Ranking the 10 most important members of the 1982-83 Sixers

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Ranking the 10 most important members of the 1982-83 Sixers

Thirty-seven years ago, the Sixers had a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals and were two wins in Los Angeles away from a championship. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia will be re-airing that series this weekend, showing Game 1 on Friday night, Game 2 Saturday and Games 3 and 4 Sunday. 

We’ll have stories to come on that team, which won 65 games in the regular season and came one game away from a perfect postseason. We begin today with a ranking of the 1982-83 Sixers’ 10 most important members. 

10. Earl Cureton 
Cureton didn’t play heavy minutes in 1982-83 as a backup to league MVP Moses Malone. In the playoffs, he played even less. But he did step up in a big spot when the Sixers needed him. With Malone in foul trouble in Game 2, Cureton was forced into action. Though it doesn’t look like much on a score sheet, he got the Sixers through 17 minutes without Malone that night in a 103-93 win.

9. Clemon Johnson 
The Sixers picked up Johnson in a February trade with the Pacers, and he was a solid backup big man. Malone had played a league-high 42 minutes per game the previous season with the Rockets, but he was able to average "only" 36.6 minutes after Johnson’s arrival and be sharp for the playoffs. 

8. Marc Iavaroni 
Bobby Jones may have been the Hall of Famer, but it was Iavoroni who actually started in 1982-83. The 26-year-old rookie had just finished four years playing overseas after his college career ended. On a team loaded with All-Stars, Iavoroni was a glue guy. He wasn’t afraid to get physical and do the little things his team needed. While the stats won’t wow you, make no mistake, Iavoroni was a big part of that championship run.

7. Clint Richardson 
Richardson was valuable as the team’s primary guard off the bench. He stepped up in the Sixers’ Game 1 Finals win when Maurice Cheeks got into foul trouble, playing 31 minutes and recording 15 points, four steals and three assists. 

6. Billy Cunningham 
You have to show some love for the man running the show. Though 1982-83 was Cunningham’s only title with the team, he’s easily the best coach in Sixers history. He coached and won more games and has the highest winning percentage and most playoff wins of any coach in franchise history. Cunningham was also a Hall of Fame player for the Sixers, helping capture a title in 1966-67.

5. Bobby Jones 
“The Secretary of Defense” earned the NBA’s inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award in 1983 after starting 73 games in 1981-82. As always, he was one of the league’s better defenders and finished the season third in defensive box plus-minus. Jones had 13 points on 6 for 7 shooting, four steals and two blocks in the Finals clincher. 

4. Andrew Toney 
While Toney is often looked at as a “what if” story, the healthy version of the guard was a crucial part of the 1982-83 team. He made the first of his two All-Star teams that season, averaging 19.7 points and 4.5 assists a game. He was just as critical in the playoffs, averaging 22.1 points in the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals. “The Boston Strangler” appeared to be destined for the Hall of Fame before serious foot issues derailed his career.

3. Maurice Cheeks 
Cheeks made his first of four career All-Star Games in 1982-1983, and it was a well-deserved selection. He was a reliable presence, starting 79 regular-season games and all 13 playoff contests, and an excellent defender and distributor. Cheeks posted 12.5 points, 6.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Most importantly, he got the stars the ball when and where they needed it and conducted the team with ample poise and intelligence. 

2. Julius Erving 
For most of his Sixers career, Dr. J would probably be No. 1 on a list like this. Though he wasn’t quite at the peak of his powers at age 32, Erving was still an unreal athlete and an All-Star. He averaged 21.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.6 steals in the regular season. While his scoring numbers were down slightly during the playoff run, his defense was on another level. He averaged 2.1 blocks a game that postseason, including 11 in four NBA Finals games. Erving needed a boost from Malone to get him over the top, but it was still a 1 and 1A type of situation with the pair of Hall of Famers.

1. Moses Malone 
It’s difficult to exaggerate how good Malone was in his prime. After being traded from Houston to Philadelphia, he won a second consecutive MVP award, led the league in rebounding for a third straight season and helped the Sixers finally overcome the Lakers. He also was a clear choice for Finals MVP, averaging 25.8 points and 18 rebounds in the series. Even if the Sixers didn't pull it off, fans will always remember his bold "fo', fo' fo'" prediction and how he nearly backed it up with his play. GM Pat Williams' deal to add Malone is one of the best trades in Sixers history, and the 1986 trade that sent him to the Bullets is one of the worst

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Who should be the Sixers' 5th starter?

Who should be the Sixers' 5th starter?

After Al Horford came off the bench Tuesday for the first time since 2007, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick ask: Who should be the Sixers’ fifth starter? 

Hudrick 

With the way Brett Brown had been talking over the past week or so, it seemed like a change to the starting five was coming. Horford’s fit in the starting lineup has been clunky and the 33-year-old hasn’t been able to space the floor like GM Elton Brand hoped (32.7 percent from three).

In the first game of what could be a permanent change, Brown elected to go with Furkan Korkmaz, who was coming off back-to-back 30-point performances. Korkmaz had earned the opportunity, but if Horford comes off the bench for good, the guy I’d like to see start is Glenn Robinson III.

Robinson started the second half against the Clippers and was solid on both ends. His movement without the ball and ability from three makes him an ideal fit offensively. His ability to move his feet and be switchable on the perimeter makes the Sixers’ starting unit more dynamic defensively.

Korkmaz and Alec Burks seem like better options as instant offense off the bench. Rookie Matisse Thybulle could also be an option, but Robinson has proven to be a more reliable shooter.

Levick 

Thybulle is one possibility. The Sixers are 8-2 when he starts, a stat that catches one’s attention. Of course, that’s not a huge sample size, and there are other factors to consider. Thybulle has shot the ball poorly as a starter — 9 of 40 from three-point range — and been a negative offensively overall. When Thybulle has started, lineups with him have a 78 offensive rating. The idea of him guarding top offensive threats is appealing, but he doesn’t have to start to be given opportunities to do that. 

Korkmaz has shown he can explode off the bench. There’s no need to start him and compromise your defense at the beginning of the game.  

Burks seems best suited to being a spark for the second unit.

I’d also lean toward Robinson, who started 48 games this year with the Warriors. Steve Kerr often trusted Robinson to guard the opposition’s best player. Though Kerr didn’t have many great options for that job, Robinson appears capable of handling most starting-caliber NBA wings defensively. He also does his best work off the ball — curling around screens, cutting, sprinting to the corners in transition — which should fit well on the Sixers next to Ben Simmons.



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What should the Sixers' playoff rotation be?

What should the Sixers' playoff rotation be?

With the All-Star break upon us and two new players recently added to the mix, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Paul Hudrick and Noah Levick ask: What should the Sixers' playoff rotation be?

Hudrick 

Brett Brown has said his rotation will be around 10 for the rest of the regular season and that it’ll shrink to nine for the playoffs. With a roster full of options after the team acquired Alec Burks and Glenn Robinson III, Brown was a man of his word, playing 10 on Tuesday against the Clippers.

I wouldn’t expect the playoff rotation to differ too much from what we saw in that win. Mike Scott played just five minutes and would likely be the odd man out. As Burks and Robinson get more comfortable, I suspect they’d move ahead of 22-year-olds Matisse Thybulle and Furkan Korkmaz for minutes simply based on experience.

Give credit to GM Elton Brand. It would’ve been a real crapshoot to depend on two players as young as Thybulle and Korkmaz as your sixth and seventh men. Though he’s struggled this season, it’s not bad to have an insurance policy like Scott waiting in the wings as your 10th guy, either.

Levick 

The Sixers have options off the bench. That doesn’t mean they need to use all of them, but they do have the personnel to adapt to different matchups. Instead of an inflexible rotation, the goal should be optimizing what they have.

Assuming he continues to come off the bench, Al Horford is an obvious “sixth man.” Thybulle should still play a part because he can guard opposing stars, create turnovers and make open threes.  

It doesn’t seem like many spots are guaranteed. Burks can get his own shot out of stagnant offense, a valuable playoff skill. He might also be important, along with Josh Richardson, as someone who can run a pick-and-roll effectively. Robinson is shooting almost 40 percent from three-point range this season and can guard multiple positions. When he’s in the zone, Korkmaz looks unstoppable.

There’s probably a little more risk in playing Korkmaz over the other bench options. Even though Brown has praised his defensive improvement, Korkmaz is likely going to need to score in the playoffs to be a net positive. However, against a zone defense, in a situation where the Sixers need three-point shooting, or simply if he’s coming off a big game, it's possible Korkmaz would be preferable to Burks and/or Robinson. 

Scott didn’t play in the second half vs. the Clippers. Though he does have a recent track record of making important playoff shots, it appears likely he’ll have a peripheral role. 



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