Sixers Turning It Around?

Posted: April 12, 2012 in Hoops, Sixers
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s hard to judge a team on two games, especially a game against the Nets, who were down Gerald Wallace and have every reason as an organization to want to lose games and try to retain their draft pick (it was traded to Portland, but is top three protected), or a game against the lowly Toronto Raptors.  I have to admit though, that after me throwing him under the bus just a couple of days ago, Collins seemingly made some very shrewd and difficult lineup changes prior to Tuesday’s tilt against the Nets.

Prior to the game, I was convinced that Doug would bench either Jrue or Evan for Jodie Meeks, but I never would’ve thought to bench Spencer.  It seemed like Spencer was such a vital component of their early season success.  His shotblocking, his rebounding, his great high post passing, and his ability to sink the face up jumper all seemed like critical components to the way the Sixers ran their offense, and neither Vucevic nor Lavoy was ever stellar as a starter in his place.  What I failed to take into account, is we’d never really seen Hawes play with the second unit, get the opportunity to dominate backup frontcourt players.  It’s okay if Vucevic just holds his own with that first unit, hits a few open shots, and holds his own on the boards and plays decent defense.  Spencer wasn’t doing a great deal more than that lately, and often he seemed to be doing less.  It also adds a much needed body to Collins’ rotation, which had been at just 8 players throughout the four game losing streak.  That had to be a factor in a season where guys are already worn out.

There are plenty of teams that bring one of their better players off the bench to run wild on the other teams second unit, but few do it at the center position.  To me, this seems like a relic of the past.  In the 90’s you couldn’t bring your first string center off the bench if you were going against Pat or Hakeem.  In the 00’s you couldn’t bring your first string center off the bench if you were going against Shaq or Duncan.  But Spencer Hawes, while he was dynamic in the beginning of the season, isn’t going to shut down any opposing centers, and so few teams have a dynamic offensive center anyway.  Even Dwight Howard is not the type of player who drops 30 without batting an eye.  Besides that, Elton Brand is the player who takes on the best offensive front court player, and does a pretty solid job at it.  Bringing Hawes off the bench gives the Sixers a decided advantage in the second unit, giving new life to a “Night Shift” that has looked anything but imposing lately.  The part of the move that I don’t particularly want to cover yet, is that moving Turner to the bench is an admission that Jrue, Turner, Iguodala just can’t work.  Which is too bad.  There are so many things to like about those three players, and maybe with an off-season a full training camp, and a season with practices something can turn around there.  But I have doubt that the new ownership group will give them that opportunity, and to me, that’s a bit unfortunate.

If you’re an ESPN insider, you can take a look at this interesting article in favor of the Sixers’ Elton Brand getting some first team all-defense/DPOY votes.  If you’re not an ESPN insider, I’ll break down the basics.  Elton Brand has ranks number one in the entire league this year at points allowed in the post and he and Iguodala combined have anchored what is still the league’s best defense.  Brand has held it down in the front court, despite the fact that he’s had to play along the likes of rookies Lavoy Allen, Nik Vucevic, and occasionally (when he’s been healthy) Spencer Hawes.  Not exactly a defensive murders row.  It’s a solid argument and confirms what I’ve felt watching the Sixers for most of the year, Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand have been the Sixers two most valuable players by far, despite the fact that neither of them has had offensively impressive stat lines on a regular basis.

I’m heading to the Wells Fargo center for the last time this season, unless they should happen to sneak into the playoffs (which now looks more likely, 3 games ahead of the Bucks), for a must win against the very beatable Nets.  I can’t help but remember a game back in January when Deron Williams dropped 34 and 11 and beat the Sixers in OT.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Sixers have finally figured out a way to defend strong point guards (something they haven’t done well all year), or if Tuesday’s win was just a fluke, or if Williams has just mailed it in at this point.  Regardless, the Sixers need the win tomorrow Orlando, Indiana, Cleveland, Indiana, and Milwaukee in four of their remaining seven games, and could easily lose all four of those if they’re not careful.

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