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Reasons For Optimism

As the dog days of summer grind on and we inch toward training camp ever so slowly, I'm going to take some time to share with you guys why I have such a rosy disposition these days. After the jump, reasons to be pumped for October 28th.

Viewed through one lense, the Sixers lost their point guard, and one of their best players. They replaced him with a guy drafted 17th overall and brought in a one-dimensional guy to solve their major shooting woes. That's not the lense I'm going to use today.

First of all, I'm ready to see Elton Brand healthy, for the first time, in a Sixers' uniform. He's now a full two years removed from the Achilles injury, the shoulder was properly taken care of and he's been working his ass off to return to form. People are doubting him, and they have every right to after missing two full seasons, but the fact that the injuries weren't related and aren't of a chronic nature leave me hopeful. Brand was an absolute stud in LA and played without a decent supporting cast. Here he's going to have a budding superstar in Iguodala on the wing and a young core rounding out the roster. He's poised for a big return.

The second thing that really excites me is the chance to see this lineup:

PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Andre Iguodala
SF: Thaddeus Young
PF: Elton Brand
C: Samuel Dalembert

That lineup has a chance at being one of the best defensive units in the league. They have great size in the back court, two guys who thirst to defend and crash the boards. Thad Young back at his natural position means no more inherent size/strength mismatches. Brand and Sam both dominate the glass and block a ton of shots. Strong side, weak side, on the ball. This lineup can force mistakes anywhere on the floor, and they have the size and athleticism to cover up any mistake they make of their own. If defense dictates playing time, we're going to see this unit's minutes increase as the season wears on and I can't wait for the day to come that this is our starting lineup.

Now, let's talk a little bit about Andre Iguodala's career:

  • Years 1 through 2.5 - Second or third fiddle on bad, bad teams. Iverson hogged the ball. Webber took too many shots. Iguodala was a defensive stopper on a team that couldn't spell defense and he took the table scraps for his own offense.
  • Year 2.5 through 4 - Andre Miller comes in, Mo Cheeks relies far too heavily on guys like Reggie Evans and Willie Green. Iguodala begins to emerge with very little talent around him.
  • Year 5 - Elton Brand is brought in, Cheeks tries to run everything through Brand, fails miserably. When Brand is lost for the season (and Cheeks is fired), Iguodala begins to reclaim the team as his own.
Now, in season six, Andre Iguodala will no longer have Reggie Evans on the floor. He won't have to split shots with Willie Green. He will have a post threat on the floor with him at all times. He'll have the ball in his hands, running an offensive system (for the first time, really). Consider the fact that he's probably already a top fifteen player in the league even against the odds laid out above, now think about the opportunity he's going to have this season. There will be growing pains, but I'm expecting a huge leap forward for Iguodala in Jordan's offensive system. Honestly, I'll be shocked if he isn't an All Star this season, and I can't waiit to see him back on the floor.

Then there's the youth. Two years ago, we got to watch Thad Young force his way into the starting lineup with defense and an unbelievable scorer's touch. Last season, we saw glimpses of a dominant offensive big in Marreese Speights. This year, it's Jrue's turn. The kid is big, he's strong, he's smart and he wants to defend. The PG position is right there for him to take, it's just a matter of time. I'm excited to see all of these guys progress. There will obviously be bumps in the road, but there will also be stretches when they'll click.

Next, let's talk about the potential of this roster. On its face, this team is built to defend. They have the personnel to shut anyone down. What they're short on is offensive talent. That's where Eddie Jordan and the Princeton Offense comes into play. If the best-case scenario comes to fruition, Jordan will be able to play defense-first lineups which can stifle opposing offenses and use the PO to squeeze more points out of less. The easy points will still come in transition, created by that defense, but when the pace gets slowed, and they're forced into the half-court, they will now have options beyond a one-four iso.

But there's one thing that I'm looking forward to above all else. It's not something you'll find in a boxscore. It's not something you'll hear about on ESPN. In fact, it's something you won't even notice unless you watch every game with maniacle dedication. I'm talking about the moment when the guys wearing the uniforms start to believe. It's happened in each of the past three seasons, probably later than we would've hoped, but it happened. Something clicked and this team realized not only could they play with anyone, but they could beat anyone, anywhere. Each year they carried that confidence a little further. Last year, it was only derailed by Thad's injury, otherwise I'm certain they would've taken it all the way into the playoffs.

Have at it in the comments. What are you looking forward to? Feel free to play devil's advocate to my hopes and dreams, but expect to be ignored if you can't name at least one thing that you're excited about.
by Brian on Aug 11 2009
Tags: Basketball | Offseason | Sixers |