What We Learned About Philadelphia 76ers During Season's 1st Half

Zachary ArthurCorrespondent IIJanuary 26, 2014

What We Learned About Philadelphia 76ers During Season's 1st Half

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    Carter-Williams is making the Sixers look smart.
    Carter-Williams is making the Sixers look smart.Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    The first half of the 2013-14 NBA season is in the books, and we've learned a lot about the Philadelphia 76ers in that time.

    This was supposed to be a team which had a chance to finish with the worst record in NBA history. Instead, they've proven that youth, athleticism and good coaching can actually lead to a couple more wins than people expected.

    The Sixers have the youngest team in the league with an average age of 23.7 years old and are easily full of inexperienced players trying to get their basketball feet wet. The road has been anything but smooth, yet a number of players have stepped up and proven that the future is certainly a positive one in the City of Brotherly Love. 

    Here's a look at some of what we've learned about Philadelphia thus far.

Trading Jrue Holiday Might Have Been the Right Decision

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    Do you think guarding each other is awkward?
    Do you think guarding each other is awkward?Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Trading away a franchise point guard in Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans was certainly a random and slightly extreme move.

    It also looks like the best move Philly could have made.

    The Sixers must have known that Michael Carter-Williams would be a lock to deliver come opening night because he's been nothing short of sensational. In fact, let's take a look at how his 2013-14 season compares to Holiday's.

     Points Per GameAssists Per GameRebounds Per GameSteals Per GameTurnovers Per Game
    Michael Carter-Williams17.66.65.82.53.4
    Jrue Holiday14.37.94.21.63.1

    We're only halfway through the season, but it doesn't look like the Sixers are missing Holiday's production too much.

    Carter-Williams is doing just fine in his place.

    The best part for the Sixers is that they haven't even seen the man they got with the No. 6 pick they traded for. Nerlens Noel has yet to play in a game because of a torn ACL suffered in February of 2013, but there's nothing wrong with that.

    Bleacher Report's Dan Favale described how Philly will benefit from the trade in an article that broke down the deal:

    This wasn't an easy trade to make. The Philadelphia franchise and its fanbase were exhausted after a season of trials and tribulations, and seeing their prized point man shuffle off to New Orleans is bound to sting.

    Just know that it was for the better of this team.

    Analysts considered Noel the easy choice with the No. 1 overall pick before he went down with an ACL injury in February. He's a shot-blocking connoisseur who excels when defending in transition.

    Prior to the injury, Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game. Even the injury proved that he is a defensive warrior. Noel tore his ACL while pursuing a chase-down block on the break.

    That's the kind of effort he'll bring to Philly.

    Noel hasn't played a minute of NBA basketball, but the Sixers have still come out on top of the trade based on getting a likely lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft and deciding to take Carter-Williams with the No. 11 pick.

    Add a healthy Noel to the mix and Philadelphia could be one of the East's better teams in a couple of years.

    It might be the result of moving Holiday to New Orleans.

Philadelphia Doesn't Know What Defense Is

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    There's a bit too much of this going on right now.
    There's a bit too much of this going on right now.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    Scoring 100 points in a game is kind of the benchmark for having a good offensive night. The inverse is true when it comes to defense. If somebody allowed 100 points to be scored on them, then it was clearly a rough defensive outing.

    There are currently 18 NBA teams who are allowing at least 100 points per game. There's only one who's allowing 109.5, though, and that would be the Sixers.

    Philadelphia's defense is absolutely atrocious. There's just no other way to put it.

    Part of the reason is because of Philadelphia's pace of play. Playing so fast can give an offense more possessions, but it also gives the opposing team more opportunities to operate. Another issue is that the Sixers have a new coach who's more focused on the offensive end of the floor.

    The last team to give up more points per game was the 2009-10 Golden State Warriors, who gave up 112.4.

    This isn't exactly the kind of company that the Sixers want to be finding themselves in.

The Sixers Need to Trade One of Their Best Players

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    Will Hawes or Turner get traded?
    Will Hawes or Turner get traded?Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Three of the Sixers' four highest scorers are in serious jeopardy of being traded before the February 20 trade deadline.

    It's amazing that Philadelphia is going through a transition year at the same time as Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes are having career-best years. We'll attribute it to bad luck, but the fact remains—one or more of these guys will most likely be gone relatively soon.

    It's easy to make a case to move or keep any of them. Young has been a great team player for the Sixers and has always done what he's asked, but has he hit his ceiling? Turner is averaging 18.5 points per game and his scoring is great, but does he need to be the No. 1 guy in order to put up bigger numbers? Hawes has been sensational and more than a surprise, so would moving him when his value is at its absolute highest be best?

    The team faces a number of questions without any clear answers.

    One thing is for sure, though: Philadelphia needs to take advantage of at least one of their great seasons and trade them. It would be foolish for the Sixers to stick with all three players only to see some of the trio's production fall in the coming years.

Philadelphia's Pace of Play Will Suit It in the Future

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    Brett Brown has sped up Philadelphia's offense in a very positive way.
    Brett Brown has sped up Philadelphia's offense in a very positive way.Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    If you haven't noticed by now, Brett Brown is a completely different coach than former head coach Doug Collins.

    Collins was much more focused on defense—something that's less of a priority for Brown. When it came to offense, Collins seemed to try to match his players to his system, rather than match a system to his players. The Sixers had rosters full of athletes, but he never seemed to utilize them to their full abilities. Instead, he went for a much slower-paced, methodical game.

    Brown is working with an equally athletic roster and employs a pace of play that makes use of the team's physical abilities.

    Philadelphia's increase in speed is best understood by seeing how it leads the NBA in possessions per game at 104.7. The Minnesota Timberwolves are second with 101.2. Philadelphia has a 3.5-possession advantage over the next-best team, and the value of so many more opportunities can't be overstated. Three more possessions could be three more shots. If they hit two of those then it's at least four points and could be the difference between a win and loss.

    Combine possessions per game with the fact that the Sixers are third in the league in fast-break points with 17.1 per game, and you can see how the team is playing a much quicker brand of basketball.

    If Philadelphia's players can continue to improve in the fundamental areas of the game, such as taking care of the basketball and shooting high-percentage shots, then the future of the Sixers should be a very bright one.

Tanking Isn't Going Exactly as Planned

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    Thaddeus Young has been one of the reasons why the Sixers have been playing above expectations.
    Thaddeus Young has been one of the reasons why the Sixers have been playing above expectations.Matt Slocum/Associated Press/Associated Press

    It was mentioned a bit earlier, but it needs to be restated here.

    This year's Sixers team isn't even close to being as bad as people predicted it would be. It looked as though they were planning on tanking this season and ending up with the best opportunity at the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, but it's not going as planned.

    Philadelphia has three trade assets who are each having career years. They also have the top rookie in the NBA at the moment. Combine both of those with players like Tony Wroten and James Anderson—who are playing significant minutes for the first time in their careers—and you have a team that is capable of winning games.

    They won't be competing for a playoff spot and still have one of the NBA's worst records, but this season isn't an absolute disaster.