by: David Kay
2008-09 Season Summary:
Heading into 2008-09, Philadelphia was the “sexy” pick to make the NBA Finals. Finishing at the .500 mark and seventh in the Eastern Conference was a quite a disappointment. It appeared Philly was ready to redeem themselves in the post season when they took two of the first three in their opening round series against the #2 seeded Orlando Magic. However, Philly lost the next three: including an embarrassing 25-point home loss in which Orlando eliminated them despite missing their superstar, Dwight Howard. The Sixers had plenty of issues to deal with last season including a season-ending injury to their big off-season acquisition, Elton Brand, and the firing of head coach Maurice Cheeks just 23 games in. The post-season ended with controversy as well as free agents Andre Miller and Theo Ratliff skipped the team’s final meeting and criticized the coaching staff.
C: Samuel Dalembert/Primoz Brezec
PF: Elton Brand/Marreese Speights/Jason Smith
SF: Thaddeus Young/Jason Kapono/Rodney Carney
SG: Andre Iguadala/Willie Green
PG: Lou Williams/Royal Ivey/Jrue Holiday
Head Coach: Eddie Jordan (1st year)
2009-2010 Team Salary: $63.9 million
Projected 2010-2011 Team Salary: approximately $65.0 million
Off-Season Grade: Failed
Facing the possible departure of free agent point guard Andre Miller, the 76ers let him leave and did little to replace him. Yes, they drafted Jrue Holiday with their first round pick, but Holiday couldn’t establish himself as a true point guard in his one year at UCLA and is still a few years away from being a contributor at the next level. When experienced college floor leaders like Ty Lawson and Eric Maynor were still available, taking Holiday was a strange pick.
I like the acquisition of sharp-shooter Jason Kapono since the Sixers were the worst three-point shooting team in the league last year. Signing Primoz Brezec, Rodney Carney, and Royal Ivey via free agency adds depth, but were moves made more so to fill out the roster than be a true impact to the team.
The health of Elton Brand will be crucial to the Sixers’ success, or lack thereof, this season. If Brand can come back at 100% and be the low post offensive threat that he has been during his career, Philly has a chance to compete for a playoff spot. If he ends up wearing street clothes on the bench more times than not, Philadelphia is in trouble.
The point guard play is a major question mark and what is preventing the 76ers from being a post-season caliber club in my view. Williams has had success as a back-up during his career, and now will be thrust into the spotlight as a starter. His career average is less than 2.5 assists per game and he will need to become a playmaker. Other than Williams, Royal Ivey or Willie Green will likely see the other minutes at the point, and neither are true point guards.
Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2010:
Unless Philly pulls off a trade to unload some salary, their roster will remain in tact for the 2010-2011 season. They will be above the salary cap and not have any flexibility to make any major moves next summer. With Dalembert, Kapono, and Green, the Sixers will have contracts that are expiring in 2011 and could try to swing a deal involving those guys.
Click here for other NBA Power Rankings/Season Previews.