Sixers' Biggest "Headline" Surprises so Far, for Better and Worse
Just by looking at the Philadelphia 76ers’ record through ten games—a respectable 6-4—one can make an observation that, in the words of the immortal Dennis Green, they are who we thought they were. Which is, essentially, an energetic, if not consistent, cast of solid, if not spectacular, players desperately lacking a big presence in the middle.
Oh, they have that guy, but “that guy,” AKA Andrew Bynum, has been spotted more often at his neighborhood bowling alley (at least once) than he has been on the court thus far.
So, as a team, there is nothing too surprising to report yet. But, as far as the parts which comprise the whole, there are a few headlines of players who have raised some eyebrows—both positively and negatively.
Let’s take a look at the biggest head-turning headlines to make print…
Positive Headline 1: Happy Holiday
It was just last season when Jrue Holiday, three seasons into his career and still just 21, began to have some people thinking that he had reached his peak. His scoring average had dropped slightly, his assists dropped substantially and, some critics believed, his confidence dropped irreparably.
Fast forward to present day, where you’ll find Holiday clearly molding himself as the centerpiece of the team in Bynum’s absence, surpassing, if not shattering, his career averages in every major category. At almost 19 points per game and close to nine assists per contest, he’s often times single-handedly carried his teammates on his back and crept into All-Star discussions.
Another advancement which won’t be found on the stat sheet is Holiday’s defense. On Sunday, he matched up against another future star point guard, Kyrie Irving, and held the current fourth-leading scorer in the league to a meager nine points!
Perhaps most of us expected improvement after the Sixers traded away the previous face of the franchise in Andre Iguodala, subsequently thrusting Jrue into the spotlight. But few of us expected the progress to be so much so quickly—especially when he allegedly peaked last year!
The next step in Holiday’s impressive ongoing development? Cut down on the turnovers, which is also shattering his career average.
Positive Headline 2: J-Rich Enriches
The forgotten man in the blockbuster Bynum deal this summer, Jason Richardson has been the stabilizing force this super young team craves. The fact that he was essentially a salary-dump throw-in to the trade and thought to be on the tail end of his career is what’s really making heads turn.
Although hampered by an ankle injury for four games, the veteran known as “J-Rich” has provided a needed dose of on-court leadership and grace under pressure.
For those who put credence into the stat, Richardson also leads the entire team in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) at close to 19 per game. For those who don’t, ask his teammates how much they value him as a teammate.
Negative Headline 1: Working the “Night Shift”
Last year, one of the main reasons the Sixers were able to creep back into basketball relevance was due to the stellar play of their bench, dubbed the “Night Shift” by their play-by-play man, Mark Zumoff.
This year, the Night Shift needs to do a better job.
True, several pieces have changed—for one, Thad Young traded places with Spencer Hawes in the starting lineup—but the new pieces were expected to add to the depth and, so far, that’s questionable.
Nick Young, with his unique hairstyle and even more original nickname (Swagy P), seems to have lost just that since his arrival to Philly: his swag. Brought in to take over the role of former sixth man Lou Williams, Young was supposed to provide instant offense and energy, but instead was shooting a paltry .341 from the field heading into Sunday’s game.
Dorell Wright, also brought in for his shooting touch, was hitting shots at an even more anemic 33 percent clip and, in turn, has seen his minutes gradually diminish.
Before getting injured last season, Hawes and his grizzly beard seemed to have turned the corner. This season, his beard has dissolved into a mustache and his game has dissolved as well. When (if?) Bynum returns, Hawes, who plays extremely small for a guy who stands 7’1’’, can get away with his finesse style by playing the four, as Coach Doug Collins had intended. Until then, well, he can’t.
Meanwhile, heading into the season, not many people expected career journeyman Royal Ivey to play in nearly every game and average close to 15 minutes per contest as Holiday’s primary backup. However, that’s exactly what he’s doing, perhaps more as an indictment of the flat-lined progress of promising rookie Maalik Wayns, fresh off an impressive preseason.
Negative Headline 2: One Good Turner Deserves Another
If Holiday has benefited from the departure of Iguodala, Evan Turner should be thriving from it. On paper an Iggy clone, the fellow stat stuffer and former second overall pick of the 2010 draft has equally dazzled us with his athleticism and dumbfounded us with his inconsistency.
His 25 point performance against Boston was followed by results of eight, eight and three points in the following three games, respectively. On Sunday, he racked up 19 and nine assists on Cleveland. What he’ll follow that up with is anyone’s guess.
Like Thad Young, there isn’t much of a change in Turner’s production from last season. But that’s the problem. This was supposed to be his breakthrough year. It still might be, but right now, the only thing getting in Evan Turner’s way is Evan Turner.
Let’s hope ET dials in to his potential.
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