After an NBA season that may come as a success to some and a failure to others, the Philadelphia 76ers enter the offseason with a core of the team remaining. Improvements still must be made in order for this team to get even better, though.
This past season the Sixers established their full-time head coach in Doug Collins, who led them to 14 more wins than the previous year. That being said, the Sixers were still just 41-41 and had yet another early exit from the playoffs.
Because they made the playoffs, Philadelphia will not have a lottery draft pick, which means it will be hard to build this team up with even more young, talented players. The young talent on this Sixers team will be the key to success in future years; Philadelphia currently has the 11th-youngest team in the NBA at just more than 26 years young. The entire 76ers nucleus is in their low-to-mid 20’s with the exception of Elton Brand, so this team will be competitive for many years to come.
Brand has finally backed up management’s reasoning for signing him to that huge contract three years ago. He was finally healthy this year, and he did not disappoint, as he has been and will continue to be the veteran presence this team needs. This year he averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds with a devastating mid-range jumper.
Recent draft picks Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young will be the reason for the future resurgence of the 76ers; all of these players are 22 years old or younger.
Although he did not play as much as he would have liked during his rookie season, Turner has shown strides in becoming the future All-Star he was projected to be when the Sixers selected him with the second overall pick in last year’s draft. Some of his best games of the year were when the most pressure was put on him; he dropped 15 and 17 points in Games 2 and 4 against the Miami Heat while only playing only 26 and 27 minutes.
Young was a very consistent contributor off the bench this year with an ever-improving mid-range jump shot. He averaged 12.7 points off the bench in only 26 minutes and should be a key starter in future years.
Jrue Holliday is widely known as the best all-around player on the 76ers, often placed on the best player on the opposing team because of his good defense. He averaged 14 points and 6.5 assists in only his second season, and he is still only 20 years old!
So how is this team going to get any better?
The most obvious answer is the young talent will all have one more year's experience. They will all have Doug Collins’ system under their belts heading into next season, so hopefully this will help them avoid starting the year with a 3-13 record like they did this past year.
Every player on the team will be more mature next year, and the valuable experience of this past season for the young players will help make the team even more of a force to reckoned with next year. If the Sixers went to the playoffs this year with that horrid start to the season and many of their players still in the very beginning of their NBA careers, imagine the possibilities for next year’s team.
There are still a few moves that need to be made in the offseason to ensure the Sixers have an even more successful 2011-2012 season.
Philadelphia will have to draft smart, knowing they have less depth down low than up top. Either of the Morris twins from Kansas would a great fit for the team since they are big power forwards who grew up in Philadelphia.
As sad as it may be, the longest-tenured 76er, Andre Iguodala, has no crucial place on this team for the future. While he has always been a solid player, he is no superstar, and his presence stunts the growth of younger players such as Turner. If the Sixers can deal him to a contending team that needs a solid complementary player, they can receive some future draft picks that will help them even more in future years.
One of the only holes on the Sixers right now is at the center position. While Spencer Hawes may be a big body who grabs rebounds, he isn’t the interior force who will help the Sixers significantly down low. If Philadelphia can trade Iguodala and free up some cap space, there are some intriguing free-agent centers this offseason such as Glen Davis and Greg Oden.
We learned a lot about this Sixers team during the Heat series this year. Miami was up by double-digits in four of the five games, but Philadelphia showed they could hang with the best of the best. More experience and maturity will only prove to help them as the team develops.
If everything goes according to plan, this team could pass the aging Celtics, who are going in the opposite direction. Boston only made it one round past the Sixers in this year’s playoffs and showed no signs of improvement, unlike this Philadelphia team.