.5
Assists/game: 0.5
Steals/game: 0.5
Blocks/game: 2.5
Turnovers/game: 2.0
FG %: 55
3pt %: 0
FT %: 70

Thoughts in the comments, as usual.