If this Wednesday's Orlando Magic game taught us anything, it is the need for a quality center in order to compete with the "big boys" of the NBA. Although Spencer Hawes has shown flashes of talent, as the season's progressed it has become clear he is not the answer. A useful backup no doubt, but not a starter. So where does that leave the 76ers. Either trading for a quality big, or reevaluating the talent within the organization.
Elton Brand has been used in the "center" role several times throughout the season. He is strong enough to bang and has a long enough wingspan to contest shots. The one big credit to Brand throughout his career is the fact that he plays bigger than he truly is.
Offensively the biggest positive about Elton is his ability to step out and consistently hit the mid-range jump shot. He's like Jimmy Chitwood during the 1952 Indiana State Championship...Wait...I've just received word that was a movie.
(Speaking of Hoosiers, was there a worse coach in high school movie history then the coach from South Bend Central? Did he realize there was no shot clock? How do you blow a 6 point lead with just over a minute left when you have possession of the ball without missing free throws? Especially when you are the more athletic team. He was completely out coached by Norman Dale.)
Anyway, Brand has been playing consistently good basketball for the first time since he arrived in Philadelphia. However putting Elton into a situation where he must guard seven footers every game will burn him out quickly. After Elton, the Sixers do not possess a lot of depth at the big man position.
Some people would love for Doug Collins to play Marreese Speights more and see what he can do...especially RickoT from the Liberty Ballers message boards. (Man crushing hard on Mo Speights) The positive thing about Speights is his ability to score in bunches. He can light up a stat sheet quickly.
He can also disappear just as easily.
The downfall about Speights has more to do with his work ethic and lack of defensive prowess. Speights entered tonight's Timberwolves game and immediately gave up an offensive rebound to Nikola Pekovic. (5.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, and 1 horrendous tattoo per arm)
Collins has definitely helped Speights improve his rebounding ability and intensity however, like Hawes, I don't see Speights being the answer inside.
That brings us to Tony Battie. I think Tony would have been the answer if it were 2003, however he is in the twilight of his career and not able to give the strength and defense he was capable of earlier on.
Craig Brackins has shown the ability to be a legitimate force during his sophomore season at Iowa St. Since then Brackins seems to have regressed. I have not seen enough of Brackins to determine his potential, but my friends in the D-League tell me if and when he develops into a strong post option, it won't be soon.
The lack of depth in the front court has forced Collins to play a smaller lineup during crunch time. This worked out well in Friday night's game against the Spurs. Against a team like Orlando and a player like Dwight Howard however, playing small ball is not effective. As Doug Collins recently stated, "Sometimes you need to have size out there."
Come playoff time, the need for a quality big man becomes more important. Few teams have won NBA titles without one. I believe I speak for everyone when I say this team is not yet in contention for a title. Still with the right trade, (Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby) the Sixers could surprise a few people come playoff time.