How Andrew Bynum's Knee Injury Impacts Philadelphia 76ers
As NBA fans have come to expect, the Los Angeles Lakers stole the headlines this offseason. They acquired two-time MVP Steve Nash, signed former All-Star Antawn Jamison and brought in a handful of ball handlers, three-point shooters and athletes.
Through all of the commotion, however, it appears lost that the Lakers were not the only team who improved. As a part of the trade, the Philadelphia 76ers parted ways with All-Star small forward Andre Iguodala.
Although Iguodala is a phenomenal talent, he's not a primary scoring option. Despite that clear cut fact, the Sixers often defaulted to him on important possessions. With his departure, that no longer becomes an unspoken requirement.
In return, the Philadelphia 76ers received what they have lacked since Charles Barkley departed in 1992: an elite low-post scoring option.
With all due respect to Elton Brand, who remains one of the most reliable players in the game, the Sixers haven't had a legitimate low-post game since the pre-Iverson era. With the arrival of All-Star center Andrew Bynum, however, that has changed.
Bynum is arguably the best offensive center in the NBA. Many believe him to be as polished a low-post scorer as you'll find in the league, which was on full display as he averaged 18.7 points per game during the 2011-12 NBA season.
This number is quite significant considering he was working alongside another elite scorer, Pau Gasol, in the post. Bynum wasn't even the first option on offense, yet he consistently demanded double-teams from opposing defenses.
With Bynum in Philly, it can only be expected that Doug Collins and company will build their offense around him. With the ability to dump the ball off into the post or run the pick-and-roll, the Sixers' perimeter players can now produce without opposing defenses closing out on every possession.
Unfortunately, the process of developing that game plan will take some time.
Per a report via the Associated Press, Andrew Bynum will be "withheld from basketball activities for 21 days." This would result in Bynum missing all of training camp and each of Philadelphia's seven preseason games.
The Sixers' hopes of finishing atop the Eastern Conference may have taken a major hit as they attempt to learn their new superstar's tendencies on the fly.
Passing from the Post
One of the most underrated aspects of Andrew Bynum's game is his ability to pass out of the low and high posts. His 1.4 assists per game suggest mediocrity from a center, but we must keep in mind that Pau Gasol was often placed in charge of the passing duties from the interior.
In Philadelphia, where Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen remain question marks at power forward, Andrew Bynum will be looked to for such facilitating.
The unfortunate matter here is that Bynum cannot yet develop a feel for his teammates' slashing tendencies. With players like Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday inclined to attack the basket, it's important for Bynum to understand when he should feed them for a finish.
As for the perimeter shooters, being able to work with players such as Dorell Wright and Nick Young is of equal importance. Together, they could develop a low-high game that the Los Angeles Lakers lacked without a true perimeter scoring option beyond Kobe Bryant.
Once this element of their offensive attack is developed, Philly will be as difficult to contain as any in the NBA.
Pick and Roll
Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner were two of the multiple ball handlers who split time facilitating in 2011-12. Both Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams demanded a high volume of touches, which stunted the production and progression of the two young assets.
In 2012-13, both Iguodala and Williams will be playing elsewhere. Holiday and Turner, meanwhile, will become the primary ball handlers, splitting the duties on a virtual possession-by-possession basis.
For the two young guns to develop in the proper way, it's important that they learn the new offense early. With Bynum sidelined, however, the best form of simulation will be to insert Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown into his place during training camp.
Neither offer a true representation of the well-versed offensive weapon that Andrew Bynum continues to become.
Although we may be inclined to envision an offense that reflects the Shaquille O'Neal-led Los Angeles Lakers, that's not quite the case. Philly will run high screens as well as drop-offs to the post, thus resulting in Bynum flashing his improving mid-range game.
It's an area where Spencer Hawes can help to simulate.
The fact of the matter is, no one in the NBA is quite like Andrew Bynum. He's as well-built as any low-post player in the game and is a much more agile player than he is given credit for.
As Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner look to develop the pick-and-roll, they must understand how quick he is and how he moves to the basket. The placement of their passes is key to Bynum's ability to finish. In order to know where to place each dime, it will require repetition.
With Bynum sidelined, that is practice that the youngsters will not receive.
Low-High Game Stunted
As previously acknowledged, one of the greatest benefits of having an elite low-post scorer is the new-found ability to stretch the perimeter. With opponents often taking a perimeter defender and using them for a low-post double-team, there is an opening for sharpshooters to thrive.
Dorell Wright, Nick Young, Jason Richardson and Jrue Holiday will all be expected to capitalize on such a new-found advantage.
What's important for a young player like Andrew Bynum is comfort in these situations. He must know where his perimeter teammates will be positioned, thus enabling Bynum to pass out of the post when need be.
Until Bynum is aware of who he can trust on the perimeter, the overall development of the team will be stunted. Unfortunately, that process will take at least 21 days to begin.
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