Are The Sixers Championship Contenders?

Rob Mahoney of the New York Times blog, Off the Dribble, wrote a piece Tuesday on the Sixers' path to contention and whether or not they should be considered contenders for the 2012 title.

We've officially reached the point in the 2011-2012 season when we can stop asking if the Sixers could be championship contenders, and start wondering how they could possibly be considered anything but.

He goes on to address the elephant in the room – the team lacks a superstar.

... in this case, the traditional superstar structure has become irrelevant; the Sixers have so many talented players capable of providing the right skills and production at a high level that they're able to create something of a superstar in amalgam.

As season chugs along and the Sixers continue to rattle off wins, it's becoming more and more difficult not to ponder this very topic. Can the Sixers win a title this season? I still lean heavily towards no for a few reasons – the two major ones being: they play in the same conference as the Miami Heat, who are far and away the best team in the NBA, and they are incredibly young, both in terms of age and playoff experience.

The 10 players who play 15+ minutes per game for the Sixers are, on average, 24 years of age. Those same 10 players have played only 93 playoff games combined, and only Elton Brand has made it past the first round. LeBron alone, has appeared in 92 playoff games.

Prior to the season I predicted a fairly optimistic 38-win campaign and advancement to the second round in the playoffs. Now I believe, if they have home court advantage, there's only one team in the Eastern Conference they cannot beat in a seven game series, and that's the Miami Heat. The Bulls, beatable. The Celtics, beatable. The Magic, Pacers, Hawks and Linsanity, all beatable.

With less than half the regular season completed, we still have a long way to go, but as of right now, the Sixers are beginning to look like legitimate contenders.

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