Of late, I have been published on Bleacher Report insinuating that I did not foresee the Philadelphia 76ers making any big-time moves this offseason, particularly as they pertained to a possible trading of All-Star Andre Iguodala.
I said things like, “You imagine that with the Harkless pick, Iguodala would be traded, but it seems more and more like the Sixers’ plan is to stay pat.”
I was so confident that Philadelphia would not deal Iggy in a big trade I even went as far as to proclaim: “I don’t expect Philadelphia to deal Iggy in a big trade.”
Well, safe to say I was wrong.
Many of us in Sixer Nation (Is this a thing yet? We should make this a thing if it isn’t) found out either late last night or this morning that Iguodala has in fact been traded in a huge four-team deal that wound up shipping him to Denver and brings Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson to the Sixers.
This deal is a result of the conclusion to the Dwight Howard sweepstakes that has the three-time Defensive Player of the Year going to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers also receive point guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark in the deal, while only having to give center Andrew Bynum up in the process.
This trade gained a great deal of momentum and life in a very short time, as its possibility and execution both seemed to come to fruition within just a day.
Upon its completion, this trade undoubtedly left many a Sixers fan surprised and excited with the cries of things like, "Wait...the Sixers DID something?!"
That excitement is well warranted given this team has not come anywhere close to so much as sniffing The Finals since Allen Iverson stepped over Tyron Lue in 2001. Adding to this is the franchise’s seeming reluctance to acquire big names through trades and free agency over the last decade. (I’m not counting Chris Webber and Elton Brand here for obvious reasons.)
Finally, though, fans have a move they can truly get excited about. The addition of the 24-year-old Bynum gives Philly the second best center in the league, a bona-fide All-Star and evidence that the organization is not simply content with meandering its way into the playoffs year in and year out (as they appeared destined to do before the trade).
It also gives full rein of the offense to youngsters Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner, who will have to take on much of the onus in running the show for the Sixers with team leader Iguodala now a member of the Nuggets.
This could be good or bad; we won’t really know which until a few games have been played. The two could rise to the challenge and elevate their games to places we have yet to see, or they could falter under the pressure. A lot of their success will have to do with how Doug Collins approaches this whole situation, especially because of his sometimes suspicious handling of young players. (For instance: Turner has started only 34 regular season games in two seasons despite being healthy nearly the entire time.)
Bynum may be the piece that gives the Sixers any sort of long-term contention chances, but the success or failure of the team this season and beyond greatly hinges on the shoulders of Holiday and Turner.
And before Sixers fans get too rowdy with anticipation for what may come, they must remember Bynum will become a free-agent next summer if he does not sign an extension. He has never said he wouldn’t sign one in Philly, but he has never said he will. The unexpectedness of this trade never gave a chance for such questions to be asked.
Bynum is from the Philadelphia region, but it remains unseen whether that will make any difference to him at all as he makes decisions for his future.
Philadelphia fans need to be prepared for the very real possibility that Bynum may dismiss the long-term idea of playing there so much that the Sixers are forced to get rid of him by the trade deadline so as to not wind up totally empty handed after parting ways with Igoudala, Harkless and Vucevic.
Another possibility is that Bynum plays out the season in Philadelphia peacefully with the intention of becoming a free agent come the offseason. He may have the Sixers thinking he is seriously considering re-upping with them after the playoffs, only to leave for a new team. It's not improbable either; why wouldn't a player chose to stick around with a team for a year if it meant choosing wherever he wanted to play the next season and not be traded to a place he may not wish to play for? (Chris Paul may be doing a similar thing to the Clippers right now by not signing an extension past this season.) This would handcuff the Sixers into holding onto him and waiting to see what he decides, with the chance of getting no return for him very much in play.
Without any doubt, Bynum’s history of unpredictable and at times immature behavior leave a wide range of possibilities for what he could do or decide.
On top of those concerns lies Bynum’s injury history. He was able to stay predominantly healthy last year but has never started more than 65 games in a season through his career. It’s entirely plausible that his injury woes return and the Sixers limp to a finish at the bottom of the improved Atlantic Division.
Despite the negatives, though, Philadelphia fans should rejoice over this trade. Yes, we bid farewell to one of our favorite athletes of the past decade in Iguodala, and no amount of thanks and respect can be delivered to this consummate professional. But with him being traded, this organization proved that they are in fact in the business of trying to seriously contend in the NBA and recognize the need for blue-chip talent to do so.
This trade also takes the Sixers out of basketball no-man’s land. Before the deal, the team seemed certain to go no further than the second round of the playoffs for the near and foreseeable future. Now, however, they will either succeed behind the nucleus of Bynum, Holiday, Turner and a respectable rotation or fail and fall into the lottery with the chance to add a potential blue-chipper to the team through the draft.
No matter what happens, I think I speak for many fans when I say I am excited to have Bynum in a Sixer uniform and to watch whatever unfolds, unfold.
I will also never forget the Kwame Brown at center era.
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