2012-2013 Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview
Columbus wasn’t looking for America and Philadelphia 76ers president Rod Thorn wasn’t looking for Andrew Bynum. Thorn and his staff actually sought Dwight Howard, but couldn’t put together an offer that was as enticing as those of the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers. Ultimately Brooklyn-Orlando talks broke down and the Magic weren’t interested in Bynum (he can become a free agent after the season and has injury issues), so Thorn & Co. facilitated the four-team deal and landed a prize center in the process. Bynum, a native of New Jersey, has given every indication that he intends to stay with the 76ers for the long haul, but chances are he’ll wait until after he becomes a free agent to make that official. For the price of Maurice Harkless, Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic and a first-round pick, the 76ers landed Bynum and veteran swingman Jason Richardson. They’re not as deep as they were a season ago, but Philadelphia’s ceiling just got significantly higher.
HOOPSWORLD takes a look at the 2012-13 Philadelphia 76ers:
Five Guys Think…
No championship-caliber team has been formed without a few serious gambles being taken along the way. By trading the versatile and reliable Andre Iguodala along with Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless for Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, the 76ers took a big gamble. While Bynum and Richardson are great return for that package, Bynum is set to be a free agent at season’s end. If he walks, the 76ers will be set back for years. He said he’s leaning towards staying, but the 76ers are negotiating with his agent David Lee, not him. They do have the advantage of holding his bird rights, though. If Bynum thrives in the top role that he’s been yearning for, the 76ers should be noticeably better than they were last season. They should be able to legitimately get into the second round this year without a devastating injury to their opponent’s top player. As far as division standings go, the 76ers are a year or two and a re-signed Bynum away from being any better than fourth.
4th Place – Atlantic Division
– Yannis Koutroupis
Sixers head coach Doug Collins recently said he felt last year’s team had maximized their potential, and by all indications he was exactly right. Never mind that, however, as the team has since been radically upgraded. Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson will likely help push the Sixers into the ranks of the Eastern Conference contenders this season. They will also likely challenge the Boston Celtics for the Atlantic Division crown, though the Celtics are deeper and reloaded for a championship run. The Brooklyn Nets look to be formidable opponents, as well.
3rd Place – Atlantic Division
– Bill Ingram
It’s time to see if Andrew Bynum is capable of carrying a team. After years of deferring to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in Los Angeles, Bynum is excited to be the alpha male and have a team of his own. If he rises to the occasion, the 76ers should return to the playoffs and Bynum will be able to strengthen the team’s young core.. If he struggles or goes down with another injury, Philadelphia could be in trouble. The 76ers have assembled one of the best young nucleuses in the league. If they can re-sign Bynum after the season, they’ll definitely be a team to watch for years to come. They may not make a deep postseason run this year, especially considering how tough the Atlantic Division will be this season, but they have youth at every position and the sky is the limit for this team going forward.
4th Place – Atlantic Division
– Alex Kennedy
A lot of folks love the 76ers now that they’ve acquired a franchise center in Andrew Bynum, but I’m not among those drinking that particular brand of Kool-Aid. Losing the veteran leadership of Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand in favor of turning the team over to more emotionally enigmatic players like Bynum and Evan Turner doesn’t scream “success” to me. This is a group that has overachieved for two seasons in a row, but now that they’re younger than ever the team just looks primed to take a step backwards. They could still potentially end up with a spot in the playoffs, but the Atlantic is a very tough division this year. Coming out of it in better shape than an 8 seed just seems like a stretch, even with Bynum.
5th Place – Atlantic Division
– Joel Brigham
By acquiring All-Star center Andrew Bynum the Philadelphia 76ers are essentially daring to be great and aren’t satisfied with merely registering yearly postseason appearances. The presence of Bynum should help the development of emerging point guard Jrue Holiday. The presence of shooters such as Nick Young, Dorell Wright and Jason Richardson should open the inside game for Bynum to go to work. There are questions at power forward to address, but the 76ers should be among the Eastern Conference’s best in 2013.
2nd Place – Atlantic Division
– Lang Greene
Top Of The List
Top Offensive Player: Andrew Bynum averaged a career-high 18.7 ppg last season, but that figure won’t be limited by Kobe Bryant’s shot attempts anymore. Bynum, a career 56.6 percent field-goal shooter, averaged just 8.2 shots per game in his career, so it’s easy to see him scoring over 20 ppg simply by shooting more. Bynum could draw a few more fouls (he was fouled on 17 percent of his field goal attempts last year) and his offensive rebounding rate (10.6) ranked just 47th in the NBA, but the bottom line is Philadelphia finally has an anchor for its halfcourt offense.
Top Defensive Player: Bynum ranked sixth in the NBA last season in blocks per minute and 10th in defensive rebounding rate, but that’s only part of the picture. Bynum’s size (7’0, 285) and athleticism prevent shots from even being taken. And while that isn’t quantifiable, it’s still as important as actually blocking shots. Bynum is the 76ers’ best interior defender since Dikembe Mutombo, and there’s definitely an argument that a 24-year-old Bynum is a better defender than a 35-year-old Mutombo.
Top Playmaker: A preseason favorite (if there is such a thing) for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, Jrue Holiday will have a much bigger role on offense this season. Holiday’s assist numbers have been up and down in his three seasons (3.8 per game as a rookie, 6.5 per game in 2010-2011 and 4.5 per game last year) because Iguodala frequently initiated the offense. Iguodala and Lou Williams are both gone now, so there’s only one real point guard on the team this year. Holiday has the total package of talents (size, athleticism, skills, smarts, etc.) and now he just has to put it together. The good news is that, while he is entering his fourth season, he’s just 22 years old.
Top Clutch Player: Don’t be surprised to see Jason Richardson taking more than a few big shots on this team. There are other perimeter shooters (Dorell Wright, Nick Young), but no one comes close to Richardson’s proficiency from the perimeter over the last five seasons. Richardson also has a handful of game winners under his belt, so the 31-year-old swingman isn’t going to get shy.
The Unheralded Player: This isn’t an easy superlative to hand out, because so many good players seem to go unnoticed, but Lavoy Allen (6-9, 225) has been an absolute steal. Coach Doug Collins wants Allen to be more assertive on the court, and he’s justified in that opinion. However, Allen creates havoc for opposing offenses, even if he doesn’t seem to be displaying tons of energy. Somehow Allen calmly denies shots, tips passes and hauls in rebounds. And, the Morrisville, Pa. native is actually a pretty decent passer in the post. Bynum played next to an elite talent, Pau Gasol, in Los Angeles, but he’ll get the chance to rub elbows with some blue-collar basketball players in Philadelphia.
The Best New Addition: It seems like the 76ers have been on an endless search for a center since Moses Malone left (Shawn Bradley, Theo Ratliff, Mutombo, Todd MacCulloch, Matt Geiger, Samuel Dalembert), but their centers didn’t do too badly last year. When healthy, Spencer Hawes was among the most-improved players in the league, Vucevic showed promise and Allen was a defensive revelation over the last few weeks of the season. In the end though, Philadelphia still had a negative Player Efficiency Rating differential at the position according to 82games.com (that’s a fancy way of saying opposing centers out-produced the 76ers’); so the addition of Bynum is just what the doctor ordered. In one move, Philadelphia became a contender in the improving Eastern Conference.
Who We Like
1. Andre Bynum: His PER was a career-high 23.00 last season (15 is the league average) and since Bynum is just 24, it’s safe to say he’s about to hit his prime. Yes, he’s had injury problems, and that’s a real concern going forward, but for now, he’s a franchise player.
2. Doug Collins: A Coach of the Year candidate until the 76ers’ late-season swoon, Collins is doing some of the best work of his career. Philadelphia was third in the NBA in defensive efficiency last season, and that trend is likely to continue now that Collins has someone like Bynum to clog the lane. Perhaps the best aspect of Collins’ tenure in Philadelphia is the joy he’s displayed while coaching a predominately young team. Collins gets excited whenever he speaks about his current players and the guys have shown him respect by playing hard, clean basketball. In a lot of ways, this is the team that Collins should be remembered for.
3. Rod Thorn: The 76ers president will likely be joined by a new general manager in the near future, but don’t let that fool you. Thorn is still guiding the ship and he’s as sharp as ever. The man who famously drafted Michael Jordan is quietly making shrewd transactions into his 70s. This year, Thorn added pieces like Kwame Brown, Dorrell Wright, Arnett Moultrie and Nick Young to a team that already has budding young players like Allen, Holiday, Turner and Thaddeus Young. Even if he didn’t bring in Bynum, Thorn could have still called his offseason “productive.”
4. Jrue Holiday: How is it that a big, athletic point guard can log three impressive seasons before the age of 22 without the basketball-loving world salivating in anticipation? So maybe he hasn’t met everyone’s expectations yet. He’s undeniably talented and Holiday is still young enough to change everyone’s minds. But if we’re having this same discussion when he’s 25, well, then that would be a different story.
5. Evan Turner: Holiday isn’t the only player benefitting from Iguodala’s departure. As swingmen who can pass and rebound (but not necessarily shoot), Turner and Iguodala were a bit redundant on the same team. Now, after averaging 26.4 minutes per game last season, we can finally see what the former second-overall pick can do with a starter’s workload. Turner averaged 34.5 minutes per game in the playoffs last season and registered marks of 11.2 ppg and 7.5 rpg in the process. Over an 82-game schedule, those averages would make him among the most-productive shooting guards in the NBA.
– Alex Raskin
One of the NBA’s best defenses just got better — and bigger. Don’t be surprised to see the seven-foot Hawes playing alongside Bynum for long stretches. And considering that the 6’4 Holiday, 6’7 Turner, 6’7 Nick Young, 6’9 Wright and 6’8 Thaddeus Young could be filling the other three positions on the court, passing lanes will be slim if they exist at all.
– Alex Raskin
The 76ers are still searching for a great perimeter shooter. Yes, Richardson helps in that regard, but no one else on the team is what you would call a real “marksman.” If Hawes could be dealt for a “stretch four,” defenses wouldn’t be able to pack the paint against Bynum. This offense will struggle to get proper spacing until someone emerges as a true 3-point threat.
– Alex Raskin
What Needs To Be Said On Opening Day….
Things are certainly different around here, and I hope you guys are excited. We grew up a bit in the playoffs last season, and now we’ve added a big piece to the puzzle and hopefully a bit more stability offensively to plan around. While we’ll make sure our halfcourt offense is run through you, Andrew, we need you to live up to another part of that bargain. Our group is still built to get out on the break and run. And for that to be as effective as possible, we need you to rebound the ball and to sprint the floor on every possession, or at least on most of them. We’re going to feature you, but with that honor comes some responsibility as well. Defensively, integrating Andrew will require us all to be more aware of where he is on the floor and how to provide him some help. Jrue, what kind of general can you be? Distribution will be key on the offensive side, and being a disruptor at the point of attack on the defensive side are your two jobs. I expect us to develop a new identity over the course of the season and to produce playoff victories. Turn that excitement into energy and effort and we will be in great position to do so.
– Anthony Macri and Brett Koremenos
The Burning Question
Will the pieces actually fit together?
Yes, there is talent on the 76ers, but who’s to say all the pieces will fit together? Thaddeus Young is better offensively at power forward, but better defensively at small forward. That might not seem like a major obstacle, but it’s indicative of the kinds of issues Collins will face while putting together his rotations (If Moultrie can develop, he’d be a good forward to pair with Young because of his perimeter shooting). Bynum needs space to work, Holiday and Turner need an open lane to drive to the hoop, and the lack of a great shooter complicates everything. If this offense is going to succeed, the 76ers will need high-percentage shots and plenty of trips to the free throw line.
– Alex Raskin