Revisiting Preseason Predictions for the Philadelphia 76ers
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
So it’s safe to say that I can’t predict the future.
If I could, the Philadelphia 76ers would currently be prepping for the playoffs, with a re-energized and healthy-enough Andrew Bynum looking forward to earning a max contract with a powerful postseason performance. Furthermore, I’d also be writing this from my beach villa on some tropical island purchased via my Vegas sportsbook winnings.
But alas, neither has come to fruition.
My lack of soothsaying abilities is tempered somewhat by knowing that I’m not alone.
Back in October, many NBA prognosticators forecasted the new-look Sixers to fall anywhere between second and seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, with more than a couple envisioning them in a showdown with the Miami Heat for a trip to the Finals.
And why not?
The team acquired its first game-changing center since Moses brought them to the Promised Land (a parade down Broad Street, not Israel).
The bench looked as deep as it had in years, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner looked primed to make a leap in their respective game, and coach Doug Collins was motivated to break his three-year curse.
Knowing what we know now, much of the aforementioned seems, as Mike Tyson would say, ludicrith.
Instead, this season, Bynum has featured more outrageous hairstyles (dozens?) than post-up moves (zero). The alleged deep bench touted months ago is home to more unfamiliar names than the opening day roster for the Cleveland Indians in Major League.
And, based on the latest reports, it looks as if the Collins Curse continues…
But indeed, hindsight will never need glasses, nor Lasik surgery. And hindsight tells us that it was unrealistic to believe that a center with a lengthy injury history and a reputation for a poor work ethic would play a full season, or close to it.
It also tells us that expecting Evan Turner to replace the stifling defense of Andre Iguodala, or expecting Nick Young to replace the instant offense of Lou Williams, or not replacing the leadership/workmanship of Elton Brand at all and getting away with it or expecting a past-his-prime Jason Richardson to seamlessly step into the starting shooting guard role and survive the year in one piece were simply foolhardy.
Take, for example, this stream-of-consciousness prediction on Yardbarker, which consisted of the following:
Dorell Wright has been the most impressive Sixers during preseason in my opinion. I don’t see how he doesn’t crack the starting lineup during the regular season and stay there. I also fully expect him to become their number three scoring option, behind Bynum and Holiday. I would predict Wright to win the league’s Most Improved Player Award, but he did just average 16 points a game two seasons ago.
In a season full of disappointments, Wright ranks close to the top of the list.
He’ll finish seventh on the squad in scoring and likely won’t crack 40 percent from the field, basically giving Philly the same production as last year’s designated sharpshooter, Jodie Meeks, but at nearly three times the price.
It goes on to say this:
This is a deep, deep team. The bench is loaded…
Instead, the bench come April has turned into a Who’s Who of “Who?”
Considering everything they went through this season, how did the Sixers perform overall?
Charles Jenkins and Justin Holiday are forgettable acquisitions picked up midseason. We’d like to forget about Kwame Brown but just can’t. Royal Ivey and Damien Wilkins are a-dime-a-dozen journeymen, with the latter thrust into the starting lineup, essentially by default.
Meanwhile, the leading scorer off the pine, Nick Young, couldn’t even crack the rotation the entire month of March, even after his injured ankle healed.
And that right there is two-thirds of an allegedly “loaded” bench. Completing it is the aforementioned disappointing Wright, an unimpressive Lavoy Allen and rookie Arnett Moultrie—but Collins is allergic to playing rookies.
However, there were some who didn’t buy into the hype. Mark Hawkins of Yahoo! predicted a 42-40 record, even with the expectation of an active Bynum, and had this to say:
The success of Philadelphia's season will not be determined by Bynum's production, but it will be based on how much growth [Jrue] Holiday and [Evan] Turner exhibit, and how well…the other newcomers fit into Coach Doug Collins' egalitarian system of basketball.
Certainly, Holiday grew, as he evolved into an elite point guard who only recently began showing the signs of fatigue that come along with trying to singlehandedly carry a team on his back.
However, maddening inconsistencies remain with Turner.
Regardless of the other intangibles he can bring to the court, there is never an excuse for a third-year, former No. 2 overall pick to pull a goose egg on 0-of-11 shooting.
Derek Bodner of LibertyBallers.com called his shot on Holiday with this claim:
His combination of shifty dribble moves, sweet jumper, and under-rated passing ability to big men diving towards the hoop blossoms into a legitimate 18 point per game option on offense, firmly establishing himself as the most well rounded perimeter player on the team and the one to initiate the half-court offense.
Even more impressive was ESPN’s John Hollinger with this assessment of the Sixers’ offseason moves:
They seem remarkably cavalier about the lack of a backup point guard, and if they really go into the season with Ivey (or some other replacement-level backup), that's a massive drop-off from what Williams gave them last season…
Overall, however, the offseason moves amounted to running in place. The Sixers will be a different team, but I'm not sure it will be a better one. If they still had Brand and Williams rather than Young, Wright and Brown, then I'd be singing a different tune.
The reality, though, is that, even worse than running in place, the Sixers ultimately took a giant step backwards. The writing may have been on the wall all along, perhaps a bit hard to see at the time.
But with the benefit of hindsight, it’s crystal clear now.
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