Disclaimer: This piece is strictly by the numbers. The eye test is unable to play a factor as the author was two years old at the time. This article is strictly analyzing data prior to and including the 2001 season and opinions are drawn from that. Lineups are assumed based off of most games started at each position.
The 2001 Sixers are thought to be of one of the best Sixers teams in franchise history. This “island of misfit toys” fought their way to a 56-26 record. After a terrorizing playoff run, they met their demise against Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and the LA Lakers.
Round One: Coaches
Brett Brown vs. Larry Brown
Aside from having the same last name, current coach Brett Brown has a very similar background to 2001 coach Larry Brown. Both coaches brought experience from San Antonio. Brett served his time with the Spurs from 2004-2013, while Larry was with them from 1988-1992. Both coaches have shown the ability to develop a roster into deep playoff runs.
Brett Brown has coached a championship roster, winning with the Spurs two times in 2005 and 2007. As he may not have a ring as a Sixers coach, Brett knows what the atmosphere of the NBA finals is like. Larry Brown had plenty of playoff experience on his résumé, but no finals experience. Despite Larry winning the title with the Pistons in 2004, this is comparing 2001 and prior.
However, Larry had much less talent to work with. This goes a long way in the head-to-head matchup and deserves more credit.
That being said, round one goes to Larry Brown
Round Two: Starters
Ben Simmons was the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Going into this season, the 6’10 third-year player has averaged right under a triple-double per game. Ben’s impressive résumé includes a Rookie of the Year award (2017-2018), and one All-Star appearance (2018-2019) so far in his young career. His defense helps sets him apart as well, as Ben averages just under two steals and one block per game.
Eric Snow was acquired by the Sixers in a 1998 trade with the Seattle SuperSonics. From 1998 to 2001, Snow averaged a smidge under 9.0 points per game, with 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game. Starting 50 games for the team during the 2000-2001 campaign, he lived up to his role.
The Edge: Ben Simmons
Josh Richardson is a well-rounded basketball player. The 6’5 guard out of Tennessee joined the Sixers this offseason via a sign-and-trade with the Miami Heat. So far in a Sixers’ uniform, his defense has been the highlights. Averaging a steal and a block per game, along with 13 points. His ability to move off the ball is remarkable, and JRich has been a huge asset to the team.
Allen Iverson was the first overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. During his Sixers career, AI averaged 28 points per game, tacking six assists and four rebounds as well. He may not be as well rounded as Richardson or Simmons, but “The Answer” is one of the greatest Sixers of all time. His value to the 2001 team is higher than anyone’s value to the 2019 roster.
The Edge: Allen Iverson
Al Horford used to the Achilles heel of the Sixers. He was an unexplained mismatch for Joel, which helped a top rival, Boston Celtics, continually have the edge over the Sixers. Now, Al Horford is a Philadelphia 76er. So far this season, Horford is on pace to average a career-high in points with 18.8 (so far, which is skewed since Embiid has missed three of the six games played). His value to the Sixers is huge, as he helps to fill the void left by Embiid’s absence.
Tyrone Hill played 2363 minutes at the position for the Sixers in ’01, giving him the nod here. The (then) 12-year vet played a crucial role in the team’s finals run. 10 points per game, 9.2 rebounds per game, and an assist per game allowed Hill to serve his purpose in the lineup.
The Edge: Al Horford
Tobias Harris signed a five year, 180 million dollar contract with the Sixers in the offseason. After joining the team via trade last season, Tobi has been crucial for the Sixers so far. In a Philly uniform, the forward has averaged 19.25 points, while adding 2.8 assists and 8.8 boards per game.
George Lynch started 80 of the 82 games for the Sixers during the 2000-2001 season. He was out for the first three games of the finals and was limited in games four and five. Despite not being available when it mattered most, Lynch played his role during the ’00-’01 campaign. He averaged 8.5 points, 7.0 boards, and just under a pair of assists with the Sixers that season.
The Edge: Tobias Harris
Joel Embiid is the current roster’s Allen Iverson. Embiid’s ability to guard pretty much any position on the floor is unmatched. Along with this, Embiid can score upwards of 35 points in any given game. His availability is always in question, but when he plays, he is the difference-maker. While talking a ton of trash, drawing a lot of fouls, and scoring a ton of points, Embiid’s athleticism allows him to be one of the most versatile big men in the NBA.
Dikembe Mutombo is an eight-time NBA all-star. His defensive abilities have led to him starring in commercials where he finger wags anything he blocks. The 13.5 rebounds per game led the entire NBA in ’01, as the big man also averaged 10 points and 2.5 blocks a game.
Being compared to Embiid is tough, as both have opposite skill sets. However, based on value to the team, I have to roll with Joel here.
The Edge: Joel Embiid
The center position was split on the ’01 Sixers roster, as Dikembe Mutombo was picked up via trade by the Sixers with 26 games remaining in the season. He took the starting position away from Theo Ratcliffe. It would only be fair to use Mutombo here, as he was undoubtedly the better player and was key in the finals run.
Round Three: Benches
Throughout the season, Kevin Ollie, Toni Kukoč, and Jumaine Jones highlighted an almost ten-man rotation for the Sixers. They each knew their role and had their moments like any bench player would randomly have. What led the reserves for this team was the veteran presence. Each guy had a shooting ability, and the Philly grit needed to succeed.
Ah, the story of the Sixers bench. Obviously, social media was not a big presence at the beginning of the century. Nowadays, though, social media is key. Sixers’ Twitter is one of the most passionate fan bases in the sports world.
This being said, it is not a secret that the Sixers bench lacks shooting depth. They have for a few years now, and general manager Elton Brand made it a priority this offseason. Raul Neto, Matisse Thybulle, and James Ennis showcase the current Sixers bench. The veteran presence mixed with the high energy of the rookie Thybulle is a great combination. However, they do not seem to have that identity yet. A positive thought is that the main goal of the bench is to not get outscored, and defense shines for the Sixers’ second unit.
The Edge: Veterans, leadership, and the 2001 Sixers bench
Team head to head
2000-2001 Team Stats
- Allen Iverson and Company averaged 94.7 Points Per Game (15th in NBA) and allowed 90.4 Opponents Points Per Game (5th in NBA)
- Their Offense Rating was 103.6 (13th in the NBA) along with a Defensive Rating of 98.9 (5th in the NBA)
- Three players averaged double-digit points per game on that roster:
- Iverson averaged 31.1 points per game, along with 2.5 steals and 4.6 assists on average
- Mutombo tallied, on a per-game basis, 11.7 points, 2.5 blocks, and 12.4 rebounds
- Aaron McKie had 11.6 PPG plus 1.4 steals and 5 assists on average
- Eric Snow led the team with 7.4 assists per game
2019-2020 Team stats
As the season is only six games old, the averages are going to be a bit skewed. To compensate for this, let’s speak hypothetically.
- The Sixers have five starters that can average double-digit scoring
- The defense is the team’s strength, with a 101.1 defensive rating so far with an opponent turnover percentage of 16.9% (1st in NBA)
- The team is at least in the top ten in important categories, such as wins, the margin of victory, offensive & defensive ratings, and rebounding.
The knockout goes too…
On a side note, drawing comparisons to past teams is so tough. The times are much different, and the style of basketball is drastically changed. However, this comparison had to be done.
It would be back and forth, but expect the 2019 roster to take the finals in six games against the ’01 team. The starters, with the exception of Allen Iverson, are much more talented nowadays. The benches are close, but the former roster has much more depth and experience to their résumés.
Both teams shine defensively and are slightly above average offensively. The current roster holds more scoring threats than the former.
Based on pure talent and analytics alone, the current Sixers roster would beat the 2001 roster in a seven-game series.
Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports