2012 NBA Playoff Postmortem: Philadelphia 76ers

Andre Iguodala is staring at an offseason
that should serve up an upgrade for the Sixers.
(image by the AP)

For a time, the Sixers looked locked as the top team in the Atlantic Division. The Knicks were struggling, the Celtics were aching, and the Nets and Raptors were being themselves, which is to say they were horrible.

Philly had its best start since 2001, winning 20 of their first 29 games, including wins over Atlanta, Chicago, Indiana, Orlando, and the Lakers. And then they went on a horrendous 10 game gauntlet that saw them win only twice. They eventually wound up 8th in the East with a 35-31 slate.

Not bad at all.

And to think Spencer Hawes was injured for most of the season.

If you really look at this team, it’s no wonder they entered the Playoffs and it’s not a stretch to understand why they beat the Bulls. This is a loaded team.

Spencer Hawes and Elton Brand are both solid frontcourt specialists. Andre Iguodala is an All-Star. Jrue Holiday could’ve made a convincing case for an All-Star selection this past season. The wing combo of Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, and Evan Turner is money. And Thaddeus Young remains to be athletic as hell.

This is a great team of youngsters (mostly) that can continuously make life tough for the Miamis and Chicagos of the next few seasons.

They were also pretty lucky.

The injured Hawes returned just in time, while the Bulls saw their top player and top big guy sidelined in the first round. They also had to contend with a Boston five whose Big Four was playing with a 50%-strength Ray Allen.

And with 7 Playoff wins to its name after getting ousted in Game 7 by Boston, Philadelphia has a lot to look forward to in October.

Provided he continues on his trajectory, Jrue Holiday
should be an All-Star guard next year.
(image by Elsa/Getty Images)
Holiday should finally be a bona fide All-Star next year, Evan Turner should play at least 30 minutes in a lot more games, and Spencer Hawes could be the East’s version of Nikola Pekovic.

Still, with all those positives in the Sixers’ horizon, they still lack that one big thing all big-time teams have – a SUPERSTAR.

Many thought Andre Iguodala would be the face of the franchise, especially after his career-high 19.9ppg in 2007-2008, but his offense has slowed down significantly in the past few seasons, and he has resembled Scottie Pippen more than Michael Jordan. He has repeatedly shown that he prefers to be the all-around guy Jack-of-all-trades, instead of the man who owns this team and principally steers it to new heights. AI just isn’t The Man.

Same with Jrue Holiday, Elton Brand, and practically the whole roster.

Except for one.

The guy I can see really taking the mantle of stardom is Turner, but will he see enough daylight to actually blossom into the go-to guy the Sixers need?

Evan Turner has the potential to be the next great
Philadelphia 76er superstar.
(image by the AP)
Turner is the kind of player whose production seems to be directly proportional to his playing time. He played 23.0mpg last season, and normed 7.2ppg, 3.9rpg, and 2.0apg. he averaged 26.4mpg this year, and his numbers jumped to 9.4ppg, 5.8rpg, and 2.8apg. Play him, and he plays well.

Another key is despite being solid, Philly’s frontline will need an upgrade if they want to scale the higher tiers. Trade Hawes or Brand for someone like Kris Humphries, Marcus Camby, or even a re-do with Samuel Dalembert and this team can really jump the fence. An upgraded frontcourt coupled with the improving Lavoy Allen and Young can make the Sixers even stronger defensively, and, of course, this should give them better chances when guys like LeBron James, Derrick Rose, or Carmelo Anthony try to make a beeline to the basket.

In a nutshell, Philly fans can look forward to an even better team next year, but they should also temper their expectations unless the Sixers get lazy and simply stick with what they have. There’s some progress to be made here, but it is not without necessary risks.

Game Recaps:

OKC over SAS, 108-103
The Oklahoma City Thunder weathered a late San Antonio Spurs storm and are a win away from reaching the franchise's first NBA Finals since 1996. James Harden netted 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and nailed a game-deciding three-pointer in the final minute as the Thunder hung on for a 108-103 win over the Spurs in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. Kevin Durant scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half while Russell Westbrook added 23 points and 12 assists for the Thunder, who took a 3-2 series lead and can close out the Spurs in Game 6 on Wednesday in Oklahoma City, a place in which they haven't lost this postseason.

BOS over MIA, 94-90
Paul Pierce pulled up in front of LeBron James and drained a clutch three-pointer in the final minute, helping the Boston Celtics fend off the Miami Heat, 94-90, in Game 5 to take their first lead of the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics became the first team in the series to win on the road and can advance to the NBA Finals with a win in Boston on Thursday. They pulled out the swing game despite Pierce and Rajon Rondo combining to hit 9-of-34 (26 percent) from the field. Kevin Garnett picked up the slack with 26 points, including two clinching free throws with 8.8 seconds left, to go along with 11 rebounds. Pierce wound up finishing with 19 points, Rondo had 13 assists and Ray Allen and Mickael Pietrus each chipped in 13 points to help the Celtics rally from a double-digit deficit early on. James recorded 30 points and 13 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade added 27 points for the Heat, who lost despite the return of All-Star forward Chris Bosh.

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.
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