NBA Season Preview: Philadelphia 76ers

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Last season: 41-41, resulting in a competitively uncompetitive first-round loss to the Miami Heat.

Head Coach: Doug Collins, who still wants to be your friend. Need a ride to the airport, Thaddeus? He’s your guy. Need someone to help you move, Elton? Please, you don’t even have to ask. Dog-sitting? His pleasure! Creating a stable defensive front that allows the team to succeed in spite of its offensive flaws? Don’t even mention it.

Key Departures: None

Key Additions: None (Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes were re-signed)

Best case scenario: Philly parlays another strong defensive season into a low playoff seed, but runs into a bit of a wall. Jrue Holiday takes a legitimate step toward stardom, but the Sixers find themselves in oddly familiar territory: an initial struggle before finally caving under the weight of one of the East’s more effective squads.

For that to happen: As I mentioned, Holiday will need to continue on course with his development, particularly as an offensive player. This team doesn’t have a ton of reliable shot creation, and if Holiday can make scoring a bit easier for the Sixers in a general sense, they’ll have a nice two-way product. Evan Turner could theoretically chip in, too, as the second-year guard will have further opportunities to settle into the pro style. If Holiday, Turner, and the point-forward-esque Andre Iguodala can create a trio of reliable shot creation from the perimeter, Philly would be much better off.

Not better off enough to cause a first-round upset, but better off nonetheless.

More likely, the Sixers will: Be yet again a solid club, but trade incremental improvements for Holiday, Turner, and Young for regressed production from Elton Brand and Andres Nocioni. The Sixers are hardly encapsulated by yin and yang, but there does seem to be a strange universal balance to their team by nature of its awkward timeline. Every day that Holiday creeps toward his prime, Brand spends by falling further from his. There’s definitely talent on Philly’s roster, but most of the team’s key contributors are at very different places in their careers — a fact that makes it quite difficult to really build on a season-to-season basis.

Prediction: 34-32, good for the lower, unremarkable playoff seed of your choosing.