Ayers gone, Iverson next?

Daniel Barone

The Answer. To what? This season, Allen Iverson continues to make a push to the top of the league’s overrated list. If you’re a Philly fan, don’t stop reading, but continue and find out how you can have such a “premier” player who is not producing victories.

The Answer for Philly may be in the rumored trade which sends Iverson to the Rockets for Steve Francis. With the trade deadline last Tuesday, this possibly has already happened. If it has, the Sixers got a steal of a deal. If not, they will continue to lose and lose … and lose.

How can the addition of a top player like Glen Robinson, having Aaron McKie lead the league in three-point percentage, and the development of a young talent like Samuel Dalembert be negative? How can leading the league in points per game and steals be detrimental to a team? Here is how.

While he turned out one of his finest individual seasons last year, it is a disgrace to basketball that Iverson was voted to start in this year’s All-Star game. At least another overrated starter like Vince Carter can perform some crowd-pleasing dunks. Iverson has missed 14 games already this season, but the games he does play are not up to par. The All-Star game voting is intended to reflect this season’s performance. Apparently there were a lot of fans who missed that memo.

Iverson leads the league in other categories besides steals and points per game – most notably, turnovers. While only 10 players in the NBA average over three turnovers per game, Iverson averages a gaudy 4.5 turnovers per game. This stat is the reason that despite leading the league in steals, Iverson does not crack the top 50 in steal to turnover ratio.

Also, he has the second worst shooting percentage among shooting guards in the NBA at 39.2 percent, only .2 percent away from being the worst, and is one of two players at his position that shoot below 40 percent. Twenty-six players in the NBA are better shooters from the three-point line than he is from the field.

Oh, and Iverson’s 3-point percentage is horrific as well. His 29.5 percent from long range doesn’t come close to cracking the league’s top 50, however he hoists up enough shots to rank 39th in long attempts, despite playing only 38 of 52 games thus far.

The moral of the story is not that Allen Iverson is a bad player, but that he is trying to do too much. A veteran in his eighth year should not be leading the league in turnovers by such a wide margin. Iverson even has a secondary scorer this year in Robinson, and he has to realize that.

In Sixers’ wins, Iverson dishes out an average of seven assists, versus five in games that they lose. He also shoots better from the field in wins (43 percent) versus losses (26 percent). This comes down to shot selection and using his teammates. When Iverson takes better shots and passes more the Sixers win, but when he takes poor shots and hogs the ball, they lose. It should be simple, right?

Apparently, it is not simple enough. New coach Randy Ayers was fired before the All-Star break, and the Sixers continue to struggle, dropping eight of their last 10 games before the break and fading quickly out of the playoff picture. Iverson’s performance in the All-Star game was intriguing, however. While he had averaged 20 points per All-Star contest, he only had three points this past weekend on one-for-six shooting. His 10 assists in the game, however, should have turned some heads. It was odd to see him getting his teammates involved, and it was certainly beneficial to the East, as it should be for the Sixers.

Iverson is obviously still a fan favorite, winning the popular vote for the All-Star game among the fans despite missing a good amount of time this season, but I doubt that he would win that vote on his team.

While he questioned the heart of his teammates two weeks ago, maybe they would feel a little better if they were involved in the offense.

Iverson needs to realize that his role is a creator rather than as a shooter is what will make him one of the NBA’s elite. Once he can channel his skills in the right direction, the team can gel and get some wins. The question is, however, whether it is possible for someone who has been in the league for so long to change his game.

The real Answer is yet to come.