The Philadelphia 76ers have long been an occupant of basketball purgatory – otherwise know as the dreaded seventh and eighth playoff seeds – which comprises the conference's perpetually average teams.
Thanks to a major offseason renovation program, that's no longer the case. Say goodbye to the days of mediocrity Sixers fans, for brighter days are ahead.
Marquee names like Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson and Nick Young will be called upon to produce at a high level, and their arrivals continue to dominate discussion throughout the preseason.
Head coach Doug Collins will use the preseason to tinker with his revamped roster – deciding which personnel units he believes are most cohesive and versatile.
We present to you an up-to-date tracker of all things Philadelphia 76ers and predictions for the upcoming season.
Sixers Talking Extension With Holiday
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Philadelphia 76ers and point guard Jrue Holiday are likely to finalize a contract extension before October 30th:
Extension grapevine scuttle w/buzzer 25 days out: Lawson (DEN) & Holliday (PHI) likely to get deals; Jennings (MIL) & DeRozan (TOR) unlikely
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) October 6, 2012
CSNPhilly.com's John Finger had this tidbit to pass along about the talks:
According to a report from ESPN, the Sixers could get a contract extension deal done with point guard Jrue Holiday by the Oct. 30 deadline.
Holiday is set to earn $2.674 million this season with a qualifying offer of $3.776 million for 2013-14. However, given his age and time spent in the league, it’s doubtful Holiday would accept that qualifying offer.
Holiday had reportedly been clamoring for a max contract extension this offseason, but the Sixers appear to be the proactive party here, engaging in talks before Holiday's play this season can dictate financial terms.
Undrafted Rookie Maalik Wayns Impressing Early
According to Bob Cooney of Philly.com, undrafted rookie guard Maalik Wayns has impressed both his coaches and teammates throughout the early stages of training camp.
Wayns has impressed with his determination and speed thus far – and according to Cooney – has some veterans taking notice:
"Oh, man, Maalik can play," Turner stated excitedly. "He's been using his speed. One thing we don't have is that level of speed on this team. He's fearless, he's tough. He just likes to play basketball, he competes. He's everything a point guard should be."
Click Here (via Sixers.com) to see highlights of Wayns and others from training camp.
Update: Oct. 15, 2012 by Stephen Babb
The Philadelphia Inquirer's John N. Mitchell reports that Andrew Bynum will receive an injection that agent David Lee describes as "lubrication for his knees."
Though the news is sure to provoke some concern among impatient fans, it's a routine and cautionary move by all indications (via the Daily News' Bob Cooney):
According to a source: Bynum will have a planned injection as part of his ongoing treatment on knee to get him on court asap. Not a setback— Bob Cooney (@BobCooney76) October 14, 2012
Philly fans have been hearing a lot about precaution lately, but it could very well pay off over the course of the season. It goes without saying that the center will be at his most valuable in the postseason and the months leading up to it.
For now, count the absence as an opportunity for big men Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown to see some extra time on the floor. Though Hawes started at center for Philadelphia last season, Brown was signed as a free agent this summer and could use some time to familiarize himself with head coach Doug Collins' system.
---End of Update---
Update: Oct. 10, 2012 by Stephen Babb
Still sitting out practices as a precaution pursuant to his offseason knee treatment, Andrew Bynum's at a loss when faced with questions about the timetable for his return (via the Daily News' Bob Cooney):
"I'm not sure," Bynum said. "It's really up to the trainers and the doctors right now, but I think if all the beans were on the table right now I'd be out there. It definitely feels better. A lot of it has to do with my pain threshold. It's just to the point where I can't run up and down with the team right now."
Though the uncertainty isn't especially comforting, 76ers fans can't be too disappointed by Bynum's comments. It's especially encouraging to hear that he could be playing if he really needed to be playing.
For the time being, though, the 24-year-old is spending most of his time getting into game shape and learning how he'll fit into head coach Doug Collins' offensive system. Learning the plays is probably just as important as anything he could be doing on the floor at the moment.
---End of Update---
Thaddeus Young Suffers Ankle Sprain
Of the few players who are returning from last year's roster, forward Thaddeus Young is arguably the most important. Unfortunately, according to Philly.com's Bob Cooney, Young rolled his ankle during Friday's practice:
Holiday looks terrific in scrimmage. Thad Young sprained an ankle earlier, is day to day
— Bob Cooney (@BobCooney76) October 5, 2012
While the injury is not believed to be serious, it's not ideal to have one of your key players suffer an injury this early in the preseason. With so many new arrivals, Young is one of the few returning players who can provide some leadership and insight into how coach Doug Collins' system operates.
Bynum Running on Elliptical, Taking Things Slowly
Of primary concern to Sixers' fans is the health of center Andrew Bynum.
As he works his way back from a minor bone bruise, Bynum has been spotted doing some conditioning, according to Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com, who reports, "Bynum has been using the Elliptical machine for his conditioning, and lifting weights. He typically watches the intrasquad scrimmages and shoots around at a side basket."
It would be unfair to expect a lot from Bynum as the preseason continues, as the primary focus appears to be getting him back for the season opener on October 31st.
(1) Jrue Holiday (2) Royal Ivey (3) Maalik Wayns
Jrue Holiday is the unquestioned starter at point guard here, with two interesting names behind him. Ivey and Wayns are a nice contrasting duo of reserves – one a veteran defensive specialist – and the other a determined young rookie.
Evan Turner will function as the real backup to Holiday, but his listed position will be the small forward.
(1) Jason Richardson (2) Nick Young
Richardson and Young provide the Sixers with the shooting they've sorely missed over the past few seasons. Andre Iguodala's departure means that Evan Turner will slide up to the 3, marking the end of the Turner-Jodie Meeks platoon at shooting guard.
Richardson will start, and figures to play somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-28 minutes per game. Young, on the other hand, will assume the role previously held by Lou Williams as the team's primary scorer off the bench.
It may have just been a meaningless scrimmage in training camp, but Philly.com's Bob Cooney tweeted out some play-by-play that should have some fans grinning:
Nick Young with 3 at buzzer to win it for second team— Bob Cooney (@BobCooney76) October 5, 2012
(1) Evan Turner (2) Thaddeus Young (3) Dorell Wright
If you're looking for the Sixers' position of greatest strength, it's the small forward. Evan Turner is entering the most crucial season of his young career, and will be given every chance to produce in Iguodala's former role. Averages of 15 points, five assists and seven rebounds are not out of the question for Turner.
Young is a tweener who can play both the 3 and the 4, so expect him to be moved all over the floor this year. Young's versatility and length will make him a nice fit defensively at the power forward, but as the Philadelphia Inquirer's Marc Narducci points out, his ability to refine his shooting stroke will determine how much time he sees at small forward.
The most interesting piece here is Dorell Wright. According to Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com, Wright has stood out in the early going, and his teammates have been impressed.
While Wright's outside shooting is his strongest attribute, Moore reports that center Spencer Hawes has taken notice of some other qualities: “I’ve been very impressed,” Spencer Hawes said after Thursday’s first practice at Saint Joseph’s University. “Defensively, his athleticism and his length is definitely something we’re going to be able to take advantage of."
(1) Spencer Hawes (2) Lavoy Allen (3) Arnett Moultrie
The addition of Andrew Bynum means that Hawes has assumed a Pau Gasol-like role as the Sixers' new power forward.
Hawes will be asked to complement Bynum in the frontcourt, where his vision and shooting range will come in handy. Hawes will likely be used heavily in situations that call for high-low pick-and-rolls, while finding cutters and distributing to the team's plethora of outside shooters.
Lavoy Allen is a far superior talent to Hawes on the defensive end, and figures to grab the last spot in Collins' nine-man rotation. After Bynum, Allen is arguably the Sixers' most important big.
Rookie Arnett Moultrie will likely see his fair share of DNP-CD's in the box score, but this is more of a developmental season for him than anything else. Some time in the D-League could serve Moultrie well.
(1) Andrew Bynum (2) Kwame Brown
Assuming his rehabilitation goes according to schedule, we should expect to see Andrew Bynum back in time for the team's season opener against the Denver Nuggets.
When healthy, Bynum is the best center in the Eastern Conference, and has the potential to post monster numbers in his first season with the Sixers. Expectations are high, but Bynum will live up to them.
Kwame Brown could be called the Royal Ivey of the frontcourt. He's a defensive specialist whose playing time will be limited to situational roles. Anything Brown can contribute on the offensive end will be a bonus.
There are several acceptable responses to this question. Jrue Holiday could have been under the most self-imposed pressure after declaring that he was seeking a maximum contract extension, but those demands appear to have died down. To reap those monetary rewards, Holiday would have had to perform at an All-Star level, and then some.
Andrew Bynum is under the most pressure from fans because of the incredibly high expectations that have been set for him. Bynum may struggle to get acclimated early because of the lack of practice time with his new teammates, but he'll get going eventually.
Evan Turner has been frustrating to watch for the majority of his first two NBA seasons, but with Andre Iguodala out of his way, he has a golden opportunity to produce the way a No. 2 overall pick should.
Turner came into his own during the 2012 postseason, crashing the glass with reckless abandon while playing his fair share of point guard. Through two rounds of the 2012 playoffs, Turner averaged 11.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 34.5 minutes of work per night.
Turner is now the team's starting small forward and primary backup at point guard (h/t to CSNPhilly.com), and will have the ball in his hands plenty this season.
For Turner to validate his spot as the No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 NBA draft, he will need to show confidence and poise under pressure – particularly in crunch time.
A refined mid-range jumper and added aggression attacking the basket could do wonders for Turner's game in a critical third season.
Free-throws aren't as sexy as three-pointers, but they win games. The Sixers were one of the league's worst teams shooting from the charity stripe last season, and were the least efficient team in the entire NBA at getting to the line.
Averaging a league-worst 18.2 free-throw attempts per game last season, the Sixers were seemingly allergic to driving the lane and initiating contact. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will be called upon to get to the basket more this season, but the real key to improved free-throw shooting will be Andrew Bynum.
Bynum got to the line 5.6 times per game last season (nearly one-third of the Sixers' per-game output), and converted on just under 70 percent of those attempts. While Bynum's shooting percentage from the line isn't spectacular, it's the volume at which he gets to the line that will be key to improved numbers.
For a team that finished 21st in the NBA in free-throw percentage last season (74.2 percent), additions like Nick Young and Jason Richardson will be huge when it comes to knocking down freebies.
Win-Loss Prediction: 47-35 (Fifth Seed in Eastern Conference)
The Philadelphia 76ers have improved their standing in the East immensely from where it was just a few short months ago.
After capturing the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference last season, it's reasonable to expect that the Sixers will compete for an Atlantic division title. However, given the caliber of teams they will be going up against in the Atlantic, it feels premature to anoint the Sixers preseason favorites.
A 47-35 finish could put the Sixers firmly in the fifth seed, but the quality of teams in the East is such that one or two wins could separate seeds No. 4-7.
How 2012-2013 Season Ends
What this season will boil down to is three key things: 1) Andrew Bynum's health, 2) Jrue Holiday's development into a more conventional point guard and 3) Evan Turner's evolution into an aggressive point-forward.
If Bynum stays healthy and the team's young core rises to the occasion the Sixers will advance to the Conference Finals. However, that's as far as they will get. There's no beating the Heat, no matter how much more depth the Sixers have in the frontcourt.
When we look back on the 2012-13 season, it will likely be seen as the starting point of a new, prosperous era of Philadelphia 76er basketball.
Points-Per-Game Leader: Andrew Bynum – 20.8 PPG
Bynum had his coming out party in Los Angeles last season to the tune of 18.7 points per game – as his team's third option.
Now that he'll be relied on to score like a superstar, there's no reason Bynum shouldn't pour in more than 20 points per night. With one of the most refined offensive post games in the NBA, Bynum will showcase the skills that have made him one of the most prized centers in the game.
Although he'll see his fair share of double-teams, Bynum will prove he has what it takes to carry a team on the offensive end.
Assists-Per-Game Leader: Jrue Holiday – 6.6
Andre Iguodala led the Sixers in assists per game during the 2011-12 campaign with 5.5, but Jrue Holiday should take on the role of primary dime dropper this year.
Holiday averaged a meager 4.5 assists per night last season, and that number only increased marginally to 5.2 in the postseason.
With Bynum, Jason Richardson, Nick Young and Dorell Wright all in tow, it would be nearly impossible for Holiday's numbers not to improve. The raw scoring potential of this roster is such that Holiday could average around eight assists a night if all goes well.
Don't be surprised if Evan Turner challenges Holiday for the team lead – averaging somewhere in the neighborhood of five assists per contest.
Rebounds-Per-Game Leader: Andrew Bynum – 12.5
The Sixers have plenty of frontcourt depth, but that doesn't mean they have many capable rebounders behind Andrew Bynum.
Spencer Hawes is notorious for being soft on the boards – and is at a clear disadvantage when he goes up against more physically imposing big men.
Bynum won't be fighting with many of his teammates for boards on the offensive or defensive end, so you can expect him to improve upon his impressive total (11.8 per game) from last season.
How Andrew Bynum Performs Now That He's 'The Man'
The Sixers have vaulted themselves from perpetual mediocrity into contenders for a division title because of one guy – Andrew Bynum.
Your prototypical Sixers team over the past five years has been comprised of scrappy role players, aggressive defenders and a budding youngster or two, but the pieces never properly fell into place.
Now with Bynum and a beautiful contrast of youth and experience, the Sixers' front office has assembled a roster that is primed to compete with the conference's elite.
All of the talk will center around Bynum – and rightfully so. Bynum is lauded as the league's best offensive center – and depending on who you listen to – has already taken over Dwight Howard as the league's premier big man.
How Bynum responds to the spotlight will be huge, but he proved during his tenure with the Lakers that he's not phased by great expectations.
Bynum's immaturity masked some phenomenal play last season, but his talent will ultimately triumph over any petty grievances he has as he enters his first season in Philadelphia.
Expect averages of more than 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, a second consecutive All-Star selection and plenty of wins throughout Bynum's inaugural season.