Philadelphia 76ers: Could 76ers Be the Best Team in the Atlantic Division?

Darren GrossmanCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2012

Lou Williams could wind up being the 6th man of the year, but he may have competition on his own team for that award
Lou Williams could wind up being the 6th man of the year, but he may have competition on his own team for that awardChris Graythen/Getty Images

The 76ers have only played six games and they are currently in first place in the Atlantic division, one game ahead of 4-4 Boston.  At 4-2, the Sixers have impressed.

Before the season started, I thought this team would compete and make the playoffs.  However, this team is looking even better than I thought and the reason is depth.

The 76ers bring players like Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams off the bench, and their bench has dominated other team's benches.  As a result, the 76ers will be tough for anyone to beat.

The Celtics are looking old and do not have the depth on their bench that the 76ers have.  The Knicks have a few fantastic players, but again, a lack of depth.

There may not be a deeper team in the Eastern conference than the 76ers, who have eight quality players who could start on a lot of teams.  The 76ers have also benefited from the emergence of Spencer Hawes, who has played at a high level, and the 76ers are looking primed to win the division. 

When teams go to their benches, the 76ers have taken over games.  Williams, Turner and Young have all played fantastic early on and I challenge anyone to find three better bench players around the league than those three.  Coach Doug Collins wanted the 76ers to have the best bench in the league and so far, he is accomplishing that.

The other thing that helps the 76ers is they played a five-game road trip and went 3-2.  Meaning in a 66-game season, they still have 32 home games and only 28 road games the rest of the way.  The 76ers were a very good home team last year, and I expect that to continue.

The 76ers pretty much stood pat in free agency.  They did not make any major acquisitions, counting on the lockout to help them as their team had chemistry already.  That decision appears to have been correct.  Keeping the team intact has given them an advantage over other teams who brought in a lot of new players. 

The 76ers already have players with defined roles, while other teams are trying to figure things out.  Will this team win a championship?  Probably not, but they could win the Atlantic Division, and the No. 3 seed, which could lead to a deep postseason run.

It's an exciting time to be a 76ers fan, as this team, which has been the weakest of the four Philadelphia teams for the last few years, is starting to become relevant again.  After a disappointing football season, it could not have come at a better time.