Samuel Dalembert has been the Sixers starting center since 2003. There were a few games where coaches opted for the likes of Kenny Thomas and Steven Hunter instead, but for the most part Sammy has been manning the middle for the Sixers since I was back in middle school. That will change in 2010-2011.
Earlier this summer, Sammy -- the Sixers longest-tenured player and starting center -- was traded to the Sacramento Kings for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni. The trade opened up a gaping hole in the Sixers starting lineup and also gave the Sixers a candidate to replace Sam -- Spencer Hawes -- along with the two candidates already on the roster.
The other two are Elton Brand and Marreese Speights. If one these three players don't start every game at center for the Sixers something has gone horribly, horribly wrong. That would mean either Jason Smith, Tony Battie or Thaddeus Young has started a game at center.
Now the question is, of the three, who will start at center? And who should? A brief breakdown the candidates after the jump.
Speights career numbers per 36 minutes:
18 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and .490/.154/.758 percentages.
Though Speights per 36 numbers are impressive, his attitude, work ethic, defensive lapses have previously stunted his development. Speezy has all the tools to be a good defender and has shown flashes at times, but the lack of desire and hard work has prevented Speights from being even an average defender.
There's no question that Speights has the most potential of the three, and if Coach Collins can light a fire under him it may pay off big-time for the Sixers. He's still only 23.
Like Speights, Hawes is another young big man with untapped potential. And like Speights, he also has the same warts: work ethic, attitude and lack of defense.
Hawes biggest strengths are his passing and ability to stretch the floor as a center. His 13.2 AST% last season ranked second amongst centers and just barely behind other elite-passing big men Pau Gasol, KG and Carlos Boozer.
Looking past Hawes jumper and his passing skills he doesn't bring too much to the table. His rebounding is average-to-below average. His efficiency for a big man is below average. And his defense is bad.
Unfortunately Elton will almost guaranteed to start either way, whether it's at power forward or center -- most likely power forward. If Brand starts at center it most likely means that either Thaddeus Young or Andres Nocioni are the starting fours. It'd also mean the Sixers starting lineup consists of zero players over 6'8''. It'd also result in the worst frontcourt in NBA history.
If Elton were still in his prime the Sixers may be able to get away with starting him at center, but not now.
Back to the original questions. Who will start? I think Hawes will start at center for a couple reasons. 1) The Sixers want fans to think they traded Dalembert for a younger, better starting center, 2) Since Speights has a history of not working hard, handing him the starting job may not be the best idea, and 3) Doug Collins will be infatuated with having 5 starters who can pass.
Who should start? I'd start Speights personally. I think Collins is the perfect coach to keep him in check and maximize whatever potential he has.