"I'll tell you what we're lacking: toughness, both mental and physical. I think you can develop it, but it also helps to have a couple of tough guys on your team." -Head Coach Doug Collins
Out of any position on the 2010-11 Philadelphia 76ers the power forward position is a spot where the word underachievement resonates the most. In the past, people tend to begin their arguments with the massive contract Elton Brand signed with the Sixers and the fact that he still has three years and $51 million left in that deal.
This is a factor in the Sixers underachievement at the power forward position but it is not the entire issue.
When the Sixers signed Brand they had very high expectations for him. He came to the Sixers after only playing eight games in 2007-08 but in those games he showed signs he was on his way to his fifth consecutive 20 point, 10 rebound a game season. The only problem was his injury.
When a player is touted as a primary rebounder and they suffer a ruptured Achilles tendon you tend to loose parts of your vertical leap. Match that with the fact that he suffered a severe right shoulder separation upon joining the team the chances are 20 points and 10 rebounds a game is highly unlikely.
Sixers fans have accepted the fact that he is not the player he used to be, and with the young talent the team is growing, the goal is that they will not have to rely on Brand for much more than a bench-style role player.
With the current roster the Sixers have in place they will be working with a primarily three-man rotation at the power forward position. Other than the 31-year-old Brand, the team will have 7'0'' Jason Smith and expected starter Marreese Speights at power forward.
In my look at the Sixers center position I talked about how Speights is going to be a huge part of the team's defensive strategy. Most of the lineups for the Sixers will be based on opponents, as well as the performance of newcomers Spencer Hawes and Tony Battie.
The Sixers are expecting Hawes to take over the starting center position which will allow Speights the ability to start at the power forward. Either way, most of the Sixers' defensive strategy will go through Speights.
In the offseason, Speights slimmed down, losing a reported 10 lbs. He increased his training schedule as well. Speights also represented the team in the Summer League roster, averaging 12 points and nine rebounds a game.
Jason Smith only mustered just over 11 minutes a game, most of that was because of the over abundance of low post players (Dalembert, Brand, Speights, & Thaddeus Young). I expect to see more time out of Smith but nothing close to a starting role.
I understand that Thaddeus Young is a natural SF/PF but with the way Eddie Jordan had the on-court rosters set, anything was possible. We saw various occasions where Andre Iguodala was at the three and Young at the four.
Both players were set out of position for the playing styles (Andre 2, Thad 3) and caused the team to suffer.
There are two factors that will determine how effective and successful your team will be: rebounding and points in the paint.
The Sixers ranked 21st in the league in rebounding percentage and allowed opposing teams 30+ rebounds a game. Because of the weaker than expected competition in the Atlantic division, the Sixers had games that assisted in their stats (mostly Nets and Knicks) but the team gave away too many weak rebounds and failed to go after second chance points on the glass.
One thing the team did do is score from the low post position. The team averaged 21.4 points a game from the PF position, which is more impressive when you look at the fact that the Sixers only managed 97 points a game (eighth worst in the league).
As we stated in the introduction, the Sixers have been more than underachievers from the power forward position in the past. With new head coach Doug Collins the Sixers are expected to move to a more defensive minded strategy this season and a lot of that will depend on how well Elton Brand adapts to his positions as a role player for the team.
If he is healthy I could see games where Brand will get the chance to start at the PF position, thus giving Speights a chance at the five. But with all expectations we will most likely see Speights developing his game into a natural power forward.
It was reported that new head coach Doug Collins met with Brand to discuss his role within the organization, much of which will be revealed when the team begins their preseason schedule on Tuesday, October 5th.
NBA Atlantic Power Forwards
Boston: K. Garnett 6'11'', 253lbs.
Knicks: A Stoudemire 6'10'', 249lbs., A. Randolph 6'10'', 210lbs.
New Jersey: D. Favors 6'10'', 246lbs.
Toronto: A. Johnson 6'9''. 210 lbs.
This is part two of my seven-part Sixers season preview. Yesterday I covered the center position.
2010-11 Sixers Previews: