2008-09 NBA Draft Kit: Philadelphia 76ers Preview
And the 2008-09 RotoRob NBA Draft Kit rages on as Andy checks in with his Sixers report.
I might be somewhat biased (okay, very biased), but there are few teams as compelling this season as the Philadelphia 76ers. Last season was supposed to be a rebuilding process after the team traded away all-world guard Allen Iverson. In fact, it started off just that way with the squad limping to an 18-28 record through January. Coach Maurice Cheeks, at the urging of new General Manager Ed Stefanski, inserted some youngsters into the lineup. Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams, and Rodney Carney were given some burn not to win games, but to assess their value. But something funny happened. They kept outplaying opponents. February started with a five game winning streak. The fledgling Sixers ran opponents into submission. Then they started taking games from legitimate contenders like Orlando, Phoenix, and Boston. Then they clinched a playoff spot with a 22-12 record to close out the campaign. Then they took two of the first three from heavily favoured Detroit.
Okay, so the Pistons got their heads on straight and the Sixers were dispatched. If the team did nothing in the offseason, they’d still be getting plenty of hype. But they didn’t rest on their laurels at all. In fact, Stefanski and the Sixers made the biggest move of the offseason by signing (pilfering?) Elton Brand from the Clippers. A healthy Brand, of course, gives the Sixers a low-post scoring presence they desperately need in playoff basketball. It also gives an already solid, swarming defense, which was ranked eighth in efficiency last year, another dominating inside presence. Sure, Philly has some potential issues with outside shooting and figuring out where exactly to play Young, but it has the potential to make a run to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Andre Miller
SG: Andre Iguodala
C: Samuel Dalembert
Key Bench Players: G Williams, G Willie Green, F Reggie Evans, F Donyell Marshall, F-C Marreese Speights (Rookie)
The Sixers are relatively set, especially in the starting rotation. I think the biggest “battle” will be how many minutes Young gets and where exactly he gets them. The Sixers can play big with Dalembert, Brand, and Young in together. Or they can play small with Brand at centre and Young at power forward, where he was most of the time last year. A lot depends on how Young does on both ends of the court. He held his own defensively last year, but if he can’t keep up with the quicker shooting forwards around the league, he could see his minutes dwindle.
The back-up centre position is interesting because Speights is pretty much the only guy thanks to Jason Smith’s knee injury which will cost him the entire season. Dalembert found himself in foul trouble often last season and Brand is coming off an injury plagued year. Speights will have to develop quickly to give both breathers. Other than that, expect a similar rotation as the Sixers used in the playoffs last year. Evans won’t see as much action as Young or Marshall, but he’s still their energy spark from the bench.
Stud: No need to get cute here as Brand has always been around 20 and 10 his whole career. Both numbers could go down a little with so many talented players around, but he should still be plenty effective. The biggest worry is really whether last year’s injury is truly behind him.
Dud: It’s hard to find a “dud” per se, but I’ll pick Miller as being somewhat overrated. His scoring shot up almost four points per game because he had to score during many stretches last season. The goal this year will be for Miller to revert back to his normal “pass first, shoot second” role. Again, he’s not really a bust waiting to happen, he just won’t help out the scoring category as much as he did last season, and that’s an important consideration when assessing his fantasy value.
Sleeper: Oh lord, Young or bust. His combination of size, lankiness, and quicks make him an absolutely compelling weapon for Cheeks and the Sixers. In the playoffs against the Pistons, he played out of position and contributed 10 and 5 per game. He also had better than a steal per game. Did I mention he just turned 20 a few months ago? Those that follow the Sixers know that Iguodala is a scorer and Brand is an alpha force. But they also know Young can become a superstar. There were times during those Piston playoff games last season (did I mention he was 19 then?) where Young was the best player on the court. In three or four years, if he progresses well, this could be his team.
Rookies to Watch: As mentioned above, there’s a feeling that the Sixers got a steal with Speights in the draft. He was one of the more dominant forces in the Summer League, which should of course be taken with a grain of salt. Mainly, it looks right now like he’ll have to get minutes at centre, and that could lead to a number of rebounds.
Fantasy Stories to Watch
The Sixers are such a deep squad, some talented guys are not going to get enough playing time or shots. It’s just bound to happen. So early on, closely check the box scores. Iguodala, Miller, and Dalembert could all see their scoring go down with Young and Brand taking chances away. Of course, Cheeks could choose to play smaller and Young could be left out of the mix for stretches. I think the early games will be a good indicator of where exactly the franchise plans to get its scoring from.