Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
All eyes on Andrew
On paper the Philadelphia 76ers are very interesting. With the recently acquired Andrew Bynum, and the recently retained Spencer Hawes, the Sixers have two legitimate 7-footers under 25 years old. Take away the names, just focus on two young 7-footers who have proven themselves capable of being starter-quality in the NBA, and you've got the foundation for long-term success. Add the names back in, and it gets a little more confusing. Bynum is, on one hand, an All-Star and easily one of the best 2 or 3 centers in the NBA. When he's healthy. On the other hand, he has had multiple procedures on his knees, and is already slated to miss time this season recovering from knee surgery. When you're seven feet tall with a history of knee issues, you don't tend to get healthier with age.
Interestingly enough, Spencer Hawes fits much of the same description. He's shown flashes of brilliance, never sustained at the levels of Bynum, but he's certainly a serviceable NBA center, but his career has been hampered by injuries. He's already had multiple procedures on his knees as well. Suddenly that foundation for long term success has some cracks forming. You can try to build on that foundation and everything might be just fine, but you risk watching it all come crumbling down.
I don't blame Philadelphia for acquiring Bynum. It's a risk they needed to take. A franchise center is the difference between perpetual playoff contention and an annual trip to the lottery. Even if it's a risk, Philly had to roll the dice. Bynum could be the piece that leads Philadelphia to actually challenge for the crown in the East someday. The issue with Bynum is that the 76ers will need to decide whether or not they want to commit to him after a single season. Bynum is a free agent after this season, and he'll command a significant salary. Philadelphia will need to franchise their future or watch Bynum leave with nothing to show for finally trading Andre Igoudala.
As for the rest of the franchise, the roster is fascinating but flawed. Jrue Holiday is a solid young point guard, but then you notice that he had a career low per-minute assist rate last season. Nick Young is always fun until he's on the team you're rooting for. Jason Richardson is on the wrong side of 30, but should still contribute in tandem with Young. Evan Turner quietly improved last season, but seems unlikely to ever make the leap to validate his selection as the second overall pick two years ago (despite being a sneaky good rebounder). Thaddeus Young seemed like a bit of a disappointment after getting his new contract. I'm not entirely sure if he or Evan Turner should be starting for this team. Early this preseason it seems to be Turner, but I imagine we'll see that shift more than once this year.
This season will be defined by Bynum. It will be defined by his time on the court and his time in a suit on the sidelines. It will be defined by how he produces when he plays. And it will be defined by what the 76ers organization does with Bynum long term. If Bynum works out, Philly will be the team nobody wants to face in the first round of the playoffs. If Bynum is a bust this season, the trade will be unfairly doubted and torn to shreds.
Personally, I'd guess it lands somewhere in the middle. Bynum will play enough of the season to have an impact. Philly will be in the playoffs and could even make some noise. But Bynum will miss enough time that there will be lingering uncertainty in Philadelphia. Where the 76ers sought answers, they'll continue to find new questions.