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The Sixers leap forward didn't materialize out of nothing.
Tempting as it is to buy into the reduced notion that NBA teams can only make marked improvements through trade and free agency, there is still such a thing as internal improvements.
This year's Sixers are living proof.
Their developing young core has changed the profile of a roster that looks identical in name to 2011's bunch.
Start with center Spencer Hawes, he of the 22.1 PER and .588 field-goal percentage. The Washington product is off to a blistering start on the offensive end, paced by a deadly mid-range jumper that allows him to spread the floor and expose other centers in space.
Hawes has also made a marked improvement in his defensive rebounding rate, giving Sixers opposition fewer second chances and fueling what was once an undersized defense to greater standards of efficiency.
Due praise also goes to second-year man Evan Turner, who has become what Philadunkia's Tom Sunnergren calls a "winning proposition."
At his best, Turner is a penetrating, rebounding efficiency machine from the guard position. When he's off, Turner contributes enough stat-sheet-stuffing production to make his presence on the floor worthwhile.
Factor in smaller but still important improvements from Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday, the best basketball of Andre Iguodala's career and the addition of surprising rookie Nikola Vucevic, and the explanation for Philadelphia's rise looks more complete.