Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Opening Night Observations

The Heat are going to be pretty tough to beat.  That’s it.

Ok, that may not have been the only thing we learned from the NBA’s opening night, but it was certainly the most convincing.  The defending Champs picked up right where they left off, steadily handling the East’s second best squad in the Boston Celtics.

Miami’s new additions, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, took little time in making their presence felt in South Beach, finishing with 19 and 10 respectively.  Allen fits perfectly with the Heat and will benefit from LeBron and D Wade’s ability to penetrate all season.  If Lewis can play 1/6th as well as he did during his heyday in Seattle, which he did last night, then he will be another great asset for Miami, making them even more difficult to beat than they were last season. 

LeBron appears poised for another monster season, so no one should be surprised to see him hoist a 4th MVP trophy next Spring.  Barring any injuries, it is difficult to imagine anyone, especially from the Eastern Conference, cooling down the Heat.

The other Finals favorite, however did not fair so well.  Lakers fans might want to postpone any parade talk until they get some issues resolved, including Dwight’s atrocious foul shooting and Mike Brown’s desire to seemingly handcuff Steve Nash.  The retooled Kobe and Co. looked out of sync and overmatched last evening, a major concern for those who assumed that the addition of Nash and Dwight would pay immediate dividends.

Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers still may very well be the best in the West, but it is clear that they are a work in progress.  Depth will be a major concern for the Lakeshow as well, as the squad’s second team is shaky at best.  A major injury to a starter could have a disastrous result on the season. 

The NBA’s opening night was eventful, and set the tone for what is sure to be an interesting, and extremely exciting season.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Short But Sweet: 76ers 2012 Preview < 200 Words

The 76ers season is set to tip tomorrow and every year our friends over @Philadunkia ask all the staff writers for their predictions on the upcoming season in 200 words or less.  With all the changes and the complete shake-up of the roster this summer it is somewhat difficult to predict exactly how the team will perform, but regardless it is sure to be an interesting and exciting season for the 7-6.

Below is my <200 word (well 231 words to be exact, hard to keep it exactly under 200 sometimes) preview of the 2012-2013 Philadelphia 76ers:

The  Philadelphia 76ers made a a lot of moves this summer, and one thing is certain; the 2012-2013 76ers squad will look quite different than the one we last saw take the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern semis last Spring.  With the addition of superstar center and potential future of the franchise Andrew Bynum it seems as though the team is taking steps in the right direction in order to return to elite status.  Despite the infusion of talent this offseason however, I would still expect some growing pains from this team throughout the season, especially early on as all of the new parts learn to play together.  The team was an impressive 6-1 in the preseason and showed a great range of offensive versatility and depth.  Preseason however isn’t always the best predictor of regular season success and the Sixers still have some issues, including the health of their prized offseason pick-up and potential defensive mismatches.  Despite the difficulty of the division in which they play, I expect the Sixers to finish the season 50-32 and at least challenge for home court in the first round.  Though they are heading in the right direction to truly compete for a title in a year or two, I would expect another exit in the Eastern Conference Semi’s this season, providing a successful season with which the team can build upon. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Did Stephen A. Drop the N Word on ESPN, again?

Popular ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith found himself surrounded by controversy last season when he supposedly uttered the “N” word in front of a national television audience on ESPN’s First Take.  Though Smith vehemently denies dropping the racial slur in regards to LeBron James, blaming it on his fast speaking style, many were less than convinced by his denial.

Well what do you know?  Less than a year later Smith is back in the headlines for the EXACT SAME ACTION.  On yesterday’s (Thursday October 25, 2012) episode of First Take, Smith can clearly be heard saying “N**** Please,” when discussing the probability of Kobe Bryant sitting out the Lakers first game of the season.


Though he again denied it, and even went as far as airing a taped denial on ESPN, to me it seems pretty clear what Stephen A. said.  It seems as though co-host Skip Bayless picked up on the slur as well, as he can be heard immediately saying “OK, enough about that,” as soon as the slur is uttered.   Stephen A. might be in over his head this time.  Check out the video and see for yourself.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Holiday Season

The addition of Andrew Bynum has elevated expectations in Philadelphia this season, as the team is clearly taking strong steps to return to true contender status.  Bynum is coming off of his best professional season, putting up 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, and will provide the Sixers with a legitimate post presence, on each end of the floor, that they have long been lacking.  Though Andrew will be a central part, literally, to the Sixers’s success this season and in the future if the franchise is able to resign him, he will not be able to return the team to true contender status singlehandedly.  With the surrounding cast differing largely from last season, much of the support for Bynum will have to come from the team’s prized fourth-year point guard Jrue Holiday, who is in perfect position to elevate his game to the next level this season. 

When the 76ers selected Jrue with the 17th overall pick in the 2009 Draft they knew that while they were getting a player that could potentially be the franchise’s point guard of the future, he was still raw, and success may not be immediate.  So, it was quite promising for Sixer fans to see his numbers jump from 8 points and 2.8 assists per game in his rookie campaign to 14 points and 6.5 assists in his second season.  Most felt he was well on his way to becoming the versatile, star caliber guard that team had hoped he would develop into.  Thus, it was equally disheartening for the franchise faithful when rather than continue to improve, as numbers for young guards usually do in their first few seasons, Jrue’s stats actually slipped last season.  His scoring, which many figured would improve with a full season as an NBA starter under his belt, slipped .5 points per game, and his field goal percentage dipped as well.  More concerning however, were his assist numbers, a central stat in judging the progress of a young point, which moved significantly in the wrong direction. 

Adding 1 assist a game to his 2010-2011 average of 6.5 would have vaulted Jrue into the overall top ten of the category and cemented him as one of the League’s premier young point guards.  Instead the opposite occurred and his assist average plummeted to 4.5, just good enough to be tied for 26th overall with Boston’s all-star scorer Paul Pierce.  While his numbers didn’t rise, some speculation about Holiday’s true potential certainly did. Holiday’s peers such as Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, and Derrick Rose, the three point guards on the Eastern Conference All-Star team last season, all saw their assist totals increase throughout their first four seasons while Jrue’s dropped, and this was alarming to many.

In Jrue’s defense however, he was not necessarily surrounded by scorers in his first three seasons in Philadelphia, and his ability to collect assists was directly affected by those on the hardwood with him.  That is why this coming season has the potential to be huge for Mr.. Holiday.  For the first time in his career, Jrue will have not only a dominant low post scorer at his disposal, but also a plethora of talented offensive players who can shoot and stretch the floor.  The franchise has surrounded Jrue with all of the tools necessary for a point guard to succeed.  Having a steady, reliable presence in the post should alone improve Jrue’s assist totals, as will ample open looks for shooters like Nick Young and Dorell Wright that are the beneficiary of Bynum on the block.   Jrue’s ability to capitalize on the opportunities created by the offseason acquisitions will go a long way in determining the Sixers success this season, as well as Holiday’s future with the franchise.

The double-teaming of Bynum and the inability of defenders to leave the other perimeter players should present Holiday with plenty of scoring opportunities throughout the season, so his numbers in that area should at least remain consistent with the past couple seasons, if not improve.  His field goal percentage should improve as well as a result of easier scoring opportunities.  Although it will be necessary for Holiday to stay aggressive in order to keep the offense flowing, scoring should come secondary to Jrue this season.  With so many new weapons surrounding him, Jrue’s focus should be on upping those assist numbers and taking care of the basketball.  Holiday had an assist to turnover ratio of 2.15 last season, good enough for 38th in the NBA.  If Holiday is going to take that next step toward All-Star status this season that number needs to approach 3, a number with which many all-star point guards hover around.  This will demonstrate that he is taking good care of the ball and providing Sixers’ scorers with an opportunity to do what they do, and in turn giving the Sixers their best shot to win games. 

The 76ers have a serious shot to make some noise in the East this season.  Management has done an excellent job at retooling the team, addressing weaknesses, and putting a team on the court that can truly compete.  Jrue Holiday is in the best position to benefit from these new additions, as they provide outlets and opportunities that were not previously present during his time in Philadelphia thus far.  The team is filled with talent and if maximized has potential to be elite.  It is set up well for Holiday to succeed, now it is up to him to take the reins and make it happen.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Swaggy P’s Impressive Preseason Performance

The 76ers have had a pretty solid start to the 2012 preseason, especially considering they are playing without their prized offseason pickup, Andrew Bynum. The thinking goes that the team will only improve once Andrew hits the hardwood, so the team's 3-1 start to this preseason sans-Bynum is pretty promising. The Sixers have bested Eastern Conference goes Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando, with their only loss coming in overtime in Atlantic City to the Brooklyn Nets.

One of the brightest points for the 7-6 this preseason has been the play of the newly-acquired Nick Young, who has taken little time to find his flow in Philly's offense. A slasher with nearly unlimited range, Young can score in a variety of ways and provides Philly with the type of threat that they haven't had in recent memory.  Through four games this preseason Nick has been putting up an impressive 19 points per in slightly under twenty eight minutes a game. This output would have been more than enough to lead the team in scoring last season; not bad for a dude that isn't playing starter minutes. Although if you recall, the Sixers' leading scorer last season, Lou Williams, was in a reserve as well, so there is plenty of potential for Nick to continue to produce.

Even more impressive than Nick's overall output this preseason is the efficiency with which he's scoring. The common conception of NY is that he is a high volume shooter; sure he can score points in bunches, but he needs a lot of looks to do so, and his shot selection has been known to make coaches cringe. While this rap has stuck with him throughout his short NBA stint, very little of this cavalier style of play has been seen thus far in Philly.  Instead, Nick has been getting his almost twenty points per by shooting an impressive 51% from the field, topped off with an unconscious 57 percent from beyond the arc, all representing a vast improvement over previous career averages. Career averages of 42% from the field, 37% from three, and 11.4 ppg pale in comparison to the numbers Nick has been piling up this preseason.

Nick's offensive arsenal and output thus far have been a great sign for Sixer fans, but it is important to realize that production at this level will probably not be sustained throughout a full 82 game season. Preseason defense is notoriously shaky in general, and little of Nick's scoring success this preseason has come against a team or player necessarily noted for their defense. Just because Nick has been able to pile up points against subpar defenders in the preseason, does not mean he will be able to provide the same production throughout the season.

After facing some of the League's tougher defenders and battling through off nights, Nick's numbers are sure to level off. However, once he enters the lineup, Andrew Bynum's presence on the block will demand attention and draw defenders off of the Sixers' shooters such as NY, making their job easier and leaving them what should be ample open shot opportunities. If Young is able to cash in on these open opportunities with even somewhat of a similar efficiency to that with which he has shown so far this preseason, then he really has the chance to be something special for the Sixers this season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sneak Freak: My 5 Favorite Pick Ups of 2012

With the holiday season almost upon us, sneaker companies are gearing up for their big fourth quarter releases to capitalize on the spending spree that inevitably comes with the falling of the leaves and chilling of the air.  Some of the most sought after shoe releases of each year are saved for the final months, and this year is no different.  However, most “sneakerheads” have been busy collecting kicks all year, so rather than looking ahead to the holiday releases, I’m instead going to reflect on my five favorite personal pick-ups of 2012.

5. Nike Air Max 90 Volt

The Nike Air Max 90 is one of my favorite shoes of all time.  Extremely comfortable and versatile, this shoe can be worn year round, and the black-grey-white-neon green Volt colorway is eye-catching.

4. Nike LeBron 9 Low “Summit Lake Hornets”

The 9 is one of the nicer models of LeBron’s signature shoe, both in appearance and comfort.  These bright teal and purple “Summit Lake Hornet” edition pay homage to James’ old AAU squad, and makes for a solid, albeit bright, summer shoe.  It is worth noting that the ‘9’ is the shoe in which LeBron finally broke through and took home his first NBA title, adding an extra level of meaning to these kicks. 

3. Air Jordan 4 Retro “Fire Red”


Any time you can get your hand on a pair of kicks that Michael actually sported on the hardwood, you know you’ve got something special.  With the oversaturation of SE’s, collaborations, and Retro’s these days, finding a pair that is virtually unaltered (in appearance, quality is another story) from the way you saw them on MJ’s feet is a rarity, and these Fire Red 4’s are some of the coolest. 

The 4 is a clean model as it is, as it looks equally nice on the court or casually, and the Bulls-themed color scheme put this pair over the top. 

2. Air Jordan Son of Mars “Club Purple”

This pair is the direct result of the oversaturation of Special Editions and Collaborations that I referenced in the previous paragraph, but these are just too dope to deny.  A sequel to the popular “Spizike”, these SOM drew inspiration from several previous Jordan models, but like its predecessor.  Pieces from each the Jordan 5 & 6 are noticeable and give the shoe a sort of cool, historical feel if you know enough to pick up on the similarities to the classics.  A solid mid-year release from the Jordan brand.

1. Nike Air Penny V Orlando


The Nike Air Penny V Orlando is probably the release I was most excited about all year, and they didn’t disappoint.  The main source of excitement with these shoes stemmed from their similarity from the Air Penny 2, one of my favorite shoes of all time, and a pair that I fondly remembering playing ball in as a kid.  Penny’s years in Orlando were explosive and exciting, and as a young kid just beginning to get fully emerged into the world of the NBA, it was impossible not to be draw to him.  Throw in the cool color scheme of mid-90’s Magic uni’s, which Nike has done an excellent job of capturing in both the Penny 2 and 5, and it was over. 

The Air Penny V appears largely like an updated version of the 2, which to be honest is exactly what I wanted.  This shoe fits in line with the previous Penny models perfectly, as you could almost picture Penny himself wearing them in a game.  Hard to believe its been over a decade since the last signature Penny shoe was released.  Usually things don’t turn out well when sneaker companies try to resurrect old lines, but that was not the case this time, as Nike nailed this attempt to bring the popular Penny series back to life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dwight’s Disappointment

It must be pretty frustrating to be an Orlando fan.  For the past eight seasons the franchise has been home to one of the League’s elite superstars, and all they have to show for it is one trip to the Finals.  With all the hype and publicity surrounding Dwight Howard for the past couple seasons, one may forget that the best he was able to do for the franchise was becoming Finals fodder for Kobe and company in 2008, providing the footnoted fourth ring in his storied career. 

Eight years of promise and potential, and nothing substantial to show for it.  This information must be especially tough to swallow for a fan base and franchise that is still seeking its first Championship.  And now Dwight is across the country, ready to begin his first season in purple and gold, hoping that Kobe and Laker lure will help him obtain for himself what he was unable to deliver in Orlando.

This must feel like déjà vu for downtrodden Orlando fans, who already had to watch one superstar center hightail it to L.A. to team with Kobe after he was unable to find success in the Finals with Orlando.  Losing Shaq as he began to peak was painful for many Magic fans, a feeling that was only amplified after he began to take home titles, and now they’re fearful for a similar situation with Dwight.  

This may seem like the end of the line to many Magic fans, as though all hope is lost.  The franchise has had the League’s best center in each of the last two decades and all in all no trophy to show for it.  That’s like going on a date with each of your school’s two hottest girls but getting no action afterwards; nothing to brag about.  Yes it is fair to assume that moral isn’t the highest among Magic fans, but believe it or not, all is not lost.  Sure they may have to watch the man who toyed with the team’s emotions for over two seasons hoist a title trophy with Kobe this coming June, while they are more than likely headed to the lottery, but in a way Dwight’s departure was a good thing.

Dwight wasn’t bringing a title to Orlando on his own, and the team as it was structured, was more than a couple role players away from being a true contender, which in a way is an indictment on Dwight.  He made it clear that he could not keep Orlando elevated to elite status without serious help, and he held the team hostage with his back and forth behavior and ambivalence about his desire to even be in Orlando.  No Allen Iverson never won a title, neither did Patrick Ewing, but their dedication or their desire to win for their team could never be questioned, the same cannot be said about Dwight.  For all the fuss that was made about this guy you would think we were dealing with a player who could at least keep his team in semi-contender status, a la LeBron.  Yes he might win a title or two in L.A. with a couple future first ballot hall-of-famers in Kobe and Nash, but this is different from taking his own team to the title, which he clearly could not do.

This isn’t necessarily meant to be a knock on Dwight, more just to demonstrate (to Orlando fans) that his departure isn’t the end of the world. Shaq’s void was filled by Howard and eventually someone will do the same for him.  Although this process may take some time and the faithful may be in for a couple frustrating seasons, maybe their next star will be slightly more dedicated than Dwight and not so ambivalent about their desire to be in Orlando.  If not a title, this is what the fan base truly deserves. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Overtime in Atlantic City: Nets Host the 76ers in the Boardwalk Classic

Give the Sixers credit for keeping it close as the Nets had them at arms length throughout most of the contest, but this is a game the 7-6 could have had. But in the end, the outcome of this game was not as important as what could be learned from it, and based on last night's action the Sixers have a lot to learn.

Jrue came out of the gate strong, attacking offensively, which was nice to see. Holiday has a knack at getting to the rim, and this skill will be extremely important to the Sixers throughout the season. Jrue's penetration will often spur the offense, leading to easy looks for Bynum in the post and open shots for the squad's newly acquired shooters, if successful. He was unable to sustain this offensive output throughout the game though, which again will be central to the Sixers' success.

On the bright side however reserve guard Maalik Wayns looked solid, showing confidence in his shot and his own ability to run the offense. he at least looked like he could eat legit NBA minutes, which is a plus since back up point guard isn't one of the Sixers' strong suits.

On the defensive end the Sixers often struggled to get stops, especially at the point guard spot as Deron Williams and CJ Watson went wherever they wanted on the floor. The team was clearly in need of a defensive anchor, and luckily they have one of the best waiting in the wing. Brook Lopez and Kris Hunphries will not be able to have the same success in the paint as they did last night with Bynum on the block.  Evan Turner largely struggled at times checking Gerald Wallace, which is troublesome and makes me wonder how he will handle defending some of the League's elite forwards, which he will be asked to do a lot of in Igoudala's absence.

It wasn't all bad however. Nick Young illustrated what he can bring to the floor, and the dude can flat out score. Like it or not he's going to be taking a lot of shots for the 7-6 this season. It's clear that he will be looked to a lot for big shots in crunch time throughout the season, and he always appears up to the challenge.

The team showed a lot of grit sticking out a game that they could have let go silently, and the new guys got some valuable crunch and overtime minutes.  So despite the loss, some positives were seen in AC, along with some issues to address. The team will only improve with the addition of Bynum into the lineup.


Friday, October 12, 2012

Tracy McGrady was Pretty Good

It’s always unfortunate when a player, especially one of star caliber, can’t go out on their own terms.  I’m sure that, despite the amount of grace which with he is taking it, finishing his career with a mediocre team in the Chinese Basketball Association wasn’t Tracy McGrady’s ideal ending.  The two-time scoring champion and seven-time all-star was at one time one of the League’s most exciting and explosive talents.  His career however, was hampered by injuries, and his lack of postseason success will likely haunt his legacy.  The League doesn’t usually look back fondly on players who were unable to make a mark come playoff time, which is unfortunate for Tracy because in his prime he was a hell of a player.  McGrady could straight out score, and score fast.  He was one of those players who could finish the first half with 6 points, and then explode for 24 in the third before you could blink an eye, or score 13 points in 35 seconds (check below).



Do yourself a favor and check out his career stats:

Tracy had EIGHT seasons where he averaged over 20 points per game, illustrating a very high level of consistency, and he finishes his storied NBA career with almost 20,000 total points (18,381 to be exact).

No he’s not a lock for the hall of fame, nor is he in the conversation as one of the best ever.  But for a brief period of time Tracy was amongst the League’s best, and an entire generation of players, myself included, grew up enjoying, imitating, and idolizing his game.

McGrady should have no problem finding fanfare in China, as he is already a superstar over there due to his days in Houston with the sensationally popular Yao Ming. 

It’s true that Tracy hasn’t been a real factor in the League for a few seasons now as injuries have severely slowed him, but it is always odd to see a player of such caliber finish out a career overseas.  In his prime, McGrady was one of the most exciting and explosive players I have ever seen, and despite his lack of postseason success, he should be remembered as such.  Plus, he was responsible for one of the coolest signature basketball shoes in a long time, so that has to count for something.


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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Heir Apparent?

When Scottie said it, it was scoffed at and chalked up to jealousy.

When Jim Boeheim said it, it was dismissed, simply a college coach speaking out of turn.

When Charles Barkley said it, it was largely ignored, just Chuck being Chuck.

Each statement made by these individuals simply suggesting that LeBron James may one day surpass Michael Jordan in terms of basketball success was recieved with complete rejection, denounced as basketball blasphemy.  There will never be another Michael is the common refrain, and many don’t want to see the recently-vilified James anywhere near that rarified air. 

But then, Phil Jackson, the man of 11 NBA Championships as a head coach, and the mastermind behind Michael’s six championships, stated that LeBron has the tools to potentially be better than MJ one day.  What could people say?  This was Phil Jackson; the man knows a thing or two about talent, and has no reason to denounce his former prodigy in favor of a player he has never coached.  Phil sees in LeBron the combination of unparalleled ability on the basketball court and the physical features to play virtually any position on the court; a mixture to an extent with which the NBA has never seen before, MJ included.

LeBron’s potential superiority is still far from an accepted fact, but Phil’s comments opened up the door for discussion, and why not.  He is only 27 years old and has already strung together some of the most statistically impressive seasons the NBA has ever seen.  His size allows him to rebound and assist in ways that Michael was unable, and his strength allows him to physically dominate on the offensive end, as he’s never averaged under 26 points per game, aside from his rookie year.  Barring any serious injury, which he has done well to avoid up to this point by keeping his body in tip-top shape, LeBron will almost certainly surpass Michael’s rebounding and assist totals, and if he continues at his current pace it isn’t preposterous to think that he could surpass his point total as well.  Sure he has a way to go with the Titles, but he also has time.

Realistically there will never be another Michael.  The drive, the desire, the will to win, along with the impact he was able to have on the game, both internationally and on future generations all will remain unequaled, preserved forever in the annals of the NBA.  However MJ’s legacy does not prevent LeBron from having his own separate, similar, success.  The comparisons, although they will never end, are unfounded, as they are each great in their own way.  Michael was more of an alpha-dog, lead by example type of player; a guy who was more than willing to hike his shorts up and drag his teammates to the title.  LeBron finds his success more in bringing his teammates together, championing the team approach to the title, even if he often has to do much of the heavy lifting on his own. 

The approaches are different, but is one necessarily better?  No Michael’s greatness will never be surpassed, or even equaled, but if LeBron continues to dominate the League in the same manner with which he has up to this point in his career,  don’t be too surprised to see history view these two side by side, as the game’s greats. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Among the East’s Elite

With the NBA preseason getting into full swing this week, this seems like a good time to consider the current state of the Sixers heading into the season, and how they stack up against the rest of the East.  If you recall, last season ended with the Sixers sitting one game away from the Eastern Conference Finals, a position that the Sixers hadn’t even sniffed since their infamous run to the 2001 Finals.  The truth is however, that the Sixers’ success in last year’s postseason masked what was in many ways a mediocre season for the 7-6. 

The effort put forth by last year’s team is well-noted, but beating a short-handed Chicago squad, and pushing a rapidly aging Celtics team to a seventh game in no way guaranteed success for the following season, and the front office knew this.  Changes had to be made and changes were made.  The Sixers now sit on one of the youngest, most athletic, and potentially explosive lineups in the League, centered around their prized pick-up of the offseason, Andrew Bynum.

But what does this mean for the franchise?  Are they finally ready to be considered a serious contender?  Should I prepare for a parade down Broad Street in June?

Unfortunately, not so fast.  While the addition of Bynum and shooters Nick Young, Jason Richardson, and Dorell Wright directly remedy what were enormous issues for the Sixers last year in the form of post presence and outside scoring, it does not automatically catapult the team to the top of the East’s elite.  The Sixers were not the only team that was busy this offseason, as a plethora of other contenders from the East made some tweaks to their rotations, hoping to contend with that team down in Miami eyeing up their second straight Championship.  Players were shipped all over this summer, and in fact not one Eastern Conference Contender’s lineup looks identical to last year’s, making for what should be an extremely entertaining regular season.

The 76ers finished eighth in the East last year after a promising start and it is safe to say that sneaking into the last playoff spot was at least slightly disappointing to Sixer fans, especially after the team spent a week atop ESPN’s power rankings early in the season.  However the team now boasts one of the League’s best young big men and an array of position players around to compliment his game, which, should be more than enough to at least keep the team from sweating out a playoff spot.  But where exactly do the 2012-2013 76ers fit in the playoff puzzle?

It is a little too early to tell exactly how good this current incarnation of this Sixer squad will be, considering that there are so many new parts that have yet to play together, but the talent is certainly there to contend.  Miami is still clearly the class of the East, as well as the clear-cut favorite to take a repeat trip to the Finals, but after that things are not quite so clear.

Orlando and Atlanta have faded as true Championship contenders, while Indiana and New York look to take the step toward becoming perennial playoff teams.  Brooklyn is quickly building itself into a contender, while the Celtics remain solid despite a few major roster moves.  Questions still surround Chicago and the return of their superstar Derrick Rose, and until he is back and healthy on the hardwood the Bulls cannot be viewed as a serious threat. 

So what does all of this mean for the Sixers?

It means that in an ever-evolving Eastern Conference the Sixers are right in the thick of things, for the first time in a long time.  Are they the favorite to reach the Finals?  No.  Are they the best team on paper?  No.  Are they going to win the Championship this season?  Probably not, but hey anything is possible, and they have certainly put themselves on the short list of teams that pose a serious threat to Miami’s title defense.  There is a handful of teams in the East that could be seriously considered as contenders, and while they may not be at the top of this list the Sixers are certainly on it, in there among the elite, which is about all you can ask for heading into a season almost thirty years removed from your last title.