NBA AM: Can’t Fault Philly For Bynum Gamble
Last season the Philadelphia 76ers reached the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the 2003 campaign, which was during the Allen Iverson era. They were just one win away from their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2001.
In the Sixers’ four other postseason appearances prior to last season (2005, 2008, 2009, 2011) they were bounced unceremoniously each time in the first round. Those playoff seasons were mixed with four other campaigns of the team watching the postseason from the sidelines.
In short, the Sixers have been the definition of a team stuck in the middle of the road, a place where front office executives around the league dread winding up. Being stuck in the middle of the pack typically means your team will lack the financial flexibility to sign the free agent who could push the organization over the top and being slotted in the middle of the annual draft where the franchise changing talent is usually long off the board.
So instead of resting on their laurels, the Sixers’ front office swung for the fences by getting in a four team trade last summer to acquire former All-Star center Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers. Bynum, on paper, was just the type of elite talent the Sixers had seemingly been missing since the days Iverson drove the lanes.
In the process, the Sixers traded an All-Star in Andre Iguodala, a future first round pick, promising rookie Maurice Harkless and emerging center Nikola Vucevic.
Given Bynum’s injury history and brittle knees, it was the ultimate high risk but potentially big reward move. The Sixers, tired of being stuck in the middle, dared to be great and pushed to enter the ranks of the league’s elite.
As outlined yesterday, Bynum is done for the season and never suited up for the Sixers while Iguodala is leading the Nuggets to another postseason berth, the first round pick given up to acquire Bynum increases in value and Vucevic looks to be a long time starting caliber big man talent.
But you can’t fault Philadelphia for taking a gamble on Bynum via trade since the Sixers haven’t exactly been a hot free agent destination in recent years. In fact, veteran forward Elton Brand signing with the organization back in 2008 was the team’s lone marquee free agent signing in at least 15 years.
Bynum will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Sixers can offer him a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $100 million, which is unlikely. The club may have taken a step back on the floor this season, but ownership’s message to its fan base should have been clear from the start. The franchise attempted to join the league’s upper tier but Bynum’s knees couldn’t hold up his portion of the deal.
Once again, you can’t fault the Sixers’ management for being ambitious and daring to be great.
The Emergence Of Jeff Green In Boston
The Boston Celtics acquired forward Jeff Green from the Oklahoma City Thunder two years ago in a trade deadline deal which sent veteran center Kendrick Perkins packing. The move at the time raised eyebrows because Perkins was an integral part of the Celtics’ 2008 title team. The move continued to be questioned as Green struggled to adjust and find a rhythm in Boston on the court. Meanwhile the Thunder, with Perkins starting at center, reached the Finals last season, while Green was forced to sit out the campaign with a heart ailment.
But some of the skeptics are starting to be silenced as Green has put together an impressive run this season, the type of stretch Celtics officials were hoping for when they first acquired the former lottery pick. Since the All-Star break Green has averaged 16.8 points and 4.4 rebounds on 49 percent shooting from the floor. In four appearances in the starting lineup, Green has put up 24.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on 62 percent shooting.
Green signed a four-year $36 million deal with the Celtics last summer and will be one of the club’s building blocks as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett wind down their Hall of Fame careers.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge remains optimistic on Green but is also cautioning people to be realistic in their expectation of Green going forward.
“[Jeff] Green is not a LeBron James, not Kevin Durant, not Larry Bird,” Ainge told Gary Dzen of the Boston Globe. “He’s a really good player for us, and a very important player for us. And I think he’s getting better for us every time.
“I don’t think it’s fair to expect from Jeff what we got from Paul [Pierce], because Paul is arguably the best offensive player we’ve ever had in their amazing history. So I think it’s unfair to put the expectations of being Paul Pierce on him.”
Nevertheless, Green’s role within the franchise will continue to grow and if the club hopes to pull off a first round upset in the playoffs this season they’ll need the fifth year pro to continue his strong play.
HOOPSWORLD’s Coverage Of March Madness
HOOPSWORLD rolled out five videos yesterday to preview the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
HOOPSWORLD veterans Alex Kennedy and Yannis Koutroupis broke down each of the regions, discussing the contenders, sleepers and players to watch.
Kennedy and Koutroupis also answered tournament-related questions that readers submitted on Twitter in this Q&A video.
For more coverage, including previews of every first-round game, please check out our 2013 NCAA Tournament Headquarters.
NBA Chats: There are two chats on the docket today. Alex Kennedy will be holding down his weekly chat at 1:00 pm EST. Send Alex a question here. I will be hosting my weekly chat tonight at 8:00 pm EST, live from Philips Arena. You can send me a question here.