October 21, 2009
SI.com's NBA Enemy Lines
Philadelphia 76ers
An opposing team's scout sizes up the 76ers

Eddie Jordan is an excellent coach offensively, but I don't think they are going to have a good year. Without Andre Miller or another true point guard, I don't see them doing a good job with the offense that Jordan wants to run. People may say that you don't need a real point guard to initiate the Princeton offense, but that's a lot of bull. You've got to have someone who understands the game. In a two-guard front, if the point guard makes the pass to the other guard, that triggers one thing; and if he makes the pass to the forward, that triggers something else. If the point guard doesn't understand what the defense is giving you, he could make the wrong decision.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't understand their roster. If you decide you're not going to keep Miller, you've got to have an idea of how you're going to replace him. But in my opinion they don't have a plan to fill in for the leadership he gave them. This team has some talent, but I don't see how it is going to fit together. It's a hodge-podge.

It looks like they'll be going with Lou Williams as their new point guard. If you're going to push the ball, I like him. But if you're running the Princeton, you've got to get him off the ball a little bit because he's not a decision-maker in that type of offense. He has a lot of strengths -- a great nose for the ball, a terrific offensive player who is as quick as anybody in the league. He's just as quick with the ball as without, and he is a willing passer who can get the ball into the lane. He's not a great pick-and-roll player because he's not physical enough; he can get bumped off too easily. The big thing is that he's much better in the transition game than the half court. At the other end, he can get exposed defensively in the half court because the other team will take him into the post every time and he has no answer. He would be a great combo guard, the kind of guy a championship team would bring off the bench as a third guard. In time he may be a good starting point guard, but right now he's not ready, especially in comparison to the kind of leadership they were getting at the position from Miller. But maybe they're thinking they'll force-feed him the position and live with his learning curve the first year. But that means they may miss the playoffs while they're investing $27 million in Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala this season.

Rookie Jrue Holiday has a lot to learn about playing point guard and he's coming off a difficult shooting year at UCLA, so the defense will be playing off him. I'm guessing that Jordan would have wanted to re-sign Miller. Philly got into the playoffs last year because Andre Miller got them there. He was spectacular at the end of last year, and he was one of the top point guards in the league. He had a positive impact on their young players, and so I was shocked that they let him go.

If LeBron James is a first-tier star and Chris Bosh is in the tier below him, Iguodala is a third-tier star. For them to have a contending team, he would probably need to be their third-best player. Iguodala plays some shooting guard, but he's best as a small forward. I think of him as kind of a poor man's Paul Pierce, with some crucial differences that keep him from reaching Pierce's level. He's very physical and he can finish because he has big shoulders and he's a big, tough kid. But he doesn't have the explosion to beat you off the dribble, and he's not really adept with the ball. He isn't consistent shooting off the dribble, and you don't want to play through him a lot because he doesn't do a lot to make his teammates better. If you double him in the post, he doesn't do a great job of identifying where the help is and where he should deliver the ball. Defensively, he can be good, but as he's been in the league, he has gotten worse. When he first came in, I thought he was going to be an all-around player and defensively a stopper, but now he seems to be focusing on his offense. When he tries or wants to defend the important possessions at the end of the game, he is very good. But he is not consistent in how he plays.

It's going to be difficult to gauge Brand until we see him play for an extended time this season. He is a good passer, and Jordan will find ways to make the best use of him because part of that offense is using a big man in the high post that they can play through -- and they certainly can't play through Sam Dalembert. They have a lot of money invested in Brand, and he could be a star again if his injuries were the thing holding him back last season. But I don't think it's right to blame his poor play last season on the way he was used by Maurice Cheeks, who was coaching him then, because a star finds a way to be the star. Let's not play make-believe; you don't pay a guy $14 million last year and then blame the coach for not getting him enough shots.

Willie Green is a guy who needs the ball and needs to be a high-volume shooter to put up numbers. I don't think he warrants that kind of leeway to take as many shots as he needs to be a starting 2 guard. He's much better coming off the bench to ignite them. I just don't see him as good enough to start for a playoff team.

My impression is that the organization is no longer high on Dalembert. He's one of these guys with a lot of potential. His shot-blocking and his ability to run the floor are enticing because he's a true center, and that's a position that people are willing to overpay for. For him to be making $12 million this year, however, that is ludicrous. I don't think he's a great center for Jordan because he can't play the offense through him. He's a freelance type of player, and Andre Miller would pull him out and use him in a pick-and-roll to the basket and throw a nice lob to take advantage of his athleticism and quick reactions. But I don't see that happening as much this year because Williams is not a great pick-and-roll player. I can't say enough about his potential at the defensive end -- he still could be a real force there -- but Jordan is not a defensive coach. To think they're paying close to $40 million this season for Brand, Iguodala and Dalembert -- that's just amazing.

I'm big on Thaddeus Young. To be a great player, he's going to have to focus on playing the 3. He has the ability to do that. He was a very good draft choice for them. He runs the floor very well, he's great in the open court and he's a better finisher than people give him credit for. Last year was kind of a freebie for him because people didn't prepare for Philly to stop Young as part of what they needed to do, but down the line he was one of its best players. This year there will be an "X" on his back so he might struggle a little bit more. I'll be curious to see how he does. They say he likes to compete and he surely has athletic ability. He doesn't have great range on his shot but it surprised me how much better he got. His rotation is not bad and he has good mechanics. He has very good hands, he can pass-and-cut, pass-and-dive, all the things you need to do in Jordan's offense. Maybe Jordan will play Young, Williams and Dalembert together in a transition-style offense, because they'll all be capable of outrunning their defensive assignments.

Marreese Speights is another young guy I like as a project. He has decent hands, he's explosive off his feet and quick to the basket. He can play both big positions and defend a little bit. He isn't afraid to mix it up even though he needs to develop more strength.

At $6.2 million this year, Jason Kapono is paid way too much to be a specialist. He can't defend his position a lick. But he'll get a lot of time in Jordan's system because he is their only bona fide knockdown shooter, and he knows how to read the defense and he can finish backdoor cuts.


You May Like