NBA Preview: Bynum the anchor Sixers needed
You don’t trade for a young center with two championship rings because you’re content with escaping from the first round of the playoffs. That’s why the Philadelphia 76ers snuck into the Andrew Bynum talks, which as you know, also resulted in Dwight Howard heading west.
Bynum is the NBA’s second-best center, a throwback who plays with his back to the basket and dares you to push him off the block. He’s all arms and legs, and the Sixers are hoping knees, too. If there’s been a sticking point in Bynum’s growth and productivity, it’s been his health.
But assuming that’s not a major issue, this is Bynum’s team now. So far, he seems to have accepted that responsibility with glee, getting a chance to be option No. 1, and no longer having to defer shots (or credit) to the likes of Kobe Bryant.
Instead, Bynum will play off of emerging young point guard Jrue Holiday, as well as several perimeter gunslingers who can open up space via three-point shooting.
In another world, all these adjustments might be a season-long project. But Doug Collins is the coach here, and he has a tendency to get young teams to overachieve.
Not that success would be considered a big surprise for these Sixers. With Bynum, Holiday, big man Spencer Hawes, swingmen Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, these guys should be pretty doggone dangerous almost immediately.
Bottom line: After hitting what appeared to be their ceiling with vets like Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, the Sixers needed a shakeup. They got it, and if Bynum is ready for his role as go-to dude, the results should be everything they hoped.
And in a year or two, perhaps more than the Sixers even dreamed.
Last season: 35-31, lost to Boston in second round of playoffs.
Coach: Doug Collins (11th year, 408-359)
Top returnees: PG Jrue Holiday, PF Spencer Hawes, SF/SG Evan Turner
Key additions: C Andrew Bynum, SG Jason Richardson, SG Nick Young, SF Dorell Wright
X-Factor: Bynum. Who else? While typically competitive, the Sixers probably needed to make a move for a marquee guy if they ever hoped to become something more than just another top six playoff seed. If Bynum becomes that marquee guy, as the Sixers expect, it was a transaction they had to make. And Philly will have set itself up for the future without surrendering too much (if any) of the present. Basically, Bynum should enable the Sixers to be good now, great later.
Strengths: Suddenly, the Sixers are a fairly young and athletic unit, stacked with outside shooting, a true inside presence, and a point guard who can make it all happen. Bynum and Hawes gives them a Twin Towers-type of duo -- meaning rebounding should never be a problem. As an added bonus, the Sixers possess underrated depth at nearly every spot.
Weaknesses: Aside from Bynum, most everyone on the roster needs to be inspired to really buckle down and defend. The Sixers aren’t a bad defensive team – they’re just not good enough. That’s especially the case when you’re talking about the grinding style of the playoffs. Also, wing players such as Turner, Nick Young and Thaddeus Young could certainly afford to play with a little more consistency.
Outlook: With more postseason-savvy teams like Miami, Boston and maybe even Chicago and Indiana in the way, this isn’t going to be easy. The Sixers are also members of what’s become a stacked Atlantic Division that also includes Boston, New York and Brooklyn. So there’s no crime in tempering expectations this season. Still, the Sixers should have something special here. Chances are, it’ll be evident immediately.
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