Philadelphia 76ers: 5 Reasons Why the Sixers Will Be in the Playoffs
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With the NBA All Star Break just around the corner, teams are faced with many decisions: Do they rebuild, get better on the trade market, stand put, or grow as a team in hopes of a playoff berth?
Given their history, the 76ers might not be making the choice you would assume.
With a record of 17-23, the Doug Collins-led squad sits in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. While many would presume the 76ers should shift into panic mode, their recent play and attitude say much different.
Here are five reasons why the Sixers show no signs of panicking, and even more ways they could be a team to be reckon with.
5. Elton Brand's Resurgence in the Paint
Elton Brand shows he can still hold his own in the paint
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It's tough to say that any player in the NBA has had a bigger bounce back year than Elton Brand. After seemingly taking three years off, Brand has come back in a big way for the 76ers.
In his 12th year in the league, Brand is putting up nearly 15 points and nine rebounds a game.
Many believed that Brand's numbers over the last few years were indicative of the veteran running out of juice and desire for the game. Boy, were they wrong.
Brand has held his own in the paint this year by reestablishing himself as a force down low. He brings the aggressiveness, toughness and experience to this young Sixers squad that desperately needs it.
Another interesting stat is Brand's 3.3 offensive rebounds a game, the most he has put up in half a decade.
Give credit to Doug Collins for inspiring Brand to be the player he used to be and dominating down low.
When playoff basketball comes around, Brand could be the biggest piece of the 76ers puzzle in containing other tough Eastern Conference front courts.
4. Doug Collins' Presence on the Sidelines
Doug Collins directing his teams play
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Under first-year head coach Doug Collins, the 76ers started off like a young team struggling to find a true identity.
They started off the season with a rough 3-13 record, causing many to speculate like mad men. Rumors circulating about firing Collins, trading Iguodala and basically giving up on the season and very near future surfaced quickly.
Since starting 3-13, the 76ers have gone a solid 14-10.
Even with Iguodala having to sit and nurse his ailing Achilles, Collins guided the young Jrue Holiday with veteran forward Elton Brand to help fill the void.
Collins has also taught the young team how to win big road games. The 76ers stole tough away game wins over Orlando, Denver and Phoenix over their 14-10 stretch.
Beating upper tier teams like that on the road is a very hard thing to accomplish in the NBA and is a testament to Doug Collins' work on the sidelines
3. Jrue Holiday's Big Step Forward as an NBA Point Guard
Jrue Holiday is showing why he will be a point guard in the NBA for years
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Wow. Jrue Holiday is having one of the biggest jumps from rookie to second-year player in recent history.
Holiday's stat line comparisons suggest he is a completely different player.
Last year as a rookie, Holiday averaged 8.0 pts, 3.8 asts, 2.6 rebs and 2.1 turnovers all in 24 minutes of action.
This year, the inspired UCLA product is averaging 14.6 pts, 6.6 asts, 3.8 rebs and 2.8 turnovers in 35 minutes a night.
This guy deserves all the recognition possible for his contributions to this "mediocre" squad. The speed of his hands, quality decision making skills and not trying to do too much have helped Holiday break out.
Holiday has gone from 24 minutes, 3.8 assists and 2.1 turnovers a game to 35 minutes, 6.6 assists, with only 2.8 turnovers. Give praise to Doug Collins for being able to steer Holiday towards such efficient numbers over more minutes per game.
Overall, his patience and decisions with the ball have made the 76ers a much better team.
2. In Andre We Trust (A Whole Lot, or Were in Trouble)
Iguodala, like his team USA teammates, has enjoyed a successful year after taking home Gold this summer
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First of all, I know, I know. Iguodala has been anything but himself this year.
For the first time in a long time, "Mr. Invincible," abruptly came back down to Earth. His 252 consecutive games played streak ended with an ailing Achilles heel.
Iggy is currently averaging career lows in steals per game, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. To add insult to injury, it is his lowest points and minutes per game total since his sophomore season in the league.
Enough ripping on this guy, after all, he is still Andre Iguodala. He has plenty of things going for him, especially what he did this summer.
Iguodala is one of the few members of the Team USA summer team that isn't enjoying major success this year. Luckily for Iggy, there is plenty of season left for him to rebound.
After sitting out seven games over the last couple weeks, Andre has rebounded nicely the past two games. He posted proficient lines of 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds on 6-10 shooting against Milwaukee. Then in an overtime win over Charlotte, he put up 16 points, 10 boards, and six assists on another efficient 6-10 from the field.
This type of maturity, being able to impact the game in more ways than one, is what it takes for an injured unselfish All Star player to help his team the most.
Expect Iggy to have a much better second half where he can learn how to pick and choose his spots and become very effective while still playing on a bum foot.
1. The 76ers Growing Chemistry and Ability to Conquer the "Must Wins"
The 76ers celebrate a big win
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Now you might laugh at me but the 76ers are good when they need to be. It's true.
The Sixers have done a superb job of beating teams they are contending with and beating teams they "have no business playing."
They are 2-0 versus Michael Jordan's contending Bobcats this year, most recently beating them at home in overtime.
When facing the Milwaukee Bucks, they are also 2-0, including another recent nail biting 95-94 win.
They are an underwhelming 1-2 versus the Pacers, but take into account two of those games were before November 5th and you have a whole new argument.
As I stated on the Doug Collins slide, the 76ers have beat teams "they're not supposed to." Wins over Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando and New Orleans have people scratching their heads.
Is this team for real? Is it all a big fluke? Should anyone be worried about playing them in the playoffs?
There is a lot of season left, but if you look into the 76ers recent play and big wins, this team is here to stay.
Can you say "did the 76ers really just take down an Eastern Conference power in the first round?" Get used to it