76ers Turn Around, but Will Elton Brand Keep Up and Andre Miller Stay in Philly?

Jenise RolleContributor IJanuary 18, 2009

With the firing of former 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks and the loss of Elton Brand to a dislocated right shoulder, many things have been shaken up in Philadelphia, including the Sixers' sudden seven-game winning streak over teams such as the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs. Although the Sixers (20-20) are winning a handful of difficult games, there are still major issues that this team needs to address.

After the Dec. 17 loss of Brand, the Sixers have become the team they were at the end of last season and have returned to their fast-break style of play, averaging 21 fast-break points per game. With Brand on the floor, the 76ers played more of a slowed down, half-court style of basketball, which contributed to their slow start at the beginning of the season.

Instead of the Sixers trying to fit into Brand’s game, their offseason acquisition needs to find a way to play up-tempo basketball with this team, while maintaining his average of nine rebounds per game. This change will allow the Sixers to push the basketball up and down the court with their “explosive energy,” a vision that new head coach, Tony DiLeo, stresses before every game.

With the return of Brand on the horizon, another issue that faces this confused but suddenly hot Sixers team is the consistency of their small forward, Andre Iguodala.

It is clear that the small forward position is where Iguodala plays his best, since he now averages 17 points and two steals per game, about five points higher from his average at the start of the season. But with Brand back on the court, Iguodala will no longer be the go-to guy when the team needs a bucket, a tough reality that could affect his performance from game to game.

Iguodala has made it clear that he wants to be the face for this 76ers franchise, but so far this season, with Brand on the floor, Iguodala’s numbers have proved that he prefers not to be the second man on the team.

The trading deadline in the NBA is shortly approaching, so does that mean that Andre Miller and Samuel Dalembert could be wearing different uniforms by the end of the season?

Miller has proved to be an effective point guard for the fast-paced 76ers, but if the Sixers fail to make the playoffs, will Miller’s value decrease at the end of the season? Many NBA coaches recognize the talent and efficiency in Miller’s game, and for the past two seasons, Miller has been the motor that has kept this Philadelphia team running.

There is no debating that Miller is a serious asset for this team, and without him the Sixers are much more likely to miss the playoffs. But with his 33rd birthday approaching, it may be a good idea for GM Ed Stefanski to think about getting a quality player for Miller now before time runs out.

Center Dalembert is a big man that can run with this team, but he has had his share of struggles over the course of this season. Dalembert averages eight rebounds per game, but is constantly committing silly fouls that place opposing teams on the free-throw line.

Dalembert is also being paid more than $10 million per year, which puts the 76ers at a large disadvantage with the 2010 free agency class, that is filled with decent jump shooters. Dalembert is a serious trade option for the 76ers, and removing his salary can free up monetary space for the Sixers to get the shooter that they need.

Philadelphia is one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, but in the Sixers' recent winning streak, the team has shot 50 percent from arc, a statistic that many thought was not possible for the Sixers early in the season.

In Philadelphia’s game against Portland, the 76ers ended the game with 11 three-pointers and went on to defeat the Trail Blazers 100-79. In Thursday’s win over the Spurs, the first three quarters ended with buzzer-beating three-pointers by the 76ers.

If that is a sign for what is to come from the Philadelphia 76ers, then they have a chance to make the postseason. Still, the real test for this team will be for them to keep their speedy identity with Brand as their power forward. But when put to the test so far this season, the Sixers have failed to reach a B+ on that assignment.