76ers Make Moves But Shouldn’t Expect Much Improvement

Most of the NBA offseason dust has settled, and clubs have pretty much solidified their 2009-10 rosters. We’re taking a look at how things should shape up in the Atlantic Division. On Saturday, we brought you a breakdown of the Knicks. Today we delve into the 76ers’ lineup. Can Philly finally get over the hump and advance in the playoffs, or is Andre Iguodala in for another disappointing campaign? Read on.

Let’s be honest: Celtics Nation was a bit scared of the Philadelphia 76ers last season. They had a great finisher in Iguodala, a veteran point guard who could score and work the ball around and some impressive depth at the forward position.

It was enough to give Orlando a run for its money in the first round of the playoffs, going up 2-1 on the eventual Eastern Conference champs before bowing out in the next three games.

What went wrong? No consistent big man to contend underneath with Dwight Howard and a lack of depth at the point position (Philly averaged minus-5.3 points a game on the season when Andre Miller was off the court).

The offseason prescription, in that case, should have been simple: Find a center with more scoring ability and range than Samuel Dalembert and sign a reliable backup point guard for Miller.

What’d Ed Stefanski do? Dumped Miller and shirked the big-man situation altogether.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s still much to like about the Sixers roster.

1. Iguodala remains the star, “Hyperized” and all. He led Philly with 18.8 points per game last season (on an impressive 47 percent shooting), adding 5.7 boards and 5.3 dimes. The 25-year-old is signed through 2014, so Stefanski will theoretically have plenty of time to build a team around him.

2. Elton Brand, once a force in the league, should be back and at full strength from last year’s season-ending shoulder surgery. It’s welcome news for a team that ranked 17th in the NBA in rebounding in 2008-09 and struggled throughout to score in the paint.

 3. Jason Kapono is a career 45.4 percent shooter from the outside. The Sixers had to deal rebounding specialist Reggie Evans to land him, but it’s a much-needed boost to a guard corps that ranked last in the league in 3-point shooting percentage last season. Spread the defense, and rebounding and scoring in the paint suddenly become much easier.

Here’s the catch: None of those upgrades can counter the loss of Miller, who signed with the Trail Blazers for three years and $21 million.

He was the club leader, one of its only veterans, its point guard, second-leading scorer (16.3 points per game), assist leader (6.5 apg), ranked second on the team in steals (1.3 spg) and has seemingly never missed a game in his life.

Now who does Philly have at the point? Unproven Lou Williams, rookie Jrue Holliday (name the last club that won a championship with a rookie at point guard … still thinking?) or Royal Ivey, who’s actually a shooting guard.

Dalembert, meanwhile, will still be oafing around in the paint. The guy has yet to live up to Stefanski’s high praise and, in fact, turned in a sub-par season in 2008-09 — even by his standards — scoring just 6.4 points a game to go with 8.5 rebounds and 1.5 turnovers.

Adding Brand and Kapono to the mix will no doubt open up the court a bit for the explosive Iguodala. But when your club’s lacking at the two most important positions on the floor, the ceiling is suddenly set pretty low.

Expect another one-and-done performance for Philadelphia in the 2010 postseason.

Yardbarker

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