The future is bright in Philadelphia. After snagging a franchise centerpiece in Andrew Bynum as part of the blockbuster Dwight Howard trade, the 76ers finally have a go-to scorer and a star whom fans can really get excited about.
The 76ers roster underwent significant renovation this summer, and mostly for the better. But with change comes the need for adjustment, and coach Doug Collins will enter next season with the task of turning his talented squad into a cohesive unit.
The Sixers may have brought in a star in Bynum, but they are still very much a team built on depth and balance, and as such, there are plenty of players on the roster deserving of significant minutes. But with only so many spots in the rotation, who will land a starting spot on the new look 76ers?
Jrue Holiday is a no-brainer to start at point guard for the 76ers. After starting his career off in 2009-10 as the youngest player in the league, Holiday remains a ripe 22 as he enters the fourth season of his career.
Holiday was widely expected to break out last season, but failed to make any major strides from his sophomore campaign, as his scoring and assists both dropped, along with his shooting percentages.
However, don't expect Holiday's averages to continue to slip. The 6'4" floor general has major upside, and he's bound to have an increased role in Philadelphia's offense next season.
Holiday had occasional scoring outbursts last season, but he often seemed to simply float in the offense while Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala ran the show.
But with both players now with new teams, Holiday will need to shoulder a much greater load as both a scorer and a facilitator. Expect Holiday's assist numbers to jump back up and his scoring to reach a career-high as he establishes himself as Philly's concrete number two option.
Philadelphia's wing slots underwent major renovation this summer, as Jason Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright replaced Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks.
The loss of Iguodala certainly hurts, but the 76ers succeeded in bringing in an arsenal of three-point shooters to complement the inside presence of Bynum. And Iguodala's departure carries the silver lining of opening up the gates for Evan Turner.
Turner hasn't lived up to expectations thus far, after being drafted second overall in the 2010 NBA draft. He has failed to post a double digit scoring average in either of his first two seasons, and inconsistency has kept him away from a secure starting job.
Turner is most effective with the ball in his hands, but he was often forced to play off the ball in his first two seasons to make room for Holiday and Iguodala, who are both skilled playmakers.
However, with Iguodala gone and Holiday likely to focus more on scoring to make up for Williams' departure, Turner should get the chance to once again be the floor general he was at Ohio State.
With a secure starting role and two seasons under his belt, expect Turner to finally start to live up to the Brandon Roy comparisons that garnered him such a high draft spot.
With Turner secured at the shooting guard spot, the competition at small forward will be between the three newcomers, Richardson, Young and Wright.
At first glance, these three players are all very similar, in that they are terribly inconsistent, rely primarily on outside shooting ability and bring little else to the table.
However, there are some key differences.
Wright is the tallest and most versatile, Young the best natural scorer and Richardson the most experienced.
In this case, experience wins out.
While Wright may be the best all-around player at this point in time, Richardson and Young are basically carbon copies of one another, and bringing them off the bench at the same time wouldn't make much sense.
Richardson has spent most of his career at the shooting guard position, but at 6'6" and 225 pounds, he has the size to put in minutes at small forward, particularly considering the size of Holiday and Turner in relation to most of their opponents. Interestingly, Richardson played much better as a small forward last season. In 11 games at the three, he averaged 14 points, five rebounds and two assists per game while shooting with improved efficiency.
Richardson is well out of his prime and struggles defensively, but he remains an explosive athlete and knockdown three-point shooter who will make opponents regret double teaming Andrew Bynum.
Doug Collins has already stated that Spencer Hawes will be the starting power forward heading into training camp, but don't carve that statement in stone just yet. Collins has proven his willingness in shuffling lineups in the past, and he may soon realize that Hawes simply cannot emulate Pau Gasol.
At 7'1" and 245 pounds, Hawes would have a considerable size advantage over any opposing power forward, and he and Bynum would form a fierce rebounding duo.
However, this size advantage would come at a cost. Hawes may be skilled for his size, but he is slow footed and would struggle mightily against quick, versatile power forwards like Kevin Garnett (proven), Josh Smith and Dirk Nowitzki.
Fortunately, the Sixers have an excellent alternative in Thaddeus Young.
Young is a bit undersized for the power forward position and only a mediocre rebounder, but given that Bynum is an absolute beast on the boards and Turner rebounds as well as a power forward.
Young's shortcomings in that area shouldn't be a major problem. And though he could struggle to defend beefier opponents, Young's constant energy and scrappiness will at least enable him to be a nuisance defensively.
At just 24-years-old, Young still has plenty of potential, but he will never maximize that potential unless given the opportunity to be a full-time starter. Young is one of the league's absolute best finishers at the rim, and he is a matchup nightmare for opposing power forwards. Young could stand to add a few pounds, but he seems like the perfect compliment to Bynum, regardless of his faults.
Hawes is a good player, but he simply isn't cut out for the power forward position in today's game. The NBA continues to evolve in favoring speed and versatility over height and power, and the Sixers would be wise to get with the curve and pair the mountainous Bynum with a quick and versatile counterpart in Young.
No surprise here. Philadelphia didn't bring Bynum into the fold for him to come off the bench.
Not only will Bynum start, but he's bound to get huge minutes for Philadelphia. As the new franchise centerpiece, and clear number one option offensively, Bynum has the potential to average over 20 points per game this season.
Spencer Hawes in an above average center and should eat up the limited minutes behind Bynum once Doug Collins realizes Hawes isn't cut out to be a full time power forward. However, Bynum should still get about 35 minutes per game, and is the early favorite to lead this team in minutes, points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage.
Bynum should be a star for the Sixers, but more importantly, he should keep Kwame Brown confined to the bench. Rest easy, Philadelphia.
In conclusion, the 76ers ideal starting lineup should look like this next season:
PG: Jrue Holiday
SG: Evan Turner
SF: Jason Richardson
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Andrew Bynum
Although this lineup may not give Doug Collins the twin towers he wants, it provides the 76ers starting group with the best mixture of speed, size and talent while also allowing for a strong and cohesive second unit. This is a group capable of attacking opponents from a variety of angles, capable of putting up points through transition, post scoring and outside shooting.
With this group starting out games and Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes all waiting eagerly on the bench, the 76ers look like a force to be reckoned with next season.