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Blazersedge 2008-09 NBA Season Preview: Sixers and Raptors

PHILADELPHIA 76’ERS

Record:  40-42, 3rd Atlantic Division, 7th in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

30th in three-point % 

30th in free throw percentage

4th in steals

5th (tie) in opponent turnovers

 

Others:

23rd in the league in scoring (96.6 ppg)

7th in opponent scoring (96.2 ppg)

14th  in ppg differential (+0.4 ppg)

11th in field goal % 

20th in opponent field goal %

10th in free throw attempts per game

23rd in assists

12th in blocks

11th in turnovers

Superb offensive rebounding team

Good defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Elton Brand, Kareem Rush, Royal Ivey, Theo Ratliff, Marreese Speights (R)

Significant Subtractions:  Calvin Booth, Rodney Carney

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Mo Cheeks

 

Key Players

PG:  Andre Miller, Louis Williams, Royal Ivey

SG:  Andre Iguodala, Willie Green

SF:  Thaddeus Young, Kareem Rush

PF:  Elton Brand, Reggie Evans

C:   Samuel Delambert, Marreese Speights, Theo Ratliff

 

Comments

 

Sometimes you look at offseason moves, even moves involving big-name players, and ask if they really made the team that much better in any area except reputation and expectations.  Sometimes the player is over the hill.  Sometimes the team gave up the farm (club) to get him. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem like a good fit.  Forget all that here.  Even coming off of injury, Elton Brand is going to make the Sixers better.  What’s more, they got him for free.  When you add a career 20 ppg guy and only lose guys whose names sound like they should be working the fair circuit, you’re doing OK.  And it’s not just the points with Brand.  He gives them a low post presence that they haven’t had in years.  He’s going to open up the offense for their perimeter guys.  It would help if they had somebody who could make a shot and you worry a little bit about Iguodala getting jammed up if opponents clog the middle, but let’s get real…people were doing that to Philly last year too.  Brand’s imposing presence will more than make up for any extra traffic in the lane.  Besides with a shot-blocking, turnover-causing, greyhound lineup like that Philly wants to run.  Brand’s defense and rebounding will fit right in there.  Delambert should prosper from Brand’s presence as well.  He’s now free to roam and gamble more, which is his specialty.  Brand makes Philly’s front line go from suspect to solid…perhaps better.  If healthy he’ll be an All-Star in the East.

 

The rest of the Sixers lineup isn’t bad for the Eastern Conference either.  Iguodala had a masterful season last year.  He has fulfilled his promise so quickly it’s hard to remember he’s only 24 and entering his fifth season.  He’s on the short list of best guards who are just below household name level.  Thaddeus Young has a world of athletic talent as well and had a good rookie year.  If he can break out this season Philly could be legit dangerous.  Andre Miller is a great guy to set these guys up too.  He can pass well but he can also take the shot when needed.  His veteran presence will be crucial to this young group.  Even the acquisition of Kareem Rush made some sense.  He’s had a spotty career but he can shoot.

 

Philadelphia is going to be a pounding, running, physical team this year…the kind that you groan about when you see them on the schedule…not necessarily because they’ll win, but because they’ll be a tough matchup.  They’ve also got some skill, but maybe not as much as you’d like to see in the starting lineup.  The questions are will they mesh well and will that brute force game translate into consistent wins.  There’s no doubt they’ll make the playoffs.  Can they win enough to be a real presence there?  They’re not likely to overcome the conference leaders this season but they do have some time.  With one or two more skilled players and a little bit of chemistry this team could be a force in the East until Brand starts running down.

 

TORONTO RAPTORS

Record:  41-41, 2nd Atlantic Division, 6th in Eastern Conference

 

Statistical Comparisons

 

Notable:

2nd in three-point %

30th in free throw attempts per game

2nd in free throw percentage

5th in assists

2nd in turnovers

 

Others:

13th in the league in scoring (100.2 ppg)

10th in opponent scoring (97.3 ppg)

12th  in ppg differential (+2.9 ppg)

7th in field goal % 

15th in opponent field goal %

19th in steals

25th in blocks

13th (tie) in opponent turnovers

Poor offensive rebounding team

Average defensive rebounding team

 

Movement

 

Significant Additions:  Jermaine O’Neal, Hassan Adams, Will Solomon, Roko Ukic (R)

Significant Subtractions:  T.J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovic, Maceo Baston, Carlos Delfino, Primoz Brezec, Jorge Garbajosa

 

Roster

 

Coach:  Sam Mitchell

 

Key Players

PG:  Jose Calderon, Roko Ukic, Will Solomon

SG:  Anthony Parker, Hassan Adams

SF:  Andrea Bargnani, Jamario Moon, Jason Kapono

PF:  Chris Bosh, Kris Humphries

C:  Jermaine O’Neal, Nathan Jawai

 

Comments

 

I knew an old coach once who used to look at a guy and say, “He wears his shorts too fancy.”  This had nothing to do with Depression-era gaydar (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  He meant the guy looked good and had skills but he didn’t have that toughness and grit that would coax actual wins out of that smooth looking play.  I’m sure by now the old guy has gone to the great Hoops Summit in the sky, but had he seen the Toronto Raptors the last few years we probably would have heard some muttering about fancy shorts.  I’m pretty sure Rasho Nesterovic is the center representative for the club. Or wait, maybe it was Primoz Brezec.   In any case, the Raptors, coming off of a so-so season, thinned the herd a little.  They lost a lot of marginal players plus the chronically injured T.J. Ford and brought in the less-marginal but similarly-injured Jermaine O’Neal.  (Our credo:  Whatever happens it can’t be worse than the last year of Hakeem Olajuwon’s career.)  O’Neal doesn’t wear his shorts fancy.  Toronto just hopes he won’t be wearing a fancy suit for much of the season.

 

Providing Jermaine comes all the way back, the Raptors have an interesting quandary.  Chris Bosh is an Olympian and one of the premier power forwards in the league.  O’Neal is a multi-time All-Star who played center for a while but ultimately decided he liked life as a power forward better.  Two years ago the Raptors spent the #1 overall pick in the draft on Andrea Bargnani (literal translation:  shorts of fanciness) who also plays, you guessed it, power forward.  In a 33-page ode to the uber-geeks of the world Matthew Berry (Not to be confused with that guy from friends who was actually able to convince Monica to kiss him…oh wait…she married David Arquette in real life, huh?  Never mind.  You GO Matthew Berry!  Pop tart actresses for all!  Where was I?  Ah yes…)  Matthew Berry suggested that the best strategy for fantasy basketball was to stock up on point guards and power forwards.  It appears he has fans in the Toronto front office.  The Raptors might be able to mix and match skill sets to create a never-ending Front Line of Doom, but it’s just as likely that O’Neal and Bosh will look across the lane at each other and say, “Wait…I was my team’s version of you!”  Either way it’s hard to view this as a vote of confidence for Bargnani.

 

I actually like the trimming down at the skill positions, however.  Jose Calderon deserves the chance to helm a team.  It’ll be interesting to see if former Spanish League teammate Roko Ukic will serve well as a backup.  Anthony Parker is a sweet shooter…the kind of guy you forget until he burns you all night when you were paying attention to his teammates.  He should be able to pick up plenty of scraps from the frontcourt.  Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono make an interesting small forward pair.  Moon is the athletic utility guy coming off of a better-than-expected rookie year (he was 27).  Kapono has a laser sight mounted on his shooting arm and should also prove a fertile dumping ground for all of those power forward double team passes.

 

Even if the roster isn’t exactly balanced there’s a lot of talent here.  You have to think that the team got better.  How much better though?  The bottom four playoff seeds in the East are wishy-washy and some speculate that fourth-seed Cleveland could be leapt over.  Even if Toronto is the team to do it their chances against Orlando and Boston don’t seem great and Detroit ain’t dead yet either.  While I certainly would have made the same moves given the situation this still feels like a treadmill deal.  It’s just the treadmill is going a little faster now.  Toronto’s best hope is an all-out explosion by Calderon or Bargnani, providing them talent unlooked-for to pair with their big guys.  Failing that, at least maybe they can muscle out a few more wins.

 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)