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Monday, January 19, 2009

76ers' Midseason Report: Pros and Cons

With almost half of the season's games already in the bag and All Star Weekend rapidly approaching, it is time for a look back at how the Sixers did in the first half of the season. After a slow start to the season where the Sixers looked like one of the most disappointing teams in the NBA, the Sixers have righted the ship and are currently riding a seven game win streak. They are also .500 for the first time since November 24 and are second in the Atlantic Division.


Andre Iguodala

The Sixers season has gone where Iguodala has gone. When he started the season on a scoring slump averaging just 13 points a game, the Sixers got off to a slow start as well. But now that he has scored at least 20 plus points in 10 of his last 12 games, the Sixers have won seven games in a row to improve to .500.

All aspects of his game have improved since the beginning of the season. In November he was shooting 40% from the field and 29% from three point land. He was averaging 13.3 points per game, 5.1 assists per game, and 1.6 steals per game. His woes continued into December shooting just 17% from beyond the arc.

However, in January Iguodala is shooting 57% from the field and over 48% from three point land. His scoring average is up to 23.6 points per game and he is averaging 6.7 assists per game. His steals are up to 2.1 per game. He is even limiting his turnovers now, averaging three per game in November down to 2.2 per game in January. Iguodala has been the main force behind the Sixers turn around and they will need to continue to bank on him if they want to keep winning games.

The Bench

Many teams in the NBA, including the Celtics for one, have trouble finding points off the bench. The Sixers have not had that problem this season. Rookie Marreese Speights and Lou Williams have played so well in reserve of the starters that they continue to get more and more minutes as the season rolls on. Both players have really seen their playing time increase under new coach Tony DiLeo.

Lou Williams has averaged 12.3 points per game in an average of just 22.2 minutes per game this season. He still needs work on not turning the ball over as much, but has been a great scoring option for the Sixers off the bench. Although he has been in the league for a few years, Williams is still very young at just 22 and is still developing into a great player for the Sixers.

Rookie Marreese Speights has been a pleasant surprise for the Sixers and has been one of the best rookies in the NBA this season. On the season, he is scoring 8.3 points per game in just under 16 minutes per game. But as the season has progressed he minutes and scoring have increased. In January, he is averaging 11.3 points per game in 20.5 minutes per game. He is also up to six rebounds per game this month.

Although he is still a liability sometimes on defense, Speights' offensive ability is too great to leave on the bench which is why he continues to get quality minutes. With Elton Brand set to return very soon, Speights' minutes may take a little drop, but DiLeo will still try to get Speights in the game as much as possible.

Thaddeus Young

Young continues to show that he is one of the best young players in the league. In just his second season out of Georgia Tech, he is averaging 13.4 points per game and five rebounds per game.
Young scored a career high 27 points on January 16 against the San Antonio Spurs, and also scored 22 January 11 against the Hawks. He has been a big factor in the Sixers' latest winning streak.

Young has also been one the Sixers who has helped turn around their three point shooting woes. He is averaging 51% from behind the arc in January after shooting 25% in December. He has also been a model of consistency for the Sixers, keeping his scoring average about the same the entire season while being a great sidekick to Iguodala.


Samuel Dalembert

Dalembert's numbers have taken a sharp drop this season, as he is averaging five less points and two less rebounds per game than he did last season. The only reason he remains the starter at center is because he is still an effective shot blocker and defender. Marreese Speights commonly receives more minutes than Dalembert because of Dalembert's inability to produce at the offensive end.

The worst part about it is that Dalembert is second in votes among Eastern Conference centers to Dwight Howard for the All Star game. I am still deciding if this is an insult or an honor for the Sixers and Dalembert if he does end up making the All Star game.

Elton Brand

Prior to his injury, Brand was having one of his worst statistical seasons of his career. He was averaging just 15.9 points per game while his career scoring average is 20.1 points per game. His rebounds are about the same as his career average, but his blocks are down and his turnovers are up.

The Sixers started off horribly with Brand in the lineup. It was hard for Andre Iguodala to adjust to becoming the secondary option on offense and his scoring suffered. But with Brand sidelined, the Sixers have played well and are currently riding a seven game win streak. When Brand returns, he will need to play better if he wants to convince fans that the Sixers made the right choice in signing him to a big contract in the offseason.

Brand is set to return to action on Saturday, but coach Tony DiLeo has said that he will come off the bench at first to work out the rust that comes with being out for about a month.

Three Point Shooting

Although it has improved over the past few games, the Sixers' three point shooting in the first half of the season was dreadful. They were last in the NBA in three point shooting through the end of the December making just 29% of their three point attempts. Iguodala was one of the main offenders, shooting just 17% from behind the arc in the month of December.

Since then, Iguodala and the rest of the team have improved their three point shooting. As a team, their three point shooting percentage is now 33%, tied for 25th in the NBA. Iguodala's percentage is up to 48% in the month of January.

The Sixers will need to continue making their three pointers if they want to keep winning games. Their woes from behind the arc were the main reason for their slow start and are also the motor behind their current win streak. If the Sixers continue to drop shots from long range, this may soon advance into the Pros section, but for now it still remains a weakness for the Sixers.

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