At some point, the bad may morph into the ugly.
With a couple of weeks down and the NBA season starting to take shape, I've decided to take a look back at some of the high points, and low points, thus far. As the title indicates, there are three separate categories and I made a fourth, "The Unexplainable" to point out things that just don't make sense. Up first, the good:
Whatever time machine Elton Brand came across to make him look like the 2006 version of himself should be given to Jason Kapono as well so he can learn how to shoot again. I had modest expectations for Brand entering this season and he has definitely surpassed him. It seems as though he's one of those guys who take the negative press to heart and he worked hard this past offseason to get back into shape and shut up all the critics, myself included. That's exactly the type of player you want on your team: someone who isn't out there just going through the motions and playing for a paycheck. He shows that he actually cares about improving and helping his team win.
Honorable mention goes to Lou Williams who's in contention for Sixth Man of The Year but Brand has to be one of the contenders for MVP despite his team's record. It's not just the 18 and 8 he's putting up (entering action on 11/9), he's also 11th in FG%, 3rd among forwards in blocks, and is a surprisingly 9th in the league in steals. He is averaging 2.29 steals per game which leads all non-guards and is over two times his career average of steals per game which was .94 entering this season. The team's record is certainly to no fault of Brand and once the Sixers start to get a little more success, then Brand should get some more national recognition for his play as well.
I'd hate to pile on a guy that's not fully healthy, allegedly, but Spencer Hawes has been downright awful so far this season. According to the website, basketball-reference.com, Hawes ranks as the worst starting center in the league. Of the 38 centers who have played at least 60 minutes this year, Hawes ranks dead last in both offensive rating (points produced per possession) and PER (player efficiency rating). This begs the question: Why is he even on the court? He's not scoring, not stopping anyone from scoring, and not at 100% health so why is he playing at all? I'd rather see Marreese Speights, Tony Battie, or even Darius Songalia out there at center.
Honorable mention goes to Jason Kapono who may be playing his final games in the NBA. He's lost his shooting touch which was the one thing that was keeping him in the league. He is currently on a leave of absence to deal with a family issue which sounds eerily similar to Allen Iverson last season. I hope that everything is okay with Kapono's family but I wouldn't be surprised if the Sixers decided to execute a buyout of Kapono's contract which would likely end his career.
For me, the worst part of the season hasn't been a player's performance but rather the realization that this Sixers team is not as good as I thought it would be. Before the season started I had hopes of this team winning close to 40 games and possibly grabbing the final playoff spot. Neither one of those is going to happen with the way this team is constructed. Seven of the top eight players are 26 or younger and all of them are locked in until 2012 or later. It's become obvious that this is a rebuilding year which makes it an awkward situation for a veteran like Brand. He will turn 32 this season and I just don't know if he will want to stick around on a team with no shot at winning a championship anytime soon. If he wants to be a part of the rebuilding process, then more power to him and I would certainly want him to stay on the team and help out. But for someone who's been in the league for 12 years and played all of 12 playoff games, I just don't see him sticking around. With his stock at its highest point in about four years, now may be the best time to trade him. If it doesn't happen this year, I firmly believe that at some point before his contract ends in the 2012-2013 season, Elton Brand will be wearing another team's uniform.
Honorable mention goes to the loss to the Cavaliers and more specifically, the final six minutes of the game. At the under six-minute timeout the Cavs had 91 points and a seven point deficit and by the end of the game they had 123 points and a seven point win. I'll do the math for you; that's 32 points in six minutes of action. Now I don't proclaim to know everything about the history of the NBA, but I seriously doubt that there has even been 32 points scored by one team in six minutes of action. 32 points by two teams in that amount of time is even hard to do. The good news is that it only counts as one loss, and the team rebounded the next game vs. New York.
When you look at the statistics, you would think that we were one of the elite defensive teams in the league. We rank third in steals, fourth in blocks (only NBA team in top 5 in both categories) and also rank 10th in opposing field goal percentage. Yet the nine teams in front of us have a combined record of 41-18 while we sit at 2-5. We also rank as fourth best in forcing turnovers and 10th in effective FG%, which are two of the Four Factors of Basketball Success. But as it is often the case, the statistics don't match up with the record. At some point they will even out and I hate to be pessimistic, but I have a feeling that the rankings will come down rather than the record going up.