Philadelphians, including myself, love to hate and before the midseason turnaround that the Sixers orchestrated last year after their 3-13 start, some of the many criticisms started to fade away. Winning will generally do that, but the success must be sustainable. We still don’t know if the Sixers are closer to the team that started the season and then sauntered into the playoffs, or the team that went 37-23 in between.
This Sixers team is probably not as good as they showed during their great stretch in the middle but not nearly as bad as the team that started the season. Andre Iguodala might not be the star that he was supposed to be when he was signed to that enormous six year 80 million dollar contract, but he is still one of the best wing defenders in the league and the only player not named LeBron to average over 15 points 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game. Elton Brand certainly has not lived up to his 80 million dollar deal either, but after playing healthy for the first time in 3 years, he has showed that he can still be a damn good starting power forward in this league with averages of nearly 15 points and over 8 rebounds a game. The veterans were the keys in getting the Sixers to the .500 mark, but it is the play of the young guys that will dictate whether or not the Sixers will continue to take steps in the right direction.
As currently constructed, this is a .500 team that could earn a few more victories based on the growth of the young guys. Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Mo Speezy, and Jodie Meeks are all under 25 years old and still have plenty of room for improvements in their game. There is no reason to believe that a bunch of 22 and 23 year olds will not continue to improve. Although all the young guys are important to this teams success, the future of this team is most strongly tied to the future performance of Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.
Evan Turner was the best college basketball player in the country at Ohio State and showed some flashes of brilliance, especially against the Heat in the playoffs. Evan Turner has taken time to grow at every level and this will be no different. Although Turner was drafted as a shooting guard, it became clear that his biggest struggle would be finding his shot. He will be working with legendary shooting coach Herb Magee this summer, but it might be the case that he is better suited as a point guard or a small forward (possibly in the point forward role that Iggy played at the end of the year). Regardless of where he plays, Turner will be a better player next year and will hopefully get more minutes to show us what he can do.
While Turner is a huge piece to he Sixers future success, it’s really all about the Jruth. Jrue Holiday is only 20 years old and averaged 14 points, 6.5 assists and 4 rebounds in just his second season in the league. At 6-4, Jrue has the ability to defend point guards and shooting guards. Heck, he even showed the toughness to guard arguably the best player in the league, LeBron James. With his size and length, Jrue has the potential to be an All-NBA defender at his position in the future as he continues to mature.
In addition to his defense, Jrue has got a silky J that should continue to become more consistent. His passing and court vision are also off the charts for a 20-year-old kid. The sky is the limit for Jrue as he continues to improve. This team needs a face of the franchise, and they are hoping they’ve found it. Fact of the matter is that the Sixers do not have money to spend to bring in a superstar nor do they likely have the assets to get a guy like a Dwight Howard if the Magic decide to trade him. If we are going to get a star, that guy is going to be someone who is already on the team.
I believe his name is Jrue Holiday.
The young guys are the most important part in dictating where this franchise will go. However, in order for the young players to take the Sixers to the next level (above the 50 win mark),the Sixers need to add some size. If Jrue becomes an all-star and Turner continues to grow, you still can’t win with lack of size down low that the Sixers have on their roster. Ed Stefanski and Rod Thorn will undoubtedly add some size to the small Sixers roster, and it is likely that a big man will come via a trade for Iguodala. Iggy’s non-committal comment at the end of the season when asked if he wants to play for the Sixers next year and his skipping of his exit interview are clear signs that he does not want to be back. Although Iggy should not be traded for a bag of chips, trading him will open up minutes for Evan Turner and would hopefully net the Sixers a young promising big man in return.
The Sixers are heading in the right direction. They are not some meddling middle aged team with no room to grow. They are a young and hungry team with a head coach that instills tremendous passion and pride in each of his players. If Jrue and Evan become the players they are capable of, the Sixers could be looking at many successful seasons ahead.