Friday, October 5, 2007

Some more previews and predictions

I came across a nice preview of the Sixers by Marc Narducci. Nothing staggering, but he gives a nice run-down of the players likely to be competing for playing time this season. I will just pull out one paragraph from the preview to comment on:
Dalembert will benefit from the team's offseason trade for rugged power forward Reggie Evans. He will provide next to nothing on offense but averaged 7.0 rebounds in 17.1 minutes for the Nuggets last season and could nearly double that average with the Sixers. Most important, he'll take some heat off -- and maybe fouls away from -- Dalembert by offering physical help on defense.
I absolutely think Reggie Evans will help, but I'm not sure he'll really help Dalembert stay out of foul trouble. After all, my impression is that Dalembert gets most of his fouls because he's late on rotations. Not sure how Evans corrects that problem, unless he hacks the man before Dalembert can get there!

Also, John Hollinger has posted his predictions for the season over at The actually write-ups are behind the Insider subscription wall so I haven't read them, but he projects the Sixers to be last in the Eastern Conference with just 21 wins (and just one win better than the Clippers who he projects to have the worst record in the league). I think the Sixers will do substantially better than that, but I'd be curious to know what Holllinger's reasoning is for predicting such a terrible finish. If anyone reading has access to insider, let me know!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Welcome back, Aaron McKie

Over the last couple of years, the NBA has had a nice little trend of hiring former players to assistant and head coaching positions. To the extent that this has opened up the coaching ranks to new blood (and not just the same coaches who were continually getting fired and rehired), I think it's been a good thing. Since most recent NBA players are black, this has also had the side effect of moving the NBA towards having a more mixed coaching community (being charitable, we'll assume that the traditional whiteness of NBA sidelines was simply the result of GMs and owners hiring people from their social networks, not the result of any hidden racial biases).

All of this is a long about way of saying, "Welcome Back, Aaron Mckie." The news was announced today that Mckie has joined the Sixers as an assistant coach. The blurb from the Associated Press is pretty short, so I'll reproduce it all here (or you can click on the previous link):
PIHLADELPHIA - Aaron McKie, who was the NBA's sixth man of the year when Philadelphia went to the NBA Finals, rejoined the 76ers as an assistant coach.

McKie averaged 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds over a 13-year career with Portland, Detroit, the Sixers and the Los Angeles Lakers. His best season was in 2000-01 when he averaged 11.6 points and was named the league's top sixth man for the Sixers, who lost to the Lakers in the Finals.

McKie, who had his jersey retired at Simon Gratz High School in 2002, also starred at Temple. He finished his three-year career with the Owls tied for sixth on the school's career scoring list and was named Atlantic 10 Conference Player of the Year as a junior in 1993.

Will McKie be a good assistant coach? I have no idea, but I always enjoyed watching him play (first at Temple, then for Sixers after he eventually made his way here) so I'm rooting for him.

On a somewhat related note, the Sixers seem to be reaching out to former players more and more over the last few years (Mo Cheeks coming back to coach, Moses Malone was an assistant coach last year, now McKie), and as a fan it's always nice to see some continuity with your team. Maybe the Sixers have always done this, but it has just been with less visible positions. Whatever the case, I'm a fan of the trend and I hope it continues.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Why sign Igoudala to an extension now?

In today's Sixers Notes, Marc Narducci shares with us the information that Andre Igoudala says he's not too concerned with his ongoing contract negotiations--his agent is taking care of it, and he's just going to play basketball.

This brief snippet leads to two comments:

(1) Good for Igoudala. You aren't supposed to let your play be affected by ongoing contract negotiations, especially when you're still under contract for another two years. I always get annoyed when I hear about Player X possibly being a distraction because of unhappiness over contract negotiations, so it's nice to see (or, at least hear) a player doing (saying) the right things.

(2) What's the hurry to sign Igoudala to an extension right now? He's under contract for this coming season and the Sixers own his rights for next season. As long as they make a qualifying offer ($3.8 million), the Sixers will have the right to match any offers that he receives next summer. As we've seen this summer with Anderson Varejao, there aren't necessarily that many teams out there willing to make offers to restricted free agents, even very good ones. If the number being bandied around for Igoudala's contract extension is $12 million per year (based on the contract Kevin Martin recently received from Sacramento), then I think the Sixers owe it to themselves to take a bit more time to evaluate Igoudala before tying up a substantial portion of their salary cap space with his contract. I made the case earlier this summer that Igoudala is more likely to be the 3rd best player on a legitimate title contender than to be the cornerstone of a contender. I stand by that claim, but for $12 million/year he would need to be more like the cornerstone that pundits describe him as. Maybe I'm wrong, but shouldn't the Sixers at least wait until after he's been the centerpiece of the team for a full season before making that decision? Like I said at the start--what's the hurry?

Monday, October 1, 2007

And the first set of rankings is out!

Hard on the heels of my post yesterday, Marc Stein released his first NBA power rankings of the year. (I admit, he didn't release them because of my post; he released them because today was media day around the NBA and training camps are starting)

Not surprisingly, he had the Sixers ranked towards the bottom of the pack--27th out of 30, to be specific. As I said yesterday, I think a number of the prognosticators are going to be surprised by the Sixers this season. Of the teams that Stein had ranked ahead of the Sixers, my initial reaction is to expect the Sixers to finish ahead of the Hawks, Kings, Knicks, Trailblazers, and Sonics. I also wouldn't be surprised to see them finish ahead of the Bobcats and Bucks. If all that comes to pass, the Sixers would be one of the top 20 teams in the NBA. Obviously nothing to write home about, but substantially better than what Stein is predicting.

I'll wait until training camp is over to make my official predictions for the year, but I'll give my thoughts on the predictions from mainstream publications as a I come across them.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Does last year mean anything?

An article in the Inquirer raises the question: does last year's end-of-season success actually mean anything for this coming season?

As the article says:
King believes the players will carry the momentum from the last 26 games of the season, when the Sixers went 17-9.
Normally, I'm not one for putting much stock into a strong end to a season. If you keep playing hard, you get some easy wins over teams that have checked out for the season. Considering the allegations of tanking that floated around the end of this season (so that teams would have a better shot at winning the draft lottery and getting Oden or Durant), this past season seems like it would be a candidate for having even more of these sorts of wins occurring than most years. You can also normally get a cheap win over a playoff team that has clinched its position and is taking its last game or two easy. Players with lingering injuries who might have played through pain earlier in the season often will also shut it down for the remainder of the season if their team isn't going anywhere.

The other reason for not normally putting much stock in late season surges is because there is often enough roster turnover before the start of the next season to make the performance of last year's team not particularly helpful. In the case of the Sixers, there has not been that much roster change so I think the end-of-season performance might give some indication of how they'll perform, particularly since the roster went through such major changes halfway through last season. (Basically, the Sixers added Reggie Evans and Calvin Booth in the off-season to replace Joe Smith and Steven Hunter. I like the addition of Evans, but for now I'll treat it as a fairly equal substitution.)

Andre Miller joined the Sixers on Tuesday, December 26. Then, Chris Webber was released before the Sixers game on January 12 (I don't remember if he was released the day before or not, but he was not on the roster for the game that night). Rather than look at just the last 26 games of last season, I think we can get a better sense of the Sixers by looking at all the games they played since those changes occurred. This method might underestimate them a little bit because it includes games when the new roster was trying to figure out how to play with one another, but it also might overestimate them a little bit because it includes wins in those late season, meaningless games. So with all those caveats, what happened since those changes?

Including the January 12, 2007 game against the Bucks, the Sixers went 26-21 after adding Miller and dropping Webber. Not too shabby considering their overall record. If you break the numbers out by month, you see that the Sixers went 6-6 in January, 5-6 in February, 9-6 in March, and 6-3 in April. Looking at these numbers, I see two plausible scenarios. First, you could say that the Sixers immediately became a .500 team, and then they really came together once they had the days-off to practice around the all-star break. In this scenario, the Sixers' record in March and April (a combined 15-9) is the true indication of their actual ability. This story seems to be the one that the Sixers management and coaching staff believe (or, at least, the one that they're telling to the media). The other scenario is that the Sixers are legitimately a .500 team, as indicated by their record in January and February, and that the better showing in March and April was the result of other teams shutting it down for the season.

Which do I believe? I probably lean a little more towards the latter story, but, in one of the world's great cop-outs, I think the truth is probably in-between the two scenarios. Quite frankly, either scenario would be really exciting. In both cases the Sixers project to being at least .500 this coming year; and in the Eastern Conference, .500 makes you a play-off team. I doubt any of the experts will predict the Sixers to make the playoffs this year, but it shouldn't really come as a surprise if they do.

All of a sudden, I'm a lot more excited for this upcoming NBA season.