Columbus - If tonight was any indication, the Philadelphia 76ers are going to have a rough go of it this season. Before the game, their head coach Brett Brown admitted that it was doubtful that top pick Nerlens Noel would play this season. The players who did play didn't give much reason for optimism. The Sixers will rely on Darius Morris, Tony Wroten and Michael Carter-Williams to play a lot of minutes at point guard this season. Morris and Wroten are young players known for offensive deficiencies and decent defense. Carter-Williams is still learning how to play basketball. Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young will have to carry the load all season, and it isn't clear those players have that capability. They didn't tonight against a Cavaliers team sitting Earl Clark, Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack, and lost Sergey Karasev after the first half.
And if you are a Cavaliers fan, this is a game that has to excite you, regardless of the competition.
Kyrie Irving displayed some of the offensive skill that made him an All-Star last season and has inspired such high expectations as he enters his third season. His handle, is incredible. He can get teammates any shot that he wants. The only thing that holds back his assist numbers is teammates missing open shots and the fact that he himself is such a gifted scorer. He finished with 17 points and 12 assists. Oh, and he played some fantastic defense as well.
But the supporting cast was good as well.
C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee both got started and played pretty well. Gee made 4 of 6 three point attempts and looked fresh. If he can up his shooting percentage with a more manageable role, he becomes a much more valuable member. As it stands, the last two games have bolstered his chances of cracking the starting lineup. Miles was aggressive as he always is, and told me before the game he is embracing his role as a scorer off the bench. His shot didn't always fall but he was taking good shots that were within the offense.
Tristan Thompson was fantastic.
He rebounded like a maniac and hit several jump shots. He airballed one too but you will live with that. His defense on Thaddeus Young was impressive, and he admitted before the game that Mike Brown's words about his defensive potential were a challenge that he took to heart. But seriously guys, he hit several jump shots. His potential as a player is off the charts at this point and I don't want to put a ceiling on him. He remains a 22 year old who works hard, is athletic, has great footwork and handle. I need to stop gushing. He finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds. The 15 points came on 11 shots. He created for himself off the dribble and was multi-dimensional.
I loved Anthony Bennett's game.
He hit some shots, threw down the hardest dunk of the game, and played with defensive energy and passion. He mixed it up with Royce White and probably had a hand in him fouling out of the game and being ejected. It is going to take him some time before he is all the way there, but the early signs are positive. He also made some really nice passes that I did not know were a part of his game. I didn't see him force any of the bad shots I had been worried about in the first few preseason games.
Matthew Dellavedova and Henry Sims put in solid games and they seem to have a leg up on making the team. The Aussie turned the ball over three times, but shot really well and handled pressure pretty well. Morris and Wroten are genuinely solid defenders. Sims had 14 points on 6 shots. Really impressive stuff, and he seems active defensively as well.
What did you guys see? I really can't be more excited about this team.