PHOENIX - With only two victories in December, it looks as if the 76ers' tanking to secure a top draft pick could net them a franchise-changer.
But what about the current crop of Sixers?
They take an 8-20 record into Saturday night's game at Phoenix. The Sixers also find themselves in the basement of a weak Atlantic Division.
There have been some surprises through the first third of the season, including the play of rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams. So it's as good a time as any to assess the Sixers' performances.
Carter-Williams. So much for the 11th overall pick out of Syracuse being just a complementary player. He could become the face of the franchise. Carter-Williams leads the NBA in steals at 3 per game. The 6-foot-6, 185-pounder also ranks first among rookies in scoring (17.6 points), assists (7.8), and rebounds (5.5).
Tony Wroten. The second-year guard, who was acquired in an offseason trade with Memphis, has been extremely effective with extended minutes. He averaged 18.4 points, 5.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds and 33.5 minutes in 11 games as a starter. However, the 6-foot-6, 205-pounder needs to make better decisions and remain focused when the ball is not in his hands. The 20-year-old appears to lose interest when he's not playing point guard.
Lorenzo Brown. The free-agent pickup was starting to find his groove before Carter-Williams returned from a knee infection that sidelined him for seven games. Brown didn't leave the bench once Carter-Williams returned, and on Thursday the North Carolina State product was assigned to the Sixers' NBA Development League team, the Delaware 87ers.
Shooting guards, swingmen
Evan Turner. The fourth-year veteran is having a breakout season, averaging 19.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists. As a result, the 25-year-old swingman joins Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Luol Deng as the league's only players averaging at least 19.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists this season. Turner, however, has struggled against more athletic wings. He also needs to show a more competitive side defensively.
Hollis Thompson. He is making the most of his opportunity with the Sixers. Thompson has gone from undrafted free agent to starting shooting guard. He ranks third among NBA rookies in field-goal percentage (46.0) and fifth in three-point percentage (35.3). The 6-foot-8 Georgetown product is showing that he could stick around in this league, if not with the Sixers.
James Anderson. The 6-6 guard, who lost his spot to Thompson, has been effective when making three-pointers. But making them on a consistent basis has been the problem. Anderson is 0 for 5 in the last two games. Lately, he's been having success taking the ball to the rim. But in most games Anderson hasn't been able to provide much of anything when his three-point shooting is off.
Elliot Williams. Like Brown, Williams signed with the Sixers on Nov. 20. Unlike Brown, he's doing enough to stay with the NBA team. The 6-5, 190-pounder is an exceptional on-ball defender. His abilities to move his feet, stay connected, and not lose separation to dribblers are those of an elite defender. Offensively, his quick first step makes him great at catching the ball and going to the rim. Williams just needs better shot selection.
Thaddeus Young. Young is having a solid season, considering the Sixers don't run plays for him. The seventh-year veteran is averaging 19 points on 52 percent shooting over the last 13 games. In his last two games, the undersize power forward (6-8, 230) finished with 25 (against Brooklyn) and 30 points (Milwaukee). But Young's weakness is taking plays off. He didn't do that in the previous two games, and you saw the results.
Lavoy Allen. The Temple graduate is an enigma. At 6-9 and 255 pounds, the third-year veteran is the Sixers best low-post defender. Yet, as in seasons past, he doesn't bring energy every game and often appears to be going through the motions. Allen is averaging 5.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in 19.5 minutes.
Brandon Davies. The 6-10, 240-pounder often looks out of position on the block. While athletic, the undrafted rookie lacks the perimeter skills to become a successful wing player. He has played in 25 games, averaging 2.4 points and 2.0 rebounds in 12 minutes. The Brigham Young product is shooting just 35.9 percent from the field and 68.2 percent from the foul line.
Spencer Hawes. The 7-1, 245-pounder is having a career season. The seventh-year veteran is the only player in the league averaging at least 15.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 blocks this season. He's also had 11 double-doubles. Hawes, however, doesn't play hard on every defensive possession. He also disappeared in a few games against elite post players.
Daniel Orton. The 6-10 and slimmed-down 255-pounder has the strength to bang with some of the league's imposing centers. He showed promise by producing a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) at Indiana earlier this season. That was one of four games Orton has started. However, he needs to be more disciplined in knowing what the Sixers are doing defensively, become a better teammate, and play with a better attitude. Once he does that, his physical upside could make him a regular-rotation big.