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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 20. Philadelphia 76ers

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st):  14-17,  fourth place Atlantic Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st):  

  • Points Scored: 93.2 (26th)
  • Points Allowed: 95.7 (7th)
  • Team FG%: .438 (19th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .450(19th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.5 (19th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 43.3 (23rd)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.4 (2nd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 14.5 (17th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st):  

  • Scoring (ppg): Jrue Holiday (18.6)
  • Rebounds per game: Thaddeus Young (7.2)
  • Minutes per game: Jrue Holiday (38.5)
  • Assists per game: Jrue Holiday (8.9)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Thaddeus Young (.532)
  • Steals per game: Thaddeus Young (1.8)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Spencer Hawes (1.1)

Worst Player of the Month: Lavoy Allen

Last season Lavoy Allen was one of the pleasant surprises of 2011 NBA Rookie class coming from the second round to give Philly a major boost and was a major factor in the Sixers' fairy tale season last year.  Now, like his team, Lavoy has fallen flat only slightly improving in production despite being placed in the starting lineup this season.  Much more was expected from him when coach Doug Collins gave this diamond in the rough to blossom with additional minutes; however, that has far from happened as Allen has been all but invisible on the offensive end, and rather disappointing on the defensive side of the floor as well.  Perhaps it was too much to expect that Lavoy Allen would have a breakout season or even that he would even grow from his rather impressive rookie season that saw him start 32 of the 66 regular season games.  Maybe he is nothing more than a lucky second rounder who happened to have shined at the right place and the right time which is too bad.
First Player of the Month: Evan Turner

From being considered a draft day bust after having two rather non descript seasons, Evan Turner has finally shown why the Sixers picked him second overall in the 2010 NBA Draft.  Turner has had a breakout season as all of his statistics have shot up across the board.  What was once a mere role player on the bench has now become Philly's third leading scorer (14.5ppg), second leading rebounder (6.6) and assist man (4.8).  Add the fact that his three point field goal percentage has sky rocketed from under .220 last season to .420 now makes Turner definitely a candidate for the Most Improved Player Award.   Hopefully, this breakout season will be the start of great things for this former Ohio State product.

For those Philly fans who have been shell shocked by their team's sudden downfall, you have to realize that unfortunately this was bound to happen.  After two years of defying the odds, silencing their doubters, and providing Sixer fans with more joy that it has ever experienced in more than a decade, reality was going to set in and it was going to hit the Sixers hard.  It looked as if Philly would continue its magical run after a solid finish in November where the Sixers entered December with a 10-6 record and looked to take on all comers in the Eastern Conference; however, that would be seen as the final dance of what has been a fairy tale thus far.  There was no way Philadelphia could continue entering every game facing teams that frankly out-sized, outmatched, and even out-classed them and still continue winning--something had to give, sooner or later.  Thus, December's sudden demise of a one time underestimated franchise should not be seen with dismay or disgust because one could have easily predicted that this was going to happen--if not now, then later down the road.

After an amazing 10-6 start in November, the Sixers went into December losing three of their first five games which at first did not seem like anything to really worry about as both the team and its fans had a false sense of invulnerability.  That all changed, however, when the Sixers suddenly dropped five straight and would later lead them to finish 2012 4-11 dropping them a top tier contender in the East to a shattered shell of their former selves.  The first two loses were not so bad as the Sixers only lost to Chicago by just seven (12/12/2012) and Indiana by just ten (12/14/2012).  That was until they embarrassing lost by 13 points at home by a struggling Lakers team (12/16/2012) followed by a harsh two game Texas road trip that saw Philly lose by a combined 32 points against the Dallas Mavericks (12/18/2012) and Houston Rockets (12/19/2012).  Philly then hobbled through the end of 2012 winning two of their last five games earning hard fought victories against the Atlanta Hawks (12/21/2012) and Memphis Grizzlies (12/26/2012) while suffering heartbreaking losses to the Brooklyn Nets (12/23/2012), Golden State Warriors (12/28/2012) and Portland Trailblazers (11/29/2012) as they lost those three by a total of 14 points--an average margin of less than five points per game.

It is easy to see why Philadelphia crashed and burned in December after starting the season soaring high last season.  Last season, the Sixers had the good fortune of playing a shortened regular season due to the NBA lockout that ate up a good chunk of it--16 games to be exact.  Philly simply took advantage of  it as they went off to an impressive start winning 15 of their first 21 games which earned them first place in their Atlantic Division for much of the season. That did not last, however, as Philly started slowing down during the course of the season as Philly went 20-15 to finish the season eventually losing first place of the Atlantic to the Boston Celtics and fell from one of the top teams in the East to the eighth seed in the playoffs.  There, the Sixers had the luxury of facing and defeating a severely depleted and undermanned Chicago Bulls team in the first round followed by an aging Boston Celtics team that took them a little too lightly.

With all things remaining equal, there was no way that last season's Philadelphia team could have handily beaten a Chicago Bulls team at full strength.  In fact one can go as far to say that Chicago had themselves to blame to losing that series to Philly because even without two of their key players, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the Bulls were a far better team than Philly.  Philly really did not have to do much--the Bulls just simply let go of the wheel which led them to spiral out of control and barrel of a cliff.  All Philly essentially did was watch as the Bulls allowed themselves to fall apart allowing the Sixers to just slip past the wreckage and look like the dominating victor à la "David and Goliath."  Thus the image of a mighty Philadelphia 76er team has essentially had been a been a falsehood which would lead them to be eventually exposed as the  frauds they truly were.

This certainly does not bode well for head coach Doug Collins who had been protrayed as Philly's savior over the past couple seasons taking an underrated and underestimated Sixers team to playoff glory.  His success resulted from generally outside circumstances  and as he slowly loses control of his team as the season progresses, it will be all but certain that his head will be first on the chopping block if this slide were to continue.  Although, despite the unfortunate downturn, Sixers fans should remain hopeful that their team can find away to bounce back from the current slump that they are in.  There is still a lot of time left, and the Sixers, finishing 2012 three games under .500 can still regain some ground and still make a run for the post season; however, it will take a lot of effort and most definitely a lot of luck for that to happen.  Not that Philly has been essentially exposed as a fraud, there will be numerous teams looking to knock the Sixers down another peg or two.