Five Observations From The Sixers' Preseason Opener

Collins looks like he has a lot of work to do before opening night

1.       Moving Turner to backup PG points to a glaring lack of ball handlers:

First off, I just want to say that I like the decision to take Turner out of the starting lineup and make him the backup point guard to Jrue Holiday. It takes some pressure off of Turner now that he'll be going up against bench players most of the time and it adds flexibility to the bench in that Lou Williams isn't the only ball handler. But it also shows the lack of depth at the point guard position in that the team has ZERO true point guards on the roster. Why couldn't the Sixers sign one of those Anthony Carter/Chucky Atkins/Earl Watson types that are going to end up as a coach one day? Why don't we reach out to someone like free agent Anthony Johnson and get him for the veteran's minimum? I'm sure he'd rather get paid $1.3 million to sit on the bench rather than $50,000 or so as part of the NBA's pension plan to sit at home. Sorry Fighting Irish fans, but Chris Quinn is not the answer to the Sixers' point guard woes.

2.       Marreese Speights STILL cannot finish at the basket:

You know what's really frustrating as a fan? When a young player with an obvious glaring weakness doesn't work to correct that flaw. Apart from his defensive troubles, Speights was one of the worst big men in the league at making baskets at the rim last season. Among the 89 power forwards/centers who averaged at least 15 minutes per game last season, Speights ranked 81st with a 55.8 FG% on shots at the rim (minimum 40 games played). That percentage would even be on the low end for guards as Speights finished right in between Darren Collison and Delonte West. So how did the big man fare with these shots in the preseason opener? He went 2 for 10 on shots in the paint and 0 for 8 on shots within five feet of the basket. 0 FOR 8!!! The only saving grace was that he got to the line 14 times and knocked down 11 of them.

3.       Opposing big men will have no problem scoring on us:

A natural dropoff in interior defense was expected with the Dalembert-Hawes trade but with Speights now the backup center, we now have two poor defensive centers. Hawes and Speights are on the court for their offense but they play a position that mandates good defense. Brook Lopez scored 24 points in 22 minutes including going 8 for 11 within four feet of the basket (Speights should take notes). Lopez also got Hawes in foul trouble as Hawes played just 16 minutes and had one fewer fouls (5) than points (6). I'm not a big fan of the plus/minus statistic but this one is just too obvious to ignore; Hawes had a plus/minus of -17 while Speights had one of +9. Those represented the team low and the team high, respectively, in regards to that statistic. It was based more on Speights offense rather than his defense on Lopez because the Nets center torched both Sixers. If/When Tony Battie gets healthy; hopefully he'll be able to provide some defensive help even if just for a handful of minutes a night.

4.       Shooting will be a major problem all year:

This comes as no surprise considering the only player one would consider a good shooter is Jason Kapono and he's so bad at every other area that it's more of a detriment to have him on the court than on the bench. The team shot 2 of 18 (11.1%) from three-point range and was at 37.5% on all shots. Much of the blame can go to Speights and his inability to finish at the rim, but it wasn't just him that had an awful night shooting. Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner combined to go 1 for 11 while Kapono missed all three of his three-point attempts. Outside of the paint, we were simply atrocious knocking down just 9 of 34 shots while New Jersey hit a respectable 16 out of 35 shots outside of the paint. Doug Collins' teams are not known for shooting ability but rather their offensive efficiency. In 2002 while with Washington, the Wizards led the NBA in three-point percentage by a wide margin; however, they also attempted the second fewest three pointers that season (ironically the 76ers attempted the fewest). Without a player that forces the opposing team to double-team; the likes of Kapono, Lou Williams, and Andres Nocioni won't be getting as many open looks as they might have hoped for.

5.       The 8 or 9-man rotation is FAR from complete:

Thaddeus Young's eye injury didn't allow us to see what the initial rotation would be nor did Andres Nocioni sitting out with a sprained ankle. Those are our two combo forwards so it remains to be seen if they will be used at power forward any or if rookie Craig Brackins (5 points, 5 rebounds in 21 minutes) will actually be in line for meaningful minutes. While we did start with a traditional lineup with Brand at the 4 and Hawes at the 5, there was a stretch at the end of the 3rd quarter in which Collins went small with Brand at center. I think our best lineups will have Brand at center as it allows another guard or wing to get onto the floor. Defensively, we may struggle at the 4 as Young lacks the size and Nocioni lacks the height, but Brand should be able to do a capable job at center compared to the other two options that normally play there. Also, it will be interesting to see if Turner cracks the starting lineup at some point and how that affects the rest of the rotation.

Even though we lost our preseason opener to the worst team in the league last season who was also playing without their best player; you have to remember one thing...it's just preseason. Yes, preseason does mean a little more in the NBA than in the NFL but it's just one game and there's six more to fine-tune everything (although I'm confused as to why just two of those are at home). There's no need to panic and instead you should rejoice because after an offseason that lasted seemingly forever, it is finally basketball season!!!

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