Thursday, November 12, 2009

Long Live Iggy (And Brandon Jennings is a Monster)

Before last season, Andre Iguodala proclaimed he'd prefer not to be called Iggy. Coincidentally, last season I began to grow a bit tired of Andre and start to resent him a bit — though really through little fault of his own. I wasn't please the Sixers paid about $12 million more than anyone else would have given him, and I really hated watching him get paid like the man, be put in position to take over like the man, yet fail to be able to create a shot for himself to save his life. Sure, he made some huge clutch shots, but he just didn't look like an $80 million man. Something was missing.

In hindsight, maybe I subconsciously turned a bit on him because of his denouncement of his nickname. I called him Iggy, just like everyone else, and it seemed fitting. There's a certain ring to it. Well, after seeing him throw down another sick dunk against the Nets last night, I'm proclaiming Andre Iguodala from here and to the rest of eternity Iggy. I always liked Iggy better anyway.

To me, that's Iggy, the guy who throws down insanely nasty dunks over anyone, anywhere. And he's not afraid to take off a little farther than you'd expect. He's a joy to watch. The guy who prefers not to be called Iggy is the one who settles for jump shot after jump shot and takes too many contested shots. I like the aggressive Andre much better, and to be perfectly honest, Iguodala has looked like a much improved player in the early going. His jumper seems more reliable than ever, from the midrange and three, showing he finally went to work in the offseason to really improve on his weaknesses. I credit Iggy. Long live Iggy.

Truth be told though, Iggy didn't have the biggest impact in the Sixers edging out the Nets by just three points for the second time in five days, though his dunk was the highlight. No, last night the Sixers were led by their young guns, two forwards that are proving the Sixers know what their doing on draft night. Marreese Speights has been a pleasant surprise so far this season. Last year, he certainly showed flashes and became more and more confident as the year went along. To the surprise of many, he contributed much earlier than expected, becoming a reliable option off the bench. He was projected to be a bit of a project, but Speights showed he was ready for the NBA. And this year, he's been nothing short of the Sixers' best bench player, and looking at it, really one of the best sixth men in the league to date. He's played so well, in fact, that the few people who actually follow the Sixers these days are beginning to murmur that perhaps Speights should be inserted to the starting lineup in favor of Elton Brand. I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about it.

Last night, he was at it again, sparking the 76ers with 19 points on 8-15 shooting and adding 9 rebounds to boot. The guy is good. He can score just about any way possible for a big man, stepping out to hit the J and showing aggression around the rim. He runs the floor exceptionally well and certainly knows how to finish. Speights is a legit power forward in this league, and if things keep going the way they have thus far, it wouldn't be surprising to see Brand and his expensive price tag coming off the bench.

Joining Speights in the youth brigade is Thaddeus Young, who paced the Sixers with 20 points, five boards, two assists and two steals last night. The second of his two steals clinched the game, though calling it a steal would be generous. I mean, watch (50 seconds in):

Talk about a gift. Though Thad wasn't given everything he got last night. He earned all 20 of his points, asserting himself in the first quarter and really never letting up. Ever since the Sixers drafted him, Young has done nothing but impress. He's a mature professional for being so young, and his hard work shows out on the floor. Each season, he's come back a better player, whether it was working on his rebounding and outside game heading into to last season or his improved aggressiveness and ball-handling he's displayed early on this season. The kid wants to be good, and it shows. He and Speights should give Sixers fans cause for excitement of what's in store.

Sure, watching the Sixers can be painful at times. They don't a legitimate go-to guy, a guy who you are confident can create his own shot when needed. But if you just give these guys a chance, they'll get your juices flowing a little bit. At least they should. Young and Speights are legit up-and-comers who have very bright futures in this league. Iggy is maturing as a leader and maybe this will be the year he finally makes that next step to all-star. If nothing else, his dunks are as thrilling as anyone's. Jrue Holiday has freakish talent and looks to be a little further along offensively than most people thought.

This all to say the Sixers certainly have some nice pieces. Make no mistake about it, they have miles and miles to go to even begin to be mentioned in the same breath as the Cavs, Celtics and Magic, a place they're unlikely to reach any time in the next few years. But they do have some exciting players. It's just a shame that they've committed entirely too much money to two players that can't carry a team. As I stated earlier, Iguodala is a nice player and an exciting one, but the Sixers overpaid for him to the point of being absurd. No one out there was ready to give him max money or pay him as an all-star. The Sixers were essentially bidding against themselves, yet they still dished out too much for him. They could have and should have gotten Iguodala cheaper. But his is not the only contract weighing this franchise down. The big one, of course, is Elton Brand, who should have never been signed in the first place.

For starters, he's from Duke. That means, no matter how nice of a guy he may be or how hard a worker, he's an asshole. Only assholes go to Duke. That's science. Secondly, he was coming off a major injury, meaning he was damaged goods. Sure, it was the first time Brand had been seriously injured, but the older you get, the more likely injuries start to become trends, especially after a major injury. Third, the guy has never really improved the teams he's been on, which I pointed out last year, finishing above .500 only once in his career before becoming a 76er. Lastly, the guy's style simply doesn't fit with the team. Brand isn't a guy who gets out on the fast break and finishes strong around the rim. I'm not saying he can't run because he can, even with his leg injury, but he isn't a transition guy. And he doesn't go inside and attack the rim with the ball. He's more a jump shooter than a pound it out grinder down low. His game really doesn't translate to this team. And his 5-year, $80 million-plus contract is preventing the Sixers from being able to make the next step.

Thad and Speights, along with Jrue and even Iggy, are guys the Sixers should be building around. This summer, had they simply taken my advice and gone after Josh Smith last season and avoided Brand, the Sixers would be in one of two positions. They'd either have a core of Thad, Speights, Iggy, Jrue and Josh Smith (and throw in Lou Williams if you must, though that guy should be a sixth man, not a starter), a young, talented group if ever there was one. Or, they'd have that same core minus Smith with a ton of cap space this summer, the summer of LeBron. They could go after a guy like Amare, maybe even a Wade, or someone else high up there in free agency. And who knows, had the Sixers kept their cap space and Smith really wanted to come here, perhaps he would have only signed a one-year deal as a restricted free agent with the Hawks and then become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, giving the Sixers another chance to get him. And if that happened, it would have been awesome, because then the Sixers would have Iggy and Smith throwing down insane dunks on the regular.

But shit, at least the Sixers are in much better shape than the Nets. Holy hell, that franchise is in disarray. Last night, they dressed the NBA minimum of eight players. Those players were Rafer Alston, Terrence Williams, Brook Lopez, Trenton Hassell and Josh Boone as the starters, along with Bobby Simmons, Eduardo Najera and Courtney Lee, who played 1:50 because he's still hurt. Besides Lopez, that's a dreadful team. Sure, Rafer has played well the last two seasons, but he needs good players around him to really be effective. And Terrence Williams is a unique talent, with the ability to do a little bit of everything, but he's a rookie who probably shouldn't be starting anywhere quite yet. Boone and Hassell belong on the bench, simple as that.

Though I have to admit, Lopez is the real deal. He was a beast last night, scoring 23 and pulling down 14 boards, and he's a rare thing in this league, a legit, talented center. The Nets made the right choice drafting him. He is strong on both ends of the floor and simply a handful on the block. I never thought he'd be as refined this quickly, but the guy is good. Between him and Devin Harris, the Nets have two very good, very young players. Too bad they're stuck with the rest of that team that includes the other injured players with Harris: Tony Battie, Keyon Dooling, Chris Douglas-Roberts (who I actually like and may be good at some point), Jarvis Hayes, Yi Jianlian and Sean Williams. Yeah, that makes the Sixers' roster look like the Lakers. Yet the Sixers have only beaten the winless Nets by a combined six points both times they played. OK, maybe they make the Sixers look like the Hawks. Still an improvement.

Oh, and I'd like to point out to the world that my boy, Brandon Jennings, is absolutely killing it this year. Last night, the man had 32 points, nine assists and four rebounds on 11-19 shooting from the field, 2-2 from three and 8-8 from the line to lead the Bucks to the upset 108-102 victory against Denver, leading all scorers (tied with Melo) with those 32 points and going up against Chauncey Billups.

Ladies and gentlemen, in the first six games of his NBA career, Jennings is averaging 20.7 points, 5.2 assists and 1.3 steals a game in 32:36 minutes a game. He's shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three, not to mention 85.7 percent from the line. Throw in 4.3 rebounds from the point guard spot and a surprising 4-2 record to lead the Central, and you have yourself the early-season Rookie of the Year leader. And he looks miles ahead of any other rook out there. Doo Be Doo is no joke.

As much fun as it's been watching some of the young guns on the Sixers develop and excite in this young season, I'd trade the entire team for Jennings. That kid is amazing.

But hey, at least Iggy is back.

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. Please stop beating a dead horse with the Josh Smith thing. We werent gonna get him that year, you know that, and he hasnt proven anything in the intangibles area of being a winner and good teammate either. Hes shown some maturation so far this year by not jacking up a 3 yet, but theres nothing to say he wont start. But you're right, hes fun to watch

  2. He's won more than Brand … and I'll beat a dead horse all I want. I love me some Josh Smith.