Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Which team most impresses you in the East right now: Indiana or Philadelphia?
Steve Aschburner: Philadelphia. I like the aggressiveness that the 76ers are showing in coach Doug Collins’ second season. Ditto for their defense, at or near the top in points allowed and field-goal percentages. They’re not superstar driven – it’s hard to classify Elton Brand as one anymore – and get it done with a whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts approach. And the bench guys – Evan Turner, Louis Williams, Thad Young – have been slapping other teams in the face.
Fran Blinebury: C’mon, don’t tell me you expected a Sixers team that opened the season with a five-game road trip to be sniffing the same rarified air as the Heat and Bulls even two weeks into the schedule. Doug Collins has built on last season’s foundation and has Philly playing hard and with a sense of togetherness. As John Schuhmann noted in the Hang Time blog, it’s the Sixers’ bench led by Thaddeus Young that has bumped them up to the next level. With rookie Nic Vucevic capably backing up an improved Spencer Hawes, they also have legitimate size and presence in the middle. The Sixers are a fun team worth watching. If only the fans of Philly would notice.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Although I have been on the Pacers bandwagon since the start of camp, loving the postseason moves and the way the roster has filled out, Philadelphia has been more impressive so far. The 76ers have looked good on offense and defense, and have better depth. Plus, Philly just won when the teams met.
Shaun Powell: The Sixers haven’t even maxed the talent on their roster yet and they’re winning anyway. The system used by Doug Collins is designed to spread the wealth, which makes Philly unpredictable in close games. Not sure how this will play out in the postseason (assuming the Sixers make it), where the stars ultimately win games. But so far everyone is buying into the “share” philosophy, which is rare; young teams are usually filled with players who “gotta get mine.” Even Andre Iguodala looks happy.
John Schuhmann: Since the Sixers rank No. 1 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, I have to go with Philly. They’ve proven the value of continuity when you have only two weeks for training camp, as well as the value of scoring depth when you’re playing a condensed season. I don’t think they’re going to remain in the top five offensively, but they are stronger on that end than Indiana because they do a great job of taking care of the ball (No. 2 in turnover rate) and turning stops into quick and easy buckets (No. 5 in fast-break points per possession).
Sekou Smith: Indiana is playing good basketball for a team that I expected to play well this season. But the 76ers are doing things I did not see this coming. Six straight wins, and the way they’ve collected those wins, makes it clear that the work Doug Collins started with this team last season is paying off handsomely now. I’m still not sure what the key is for this team. But I do know that it starts with a fantastic coach, the right point guard (Jrue Holiday) and a solid cast of characters that could make this team a difficult out come playoff time. That said, the level of competition cranks up for them in the coming days. But I’m buying the 76ers.