The Mavericks will look to get back on track tonight at 7:30 against the 76ers (2-4), a team they have had some recent success against. The Mavericks have won four of five and three straight against Philadelphia. But both games last season saw the Mavericks face a much different Sixer squad. Iverson was sitting out in the midst of being traded in their meeting at the AAC in December and Iverson was well on his way to leading Denver when they Mavs travelled to Philadelphia in February.
So who are these guys?
First off, they are defined by A.I., just like they have been since 1996. It just isn't the same A.I. Andre Iguodala is one of the best young players in the league and is the 76ers' best player. He'll likely be headed for an All-Star game in his first year as the team leader and is having a fine season thus far despite being on one of the worst teams in the league. He's averaging career highs in points (20.5), rebounds (6.3), steals (2.17), blocks (.83), three pointers (1 per game) and shooting percentage (50%) in the first six games of his fourth season in the league. If can continue his current production, he'll start turning some heads and getting noticed despite playing on such a bad team.
After Iguodala, the drop off is rather drastic. Samuel Dalembert is likely their second best player and is a talented young big man but has a limited offensive game. He can impact the game on the glass and the defensive end, but gets many points with help from other players and has trouble creating his own shot. He's one of the better shot blockers in the league and has a good physical game. Paired with rebounding specialist Reggie Evans, the Sixers have one of the better young defensive post tandems in the league. Their defense ranks fifth in the league thus far, and that likely has something to do with their defense-only front line.
Veteran Andre Miller, who was the main player component in the Allen Iverson trade, runs the point for the hapless Sixers who have the sixth worst offense in the league. Miller is playing the worst basketball of his career this year, in large part due to his assist numbers plummeting. Without guys like Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby (or Lamond Murray and Chuck Person if you want to go back even further) to dump the ball off to, Miller's pass-first game isn't translating into success with a team that has trouble consistently sinking jumpers and scoring down low.
By the numbers, the Mavericks should have no problem handling a team that has gone 32-63 since Allen Iverson departed, but then again the numbers also said the Mavericks shouldn't have gotten manhandled by the Trail Blazers two days ago.
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd