Philadelphia 76ers: Grading the Sixers' Hot Start to 2011-12

Allen VickersContributor IFebruary 21, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Lou Williams #23 of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots the ball over Jarrett Jack #2 of the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on January 4, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The 76ers defeated the Hornets 101-93.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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Sixers Interim Report: A

Since the season started, the Philadelphia 76ers are the NBA’s surprise team. This start by the Sixers is the best start since their 2000-2001 season, where they started the season 10-0. That was also the season of their last finals appearance.

In a shortened 66-game season, where games are played almost every night of the week, the Sixers are using their speed and youth to take advantage and clobber their opponents. They are winning with stiff defense, team play and a coach that understands his players and puts them in the right position to get the most out of his players.

The Sixers have placed some opponents they may face in the playoffs and have done surprisingly well. They aren’t trying to outscore opponents; they are playing defense. In fact, they are the No. 1 defense in the NBA.


Coaching: A+

When questioning whether the Sixers are just early-season hype or will they maintain this stellar play, one may believe the latter, and for one reason: coaching.

Doug Collins has brought a new attitude to the Sixers. They play hard, and I believe they will stay physical as the season goes along. The Heat and Bulls are on a different level than the rest of the Eastern Conference, but is there really a stand-out team after that?

Barring injury, if the Sixers play their type of basketball, which consists of team play and aggressive defense, there should be no reason for them to finish out of the top five and maybe even win a playoff series, something they haven’t done since the 2000-01 year.      


Defense: A+

The Sixers defense is one of the best in league night after night. They are holding teams to a lower point percentage and not allowing easy shots. The Sixers have the best defense in the league, and in a league where defense isn’t appreciated as offense, it sure is helping the Sixers to have one of the best records in the East.

They aren’t allowing teams to get comfortable, and their defense in the paint is forcing teams to take outside low-percentage shots. The Sixers defense is also creating turnovers, which is leading to easy fast-break points.  


Sixers Bench: A

The Sixers bench is one of the main reasons they are clobbering their opponents. There is so much depth and athleticism on a bench that features Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams. They are players that could start for other teams, but their unselfish play is contributing in a positive manner for the Sixers.

The Sixers have been getting great play from players who really weren’t talked about in the offseason. Spencer Hawes and Jody Meeks have been outstanding for the Sixers this year. Jody is the Sixers' deep threat this year and is making three-point shots with ease.

Hawes has been a huge surprise this year because after looking lost last year, he has taken a commanding role as the Sixers big man. He is almost averaging a double-double every game with 10 points and nine rebounds.

The offensive play of Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday has also seen improvement this season. Even with Hawes missing 10 games, they are getting big play from Lavoy Allen and Tony Battie.


Trade Moves: N/A

Early in the season, if the Sixers were shopping Andre Iguodala, it would have been accepted by the Sixers fanbase. Now, the Sixers cannot afford to lose him. His stiff defense and leadership is so valuable to this team that if the Sixers did try to trade him, they would have to receive an excellent offer.

That being said, the Sixers do need to get a center. Lavoy Allen and Tony Battie can only take you so far, and if Spencer Hawes cannot stay healthy, it would be plausible for them to make a move before the deadline. If they make any moves, they should look into shopping Evan Turner.  


Where Do They Finish?

The Sixers are a tough team; they are young and they play defense. They also have depth at all of the positions, so they should finish around the third or fourth seed, and possibly win a playoff series. The East isn’t that competitive, and after the Heat and the Bulls, is there really a visible threat?