NBA Playoffs: Philadelphia 76ers Surging as the Playoffs Arrive

Zachary AlbertiniContributor IMarch 7, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 03:  Head coach Doug Collins of the Philadelphia 76ers calls out in the second half against the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on January 3, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Remember when the Philadelphia 76ers started the season 3-13?

Remember when people were already writing off Evan Turner as a bust? Remember when people were pleading for the Sixers to trade Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala?

Doug Collins, in his first year with the 76ers, has turned this group of talented players into a team. The Sixers are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 32-30 record, a half-game behind the New York Knicks.

The 76ers started off the season extremely slowly, but have crawled their way back into a position where they can give most teams a difficult playoff series.

The Sixers do not have the star power of teams like Boston, Miami or Los Angeles. However, they have players who have bought into Collins' system and play hard night-in and night-out.

The 76ers have some good things going for them right now. The Philadelphia bench has been one of the best benches all season long. Louis Williams, averaging 13.5 ppg, and Thaddeus Young, averaging 12.4 ppg and 5.2 rpg, have led the bench all season with consistent play, energizing the team when they need a lift.

With the No. 2 pick in the draft, the 76ers selected Evan Turner, a guard-forward out of Ohio State.

Early on in the season, people were writing off Turner as a bust. Turner has been a big boost for the Sixers in the second half of the season.

Turner has proven to be effective on both sides of the ball, particularly with his perimeter defense and rebounding. Turner is only averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds nightly, but his efficiency rating is a plus-9.03, which shows a lot more about his production than the other numbers.

Another boost for the Sixers has been the emergence of the second-year man out of Kentucky, Jodie Meeks. Meeks has been providing what the Sixers have been missing since trading away Kyle Korver: perimeter shooting.

This season, Meeks is shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the three-point line. He has proven to coach Collins that he can be in the game in the final minutes and drill clutch shots when the team needs them, as seen in their last game against the Warriors on Sunday night.

The 76ers are playing disciplined basketball this season. They are second in the league in nightly turnovers with 13.21 per game.

Anyone who knows basketball will tell you, if you turn the ball over, you will not win.

With all of the somewhat surprising success the Sixers have had this season, it all comes down to leadership. Off the court, the leadership has been there with coach Collins, but on the court, it has come from the veterans.

People in Philadelphia have been waiting for the day that Andre Iguodala or Elton Brand gets traded. Another trade deadline has passed and they are both still in red, white and blue.

This season has been different for Iguodala and Brand. They have become more than just talented athletes—they have evolved into leaders on the court. Brand is putting up his best numbers since his last season with the Los Angeles Clippers, averaging 15.3 ppg and 8.7 rpg.

Iguodala has dealt with injury problems throughout the season, but the injuries have not stopped his progression. Sunday night against the Warriors, Iguodala recorded his second straight triple-double, his third in the last seven games.

Though Iguodala's numbers are not mind-blowing, after watching his play this season, you can see how he has grown as a player. You might be able to attribute that to the time he spent playing on Team USA in the FIBA World Championship. He lets his defense speak for itself and offensively plays in the flow of the game, not forcing unnecessary shots.

The Sixers most likely will not be playing in the NBA Finals this season, but they can run with some of the elite teams in the league and will give whoever they play in the playoffs a tough series.

The 76ers may be just a few pieces away from being an elite team in the East if they continue to mold and play together under the guidance of coach Collins.