Young Sixers poised to break out in the Eastern Conference.
In the early stages of this lockout-riddled laughable NBA season, it’s tough to tell what’s real from what is an illusion? Is Boston’s age problem real? Is Indiana’s success an illusion? One such interesting case is that of the Philadelphia 76ers. Off to a dynamite 16-6 start, you could easily label Philly as one of the biggest surprises in the Eastern Conference, if not the entire NBA. Yes, they made the playoffs last year, but in the NBA, who doesn’t? With no notable additions, is this a team that is coming of age faster than expected? Or is it something else?
Long gone are the Allen Iverson 76ers. The new Sixers roll with Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, and Andre Iguodala running the floor. Defensively, this team has been nails in this offensively inept NBA season, allowing a paltry 86.1 points per game, the first team since the 2005-2006 San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies to teams under 90 per game, and the lowest total per game since those same Spurs and the Detroit Pistons held teams under 86 points per game in the 2003-2004 season, one of the worst offensive seasons in recent memory. Philadelphia has continue to grow under veteran coach Doug Collins, and looks to continue its upward push towards the higher echelons of the NBA. Can it continue for the rest of the season?
The troubling thing about Philadelphia’s great start is that they are feasting on the weakest of the weak NBA teams, and they are doing it at home. So far, the schedule makers were quite kind to the Sixers, as 14 of their first 26 games, and 18 of their first 31 games, have been played in the comforts of Wells Fargo Arena, their home gym. Throw in the fact that only 8 games have come against teams with winning records (4-4 in those games), and a different sort of picture begins to emerge. One positive note is that all four wins against winning teams have come against teams in the East. One negative is that the season is only going to get more difficult from here, with the next five games against winning teams, followed by a stretch of seven games out of eight on the road. If you were to rate the Sixers as a stock, insider traders would recommend you sell while their value is high, but they have a chance to prove some people wrong over the month of February. But for now, Philadelphia has been one of the pleasant surprises in a league filled with teams that cannot break 70 points on any given night.