It has taken a week or so to really digest this Philadelphia 76ers season. After some careful thought I can finally express my emotions appropriately...I am excited! This season leaves a great taste in my mouth going forward. Despite only winning one playoff game, the Sixers were able to show the Philadelphia fan base what the future holds. They have given people a reason to be excited about professional basketball again.
Let us not forget, this team is still a few pieces away from challenging the best in the NBA. Moves will need to be made in order to improve going forward. I decided to grade the 76ers individually this year, in order to make some sense out of who should stay and who should go.
Doug Collins A+
If I were fictional Christmas Story character Ralphie Parker's teacher, I would write an A next to Doug Collins' name, and then emphatically add pluses down the chalkboard and across the wall, while the entire Sixers organization hoists him onto their shoulders. That is how much he meant to this team.
Now I don't take anything away from Tom Thibodeau. He has done an amazing job this year turning the Chicago Bulls into the best team in the Eastern Conference, and is deserving of the Coach of the Year. However having said that, has any other coach done so much more with so little, than Doug Collins? I don't believe so.
The Sixers don't possess an MVP candidate, or an All-Star. Their 2nd overall pick in last years NBA Draft did not make any All-Rookie teams, nor did he play in the Rookie game during the All-Star break. They are a team full of role players, yet somehow gave the Miami Heat all they could handle in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Doug Collins is a major reason behind the 76ers success this season. He changed the entire outlook of the team. He has the veterans believing in the team again and the young guys improving rapidly. Unfortunately I never got my ballot to vote for Coach of the Year, however if I did, Doug Collins would get my vote.
Jrue Holiday A
If anyone has me excited for the future, it is Jrue. When he was drafted two years ago it was based on potential. That potential is thriving under the new 76er regime. Holiday improved drastically this year and at just 20 years of age, the future looks bright at point guard.
Evan Turner: B+
I think half of you just fell out of your chairs/couches/ottomans. How could Evan Turner receive such a high mark? It is like the kid who has mono all year, comes back to school and receives better grades than you do. How can that be fair?
Evan has had a nightmare of a rookie year. Although he was the second pick in the NBA draft, he received no rookie honors of any kind. He was basically glued to the bench throughout the better part of the year. However, despite the lack of respect he has received since walking out of Ohio State, he still continues to impress.
Could you imagine what a guy like DeMarcus Cousins would have done had he been given Evan Turner's minutes? Do you think he would still come to practice everyday eager to get better? Do you think he would still have the confidence to take big shots in crunch time of the playoffs? I don't think so. Yet that is Evan Turner. The guy who has absorbed all the negativity thrown his way and turned it into something tangible. In five years we will all be laughing about how everyone thought Evan Turner was a bust.
Thaddeus Young: B+
I thought, besides Doug Collins, Thad had the best chance to bring some hardware home for the Sixers this year. Along with Lou Williams, he was a strong candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award. He also was mentioned on occasion for the Most Improved. Both of those awards however, went to other deserving candidates. That does not take away from the impressive year Thaddeus had for the 76ers.
Even more impressive than his play was his attitude. He generally seems happy in Philadelphia. The moment that sealed the deal for me, was during Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs. Evan Turner was just shoved by James Jones and Thaddeus aggressively intervened. That is what I loved to see. Nothing dirty, just letting Jones know, if he touches a Sixer, there will be consequences.
Lou Williams: B
If you told me last year that Lou Williams would be taking the last shot in nearly every close game of the year, I would have called you something unpleasant. But that is what has happened. Lou has stepped up on numerous occasions and took the game into his own hands.
Lou is still a liability defensively, but his leadership and confidence have been impressive this year. As a sixth or seventh man, there are not many as talented as Lou. With Holiday, Turner, Williams and Meeks, the Sixers have some options at guard in the years to come.
Elton Brand: B
No one has benefited from Doug Collins more than Elton Brand. After two listless, unmotivated years in Philadelphia, Brand has finally made some sense of the huge free-agent contract he signed.
The one thing I really like about Brand is his ability to hit the midrange jump shot. At 32 years of age, although his body may break down as the seasons pass, his ability to step out and shoot will remain. Add a legitimate big man to alleviate the pressure on him inside, and he will continue to be an important aspect of the team going forward.
Jodie Meeks: C+
Jodie has been impressive for the Sixers this year. I have to admit in the beginning of the year I was not convinced. Meeks had not much success in the NBA since he left Kentucky, however has proved to be a reliable shooter this season.
Andre Iguodala: C
With trade rumors swirling around Iggy after his post playoff comments, the Sixers may finally be forced into the move fans have been begging for all year. I see both sides of this argument. On one hand, Iguodala plays terrific defense and can fill up a stat sheet. On the other hand, he can look like an All-Star one day and a bench player the next.
It has become clear that he is not happy in Philadelphia. His comments solidified that. Maybe he is sick of the questions from the media about his future, or maybe he hears the footsteps of Evan Turner and the rest of the young players. Whatever the reason, Iguodala most likely will have played his last game in a Sixers uniform.
The biggest question now becomes what is his trade value. With a huge contract and a less than stellar playoffs, who would give up a valuable commodity for Andre? The most likely scenarios would involve high risk moves that may have potential for success. But don't expect too much more than that.
Andres Nocioni: D+
Inconsistent: in-con-sis-tent (adj)
: lacking consistency: as
A : not compatible with another fact or claim <inconsistent statements>
B : containing incompatible elements <an inconsistent argument>
C : incoherent or illogical in thought or actions : changeable
D : not satisfiable by the same set of values for the unknowns <inconsistent equations> <inconsistent inequalities>
Spencer Hawes: D
Remember when you were in grade school and had a really hard class? No matter how hard you tried you could not figure it out? Then your report card came and you prayed that you passed based on the goodness in the teacher's heart? This is kind of like that.
Being a tall, awkward, big guy, I relate to "Spawes". If he were a backup center his grade would be much higher. But he is not a backup, he is a starter. Therefore his grade reflects that. I would love to see Spencer bring some interior energy off the bench next year...But not from the start of the game.
Marresse Speights: F
The problem with Speights is, he endured a similar season to Evan Turner, yet his reaction was not positive. He seemed to regress as the season went on. Speights has never fulfilled his potential here in Philadelphia and it may be time to move him.
Tony Battie/Jason Kapono/Darius Songalia/Craig Brackins: Incomplete
This motley crew has not really done enough to warrant a grade. I guess Battie for his role and age, could have received a decent grade, however the Sixers preference to go small most of the season, limited his minutes. The remainder of the group looked terrific this year...In their suits.