The Philadelphia 76ers showed great promise at the beginning on the season, but now they look like a completely different team.
The young group has struggled since the All-Star break to find any consistency in their scoring. Doug Collins' team has failed to close out games or tap into the aggressiveness that made them a dominant force early in the season.
The Sixers have lost four games in a row, including a 24-point loss to the Celtics and an embarrassing 21-point loss to the Raptors. Now that the team has fell from atop the Atlantic Division, the question becomes, how can the Sixers return to the team we saw at the beginning of the season?
It is clear that Philadelphia is missing some components to take it to the next level. Here are some moves the Sixers need to make to build on this uneven season.
The 76ers need a player who can single-handedly take over a game and lead the team to a win. Although the fluidity in their offense is admirable (seven different players can lead the team in scoring each night), the Sixers are still missing that key player who shines a little brighter than the rest.
Philadelphia doesn't necessarily have to find someone who's already an established star. The goal is not to acquire a big name, but rather big potential. The Sixers need a young player who possesses the skills to take the team to the next level. Then, they can hand him over to Collins to maximize his potential.
Right now, the Sixers' most dangerous factor is their depth. However, depth is not reliable in the last three minutes of a close game. In those final minutes, you don't want to play Russian Roulette with who will take the last shot. Lou Williams is the team's leading scorer with 15.1 points per game, but he's not exactly clutch.
If the Sixers find a young diamond in the rough, they can polish him into the closer they desperately need to become a serious championship contender.
The Sixers were one of the best teams in the NBA at the start of the season. Now, it seems like that team is long gone, without any evident causes or injuries. Former Sixers beat writer and current ESPN.com contributor Kate Fagan brought up an interesting theory on her personal blog, placing most of the blame on head coach Doug Collins for the team's struggles.
Collins has a reputation of pushing younger teams to significant improvement. He's a powerful motivator who knows how to help his players succeed and maximize their full potential. However, the head coach's possible "over-coaching" could be the reason behind the team's recent problems.
While it is natural for a coach to want to control every aspect of the court, micro-managing can actually damage a team's overall performance. The first half of the season is proof that Collins is capable of coaching the team to the top of the NBA, but the second-half woes indicate that he's rapidly wearing out his welcome.
The players need more freedom to make and correct their own mistakes. Not only will they learn from the occasional missteps, but they will also become believers in Collins' system. The players have to push themselves to be more aggressive and they can't do that with Collins holding their hands.
The Sixers need to take full advantage of their 2012 first-round draft pick. They are in desperate need of a scorer and offensive star.
With the team only shooting 36 percent from behind the arc, the Sixers could really use a solid perimeter shooter. Doron Lamb was an essential piece in Kentucky's championship run, as well as an offensive beast. He averaged nearly 14 points per game in his sophomore season, shooting 48 percent from the field. More importantly, he was 46.6 percent from behind the three-point line.
Lamb is capable of creating his own shot off the dribble, and his willingness to drive the lane is exactly the type of aggressiveness the Sixers need. In his stellar performance in the NCAA championship, Lamb asserted himself as one of the best shooters in the draft with a game-high 22 points.
The shooting guard has yet to announce his decision regarding the 2012 NBA draft, but he currently projects as a mid-first-round selection.
The young Philadelphia team is missing a veteran leader. Despite being voted into the 2012 All-Star Game, Andre Iguodala is not the team leader the Sixers need right now. It is time for him to go.
As the team's struggles gets worse, so does Iguodala—not as a player, but as a teammate. He isn't leading the team by example. It's almost as if he knows he has nothing to lose in Philadelphia.
In a recent Sports Illustrated interview, Iguodala mocked his teammate Lou Williams as a scorer who doesn't know how to defend. He also made public comments about former Sixers superstar Allen Iverson on Twitter, saying "dear mr president, I understand the struggles of trying to clean up the leader b4 you."
After the departure of Iverson, the Sixers organization tried to mold Iguodala into the team leader they needed, but it's not working out. In the fourth quarter this season, Iguodala—a career 74 percent free-throw shooter—is only 41.5 percent from the line. In the last three minutes of the final quarter, his shooting is only 31.3 percent.
The best move for the Sixers to make is to trade Iguodala. There are still plenty of teams who would benefit with him on their squad, but Philadelphia isn't one of them.