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sixersteam.jpgOur beloved 2007-2008 Philadelphia 76ers have officially finished the first half of their schedule, and it's time to take stock of where we are. 16-26 is where we are, and that's not too encouraging. If you're feeling down, take a look at the photo to the right and tell me if you'd rather be watching that team play right now. Would you rather the past year was spent in a sad effort at treading water only to fail miserably? Would you rather Webber was still here trotting up and down the floor and Iverson was still here scoring 50 points and getting pissed because the team was still losing? Me neither.

So, that's where we've come from, now let's try to take an honest look at where we are. If you've been reading, it's probably pretty clear to you that I'm high on this young team (especially the youngest members of the young team). There's a reason for this, beyond blind loyalty to the teams I follow. This team never gives up. They're motivated, they have a surplus of heart and the whole is definitely greater than the sum of their parts. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if heart is going to be enough for them to match my preseason prediction, and this post is all about frank appraisals, so this will be my only foray into such metaphysical aspects of the game as heart. The Sixers play hard, their coach gets them up for every game, they leave it all on the court.

Now that I've got that out of the way, here goes. Player-by-player report cards, least minutes per game to most.
Shavlik Randolph, Calvin Booth, Kevin Ollie, Louis Amundson
(click on player's name to see my Summer Reading post on him)
Stats: Combined this group averages 2.7 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
Observations: I can sum these guys up pretty quickly: homophobic dead weight, emaciated tall dead weight, old dead weight and long-haired dead weight. I was way too high on Amundsun after his strong showing in garbage time last season. None of these guys belong on an NBA roster, and they hardly ever see the floor. Thank God.
Grade: D- (based solely on the fact that none of them seem to complain about their limited roles on this lower-rung team)

Gordan Giricek (aka, the expiring contract)
Stats: 10.5 minutes, 2.8 P/G, 0.276 FG%, 0.222 3pt%, 0.667 FT%, 1.4 R/G, 0.9 A/G, 0.4 S/G, 0 B/G, 0.4 TO/G
Observations: I think Giricek is the only guy who could possibly ruin the team-first atmosphere in Philly. He's seeing little-to-no playing time, he's earned even less. If he was unhappy with his role in Utah, I can only imagine his outlook now. He's on this team for one reason, and one reason only. To let his contract expire. His play on the ourt has been pitiful. He went a four-game stretch without even getting off the pine, when he does find his way onto the floor he basically tries to take as many shots as possible before he gets yanked.
Grade: D (If he isn't the walking expiring contract, he's a solid F)

Rodney Carney
Stats: 13.3 minutes, 4.8 P/G, 0.378 FG%, 0.235 3pt%, 0.657 FT%, 1.8 R/G, 0.4 A/G, 0.6 S/G, 0.37 B/G, 0.5 TO/G
Observations: Rodney Carney is a perfect example of how athletic ability does not always translate into success in the NBA. Carney can run and jump with anyone in the league, unfortunately, he can't do anything else. His defense is beyond pitiful, he hardly ever crashes the boards, on offense he plays like he's continually on borrowed time. Sometimes, I think if Rodney could just slow everything down a little bit, be a little less frantic out there, he could become a decent player in this league. Most of the time, I just think he sucks.
Grade: D- (Carney doesn't belong in this league, but at least he can dunk)

Thaddeus Young
Stats: 14.3 minutes, 5.5 points, 0.506 FG%, 0.286 3pt%, 0.690 FT%, 3.2 R/G, 0.4 A/G, 0.76 S/G, 0.18 B/G, 1.0 TO/G
Observations: Thad has been the second-biggest surprise of the season. I never thought he'd see significant minutes this year, and I really didn't know if we'd ever see him playing 20-30 minutes/game in a Sixers uniform. He's found his way into the rotation, in a big way, and he seems to leave his mark on every game. He defends like a veteran and makes things happen with his length, athleticism and hustle on both ends of the floor. Without having a single play called for him, he seems to always wind up in double figures whenever he sees 20 minutes of action. I think this kid is going to be a star. In the short-term, he needs to get rid of the ball on the break, and let someone else make the decision on the move. He needs to be more assertive on offense (this will require a point guard who will actually give him the ball) and he needs to keep his energy level up as the season wears on.
Grade: A- (He will go down as the steal of the 2007 draft)

Jason Smith
Stats: 15.6 minutes, 5.1 points, 0.450 FG%, 0.222 3pt%, 0.682 FT%, 3.2 R/G, 0.3 A/G, 0.29 S/G, 0.71 B/G, 0.7 TO/G
Observations: Oddly, expectations were slightly higher for Smith (the #20 pick in the 2007 draft) than they were for Thad Young (#12), but Smith came out of Colorado State as a polished big man with a ton of skills and a nice touch from the outside. He's had an up-and-down season thus far, and he's seen his minutes fluctuate with his performance. On a good day, he looks like a tough cover for PFs around the league. He can hit the 18-foot jumper and he's even extended his range to the three-point line on occasion. The potential is there, but he really needs to work on his defense. Far too often guys just dunk right over him. He seems to lay back waiting for the chance to block a shot, rather than meeting the guy out away from the basket. He works hard on the boards. His grade would've been higher, but I just haven't seen enough of him in the low post. He has quick feet and a soft touch, so he should be able to do some work down there, especially against shorter PFs, I just haven't seen it.
Grade: C+

Lou Williams
Stats: 22.3 minutes, 10.9 points, 0.405 FG%, 0.367 3pt%, 0.757 FT%, 1.9 R/G, 3.4 A/G, 1.05 S/G, 0.15 B/G, 1.8 TO/G
Observations:  First, we'll talk about Good Lou. Good Lou was the guy who started the year out as the backup point who moved the ball around, took his shots within the offense, and slashed through seams in the defense for hoops at the rim. That Lou was amazing, and well on his way to earning 30 minutes/game. Bad Lou is the guy we've seen since the Korver trade. He's a gunner, and an extremely inefficient gunner at that. His shooting percentages have dropped like a rock across the board and he just isn't playing an effective game at all. He's being asked to carry more of the scoring load, but that doesn't completely excuse this performance. He needs to get back to doing the things he as doing early in the season and play within the offense.
Grade: C- (Good Lou would've gotten a B+)

Reggie Evans
Stats: 25.3 minutes, 5.1 points,  0.431 FG%, 1.000 3pt%, 0.450 FT%, 8.1 R/G, 0.9 A/G, 0.88 S/G, 0.05 B/G, 1.5 TO/G
Observations: Reggie was brought in to bring some toughness to the four position and grab rebounds. I suppose he's done both of those things very effectively, but his deficiencies are far too great to be covered up. He's starting, and playing starters minutes when the team really can't afford to have a black hole of offense on the floor for that long. Evans would be a great energy guy to come in and dominate the boards for 10-15 minutes/game, but he just isn't a starter. His free throw shooting kills the team because whenever he touches the ball down low, opponents hack away at him. On defense, he NEVER challenges shots. He plays sound, positional defense, but when he helps out he's useless. I love the energy, but his role is way too big for this team.
Grade: C-

Willie "Garbage Time" Green
Stats: 29.3 minutes, 13 points, 0.431 FG%, 0.341 3pt%, 0.806 FT%, 2.8 R/G, 2.1 A/G, 0.72 S/G, 0.25 B/G, 1.7 TO/G
Observations: Willie, Willie, Willie. I spent so much time lamenting his contract and roster spot last season that it took me a little while to come around on Garbage Time this year, but I finally did. Willie has made a philosophical change, he's no longer an untamed gunner, instead he's a one-dimensional player. It may not seem like much, but it's a pretty big distinction. Last year, Willie did severe damage to the team in all facets of the game. He took bad shots, he turned the ball over, he played no defense. This year, he takes mostly good shorts, turns the ball over a little less and still plays no defense. His offense is much-needed, and he limits his damage to the team on the offensive side of the ball. Obviously, nearly 30 minutes of PT/game is way too much, but that's not his fault. Willie has become a neutral force on most games, which is leaps and bounds beyond what he was a year ago.
Grade: C (Takes little away, adds little. Average.)

Samuel Dalembert
Stats: 33.3 minutes, 11.5 points, 0.534 FG%, 0 3pt%, .732 FT%, 10.1 R/G, 0.6 A/G, 0.36 S/G, 2.5 B/G, 2.0 TO/G
Observations: Sammy should make the All Star team. Let's start there and work our way back. He's been a top-10 center in the entire league this season, top 5 (or higher) in the East. His numbers are up across the board, and the fact that he's able to shoot 53% from the floor while extending his range to 17 feet is quite an accomplishment. He's been keeping himself out of foul trouble and this team needs him on the floor to compete. He's even cut down on his propensity to goal tend. The only thing I'd like to see more of out of Sammy is moves in the low post. He's never going to push centers around down there, even with added bulk on his frame, but he could use a little turnaround jumper down there and give the Sixers something they desperately need down there.
Grade: A

Andre Miller
: 36.2 minutes, 16.3 points, 0.483 FG%, 0.133 3pt%, 0.726 FT%, 4 R/G, 6.2 A/G, 1.17 S/G, 0.05 B/G, 2.7 TO/G
Observations: Nothing too shocking from the first of the Andres this season. He's been a steady hand at the point, he's taken on more responsibility as a scorer and his FG % remains strong at 48%. Sometimes, I think he takes too many shots, but he seems to have a knack for getting a big hoop when the team really needs it. Maybe he just thinks the team needs it more often than I'd like. His assists are down, but the loss of Korver contributes to that as does the lack of a low-post presence. I'd like to see his assist/turnover ratio climb over the second half, but Reggie Evans' bad hands may not allow that.
Grade: B

Andre Iguodala
Stats: 39.2 minutes, 19.1 points, 0.436 FG%, 0.315 3pt%, 0.771 FT%, 5.6 R/G, 4.6 A/G, 2.26 S/G, 0.64 B/G, TO/G
Observations: This was AI2's first full year as the go-to guy, and the results have been mixed thus far. His numbers have ticket up a little bit in the points and rebounds department, but his assists are down. The most alarming stats are his shooting percentages and turnovers. I think he took on way too much responsibility early in the season, and tried to put the team on his back. He didn't need to, and he's realized that since, but his turnovers were through the roof in the early season. His shooting percentages are down because he's taking more shots, and might even be forcing some because he thinks he's THE GUY and needs to make all the plays. When he plays within himself and drives to the hole, he's a much more effective player. One thing that isn't reflected in the stats is his improved mid-range and long-range game. His jumper looks much more fluid this year and I was shocked to see his shooting percentages at this low point. Again, I think he's hampered by trying to will himself into an elite scorer, because he thinks that's what his team needs out of him. Iguodala is a superstar, but he's not a lead man on the offensive side of the ball. When he realizes this, and the team has an option 1A to his 1B, he's going to blossom into one of the best in the league. Unfortunately, the odds of that happening this season are slim to none. In the offseason, we're going to have to see if he demands to be payed like a superstar. One thing you can't take away from Iguodala is his defense. The PER of opposing small forwards is 13.0, a great mark.
Grade: B

Mo Cheeks
Stats: 16 wins, 26 losses
Observations: It's pretty simple with Mo. He's a top ten coach in the league when it comes to motivating his players, this team never quits. He's probably a bottom ten coach in the league when it comes to x's and o's. I'm not sure if the Sixers really have any set offensive plays, most of the time they seem to just run around and try to get the ball to Iguodala, create some space for Miller or cut to the hoop looking for passes. Players rarely come off screens for an open jumper and their pick and roll execution leaves a lot to be desired. They rarely take advantage of mismatches, and they don't play to the strengths of the team often enough. On defense, the same thing has plagued them all year long, defending the three, and he can't seem to figure out a way to put an end to that. (Maybe tell your perimeter players to stick with the other team's shooters? Sound like a good plan?) As for rotations, Mo doesn't seem wedded to anything but his starting lineup. He's been getting Thad Young and Jason Smith more and more minutes, and as soon as he turns the corner and puts Thad in the starting lineup I won't have any problem with his standard rotation. Situationally, I'd like to see him ride the hot hand a little more.
Grade: C (A for motivation, F for x's and o's)

My preseason prediction was 40-42, here's a game-by-game look at how I think they'll finish off the year:

Wed, Jan 23 Detroit L
Fri, Jan 25 @ NY Knicks W
Sat, Jan 26 @ Charlotte W
Wed, Jan 30 Milwaukee W
Fri, Feb 1 Orlando L
Mon, Feb 4 @ Atlanta W
Tue, Feb 5 Washington W
Thu, Feb 7 Miami W
Sat, Feb 9 LA Clippers W
Mon, Feb 11 Dallas L
Wed, Feb 13 Memphis W
Tue, Feb 19 @ Minnesota W
Wed, Feb 20 NY Knicks W
Fri, Feb 22 @ Orlando L
Sat, Feb 23 @ Miami L
Wed, Feb 27 Orlando L
Fri, Feb 29 @ Golden State L
Sat, Mar 1 @ Phoenix L
Mon, Mar 3 @ LA Clippers W
Fri, Mar 7 Seattle W
Sun, Mar 9 @ Milwaukee W
Mon, Mar 10 Boston L
Wed, Mar 12 @ Detroit L
Fri, Mar 14 @ Chicago W
Sat, Mar 15 San Antonio L
Wed, Mar 19 Denver W
Fri, Mar 21 @ Orlando L
Sat, Mar 22 New Jersey W
Mon, Mar 24 @ Boston L
Wed, Mar 26 Chicago W
Fri, Mar 28 Phoenix L
Sun, Mar 30 @ Cleveland L
Tue, Apr 1 @ New Jersey W
Fri, Apr 4 @ Atlanta W
Sat, Apr 5 Atlanta W
Wed, Apr 9 Detroit L
Fri, Apr 11 Indiana W
Sat, Apr 12 @ Washington L
Mon, Apr 14 Cleveland W
Wed, Apr 16 @ Charlotte W
TOTALS24 Wins16 Losses
40-42 Final

It looks like I'm sticking with my preseason predictions after all. The journey starts tonight when the Sixers play host to the Detroit Pistons. Check out Need for Sheed for a visual Pistons fix.

Hat tip to SML for a halfway reminder in the form of his Knicks post.
by Brian on Jan 23 2008
Tags: Basketball | Predictions | Sixers |