Following a surprising second round playoff appearance and a near-shocking upset of the Boston Celtics, big changes came in the summer for the Philadelphia 76ers.
For one, in came all-star center Andrew Bynum and out went franchise stalwart swingman Andre Iguodala. With Bynum came veteran guard Jason Richardson, then the Sixers signed sharpshooters Nick Young and Dorell Wright while re-signing Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen while adding Kwame Brown and rookie Arnett Moultrie to the front court.
One thing is for certain; it’s a different Sixers team in 2012-2013, but will that mean more wins or just more mediocrity?
On paper with a healthy (he’s not) Andrew Bynum, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Richardson and Allen lineup is plenty good enough to contend in the Eastern Conference. The problem is that Bynum will miss the start of the season with a knee injury and it’s not know when he’ll return. In his place, the Sixers will roll with Spencer Hawes, who averaged close to 10 points and eight boards a game last season at center. While he’s no Bynum, Hawes should be able to hold down the fort until the all-star comes back to the court. Without Bynum, the Sixers went 6-1 in the preseason while beating up on teams either resting guys or just flat-out playing scrubs. That won’t be the case once the season tips off, will they be able to beat actual NBA teams seemingly without a top scoring option?
While the bad news is dealt first, there is plenty of other good news surrounding these Sixers to start the season. Point guard Jrue Holiday is now “the man” in the offense in terms of importance. He’s looked great all preseason and is extra motivated by the carrot in the form of a contract extension for the fourth-year pro floating around. With Iguodala gone, much is expected of Holiday and Evan Turner. Turner, meanwhile, will pickup the starting assignment as the Sixers’ jack of all trades. While he’s show flashes in two years as a pro, he’s also shown the inconsistencies that make basketball people think he’ll never live up to being a No. 2 overall pick. If the Sixers can accomplish anything this season, a lot of it will be because of Turner’s play. If he plays like a carbon-copy of Iguodala, the Sixers will be an East contender. If not, they’ll be looking up and the playoff picture and directly at a draft bust.
It’s a big year for Evan Turner in Philadelphia, can he replace the departed Andre Iguodala?
The new additions are welcome in the fact that they can all shoot the ball, which is something Sixers fans cringed at when watching the team last year. Richardson is a veteran that has thrived when being a spot-up shooter for teams with productive big men down. Nick Young is a sharpshooter who can shoot a team in, or out, of any game on the schedule and should provide the needed spark off the bench with the departure of Lou Williams to Atlanta. Kwame Brown should eat up minutes and rebounds down low while also taking up ample space on the bench. Arnett Moultrie could find some minutes on a deep team, but logic says that he’ll most likely spend most of his rookie year in coach Doug Collins’ dog house while fellow rookie Maalik Wayns has impressed and could see backup point guard minutes early on.
Add these guys to a core that includes the likes of Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, Holiday and Turner and the Sixers find themselves with a long, athletic team that should give most teams fits on any given night, with or without Andrew Bynum. One caveat in the coaching career of Doug Collins is that most of his teams improve early in the first two years then regress in year three. Philadelphia is in year three of the Collins era and is already dealing with a Bynum problem. Another warning sign is whether Bynum will thrive in a starring role under a coach not known for dealing with young players extremely well. If Bynum and Collins butt heats, which seems likely, the season could turn into a disaster.
However, my money is on Bynum returning in a month or so and becoming a low post force the team hasn’t had since the days of Moses Malone. That combined with the emergence of Holiday and Turner should get this team any easy playoff bid and anything after that is up to the group in the room. If everything gels, this teams should be good enough to surprise as a 4/5 seed in the East and win a playoff series while making their second round opponent sweat it out once again.
The Sixers being the ’12-13 campaign against Andre Iguodala’s Denver Nuggets.