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What Needs To Be Replaced

Let's can the talk about heady play, gutsy leadership, killer instinct and determination for a minute and take a look at the numbers. Now that Andre Miller is gone, let's take a statistical look at exactly what needs to be replaced, and by whom.

We'll use Miller's numbers from last season, and take a broad view of who will replace his production, if anyone. Let's start with the easy stuff:

2,976 Minutes - The easy answer is an uptick in Lou's minutes and Jrue's minutes in excess of 861 from last season (Ivey's total), but the real answer is Elton Brand. If all goes according to plan, Lou is going to be taking Willie's minutes with the starters and Brand will be taking Miller's. Iguodala and Thad should retain theirs (with Thad's trending upward) and Sammy and Speights will duke it out at the five.

15 three-pointers - Let's make this easy and say that Jrue will top this number easily. Lou will probably add at least 15 to his total of 63 from last season and I'd expect and uptick from Thad and Iguodala as well and we haven't even mentioned Kapono's name yet. This is not an issue.

534 assists - This is where things get dicey. Lou should add to his total of 242 from last season. Jrue should top Ivey's 43, Iguodala should see an uptick as well, but I just don't see how you get to 534 from this team. Whether or not that's an issue remains to be seen. When Jordan was in Washington, Gilbert Arenas led the team with only 484, and no one else on the roster had as many as 300. I think the Sixers will rely more on playmaking than quick shots than the Wizards did, but I'm not sure how much more.

1,337 points - Simple answer, Brand should be good for at least 1,000 more than he scored last season (1,399), Lou will probably be good for another couple hundred with increased minutes, Speights and Thad should bump their totals up, Jason Smith should easily out-score Reggie Evans from last season and I'll be shocked if Jrue can't contribute more than the 211 Ivey scored a year ago.

368 rebounds - If Coach Jordan decides to go with a small lineup for too many minutes per game, this is the area we're going to feel Miller's absence in the most. The Sixers were killed on the boards after Brand went down. If Andre Miller hadn't been the point guard, it would've been laughable. Miller had 36 games with five or more rebounds last season. That's outstanding for a point and he really helped out on the defensive glass, which was sorely needed. If, however, Jordan plays the correct lineup (PG, Iguodala, Thad, Brand, Sammy) for maximum minutes, rebounding will not be an issue, in fact, it will be a strength. If the PG winds up being Jrue, it will be an unbelievable strength.

109 steals - Again, very difficult to replace. Lou was pretty strong in this department last season (85), Brand has averaged 1 per game, in his prime, but I think to truly make a dent in the 109 number, Jrue would have to see significant time, which is doubtful at this point.

199 turnovers - Unfortunately, I think Lou has a pretty good shot at tackling half of this total on his own. He coughed the ball up 151 times last season without playing the point full time, and his minutes should cut into Willie's share (Willie took very good care of the ball, since it's hard to turn the ball over when you shoot it every time you touch it.) Increased minutes for Jrue will go a long way toward achieving this number unless he picks things up extremely quickly.

8.6 win shares - This is where the rubber meets the road. As I said above, Miller's minutes will ideally be replaced by Elton Brand. If Brand can stay healthy, can we expect a complete return to form? If we do, he accumulated 9.8, 10.3, 15.0 and 11.4 win shares in his last four complete seasons. If we could book him for a 20/10/2 (blocks) season, there'd be little concern, statistically speaking, for a drop-off in team record. Obviously, we can't bank on that though. So where will the win shares come from? Probably not from Lou, unless he drastically improves his performance. Last year, Lou and Willie combined for 5.5 win shares. If Lou takes 700 minutes away from Willie this season, the two would combine for 5.6 win shares, assuming they produces at the same level. Kapono and Reggie Evans are a wash. You could expect to see growth from Thad, Speights and hopefully Iguodala in this area, but can you bank on it?

I think win shares are a great way to look back on a season and see who contributed what, but I'm not really sure they're a great way to look forward. Here's a primer on win shares. This time next year we'll be able to take a look at the 2009-2010 season and win shares will give us a good idea of who stepped up in Miller's absence, or didn't. Right now, though, it's complete guesswork.

One thing is clear to me, however. Elton Brand is the key. Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday do not need to perform to Andre Miller's level for this team to tread water, and that's a very good thing because it's extremely unlikely. This team will either get back to that level, or exceed it, based on Brand's play. If he can return to form, then any development on the part of the young core will be gravy which pushes the team forward. If Brand stumbles, gets hurt, or is a shell of his former self, it would take a level of improvement from Speights, Thad and Lou that is completely unrealistic to expect to simply maintain.

Obviously, those factors I told you to dismiss at the beginning of the post will have an influence on the team's fortunes, but I think that influence is impossible to gauge under the best of circumstances, ridiculous to even ponder when you take into account the affect of the new system on the roster.
by Brian on Jul 27 2009
Tags: Andre Miller | Basketball | Offseason | Sixers |