The long, grueling, bizarre journey known as the 2011-12 NBA regular season is finally over. The Philadelphia 76ers jumped out the gate to an impressive 20-9 start that quickly morphed into a somewhat disappointing 35-31 record.
It was a season filled with injuries, rumors, and even reports that head coach Doug Collins had lost the team. But despite all of the turmoil, the 76ers still managed to secure a playoff spot, and with it, a date with the Chicago Bulls.
With the regular season in the books and the postseason looming on the horizon, here are the grades for the key members of the 76ers.
Much was expected out of Jrue Holiday this year, but we pretty much got the same player that we saw during his sophomore campaign.
Holiday's scoring, rebounding, assists and free-throw percentage all took a hit this season, and the third-year guard doesn't appear to be the playmaker that he was envisioned to be. When not burdened with the responsibilities of a traditional point guard, Holiday exceled at times this season, but inconsistent play makes it difficult to give him high marks.
Jodie Meeks has no business being in the 76ers' starting lineup, so it's hard to fault him much for his performance this year. That said, his scoring average saw a sharp decline (from 10.5 in 2010-11 to 8.4 this year), and he's not quite as reliable from downtown as he was a season ago.
Meeks has crafted an NBA career based on his ability to shoot the deep ball, but if his stroke is off, then he doesn't provide much additional value. The best place for Meeks would be as the team's designated shooter off the bench—in a starting role, he's proven to be merely adequate.
Andre Iguodala earned his first-ever All-Star nod this season, his three-point stroke is markedly improved (39.4 percent from beyond the arc), and his defense has been nothing short of stellar.
However, the story of Iguodala's 2011-12 campaign can't be told without mentioning the fact that his scoring average has decreased sharply for the fourth consecutive year. Even more importantly, Iguodala's free throw shooting is absolutely dreadful (.617), and his woes at the charity stripe have likely cost the 76ers a couple of games this season.
In the minds of many Sixers fans, Iguodala's failures will always outweigh his successes, but to say that Iguodala had a bad year would be a gross overstatement.
If grades were given merely for effort, Elton Brand would get an A. No one would deny that Brand gives 100 percent every time that he steps out on the court.
The problem is that at 33 years old, Brand's effort doesn't translate into actual production anymore. Brand's scoring average this season (11.0 PPG) is a career low, and his lack of athleticism forces him to settle for mid-range jumpers on the offensive end.
Defensively, Brand is having a strong campaign thanks to his veteran savvy and his abnormally large wingspan. According to Synergy Sports, Brand is holding opposing players to 34.2 percent shooting, and his 0.7 points allowed per possession is the 19th-best mark in the entire NBA.
Spencer Hawes was playing like a man on fire the first few weeks of the season, but a balky back and Achilles caused him to miss 29 games, and is only now regaining the form that he displayed back in January.
Hawes ability to score and rebound the ball masks the fact that he's dreadful on defense. Numbers provided by Synergy Sports show that he ranks 292nd in the NBA in terms of points per possession allowed (0.89), and he constantly gets outworked by players of all sizes in the low post.
All that said, he'd make a decent backup center somewhere. The problem is that the 76ers need him to start.
On one hand, Lou Williams is the 76ers' leading scorer (14.9 PPG) and their designated go-to option at the end of games. On the other, his shot selection still leaves much to be desired.
Williams' positives are plenty, however—few would argue that he's one of the best reserve players in the league. His assist-to-turnover ratio (3.11) is phenomenal, and for all of the flak that he receives for being a passive defender, Williams is limiting opposing guards to 0.78 points per possession.
Philadelphia's recent swoon probably took Williams out of contention for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award, but without the services of their 6'1" guard, the 76ers wouldn't have made the playoffs this year.
Thaddeus Young's numbers aren't all that dissimilar from last season—a good thing considering that he finished third in the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year voting in 2010-11.
During the lockout, Young worked quite a bit on his mid-range jump shot—a weakness for the early portion of his career. This year, he's shooting 38.0 percent from 16-to-23 feet, a noticeable improvement over the 34.0 percent of attempts that Young converted last season.
The turnover rate statistic—the percentage of possessions that end in a turnover—is one of those numbers that don't make their way into the newspaper, but is crucial to a team's success. Young's TOR of 6.56 is less than half the league average (14.32), and is especially impressive when you consider how much Young handles the basketball.
It's difficult to grade Evan Turner. Two years into his NBA career, it's fair to question whether he's ever been utilized correctly. No matter the case, Turner is a far cry from what was expected out of the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA draft.
Turner's scoring and rebounding averages are both up this year, but his Synergy Sports rankings for both offense (320th) and defense (353rd) are terrible. How much of that is because of his play, and how much is attributable to the fact that Doug Collins has yet to fully commit to his young guard?
When Collins gave Turner the keys to the offense in early March, the 6'7" swingman enjoyed a five-game span in which he averaged 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Now that Turner is back on the bench, he has reverted to his inconsistent ways.
Nik Vucevic's brief NBA career has been a mixed bag of starts, extended runs off of the bench and DNP-CDs (Did Not Play—Coach's Decision), but when he's been out on the court, he's been one of the team's best big men all season long.
Defensively, the 21-year-old forward/center still has a lot to learn, especially as it concerns boxing out and positioning. But on the other end of the court, Vucevic has a pretty decent stroke, and at times, he displays footwork that belies his actual years.
It wouldn't be at all surprising for Vucevic to assume the starting center role next year for the 76ers—he's proven that if given the opportunity, he's at least as good of an option at the 5 spot as Spencer Hawes.
Nik Vucevic and Lavoy Allen
As the 50th overall pick in last June's draft, expectations for Lavoy Allen weren't all that high coming into this year. However, in limited action, the Temple product had a fine rookie season (4.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and has shown that he can be a frontcourt rotation player going forward.
The 6'9", 225-pound Allen doesn't ever project to be a starter, but even with very little experience, he's shown that he isn't afraid to mix it up in the paint—a trait that virtually assures him a solid, fruitful NBA career.
Back on Valentine's Day, the 76ers were 20-9 and Doug Collins could have run for mayor of Philadelphia (and won). Today, Philadelphia is 35-31, and many consider their 2011-12 campaign to be a disappointment.
During the search for answers in the second half of the year, it appeared as though Collins was using a dart board to settle on his rotations. Despite relatively decent health this year, the 76ers have trotted out 14 different starting lineups. And players who started one night would mysteriously be on the wrong end of a DNP-CD the following evening.
Collins didn't help matters earlier this month when he said that his team was "sensitive", but the team appears to have settled whatever difference they had and captured their second consecutive playoff berth. For all of his quirks—the quick hooks, the incessant texting of his players—it's hard to fathom a coach doing a better job with his collection of talent than Collins, and isn't that what it's all about?