The Philadelphia 76ers were one of the best teams in the NBA after January of last season and were able to ride the momentum into the Playoffs where the put up a good showing against the Detroit Pistons. This offseason, the Sixers were looking to make a few changes that would push them into the NBA elite. Philadelphia in fact did make an impact this summer when they made a simple addition in the form of one player Ė former Los Angeles Clippersí power forward, Elton Brand. Brand appeared in just 8 games last season for the Paper Clips after rupturing his left Achilles tendon. The 76ers are hoping that Brand can play the entire season injury free and have the kind of effect on the team that he had for the Clippers, bringing solid post-scoring and stifling defense. Playing with Andre Iguodala and Andre Miller, Brand will be the focal point of this teamís trio of stars and gives the Sixers a truly dominant big man to cause trouble in the Eastern Conference. The addition of Brand makes the 76ers more than just a Playoff contender; he may put them in the hunt for the NBA title.
Offense: The 76ers were effective on the offensive end as they could run and gun with certain teams, or play a slow half-court style of game. Their one deficiency, however, was the lack of a talented post player. With Elton Brand, both Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala will be able to showcase their playmaking skills. With two great playmakers in the lineup, Elton Brandís game will benefit from the great passes and easy baskets that will tear up the oppositionís interior defense. Whether the Sixers run the ball or slow it down, the presence of Elton Brand in the post will make them one of the most deadly offensive teams in the league.
Defense: The 76ers defense was good at times last year, but they also had their meltdowns. Reggie Evans is known for going after every ball in the league, just ask Chris Kaman, but he was unable to keep the bigger, stronger forwards away from the basket. Elton Brand, like Evans, is a slightly undersized power forward, but is built like a tank. Unlike Evans, though, Brand is a tremendous shot-blocker and his athleticism paired with his strength prevents even the biggest of forwards from getting easy baskets. Elton Brand will be matched with Samuel Dalembert in the pos, creating a monstrous rebounding/shot-blocking duo that will make every player think twice about getting anywhere near the basket. Along with a solid perimeter defense, the post defense of the 76ers will be nearly infallible.
Strengths: The mixture of both young and veteran talent on this team is amazing. The younger players, like Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, are full of potential, yet ready to contribute. The veteran stars, such as Andre Miller and Elton Brand, have seen their fair share of NBA games, and are prepared to lead this team into the Playoffs.
Weaknesses: How Elton Brand will be inserted into the rotation and the effect he could have on Samuel Dalembertís game are two big questions. Likely, though, Brand should mesh well with the offense, and problems will be scarce. Dalembertís production alongside Brand, however, could create a problem.
Five Players to Watch:
Elton Brand - Many people felt that Elton Brand was robbed of the MVP after the 2005-06 season when he led the Clippers to the second round of the Playoffs after a dominant regular season. This year, Brandís name could be amongst the list of MVP candidates once again. The question remains, though, will Elton Brand stay healthy? A leg injury on a big man is never good news, and Elton Brand missed all but 8 games last year due to this. I expect Brand to be healthy for the most part this season, and play close to 82 games by seasonís end. Elton Brand, as well as the Philadelphia fans, have their sights set on the NBA title, which is actually a plausible belief.
Andre Iguodala - Andre Iguodala got his extension this offseason, and he also got a front court powerhouse in Elton Brand. Not a bad summer at all for Iggy. Iguodala is capable of being the star for this team, but I believe his game is better suited in a sidekick role, playing off the better player. Iguodala should flourish beside Elton Brand and life will be easy for the dunk-machine. An All-Star appearance is a definite possibility.
Andre Miller - Miller will be joining fellow 1999 Draft pick and former Clipper teammate Elton Brand in the 76ers lineup this season, and oh what a reunion it will be. Andre Miller is known for his great lob passes, and with both Brand and Samuel Dalembert to get the ball to in the post, as well as Andre Iguodala flying in from the perimeter, the entertainment factor Miller will bring to the game will be off the charts. Millerís scoring numbers will take a hit, but his assists will be back up in the 8 or 9 range, perhaps even higher.
Thaddeus Young - Thaddeus Young is another freak of nature from the mold of Andre Iguodala. He can get to the basket and isnít afraid to dunk on anyone, or he can bury the mid-range shot. With three great offensive players in the lineup beside him, Young will see plenty of open shots and will get plenty of open lanes toward the rim. Young is still years away from becoming a star in this league, but a productive role player is something he will be this season.
Maurice Cheeks - Poor Maurice Cheeks. So many good players, so little minutes. The depth of this team is unbelievable, and the talent is matched by few teams in the league. Mo will need to find a way to create a chemistry for this team and carry over the momentum from last season to this season. Hell, Doc Rivers didnít have too much trouble with the Boston Celtics, whoís to say Cheeks canít follow his lead?
Title Hopes: The Philadelphia 76ers will make the Playoffs. Thatís a given. Winning the title, well, thatís a little more difficult. With two great teams in their division, and at least two other title contenders in the East, the Sixers will have a lot of competition for the Larry OíBrien trophy. The 76ers could win their division, but the Celtics are still too strong. The Raptors have also improved nearly as much as the Sixers, so taking the second spot in the division wonít be a cake-walk either. The Sixers have all the potential to win their division, as well as the NBA title, but I donít see the 76ers taking either of them.
Prediction: 3rd Place, Atlantic Division