With a revamped roster—something fans are all too familiar with by now—the Philadelphia 76ers figure to pose a few more problems for opponents this season than they did a year ago. The Sixers have 10 quality players who are capable of logging minutes on a nightly basis and possibly even more than that when you factor in rookie Arnett Moultrie and veteran point guard Royal Ivey.
Given the depth that Doug Collins' squad has, it will be interesting to see how he splices the pieces together over the course of the season, determining which lineups and pairings work best for his team.
For a team that lacked versatility a year ago, the Sixers have done a complete 180, now possessing flexibility in the frontcourt and the backcourt—a fact rivals certainly won't be happy about.
As the season inches closer, here are five strategic changes Doug Collins will make with this new-look roster.
With the addition of shooting guard Jason Richardson, Evan Turner will assume a new role this season.
According to Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com, Collins has made up his mind and Turner will in fact take over the role previously held by Andre Iguodala:
Just as Collins has a plan for the point guard position, he also has that for the small forward spot. Turner will be in the starting lineup as the small forward, but there will be defensive assignments that require Collins to call Thaddeus Young's name early to play that position coming off the bench.
Turner has always been more of a natural three than he has a two, but some would argue his best position is actually the point.
Regardless of what position he plays, Turner figures to be the Sixer with the ball in his hands the most this season. Jrue Holiday is looking to become a more efficient and potent scorer, so Turner will likely facilitate much of the offense, playing the point-forward role that Iguodala was so successful in.
While we have a fairly firm grasp of what Turner's role will be on the offensive end, there's still more left to be desired from him on the defensive end. Turner will likely have to take on the role of the team's lockdown defender, going up against the Atlantic Division's best, like Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson.
Turner's impact on the defensive end will speak volumes about his progression as a player in Doug Collins' system. If he's able to make fans forget about Iguodala's All-NBA defense, he should be in for a nice season.
One other change you can expect to the starting lineup: Spencer Hawes shifting down from the center spot to play the power forward.
According to Sixers.com, Doug Collins wants Hawes to complement Andrew Bynum the same way Pau Gasol did in Los Angeles, noting, “I want (Hawes) to play the Pau Gasol role with Bynum. Both (Hawes and Gasol) like to play out on the perimeter because they can shoot the ball and are very good passers.”
While many will see Collins' quote as an exaggeration of Hawes' skills, it's not a ridiculous sentiment. Hawes doesn't possess the same level of talent as Gasol, but his skill set is unique to a 7-footer.
Hawes' ability to pass well, especially off of the pick-and-roll, will make him an invaluable piece of this lineup.
Fans killed Hawes for his play down the stretch last season, but when you look back at his numbers from December of 2011 (12 points and 12.5 rebounds per game), he has a chance duplicate that output now that Bynum's in town.
Throughout Doug Collins' tenure as the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, the team has lacked any semblance of players that shine during crunch time. In a sign of changing times, Collins and the Sixers' front office made it the focal point of their summer plans to acquire shooters who could knock down big shots at a moment's notice.
Previously, the Sixers' only real threat to hit from beyond was Jodie Meeks (who has since signed with the Los Angeles Lakers), but the team is now blessed with a plethora of outside shooters with proven track records.
When the Sixers get down or find themselves in close games in the the fourth quarter, Collins will have the pleasure of choosing from three great shooters in Jason Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright to pair with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Andrew Bynum and, at times, Thaddeus Young.
Wright is easily the most versatile of the three, given his 6'9'' frame, but Richardson is the most reliable with a career 1520 three-pointers made. Young packs the most punch, but is also the most streaky, so it will be interesting to see who Collins has the most trust in as the season gets underway.
Another new capability of the Sixers' roster: getting big at a moment's notice.
Andrew Bynum is the centerpiece of a revamped frontcourt, but alongside him the Sixers can roll out Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen and even Kwame Brown to frustrate opponents.
Each big man brings something different to the table and it will be really interesting to see who meshes the best with Bynum. Allen is perhaps the most well-rounded of the four, as he's shown the ability to defend against more talented fours, while knocking down mid-range jumpers at an efficient rate on the offensive end.
Hawes is able to stretch the floor, but his defense is suspect. If Young is able to develop a more polished jump shot, he could prove to be the most potent weapon alongside Bynum.
The real unknown here is Brown, who was originally brought in to be the team's new starting center. Brown doesn't have much to offer on the offensive end, but if the Sixers are in a bind and don't trust Hawes to step up on defense, Brown could find himself next in line.
In a recent interview with Bob Cooney of Philly.com, Doug Collins explained that he wants his new offense to revolve around Andrew Bynum whenever possible, stating, "We're going to play through the post with Bynum. We're going to be a slashing, cutting team off of the ball in the post but at the same time we're going to have good spacing."
In the past, the Sixers had been incredibly reliant on their mid-range shooting, and were among the league's worst teams at getting to the free-throw line. Now, with a real low-post presence and legitimate shooters, the Sixers can roll out a more conventional offense. Bynum will see his fair share of double-teams in the post, and his ability to find cutters and open wings on the perimeter will be crucial to the team's success.
While it will take time for Bynum to adjust to his new role as the focal point of the offense, the Sixers finally feel like a team capable dictating the pace of play.
Previously too reliant on the fast break, the Sixers now have the pieces to play a complete game in the half-court.