Friday, August 17, 2012

Sixers’ Potential Starting Five

The Sixers have had an extremely busy offseason, dropping and adding players in an attempt to return to their days of NBA dominance. The Sixers exciting summer was of course capped off by the acquisition of blockbuster big Andrew Bynum, who will hopefully become Philly's center of the future.

While in flux for a while, the Sixers roster for this upcoming season seems to be set, varying vastly from the the lineup that beat the Bulls and pushed Boston to 7 in last year's Eastern semis. Gone are Iguadala, Elton Brand, and leading scorer Lou Williams. In their place we find Bynum, Kwame Brown, and a plethora of wing players (J Rich, Nick Young, Dorell Wright). This current Sixer squad is deeper, more well-rounded, and better constructed to compete.

With so many options for Coach Collins to consider, it is no surprise that the starting lineup is not yet set, and there seems to be some uncertainty around it, at least from media members. As many of the players on this team have never played together it will take some time for chemistry to develop and for the coaching staff to determine who fits best where. For Sixer fans this means that the starting lineup the team trots out on opening night is not set in stone, and may be altered throughout the season as the players get a better feel for each other.

Halloween, however is coming up quickly, and the Sixers need to settle on a lineup that will help them get the season off to the right start. Below is who I believe may be in the Sixers starting lineup come October 31st.

PG - Jrue Holiday

The Sixers' promising young point guard will return to his role as the team's starting floor general. The addition of Bynum should help Holiday by opening up the lane, drawing defenders off the arc, and providing a legitimate low-post scoring option. Expect Jrue's production to increase this season.

SG - Evan Turner

The Sixers are now stacked at shooting guard, and realistically any of them (Turner, Richardson, Young) could start in the right system, but now seems to be Turner's time. The team's second pick in the draft two summers ago, the Sixers seem to be ready to see what this kid can do now that he is no longer under the wing of Andre Iguadala. His three point shooting needs to improve, especially playing with a kick-out big like Bynum, but his athleticism and ability to get to the rim will be crucial to the Sixers this season, as will his defense, as he will often be asked to guard the other team's best perimeter player in the absence of Iggy.

The pressure will be on for Turner to perform, especially with a couple extremely capable two guards waiting in the wing. Richardson and Nick Young are both knock-down shooters who will see ample tick in the Bynum-based offense. However it would only make sense for Collins to start Turner, presumably a future part of the franchise, to see what he can do, rather than giving the starting spot to a player who is not tied to the future of the franchise. This also leaves the Sixers with a lot of fire power off of the bench, which is never a bad thing.

SF - Dorell Wright

Not the most obvious choice here, but Dorell's inclusion in the starting lineup makes sense. Wright is a three point threat with almost unlimited range, meaning that defenders can't in good conscience leave Dorell to double down on Bynum. With Jrue and E.T. as the de facto ball handlers and play makers, Dorell is largely relieved of these duties, allowing him to concentrate strictly on shooting/scoring, which is what the Sixers need from him. His inclusion in the starting lineup will help to keep defenses honest and open things up for Andrew in the post.

PF - Lavoy Allen

Coach Collins loves veterans, and while this is only Lavoy's second season he proved a lot to the coach in last year's postseason. Although slightly undersized, Lavoy has a big body, enjoys contact, and can rebound. With Bynum dominating the block, Lavoy won't need to be much of a scoring option, but rather a hard-nosed player who earns his time on the defensive end and on the glass. Also his consistent mid-range shot will provide another outlet for Bynum should he become bogged down in the post. Allen could compliment well while providing Philly with an extremely proficient and formidable front line.

C - Andrew Bynum

It is safe to assume that the Sixers' prized pickup of the summer, and the best center they've had since the days of Moses Malone, will be penciled in as the starter this season. Bynum gives the Sixers a dimension they haven't had in decades as a legitimate low-post threat, and if he signs long-term his presence greatly improves the outlook for the future of the franchise.  Suddenly Spencer Hawes doesn't sound so bad as a back-up, and the Sixers have developed into one of the League's deepest teams at the coveted center position.

6th man - Thad Young

Many thought that with the departure of Elton Brand Thad would slid into the starting four spot. However with the roster as it is currently constructed, Young still fits better in a bench role. His minutes should still increase slightly as his versatility will allow him to be the first guy off the bench at either of the forward spots, depending on the matchup. Thad's athleticism and ability to shoot should mesh well with Bynum, who could cover up Young's rebounding deficiencies, should Collins decide to play him long stretches at the four. Whether or not he is a "starter" this season, Young will see big minutes with the Sixers and his production is key to their success.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sixers’ New Center of Attention

As the dust begins to settle surrounding the blockbuster trade that shipped Sixer staple Andre Iguodala to Denver and brought to town the best big the City of Brotherly Love has seen in decades, one thing is certain; Sixer nation should be excited.

Before even considering the impact and overall improvement this move may have on the team, Sixer fans should be appreciative of the mere magnitude of the move. Since the start of the Snider regime in the 1990's, the organization has too often laid dormant instead of making a deal, leading to a couple decades of extended mediocrity, at times well-masked by the team's original A.I. The new ownership on the other hand,  has shown a genuine interest in improving the organization, and the fact that they were able to orchestrate such a potentially franchise-changing, albeit slightly risky move, shows strong signs of promise for the future of the franchise.

The next issue to address before discussing on-court  basketball business is the departure of Olympian Andre Iguodala, who by all accounts is ready to move passed the Philadelphia-based portion of his career.  Andre was a polarizing figure in Philadelphia sports to say the least, overpaid to some, vastly underrated to others. Whatever the opinion, the talent was always evident, as was the fact that Iggy never quite fit in with Philly, as the city looked for him to fill Iverson's superstar shoes; a role he was clearly never comfortable in.  This summer's Olympics have perfectly illustrated what Iguodala can bring to a basketball team, as he has flourished in his supporting role, supplementing other stars.  While the  Sixers will miss his defense and versatility, it was a move that needed to be made in order to acquire the League's second best center.

Basketball-wise this move was a no-brainer.  The one thing that the Sixers have desperately lacked over recent seasons is a quality, go-to big man, and boy does Bynum fit that billing. Supremely athletic, Bynum will greatly improve the Sixers on both ends of the floor; protecting the rim and bodying up the League's best bigs on one end, and providing a legitimate low-post scoring option on the other. Make no mistake, Bynum is a beast on the block. He is coming off of a career year in which he put up 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per, in a career high 35 minutes a game. Those are extremely solid numbers, and one could only imagine that they will improve this season as he serves as the Sixers' main scoring option, rather than playing second fiddle to the Kobe show.

A big the quality of Bynum instantly improves the Sixer team, giving them a superior frontcourt that may only be able to be bested in the East by Boston or the Bulls. Andrew's presence of course alters the way the team plays; with an actual inside scoring option the team doesn't need to rely as heavily on the fast break. Instead, they can run the offense through Andrew and allow him to operate, looking for his own shot or kicking it out to one of the team's newly acquired deep threats. The additions of J Rich, Dorell Wright, and the hot-handed Nick Young fit perfectly with the big guy on the block, as the Sixers are now, for the first time in recent memory, are a complete inside-outside team. Bynum's commanding presence on the block should open up ample shots for the perimeter players, as well as opening up the driving lane for Evan and Jrue.

Like with almost every deal there are potential drawbacks and detractors, but in this case those seem to have been kept to a minimum. Injuries have been an issue with Andrew, as even now reports are surfacing that he is scheduled to have a non-evasive knee procedure this summer. He has missed some time for an injury in all but 2 of his seven seasons with the Lakers, and injuries are always especially a concern with bigs whose bodies tend to break down. Bynum however is coming off a healthy, and extremely successful 2011-2012 campaign in which he started 60 of the team's 66 games, playing the highest mpg of his career.  So this, at least, is a good sign for Sixer fans.

Aside from injuries the issue of attitude has haunted Andrew, as he had some well-documented drama during his time in Laker land. There is the feeling among some that Andrew is hot-headed and selfish, and potentially detrimental to a team. This brings up the question of how Andrew will adjust to a young team without a clear-cut respected leader like Kobe to keep him in check. While a potential problem is always a possibility, there is always the chance the Bynum will embrace his role on the young Sixer squad, happy to finally be a centerpiece (pun intended) to a team rather than just a side option. We will have to see how it plays out, but Coach Collins has a way with players, so don't be too surprised to see Andrew thrive as center for the 7-6.

If Bynum and Philadelphia are a good fit this season then hopefully the team can lock him down long term. If not, then Andrew is a free agent after this season and the two can go their separate ways, leaving the Sixers with a ton of cap space to pursue other free agents. Sounds like a win-win. Worst case scenario is the Sixers use Bynum for a season, making them better than they would have been, he leaves, and then the team has a plethora of cap space and potential players to sign.

Of course the organization is hoping that the 24 year old Bynum will stay in town for quite some time, rounding out the Sixers quality young core and providing their post presence of the future.

These are encouraging times for Sixer fans. Although we must wait to see how Bynum's future will play out in Philly, this season will certainly be more exciting with his pretense in the post, and it is promising to see the organization make moves to put the team in a position to succeed. The future is bright.