Thursday, February 9, 2012

What the Sixers tell us about the state of the NBA

First off, let me say that I appreciate what the Sixers are doing. Jeff Molush is right; basketball hasn't been relevant in Philadelphia in years, and the Sixers are finally putting it back on the map. That's great.

But no parade is complete without a rain cloud, so here it comes.

What on earth does it say about the NBA that this roster is dominating?

Again, as Jeff said, this is a team where the top scorer, Lou Williams at 15.5 ppg, not only owns the lowest team-leading average in the league, but doesn't even start.

The Sixers' leading rebounder, Spencer Hawes, checks in at 27th in the league. Andre Iguodala leads the team in assists per game, at 5.2, also checking in at 27th. By all accounts, this team is not exactly brimming over with talent.

Granted, the Sixers play stifling defense. They hold opponents to just 87 points per game, good for second in the league, and allow opponents to shoot just 42.0% from the field, third-best in the NBA.

But again, this is a team that is blowing people out. Their average margin of victory is more than nine points!

Part of the reason has to do with the lockout. The Sixers, by virtue of their young roster and low turnover from last season, have been more able to cope with the condensed schedule and shortened offseason.

But that doesn't tell the whole story. No, the dirty little secret that the Sixers have exposed this year is that most teams in the NBA are terrible.

The lack of coaching is astounding. The inability to build rosters that fit together, even more so. Perhaps it's too easy to pick on the Knicks, but they're the shining example of a team that cobbled together a bunch of star players who don't fit in their star coach's system. Now they're 11-15 and have managed to render the player who carried them back to relevancy last year, Amare Stoudemire, nearly worthless.

The Lakers are another example. Phil Jackson and Lamar Odom exit, and all of a sudden, a team that has every other major piece back from last season's 57-win campaign is reduced to Kobe Bryant jacking up 24 shots per game--more than five more than the second-highest volume shooter in the NBA.

An incredible EIGHT teams win fewer than four out of ten games.

There are teams that wouldn't start a single player from the Charlotte Bobcats. The fans know it, too. Check out the front page of the Bobcats' website right now.

"We know we're not worth watching, but come check out the Bulls and Clippers this weekend!"

JaVale McGee hustles back on defense--while the Wizards still have the ball. He also gets dunked on by the much shorter, much whiter Chandler Parsons, who, by the way, is a second-round rookie averaging double-digit minutes for the Rockets. (Warning: The announcer in that second video makes an absolutely awful "Chandler Bang" pun. It's not 1999 anymore, guy.)

But don't take my word for it. Sir Charles is just as embarrassed by the state of the game as I am.

So yes, I'm happy for the Sixers. I'm not a huge NBA fan, but I like Doug Collins and it's fun that the team is relevant again.

Below the surface though, the unbridled success of a much less talented team solely through youth and coaching provides a troubling look at the weakness of the NBA as a whole.

Ken Berger at CBSSports--for my money the best basketball writer in the business--defended the pro game against college basketball earlier this week.

In Philadelphia, I'm lucky enough to have a reason to choose the Sixers over the college game. In most NBA cities in the country, though, you couldn't blame fans for wanting to look the other way.

1 comment:

  1. I love the article, great points, but I don't think you can displace the low stat rankings (scoring, rebs) to a lack of talent. The Sixers may not have a superstar talent on the court (despite 2012 all-star rep Iguadola)but they have a variety of team talent that plays a unique brand of basketball in the NBA where 5 guys score in double digits every night, a guard may lead in rebounding, and Hawes may lead in assists. They may not have one guy dominating a stat every night but you can't say they don't have "talent", it's there and producing wins.