Last season the Philadelphia 76ers were 3-10 to start the season.
A year later, the club has pulled a 360 and is off to a 10-3 to start, its best since 2001 thanks to Monday’s 94-82 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
In ’10-11, the Sixers had to wait until their 25th game to post win No.10. Just 13 games into ’11-12, the resurgent Sixers are leading the Atlantic Division by four games over Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire’s Knicks.
Who would have thought that going into the season?
The Sixers rank in the top-ten in almost every major statistical team category; 4th in points per game, 7th in rebounding, 8th in assists per game and the most telling: second in points allowed per game.
What is even more surprising about the teams fast start is the fact that the Sixers lead the NBA in margin of victory at close to 15 points, more than five points ahead of the second-ranked Chicago and MVP Derrick Rose.
Doug Collins’ squad has already won games by margins of 20, 27, 23, 35, 27 and 31.
With margins like that you might expect to see a scorer pacing the team with an other-worldly points per game statistic, Nope. In fact, the teams leading scorer doesn’t even start, it’s their sixth-man, Lou Williams at 16.5 per game.
Currently six players average double-digit points per game for Collins, with Elton Brand and Jodie Meeks, two starters, on the cusp at 9.8 points and 8.8 points per game respectively.
This Sixers team boasts balance unlike any team in the NBA right now, with scoring options on the floor at all times. Often nobody knows when or which guy will be the star, it could be Jrue Holiday initiating the offense from the point, or Thaddeus Young coming in to provide scoring from a productive bench.
Holiday has been terrific guiding the offense in this his third season in the league. The 21-year-old is averaging a career-best 15 points per game so far this season while shooting 45% from the field, 38% from behind the arc and chipping in more than four assists per contest.
The Sixers starting five consists of Holiday, Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Brand and Spencer Hawes, who is enjoying a fantastic start in his second season in Philadelphia. The seven-footer is averaging close to a double-double in the middle with 10 points per game and close to 10 boards. His strong play early on despite a back injury has him looking more like the top-ten pick he was back in 2007 and less like the bust that was shipped over to the team for peanuts by Sacramento last offseason.
Bench production has been outstanding, as Williams, Young and Evan Turner are all averaging more than 10 points coming off the bench early on. Most games, Collins’ second-unit is just as dangerous as the starting five.
Young, a 6’8 forward, can play the power forward spot and create matchup problems on the perimeter. Turner, a 6’5 guard, rebounds tremendously for his position, averaging 6 per game and has a great motor on both ends of the floor with great defensive and scoring touch when his number is called. Lou “Sweet Lou” Williams can flat-out fill it up, getting his 16.5 points per game in just 25 minutes of action. Talk about bench production.
Balanced scoring, defense and bench production have fueled the Sixers’ early season surge, but with lack of a true “No.1 option” on offense, they’ll have to be that way consistently for the team to contend among the Eastern Conference’s elite like Chicago, Miami and Orlando.
Despite the fast start, the Sixers have only beaten one team with a winning record, beating Indiana without Danny Granger in early January. In order to prove they belong, the Sixers will need a test from better competition, which will come in their next three games against Denver (8-5), Atlanta (10-4) and Miami (8-4).