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The Difference

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I'd like everyone to think back to late April, 2008. The Sixers backed their way into the playoffs, finishing with the #7 seed and a first-round matchup with the Detroit Pistons. Mo Cheeks out-coached Flip Sanders in game 1, basically daring Detroit to become a one-man team by refusing to double Rasheed Wallace. Eventually, the Pistons realized that if they shut down Andre Iguodala, the team simply wouldn't be able to score enough to win. When the playoffs come around this season, that approach simply will not work.

Thaddeus Young's recent emergence has teams standing up and taking notice for a couple of reasons. First, he's developing the complete package on the offensive end. If you cover him with a power forward, he'll take his man outside. Lay off him, he'll drain the jumper and he'll do it all the way out to three-point range. Play him tight, he'll blow right by you. If you cover him with a small forward, he'll take his man right down to the blocks and abuse him in the post with his myriad moves. In short, Thad Young has become not only this team's best option in the half-court, he's become a great option in the half court by anyone's standards.

Now, let's take this a step further. The Pistons shut the Sixers down last season by putting their best wing defender, Tayshaun Prince, on Andre Iguodala, and then doubling Iguodala on top of that. They forced someone else to beat them. Fast forward to this season. It won't happen, but let's say the Sixers somehow met the Pistons in the playoffs again this season. Do you think Detroit would put Prince on Iguodala again? Probably. That means McDyess on Thad. That means a huge mismatch. If Detroit did decide to go with that matchup, do you think they could possibly afford to double Iguodala the way they did last season? I don't.

Thad's emergence makes this team a viable threat in the half court. More accurately, the recent trend we've seen of utilizing Thad's talents by, you know, calling plays for him, has made this team a threat in the half court. In essence, when they use Thad like this, he provides exactly what Elton Brand was brought here to provide.

We're now talking about a 14-game run from Thad. Over that stretch here are his numbers, per game:

  • 8.5/16 from the floor (53.1%)
  • 0.7/1.9 from three (37%)
  • 3.6/4.6 from the line (79.7%)
  • 5.1 rebounds
  • 1.0 assists
  • 1.2 steals
  • 0.5 blocks
  • 1.1 turnovers
  • 2.2 fouls
  • 21.4 points
Those numbers are from a 20 year-old kid playing out of position, folks. This team may be inconsistent. They may have played a putrid half of basketball last night, but I really don't see how you can look at this roster and not be excited about the future. Forget about the future for now, though. How can you not be excited about the playoffs?

Here's the question of the day, if you're Cleveland, Boston and Orlando, which of the teams jockeying for position at the bottom of the East do you least want to face in the first round?