The Philadelphia 76ers have finished the first quarter of the season with 12-9 record; a quarter of both highs and lows to say the least. But for the sake of today, let's focus on the good things.
Entering this season, expectations turned for the worse when the news of Andrew Bynum leaked. However, some of the Sixers were quick to reassure that they would remain competitive and reminded us all that they are still a quality basketball team without him.
Recognizing the key contributions made by players is something fans should always do, especially where the Sixers are in terms of development. They were, and still are, stuck in the middle of the road and the only people that can get them out of it at the moment is the players.
Without further ado, let's give the praise to those players who deserve it and have kept the Sixers a competitive team...
The defense is the first thing I needed to address, and had to give it to the entire team.
Now, relax. This is not one of those "everyone is a winner" games. The rest have a definitive winner. It's just that if I did otherwise, it would not have been right. There is no single player who is leading the defense. It truly is a collective effort.
Philadelphia currently has the 8th best defense in the league by allowing just 94.5 points per game. Because the Sixers currently lack size in general, they deserve a pat on the back for this. They have held off heavy front-court teams like the Utah Jazz, for example, to just 93 points.
Defense has always been a huge aspect emphasized under Doug Collins and everyone contributes to the stellar execution.
The man's work ethic and attitude displayed on the court is admirable.
Thaddeus Young is putting together the best season of his career: 15.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He has five double-doubles on the season thus far and has eclipsed 20 points five times.
He is doing this playing as an undersized power forward at the mere height of 6-8. The fact that Thad can reach those numbers consistently speaks about more than just his talent. Undersized big men are an extreme rarity in the NBA because it is arguably the hardest situation where one can succeed.
However he does so because he hustles and never gives up on a play. Despite his small size, there is a reason why he is the Sixers' leading rebounder. He never stops working.
Young has always had this demeanor about him and it is what makes him unique as a player.
He may not be there every game, but when he is, he shines. And whether you like it or not, that's the type of player he is.
Because the Sixers are such a deep team, the argument could be made for multiple players here. However, Young's game-changing ability is the deciding factor.
A great bench player in the league is someone who can come off the bench and provide their team with a spark to get them going, and in some cases, simply turn around the game on their own.
Young has done both of these things this season. A great example of his spark of the bench was during the Sixers' second game against the Toronto Raptors. young came off the bench shooting 7-13 from the field, 3-8 from three point range, shooting perfect from the free throw line and collectively finishing with 23 points for the night.
The Sixers do not have the most talented and productive offense out there. Their bench production is a critical asset and the fact that Young can, at times, single-handedly provide this production, only solidifies the fact he deserves this title.
*Nick Young also wins the Swag Award. I know, it should go without saying, but there is never a bad time to praise the swag.
One could make an argument for other players, but my vote goes to Evan Turner.
Turner has improved across the board: 15.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game compared to 9.8 points 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game recorded last season. However, there is one area in particular that he substantially improved in: three point shooting.
In fact, he is shooting nearly 46 percent form three point range as opposed to last year where he barely finished over 22 percent. Ironically enough, he says it is a result of practicing less. Nevertheless, he has improved.
Turner is effectively starting to mold into his own this season. He is taking control over the offense at times, he is not afraid to penetrate the lane and he is able to get to the rim.
Why were fans quick to call him a bust? Honestly, I don't know. He was initially being brought up in an environment that limited his potential. He just needed to be a primary guy instead of hiding in the shadow of a guy like Andre Iguodala, and clearly this has been proven this season.
Jrue Holiday wins this award without question. At the age of just 22, Holiday has made a huge stride in his career this season.
The stats alone speak for themselves: 18 points and 8.9 assists per game. Compared to 14.5 points and 4.5 assists recorded last year, this is stellar. Oh yeah, and he is shooting a career-best 45 percent from the field.
And did I mention that he currently ranks second in the entire league in total assists?
He has additionally stepped up against big-time point guards. A good example of this was against the Cleveland Cavaliers where he held Kyrie Irving to shoot just 4-14 from the field and finish with just nine points overall.
But what makes his resume even more impressive is the time in which he is doing all of this. He could not have stepped up in a more needed time. The Sixers needed a player to step up with the absence of Bynum, and he did that immediately.
Put simply, he is establishing himself as a legit point guard this year, both offensively and defensively.
Now, you might be telling yourself right now, "Wait... he could have won every award." And this could very well be true because he is having just that good of a season.