Are the 76ers for Real?

Jrue Holiday is continuing to climb the ladder as one of the league's best point guards.

We are seven games into the NBA season and the Philadelphia 76ers are well ahead of the curve at 5-2 and are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers are in first place in the Atlantic Division as they hold a 1.5 game lead over both the Celtics and Knicks at this early part of the season. Even though it is early, the Sixers seem to be gelling nicely and it begs the question, are they for real? According to ESPN.com, the Sixers are currently the NBA’s seventh best team.

There are several signs that point to the answer being yes. Not only are the Sixers winning games. They are winning them in a very convincing manner. The Sixers are currently winning by an average of 22.8 points per victory. Of their five wins, only one was by single digits (@ New Orleans). Although it is early, the Sixers are currently on pace to win  roughly 45 games which would be a huge improvement considering that the team only won 41 games last season when they played 82 games as opposed to the 66 that they are playing this season.

BLS Sixers 2011-2012 Prediction

The simple way to explain the team’s hot start would be the contributions of players that did not contribute quite as much last year. It has been pretty clear that several members of the team used the lockout to improve their games. Spencer Hawes is having a career season. The Sixers starting center is averaging 12.6 points per game and 10.6 rebounds. His double-double average has given the Sixers a major boost in the post and has added a new dimension to the team’s half court offense. Hawes currently ranks third in the league in rebounding behind Kevin Love and Dwight Howard.

Spencer Hawes is off to a hot start in his second season with the Sixers.

While Hawes has provided the lift in the paint, there has been a group effort when it comes to the Sixers backcourt play this season. The Sixers’ point guard and shooting guard positions have been held down by starters Jrue Holiday and Jodie Meeks, and bench players Lou Williams and Evan Turner. Holiday has emerged as the leader the Sixers expected him to be coming into the season. He is averaging nearly 15 points and five assists per game. Meeks has had some struggles from deep but appears to be coming around. Williams is averaging 17.1 points per game to lead the team and Evan Turner finally seems to have found a comfortable contributing role in Collins’ system. The second year guard is averaging nearly 10 points, six rebounds and three assists a night in 26 minutes and finally looks comfortable and confident.

Thaddeus Young is completing the team’s 1,2,3 punch off the bench with Turner and Williams. Young is continuing to create mismatches and is contributing nearly 13 points and five rebounds a contest. The Sixers’ stellar bench seems to have a fourth member in rookie Nikola Vucevic. The rookie has had some inconsistent minutes but he appears to have carved out a nice niche for himself lately. Vucevic is averaging five points and four rebounds in nearly 12 minutes a night. His best game was the team’s last against the Raptors in which he played 20 minutes and scored nine points while snatching down 10 rebounds with two blocked shots and two assists. His solid play made Marreese Speights easier to deal.

The Sixers two main leaders, Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala have seen a dip in production but the team’s overall stellar play has allowed for them to not have to be the best players on the floor every night. Iguodala is continuing to stuff the stat sheet as he excels in rebounds and assists and is still averaging a decent 13 points per game. In addition to that, he is continuing to play stellar defense and is surprising shooting 50 percent from downtown. Brand is averaging nearly eight points and seven rebounds and although those are down from last season’s averages, the team is still excelling due to Hawes increased production.

This Sixers team has come a long way from their 3-13 start last season. They are playing together and have solid chemistry. It is easy to see that they are picking up from where they left off last season and there is a chance that they could make some noise in the east this season. Collins spoke earlier this season about the importance of showing the world that they are a good young team that is one superstar away from contention. Maybe a stellar 2011-2012 season could be enough for the team to make a push for a player like Dwight Howard in free agency. However, that is a way off. This team is focused on now and the new ownership, the front office, the coaching staff and the players seem to be clicking on one accord. The fans certainly seem to be showing their love.

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