To call the Philadelphia 76ers' last season a "surprise" can definitely be considered an understatement. They started off hot, defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round and nearly defeated the Boston Celtics to move on to the Eastern Conference finals.
This year could yield a similar result.
Every offseason, it seems as though Sixers fans come to a realization that they cannot win it all with what they have. Though this may very well be true, as we inch closer and closer to the season, you start to feel less doubtful because the Sixers play it game by game.
The possibility of prosperity just seems to increase with anticipation and excitement for the season. It's merely the fan inside of us that just refuses to give up hope.
So call me crazy. Call me far-fetched. But there's no doubt that this team is capable, has potential, and has proven they can rise to a challenge.
Sixers fans, the 2013 season could turn out to be just a little better than expectations.
Having a deep bench is always something good to have (if anything, they are too deep), and once again, the Sixers have more than one eligible sixth man.
The Sixers' potential starting lineup is this: Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Andre Iguodala, Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown.
That leaves Thaddeus Young, Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Lavoy Allen as the key players coming off the bench.
What's so great about this?
All of these guys are capable starters and can change the pace when brought into the game. Plus, most of them can play multiple positions which allows Doug Collins to form many different lineups based on matchups.
Although the Sixers are an extremely young team, there's no doubt they have gained valuable playoff experience over the past two seasons.
They have faced the top teams of the east—Miami Heat, Bulls and Celtics—so, let's just say they know what they're up against.
Defense has always been a huge part of Doug Collins' philosophy, and it will stay that way for the better.
Last season, the Sixers finished third overall for best in points allowed, allowing just 89.4 points per game. Andre Iguodala, a player with a pedigree as a strong defensive player, finished ninth last season in defensive rating (97.8) and 16th in steal percentage (2.6).
Allen showed in the playoffs that he's capable of defending legit power forwards when he stopped Kevin Garnett in last year, Holiday can be a dirty defender, Turner is solid and so is Brown.
The Sixers win a lot of their games because of their defensive strength, and they will continue to do so.
This offseason was more active than usual for Philadelphia. Specifically, they brought in three new faces: Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Kwame Brown.
Despite what you think of these guys and the contracts they received, from a strictly basketball perspective, they will all contribute one way or another and make them better than they were last year. Yes, I also mean Brown.
After losing shooters Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks, the Sixers were quick to fill their void with premier shooters in Young and Wright. In fact, Wright led the league in three-pointers just two seasons ago (194).
These guys will easily spread the floor and allow young guys like Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner to orchestrate the offense. Plus, keep in mind they're both left with one year on their contract which means they have a lot to prove for a new one.
As for Brown, of course it doesn't help that he was a draft bust. However, he's not expected to be anything like a No. 1 pick. Instead, he was brought here to play defense, block shots and rebound.
Lavoy Allen, Maurice Harkless, Spencer Hawes, Jrue Holiday, Arnett Moultrie, Evan Turner, Nikola Vucevic and Thaddeus Young. What do all of these players have in common? They're all under the age of 25.
The Sixers will continue to flourish in running the transition game and taking advantage of the fastbreak. Everyone can run the floor, and this is where they seriously pose a threat to almost every team.
Youth is a great thing to have because they truly play like they have nothing to lose. They're the team that's there to screw up everyone else's chance. They are the ones who will never give any team an easy path.
Beginning two years ago when Collins joined the team, a big theme of this team has been developing chemistry.
Holiday, Turner, Iguodala and Thaddeus Young are entering their third year together. There's no reason not to think they're in for the best year yet.
They have really started to gel, and this year, it will really start to show.
A young team, yes, but a young team that continues to grow.
Iguodala always gets the criticism for being good—just not good enough to lead a team. This is true, however, he was never meant to be a No. 1 player, and this year, I have a feeling he won't try to be.
Instead, he will focus on complementing the younger guys and distributing the ball. Unfortunately, it could infringe upon giving that responsibility to Turner or Holiday but keep in mind that Iguodala has steadily improved his jumper, so don't be surprised if he settles for more of them this year.
Last season, Iguodala averaged 12.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game, which are the expected well-rounded statistics from Iguodala. There's no doubt he will do the same again. He will do better, if anything.
Right now, he's gaining invaluable experience with the best players in the league on Team USA. I'm not saying he's going to score 20 points per game this year, but he will provide a different presence that will not show up on the stat sheets but will better serve the team.
I'm not saying they will win the championship, but the potential, youth and fire this team brings to the table just gets you to question how far they can really go.
Philadelphia is a team that gives 100 percent to the court every night. Sure, they may know they don't have the most talent compared to other teams, but quite frankly, they don't care.
They just want to play basketball.
That's what makes this team so special and just the reason why they could surprise.