The Philadelphia 76ers are entering this season as new and improved. With the addition of Andrew Bynum and departure of Andre Iguodala, they are finally set up the way they should be.
Now, Evan Turner has been handed the keys to be a primary option, Jrue Holiday has a bigger chance to step up and they finally landed a true center.
The Sixers took a step in the right direction, and it made them possible favorites to win the Atlantic Division.
The Sixers currently have eight players under the age of 25, with two additional players who are both 26 and 27. Bottom line: This team is young.
Youth is always an advantage, specifically with the Sixers, because they flourish in the transition game.
More importantly, it's a unique situation of youth with experience. Many of these young players have played a handful of playoff games against the top teams in the league over the last two years.
They know what to expect and how to handle it.
Doug Collins is a secret weapon for this team.
It all started when he initiated the turnaround of a team that was just 27-55 three seasons ago (you can thank Eddie Jordan for that atrocious season) into a playoff team.
Despite many fans arguing (even myself) that the Sixers would need to fully rebuild, Collins always wanted to win no matter what. There was never any thought of tanking or not trying to win every game. No matter what you give him, he will try to win with it regardless of the odds.
He was working with the same exact players of the 27-55 season and he led them to the playoffs two years in a row. Collins is a huge reason why the Sixers are where they are today and will continue to serve as a great mentor to these young players.
Philadelphia has always been known as a solid defensive team since Collins entered the picture.
Defense becomes an even bigger advantage with young players, specifically because it initiates fast breaks and allows them to cause turnovers and run in the open floor.
Last season the Sixers finished with the third-best defense in the league by allowing just 89.4 points per game. With a legit defensive big man like Bynum to take into account, it's safe to assume that the defense will get even better.
A great thing the front office did this offseason was surround their core with shooters.
Newly acquired Jason Richardson has a career three-point percentage of 37 percent with a total of 1,520 threes made in his career (ranks 15th all-time). He is one of the best three-point shooters to play the game.
As for the other two wings? Well, they aren't that bad either.
In fact, Dorell Wright led the league in three-pointers made just two seasons ago (194) and has shot 38 percent from three-point range over the last three seasons. Nick Young has also proven to be reliable shooter, posting a career 43 percent from the field and 38 percent from three-point range, respectively.
If you look around the division from a standpoint of strictly shooters, only Boston's duo of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee competes.
This was always something they needed to accomplish and this year they got it done.
With Iguodala out of the picture, Turner has his chance to be a primary scoring option.
Last season Turner averaged 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in roughly 26 minutes per game. However, when the playoffs came around and he saw more playing time, he averaged 11.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Keep in mind he was still playing next to Iggy and regarded as the third option to running the offense.
But this year is different. This time, Turner can bring up the ball a lot more, he can distribute more and overall have more opportunities.
The environment is just perfect. He has shooters he can dish the ball out to when he drives to the basket, he has Bynum down low and there's no one to infringe on his playing time.
The Sixers were already a deep team, but now they have multiple players on the bench who are capable starters on many NBA teams.
The starting lineup is still up for speculation, but assuming they okay Turner at small forward and Jason Richardson at the 2, the Sixers will have both Young and Wright coming off the bench. Need I remind you of their shooting abilities?
But it doesn't stop there. The bench gets even deeper.
At the power forward position they have both Thaddeus Young and Lavoy Allen coming off the bench. Young is the true hustler-type guy who can provide mismatches on offense against slower 4s while Allen provides the best defensive presence.
And let's not forget newly drafted rookie Arnett Moultrie, who has the physical tools to be an effective big man in the league.
Not every team is lucky enough to have a bench that makes the lineup adaptable and provides the variety of skills that the Sixers' does.
Yes, I'm still in shock that the Sixers got Bynum.
But aside from the long-lasting effects of my realization, it is a fact that the Sixers have hands-down the best center in the Eastern Conference. Period.
We know what he can do and what he's capable of. The 24-year-old averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game last year playing as a third option. Imagine what he'll do with less competition and more opportunities.
When solely looking at the division, Tyson Chandler is the only true center who could compete with Bynum in terms of grabbing boards and serving as a force defensively. Brook Lopez is a solid center, but has never averaged over 8.6 rebounds per game in his career and isn't known for his defensive abilities.
Think of how Orlando fared with Howard in the East and think of the Sixers doing the same thing, except with a better supporting cast.
With the Sixers revamped, the Nets acquiring Joe Johnson, the Knicks getting new point guards, the Celtics filling the void of Ray Allen and the Raptors doing their own thing, the Atlantic Division took a big step forward overall.
There's no doubt the competition is there, and a team like the Celtics makes a case to be the favorite as well. Regardless, the Sixers have a lot in their favor entering the season.
So it may not be a definite that the Sixers are favorites to win the division, but they certainly have the talent and potential to be.