Returning virtually the same personnel and coaching staff as last years 41 win team, the Sixers are hoping their familiarity gives them an advantage in this shortened NBA season.
"Some players aren't even on a basketball team yet," Elton Brand said. "So when they join that team, it's going to be a learning curve for them that we're not going to have with our ball club. We're ready to go right now."
Even so, it's going to take more than familiarity for the Sixers to make the jump into the NBA's elite. It will require a drastic change in talent level.
Since the end of last season, the Sixers haven't brought in much in terms of talent from outside of the organization, the most relevant addition having been Nikola Vucevic with the 16th pick in last years draft. They have instead chosen to stay the course-- not using the amnesty clause, bringing back Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, and Tony Battie, and with Rod Thorn yet to make a major trade since taking over as team president last offseason.
Even had the Sixers cleared cap space -- renouncing Young and Hawes, amnesty Brand or Nocioni -- attracting top tier free agents is a tricky proposition.
"We need to at least get to the 5th seed or 4th seed in the playoffs before upper echelon, top tier free agents are going to say 'Hey, that's my destination'," Sixers forward Elton Brand said. "You know, you don't want to go to the 7th place team. Just being honest. I think once we get there, they're going to want to come."
"I think we can get there."
The major influx of talent will have to come from within. Evan Turner, the 2nd overall pick from the 2010 draft, can certainly improve upon his disappointing rookie season, and Nikola Vucevic may exceed expectations. And Thaddeus Young, despite having four years played in the league already may still be able to improve upon some of the flaws preventing him from reaching stardom.
The most likely influx of talent, however, is third year point guard Jrue Holiday. Last year it was Doug Collins proclaiming that his young floor general had the potential to be a top 5 point guard in the league, and soon. That was an incredibly lofty, perhaps even unrealistic, expectation to be set considering the staggering amount of talent at the point guard position, which becomes even more-so due to Holiday's youth. Only two players 20 years of age or under played 35+ minutes per game last year, Jrue Holiday and John Wall. Even if you look at this year, when Holiday will still only be 21 years old when the playoffs begin, that list only expands to 4 players from last year who played 35+ minutes per game who were 21 years or under, adding Blake Griffin or Tyreke Evans to the mix.
Even with his youth, there's no question his teammates have confidence in him.
"He can be a top 5 point guard in the league, easy," Andre Iguodala said about Holiday. "He's probably one of the best on the ball defenders I've ever seen."
"Knowing What to look for, time of possession, where to get guys the ball, he's only going to get better with that as he continues to get more experience. The sky's the limit for him."
There's little doubt Holiday is putting in the work to succeed, and knows what is expected of him.
"One of the things [I do] is to look at the point guards in the league - Steve Nash, Deron Williams, Chris Paul," Holiday said. "It's really just to grow as a leader."