The Philadelphia 76ers are redefining the path to success as we know it in the NBA today. Almost all of the successful NBA teams in this 2011-2012 season have clear-cut superstars such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose leading their teams to victories, but one team does not.
The Sixers do not have any clear-cut superstars, but oddly enough, are still tallying up their victory total in this young season.
This team came into the 2011-2012 season with practically the exact same players as they had in their prequel season. Yet in the early goings of this short season, a completely new team has emerged from previous seasons of mediocrity.
The 76ers have so many contributing factors on their team that it is hard to even pick out who their best player is.
Is it bench player Lou Williams, who leads the team with 15.4 points per game? Or could it be oft-injured center Spencer Hawes, who leads the team with 1.7 blocks per game and 8.8 rebounds per game?
An argument could be made for Andre Iguodala, the Sixers’ best defender, who made the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team last year and currently leads the team with two steals per game.
Last but not least is starting point guard Jrue Holiday, who helps set up his teammates so well, averaging 4.7 assists per game.
A team like this one that has a full supply of decent players but no superstar or leader, which brings up a good question: How do the Sixers keep winning?
One of the reasons that the 76ers look so good is because of the division that they play in. The Atlantic division’s bottom four teams have a combined record of 24-45, which is horrid to say the least.
Four-and-a-half games behind the Sixers are the second-place Celtics. They sport a 7-9 record which is two games behind the next-worst second-place team in the NBA.
So while the Sixers sit atop the Atlantic looking good, the division that they play in helps inflate their record because of all the bad teams that they beat up on.
Even with their division helping them out, there is another weapon helping them win ballgames.
That weapon is defense.
In order for defense to be used to its highest potential, all five players on the floor need to contribute their portion. Defense is not something that just one player can perform well for the team to have success, unlike offense.
Good defense is why the Sixers have won 12 of their first 17 games in this lockout-shortened season. A team without a superstar needs to be able to hold other teams to as few points as possible, especially if they do not have a go-to player on the offensive side of the ball.
Coach Doug Collins has got the Sixers playing together as a team in the early goings of this season. This hard work has showed off the most when the Sixers have played together to stop a team from scoring, with all five players factoring into the stop on defense.
This new team and ultimately the new defensive mentality have propelled the Sixers to have one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are second in the league only to the Chicago Bulls in points allowed per game, at 88.
The 76ers have also been great at defending the perimeter this year. They are first in the league in three-pointers allowed per game at four. They also do not allow many free baskets. They are fifth in the league allowing only 19.8 free-throws attempts per game.
Many people believe that players do not try hard on defense in the NBA. The Sixers are proving these critics wrong by using the strength of their team defense to win games.
The majority of the Sixers players are in the first half of their careers, so there is no limit to how good this team can become.
The Sixers’ youth combined with Collins’ control of the team has helped the team turn a corner in their success. The team is on a collision course with the No. 3 seed in the playoffs, something few people could have predicted before the season.
The team’s inexperience may turn out to prove costly at some points during the season, but it should not be too drastic. As long as the defense can maintain the level of play that they have been showing this far, they should not have any problem winning more games.