Philadelphia 76ers: 5 Burning Questions for the Sixers' 2012-13 Starting Lineup

Bryan ToporekFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2012

Philadelphia 76ers: 5 Burning Questions for the Sixers' 2012-13 Starting Lineup

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    Now that the Philadelphia 76ers have Andrew Bynum on their roster, their starting 5 spot is officially no longer a question.

    The same can't be said for the rest of the starting lineup, though.

    With Andre Iguodala now a Denver Nugget, the Sixers have a hole to fill at small forward. Amnestying Elton Brand this summer opened up the starting 4 spot, too. Jodie Meeks' departure leaves the starting 2 role for Evan Turner, presumably, but that's no sure thing, either.

    Here, we'll look at one burning question for each of the team's starting lineup positions.

1. Is Jrue Holiday a Max Player?

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    Jrue Holiday, the Sixers' starting point guard, made waves in the summer when news leaked that he expected a maximum contract offer from the team.

    Since owners aren't typically privy to hand max contracts to players with career averages of 12 points, five assists and three rebounds per game, Holiday's reported request seemed a bit, well, ridiculous.

    Now, with Andrew Bynum anchoring the post, Holiday finally has a dominant big man to run the pick-and-roll to his heart's content. The departure of Andre Iguodala should also mean more ball-handling duties for Holiday, which should, in turn, lead to more offense from him.

    In the 2011-12 season, Holiday averaged 13.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game in the regular season before bumping his averages up to 15.8 points, 5.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds in the playoffs.

    If Holiday can maintain his aggressiveness from the 2012 playoffs this upcoming season and boost his averages to somewhere around 18-20 points, eight assists and six rebounds per game, that max contract offer he's reportedly seeking won't be such a hard pill to swallow for the Sixers.

2. Can Evan Turner Finally Break Out?

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    Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, has heard the cries of "bust!" since his rookie season.

    After Turner won Player of the Year his junior season of college by averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and six assists per game, Philly fans may have expected too much from him too soon.

    After all, in his first season with Ohio State, he only averaged around eight points, four rebounds and three assists per game. As it turns out, those are remarkably similar to his averages during his first year with the Sixers.

    Like Jrue Holiday, Turner set the tone for the Sixers in the playoffs last season with his aggressiveness. He repeatedly refused to settle for a jumper and instead drove hard to the basket, earning him frequent trips to the line, along with a couple of badly missed layups.

    Turner enters the year as a surefire starter, according to Sixers coach Doug Collins, now that the Sixers let Jodie Meeks head to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.

    With that responsibility comes a make-or-break season for Turner. 

3. Who's the Starting Small Forward?

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    Andre Iguodala's departure opened a gaping hole at the starting small forward spot, but the Sixers have no shortage of replacement wing players.

    Dorell Wright may be the odds-on favorite to win this spot heading into training camp, as he's got experience as a starting 3 with Golden State.

    He led the league two years ago in three-point makes and sports a career average of 36.5 percent from deep, which should help space the floor next to Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.

    Nick Young, who signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Sixers this summer, could be another option at the starting 3. Young would provide much of what Wright would—namely, sharpshooting—but he's a few inches shorter than Wright, which could lead to more disadvantages defensively.

    Turner may also start at the 3 if Collins decides to start Young, Wright or Jason Richardson at the 2.

    At 6'6", Richardson lacks the ideal height to play the 3 full-time, but he could see spot minutes there this season, as he's another sharpshooter who could space the floor for the Sixers' slashers.

4. Spencer Hawes: A Poor Man's Pau Gasol?

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    Sixers coach Doug Collins wants Spencer Hawes, the team's starting power forward, to "play the Pau Gasol role with [Andrew] Bynum," according to a recent interview posted on Sixers.com.

    As crazy as the comparison might sound at first, Hawes could theoretically fill that role. He'll just be a poor man's version of the Lakers' Gasol, that's all.

    By "Pau Gasol role," Collins essentially means that he plans on sticking Hawes out on the perimeter because of his shooting and passing ability.

    Early last season, before Hawes went down with back and Achilles' tendon injuries, the Sixers excelled by running the offense through Hawes in the high post.

    Granted, last season, in a "down year," Gasol averaged 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. Cut those numbers in half, and you more or less have Hawes' career averages.

    If the Sixers get anything close to Gasol's averages from Hawes this upcoming year alongside Bynum, the Sixers' frontcourt will be a formidable foe for any opponent.

5. Is Andrew Bynum Ready to Shoulder the Load?

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    When the doors open at the Wells Fargo Center on Halloween night in Philadelphia, all Sixers fans' eyes will be on one man: Andrew Bynum.

    The Sixers' newest acquisition gives the team a potential superstar for the first time since the heyday of Allen Iverson, not to mention a dominant post presence that's been sorely missing in recent years.

    Last season, the 24-year-old Bynum busted out with career highs of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, despite being the No. 2 option on the Lakers behind Kobe Bryant.

    He's not exactly Ray Allen from the free-throw line, but he's not Shaquille O'Neal, either, having averaged 69.2 percent from the charity stripe last season.

    Bynum also set a career high, with 5.6 free-throw attempts per game last season, which makes him an invaluable asset in late-game situations, unlike Dwight Howard.

    All signs point to Bynum, who turns 25 four days before the season opener, being ready to become a team's focal point offensively.

    In his opening press conference with the Sixers, he alluded to being double- and triple-teamed in the Lakers' first-round series against the Denver Nuggets in the 2012 playoffs as solid preparation for what he should expect this season.

    If Bynum can give the Sixers the 20 points and 10 rebounds per game that Elton Brand never could, the team will have an advantage over nearly every other club in the league this year.