Four Things We’ve Learned About the Sixers Through Four Games
1. The Jrue Holiday contract extension looks validated so far.
The Sixers announced a contract extension with the former first-round draft pick Thursday, Nov.1. Holiday agreed to a four-year deal, reportedly worth $41 million.
It seems like a savvy contract for the Sixers, who lock down a 22-year-old that continues to evolve in head coach Doug Collins’ offensive scheme.
From the moment Andre Iguadala was shipped out in August, Holiday entered the crosshairs as a young player who needed to step up and take his place among the NBA’s premier point guards. He has responded by averaging 18 points, 9.5 assists and four rebounds per contest – all career highs. Holiday’s three-point shooting percentage (44.4) has been a pleasant surprise.
Adding to Holiday’s appeal is his ability to stay on the court. He has started every Sixers game since 2010.
2. Without Andrew Bynum, the Sixers look thin down low
As we all wait on anxious breath for Philadelphia’s biggest acquisition in years to finally hit the court, it becomes more apparent how much the Sixers need Bynum. Kwame Brown, who started at center for the team’s second consecutive loss to the Knicks, is currently out with a calf injury.
Second-year pro Lavoy Allen is off to a slow start and Doug Collins admitted that the Temple product struggled during the first few games. A 12-point effort in a win over the New Orleans Hornets may be an indication that Allen is turning a corner, but that still leaves the Sixers without an intimidating defensive presence in the paint.
Since racking up five blocked shots in the first half of a season-opening win against Denver, Spencer Hawes has three blocks in three games. Arnett Moultrie scored his first career points against New York on Monday, but the 6-foot-10 rookie has tallied just five total points through four contests. Thaddeus Young is a highly efficient scorer, but he’s never been athletically suited for the post position and is at his best away from the basket.
The infusion of Bynum should elevate the Sixers from fringe playoff contender into the realm of realistically fighting for homecourt advantage in the opening round. As Tom Petty sings, the waiting is the hardest part.
3. Evan Turner remains a work in progress
The organization would love to pair Holiday with fellow homegrown product Evan Turner for the foreseeable future, but that’s more vision than reality at this point. The second overall selection of the 2010 Draft is now entrenched as the team’s starting small forward but he’s been underwhelming overall thus far, particularly on offense.
Turner managed just five points in the opener, before tallying double-digit totals in the next three contests (11, 11, 14). Too often Turner looks tentative with the ball in his hands and a .350 shooting percentage is worrisome.
On the bright side, he continues to emerge as an elite rebounder, leading the team with 8.5 boards per contest. Turner’s defensive effort has also been a positive sign. It’s something to keep an eye on as he looks to fill the shoes of Iguadala, who may be the greatest perimeter defender in the NBA.
4. The jury is still out on Sixers newcomers
Jason Richardson has missed two consecutive games while recovering from a sprained ankle, so it remains to be seen how he fits in. However, we have a small sample size of game action to assess how Dorrell Wright and Nick Young have fared during their first few games with Philly.
Wright, now starting in place of Richardson, ranks third on the team with 11.5 points per game. When he was acquired in a trade with Golden State, his penchant for a high volume of outside shooting was well known.
It’s proven to be a double-edged sword for the Sixers so far. Wright has connected on seven three-point shots but it’s taken him 27 attempts to do so.
He appears to be a better defender than most people thought and Wright’s rebound average (7.8) is nearly double his career average.
Young is arguably the team’s biggest disappointment through four games (Bynum’s knee not withstanding). The swingman has accumulated a putrid .244 shooting percentage, including a 1-for-7 clunker in New Orleans.
The former Southern California star is a scorer first and foremost, and can’t be counted on to consistently fill up other portions of the stat sheet. The Sixers need Young to find a rhythm if the team hopes to build on its league-worst output of 83.3 points per game.