The Philadelphia 76ers '08-'09 season undoubtedly ended on a sour note after losing by 25 points to the Orlando Magic at home. The fact that they lost to the team currently competing against the Los Angeles Lakers for an NBA championship should make the loss not seem so terrible, but with the high expectations that the Sixers had entering the season, it’s a huge loss.
This season, from a manager’s standpoint, could be seen as an absolute failure. From the firing of former 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks, to low ticket sales, and the season-ending loss of power forward Elton Brand, the (41-41) 76ers did not have a successful season overall. Although there were many obvious negatives throughout the season, a few stars did shine bright.
Royal Ivey averaged 11 points and 2 steals for every 48 minutes played, and his aggressive defense usually lead to costly turnovers for opposing teams. Along with Ivey’s good play, Thaddeus Young proved to be the nucleus for this young team’s energy. Young averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds per game, and without Young in the lineup, the Sixers were 2-6.
The rookie from Florida, Marreese Speights, exceeded the expectations of many and averaged 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 block per game. With more basketball knowledge, experience and strength, Speights should be a dominant post presence in the near future.
But back to the troubling reality for the Sixers. Guard Lou Williams did not display the high level of play that was expected from him at the start of the season. William’s highest scoring game came against the Washington Wizards in which he scored 26 points. His shooting percentage per game dropped by 3 percent from the previous season.
It is crucial that Lou Williams improves his offensive game during the offseason, especially with an aging Andre Miller as the Sixers current point guard. Williams settled for too many jump shots over the course of the season, which could be one of the main reasons why he only averaged 12 points off the bench this year.
With 34-year-old Andre Miller, a return next season may prove to be his last, but it would be a positive for the Sixers, especially for a young Lou Williams. But after next year, will Williams be prepared to lead this team to victory? After looking at his numbers this season, it does not look likely.
It is obvious that the 76ers need to find a consistent style of play and learn how to play half-court basketball to compete with the dominant teams in the Eastern Conference. With Tony DiLeo out as head coach and former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan in, the Princeton-style of offense will become evident at the start of next season. But before the beginning of next year, GM Ed Stefanski has a few missing pieces that need to be put into place.
Andre Iguodala may have averaged 19 points per game and Donyell Marshall may be the Sixers best 3-point shooter at 44 percent, but Marshall is aged and the Sixers still lack a go-to perimeter shooter. Competing with teams like Orlando and Boston will not be possible unless the Sixers acquire a decent outside shooter.
When it comes to interior defense, with Theo Ratliff gone, a decision must be made concerning Samuel Dalembert. The center who averaged 6 points and 8 rebounds is being paid over $10 million per year, but has sill not performed at a high enough productive level. Dalembert, on numerous occasions, has complained that he does not get the ball enough during games, and he has made the notion that he would prefer not to stay in the city of “Brotherly Love.”
Removing Dalembert from the roster will allow for the team to obtain an outside shooter, which would leave them with only Speights and Jason Smith, who was sidelined this season after suffering a knee injury, as their only interior players, since Brand plays better away from the basket.
Eddie Jordan is a valuable coach who helped as an assistant to lead the New Jersey Nets to two consecutive NBA Finals in the 2002-2003 seasons, but because the Sixers lack a “Superstar” player, Jordan must find an alternative way to create more offense for this up-tempo team.
The 76ers '09-'10 season does not look promising for fans. It may actually be worse than this year’s 41-41 record, regardless of the return of Brand as their power forward.
After spending $80 million to bring Elton Brand to Philadelphia, the Sixers have left themselves to “Look, but not touch” when the talented 2010 free agency class becomes available, which includes big names like: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and obviously LeBron James (who the Sixers have no shot at even obtaining).
Unless the Sixers obtain a dominant shooter during the offseason, fans can continue to pound their heads and yell at their TV screens as their team, once again, fails to make it out of the first round in the playoffs. It’s going to take much more than the signing of a big-name new head coach to turn this troubled team around.