Not these days. Especially if you’re talking about the Philadelphia 76ers.
This season started with such promise. Philadelphia was one of the major surprises of the NBA early on in the year.
Now……it’s a different story.
After beginning the season 20-9, the 76ers have taken a sharp left turn and have fallen off the radar in the Eastern Conference. In their last 30 games, Philadelphia is an uninspired 11-19.
The 76ers sat atop the perch of the Atlantic Division for a good portion of the season. With the late surges by the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics on top of Philadelphia’s horrible second half, the Sixers now find themselves tied for third in the division, 7th in the conference and just 2 1/2 games out of losing their spot in the postseason completely.
This collapse doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. All it does is confirm what I’ve known the entire year.
The Philadelphia 76ers were never THAT good to begin with.
Being a team that hovers around the .500 mark and is in the bottom half of the playoff picture is exactly where I thought this team would be at the start of the season.
For every strength this team has, it has an overshadowing weakness that holds it back from joining and staying with the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
If there is one thing the 76ers excel at better than anyone else, its at defense. Philadelphia holds teams to just 88.3 points a game which is best in the NBA. Their defensive rating of 98.1 is also best in the league and is the 14th lowest since the three-point shot was introduced.
The 76ers also operate efficiently because there team runs on the sum of all of its parts rather than just a few individual pieces. When this team is winning games, it’s because of a total team effort. 5 players on the roster currently average more than 10 points a game (Williams, Holiday, Brand, Young, Iguodala). There leading scorer Lou Williams (15.5 point a game) doesn’t even start for the team.
What this team lacks though is the consistency with those players to become a mainstay atop the Atlantic Division and a threat in the Eastern Conference. During this second half of the season, the Sixers have dropped games to the lowly Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets. For every victory over a Miami, San Antonio or Boston, this team will come right back and drop a game against opposition that is vastly inferior to them. For a shortened season in which every game takes on that much more significance, losing to teams of that caliber is simply unacceptable.
While the current make up of the roster features many young skilled players who play well off of one another, there isn’t that one guy that you could definitively say is a “closer” or that you can consistently count on to win you games in the final minutes of regulation. Guys like Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday and first-time all star Andre Iguodala are more than capable of hitting the big shot when need be, but the role of the closer has yet to be established firmly with any one of those players.
That’s what the Sixers need. Who is “the man” on this basketball team? In games decided by 3 points or less, Philadelphia is 0-4, as well as 0-2 in games decided in extra time. Not having a closer has become a big hindrance to this team.
If the playoffs were to begin today, Philadelphia would find themselves in a rematch from last years postseason with the Miami Heat. Miami dominated the 76ers during the 2011 playoffs eliminating them in 5 games.
With the way this team is playing as of late, the Sixers will surely repeat last years first-round exit and be handled easily by the Heat once again if the playoff picture remains the same.
The 76ers are fodder for the Heats and Bulls of this league. Nothing more, nothing less. The early season success was nice, but that’s all it was….
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports