The 2011-12 Sixers season, abbreviated because of the lockout, can probably be best divided into three parts.
There was the opening surge, where the young team rushed out to a 20-9 start. Fans were excited. There was even talk of this team being a legitimate contender, especially after they thrashed the Bulls by 16 points at the Wells Fargo Center on February 1.
But the two months that followed saw the Sixers go just 11-21, and left them fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot. Fans were calling for ownership to blow up the team. Everyone was to blame.
The third and final segment of the season was perhaps where Sixers fans saw the best example of what this team was truly made of. They went 4-1 over their last five games, finishing the regular season at 35-31 and securing a playoff spot and a matchup with the Chicago Bulls. Shockingly enough, the Sixers knocked off the top-seeded Bulls (thanks in part to Derrick Rose's torn ACL), and took the Celtics to the brink before being eliminated in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Now, with the season in the rear-view, we asked Sixers fans to tell us who they want to see back next season and who the want to send packing. The results, as always, were surprising.
What to do with Iguodala?
Some love him. Some hate him. Either way, there is definitely a role on this team for Andre Iguodala. He is one of the best defenders in the league, and the constant knock against Iguodala is that he isn't a "number-one guy." People complain that he can't put the team on his back in the last five minutes of a game and carry them to victory. Those people, for the most part, are right. That's not who he is as a player. Sure, he gets paid like it, but Iguodala is not a superstar. Is that his fault? Can you blame him for a bad Ed Stefanski contract?
Once fans get over the fact that he is making over $13 million per year, there isn't much to dislike about the guy. He's unselfish, plays defense, runs the floor, has a solid mid-range game, can hit the three and has a great relationship with Doug Collins. He also was named an All-Star for the first time in his career.
Ok, he needs to work on free throws. I'll concede that.*
Because the Sixers' season ended in a loss, I figured fans would be down on Iguodala. He is usually one of the first to catch blame. Much to my surprise, fans are nearly split on the veteran small forward. 49.5 percent of voters want to see him back next season, compared to just 30.1 percent of fans after last season.
So will the Sixers trade Iguodala? Bob Cooney of the Daily News weighed in, and he puts the chances that he'll be back next season at 60-40.
Amnesty for Brand?
That brings us to Elton Brand, the savvy veteran who signed a max deal but has not been able to reach his full potential because of injuries. I like Brand, and what he brings to the locker room, but he simply can't get it done anymore.
I expected him to land on the "Go" side of things, but I did not expect it to be this lopsided. Just over 17 percent of fans want him back next season. What I took away from this is that a lot of people want the team to amnesty Brand, and use that money to bring in a free agent.
It's hard to disagree with that...as long as the right free agent is out there. If not, the Sixers can always bring him back for the final season of his contract. He can mentor young players like Lavoy Allen. Then, after the 2012-13 season, his contract will be up, and they can then target a free agent.
Backcourt on the rise
For all the flack that Evan Turner took this season, fans certainly gave him a ringing endorsement in this poll. Nearly 89 percent of voters want to see the second-year guard back next season. Jrue Holiday's popularity dipped slightly (98.5 percent to 94.3 percent), but he was by far the most popular player last season, so there was really nowhere else for him to go but down.
These two are beginning to look like they could be in the backcourt together for years to come, and judging by the way fans voted, they would welcome that.
As I mentioned, Holiday was the most-popular player after last season. This year, however, the honor goes to Philly's own Lavoy Allen (96.7 percent). I'm sure he was helped by the fact that he's a Temple grad and Philadelphia native. But the way he played in the Celtics series, guarding one of the best power forwards in the game, Kevin Garnett, opened a lot of fans' eyes. Expect good things from Allen in the future.
|2012 SIXERS STAY OR GO
| Andre Iguodala
| Elton Brand
| Evan Turner
| Jrue Holiday
| Lou Williams
| Jodie Meeks
| Spencer Hawes
| Nik Vucevic
| Lavoy Allen
| Sam Young
| Tony Battie
| Craig Brackins
| Xavier Silas
| Doug Collins
| Rod Thorn
**Results as of 9 a.m. on 6/1/12
*I am not an Andre Iguodala apologist. I am a realist. Before you kill me over this issue, consider this: If he was making $8 million/year instead of $13 million, would you still feel the same way about him?