Talented writer and 76ers fan, @HeckPhilly, has blessed us with the Philadelphia 76ers season preview; be sure to give him a follow on twitter.
Projected Starters: C. Andrew Bynum, PF. Spencer Hawes, SF. Jason Richardson, SG. Evan Turner, PG. Jrue Holiday
Bench: Thaddeus Young, Dorell Wright, Maalik Wayns, Nick Young, LaVoy Allen, Kwame Brown, Arnett Moultrie
2011-12 Results: 35-31, third in Atlantic; Lost in East semifinals game 7 to the Boston Celtics
Key Additions: C Andrew Bynum, G/F Jason Richardson, G/F Nick Young, G/F Dorell Wright, C Kwame Brown, F Arnett Moultrie, G Maalik Wayns.
The Philadelphia 76ers ended last season with more than anyone in Sixers’ Nation could ask for. After their inevitable exit, it was clear new pieces were needed in order to make things anymore interesting. The men in suits answered that call to the best of their ability; the Sixers enter the ’12-’13 campaign with a plethora of new faces. 33-year-old Elton Brand, after four seasons with the Sixers, was amnestied and picked up by the Dallas Mavericks. Andre Iguodala was dealt to the Denver Nuggets, and Lou Williams’ contract was not renewed, allowing him to exercise his player’s option and run off back to his old stomping grounds of Atlanta. Those players were replaced with bigger and younger players. Andrew Bynum, arguably one of the two best centers in the league, was added in a four team trade along with Jason Richardson and Dorell Wright. Nick Young, who was acquired last season, is most likely going to round out the new faces that should play a key role in the Sixers ’12-’13 gameplan. The faces, however, are only the beginning of what will be new when teams take the hardwood against Philly.
Despite their fundamental base style of play staying the same, (which includes run, defend, and out-young the opponent) their new personnel is built around not only youth, but now more shooting and size.
The addition of longball shooters combined with what the organization hopes will be a healthy, legit, big man, will put a strain on opponents’ defense, stretching them out as far as they can handle.
Although I don’t see the Sixers, realistically, being able to beat a few teams (mainly the Miami Heat, in the East) I do think at their optimal scenario, they could do more than expected for a second year in a row.
The Optimal Scenario: The success of the Sixers rests on a few things: Coaching, health, and gelling, to name a few. To reach the optimal scenario, though, requires a bit of magic — magic like the magic of last year: opponent injuries, the right matchups, heart and great play. In order to achieve this, a couple of current practical realities have to be hashed out and questions need to be answered. The most obvious problem is Bynum’s health.
Andrew Bynum and the frontcourt: Bynum’s uncanny ability to be injured for a considerable stretch of the season is something that will have to be avoided. He underwent what the team is calling “precautionary surgery” before the season to make sure everything would be 100 percent. The surgery was one that other big named stars raved about, including Bynum’s old teammate, Kobe Bryant, and New York Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Initially, Sixers CEO, Adam Aron, told his followers on Twitter that, “All indications are good” as to how the surgery went and he said Bynum was progressing. Later, it was learned that Bynum was going to have to sit out the first few weeks of the season to recover; it hadn’t gone exactly as smoothly as expected.
“It happened a few days ago,” Bynum said at Sixers Media Day. “I was working out, and I just kind of told (our training staff) that I was feeling a little bit uncomfortable, and they told me to take the time to let the Orthokine do its work.”
“I feel a lot better (than I did earlier in my career). The Orthokine is definitely working. There hasn’t been swelling in my knees. Everybody that has this procedure goes through this, having to get their legs strong and get back out there on the court.”
Andrew Bynum at 7-feet, 285 pounds, is the presence they’ve been looking for down low to accompany their developing perimeter defense. It’s going to be on players like Jrue Holiday, and Evan Turner together to pick up where Iguodala will have alone on the perimeter. If they could do that, Bynum can make the Sixers’ defense even more difficult to penetrate than last season.
Also, Bynum down low allows Spencer Hawes to play the game most natural to him. He’ll be able to stretch the floor, offensively. Most teams won’t want to leave Bynum down low by himself one-on-one. Bynum calling for a double team will allow the Sixers’ new shooters to fire away. Alternatively, Philadelphia native LaVoy Allen is a budding factor player. He’s strong, can play big, and has a decent mid-range jump shot. He’ll benefit from Bynum’s presence, as well. I can foresee Allen eventually taking the starting spot at power forward as early as midseason.
Either way, those few things should loosen up the court for the young legs of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner to be able to become, at least, moderately effective playmakers. They’re the next key.
Jrue Holiday and the backcourt: This year, by chances alone, would indicate that either Holiday, or Turner (if not both) could have a break out year. This, for most Sixers fans, may be an annoying thing to think about because it’s a sentiment that has been expressed every season. But, if it’s going to start happening, why not this year? This will be Holiday’s fourth year, and Turner’s third. Both have shown improvements over the years, but consistency is what’s most key when it comes to what we look for from them. How long can they perform playing at a high level without disappearing for a few games at a time?
With Iguodala gone, they no longer have a choice. Every game, they’re going to have to take their role. Iguodala being out of the mix is actually a great opportunity for their development — someone has to be the leader. My guess is that Jrue will step up. Holiday and Turner combined can be a difficult tandem for opponents to stop at their maximum abilities.
Between the combo of Hawes-Bynum and Turner-Holiday panning out, their bench will have to provide the same boost it did last season. This year will have to be done with different characters.
More sharp shooters.
Bench: The Sixers bench, last season, was the best in the league. We have yet to see how the makeover will turn out this season. Thaddeus Young finished last season ninth in the votes for sixth man, but looked anything but that in the postseason. He’s a nightmare when facing smaller teams, but ineffective when he has to play power forward. This year, he will come back with more meat on his bones and a better jump shot if the Sixers plans went well. The organization has had him working like a horse in the gym all offseason asking him to carry the identity of the bench with him. During the preseason, Thad’s new physique was apparent. He’s sitting at a more robust 235 as opposed to his typical 220ish.
Between Nick Young, and Dorell Wright, the Sixers’ bench will have more than enough three-point shooting considering Holiday will contribute to that, as well.
Overall: The Sixers aren’t anywhere near the Miami Heat, but anyone else in the East may have a problem on their hands. The Sixers could rise anywhere from, at optimal scenario, the 2 seed in the East, to the 8th seed if things don’t go as expected. To stay relatively safe (while being fake-ambitious), I’ll say the Sixers, ultimately, end their regular season in the 3 or 4 spot with a 46-36(ish) record. The Atlantic Division this season is a tricky place to be.
So, recap of things to watch for: Bynum’s health will determine whether the 2 seed Sixers emerge, or the mediocrity continues; team will need to learn how to fit Bynum into the running style of play; Jrue Holiday and/or Evan Turner will have a breakout season; shooters will spread the floor; Thaddeus Young needs to play bigger than he typically does.