Usually an offseason that involves the importation of a franchise centerpiece like Andrew Bynum gets at least a passing grade, but for the Philadelphia 76ers the addition of Bynum coincided with a handful of other questionable decisions, meaning the Sixers' summer report card currently sports a mark of "incomplete."
While it might sound like a cop out, there's presently no way to know how the Sixers' series of transactions will work out. Getting Bynum was great, but in acquiring the big man the Sixers also completely reformed a roster that had some success last season—especially on the defensive end.
Philadelphia, which played fantastic defense all season and set an NBA record for lowest turnover rate, simply won't be able to duplicate its greatest strengths with its new roster. Andre Iguodala, probably the best wing defender in the NBA, is gone. Jason Richardson, whose numbers have been in decline for five consecutive years, figures to take up much of Iguodala's scoring slack. J-Rich might produce enough on offense to mask the absence of Iguodala, but he absolutely cannot defend like the departed Sixer.
In addition to that, the Sixers amnestied the aging, but still very effective Elton Brand. So as it stands now, Evan Turner is the only player in Philadelphia's rotation who could be accurately referred to as a good defender. Bynum's fine as a post defender, Thaddeus Young will do well against the pick-and-roll off the bench and Jrue Holiday is improving. But there's no question Philly won't be able to hang its hat on elite defense this season.
If that were the only problem with the newly-constructed roster, the Sixers would still be in decent shape. But defense wasn't the only area in which the Sixers took a potential hit.
By letting Lou Williams walk, the Sixers lost their best pure scorer and most efficient player overall. Williams, who posted a team-high 20.22 PER last season while coming off the bench is now an Atlanta Hawk, leaving Philadelphia with a huge scoring void.
Although the Sixers hope Nick Young can fill Williams' spot, there's simply no reason to believe he'll be anything more than a sub-par, inefficient replacement. Oh, and the Brand-Williams-Young series of moves actually hurt the Sixers' pocketbook, too. Here's John Hollinger's take on the debacle:
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This move was so bad on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. The Sixers got a sudden yen for Nick Young—no, I don't know why either—and decided they had to have him...This actually cost the Sixers a bit of money rather than saving it, as they still owe Brand $16 million for this season after his amnesty auction only shaved $2.1 million of the price, and they still had to pay for a replacement. All so they could pay Young more money than Atlanta paid Williams.
Laid out like that, it's hard to fathom how the Sixers could make such an epic blunder. It makes the team on the floor worse while costing the franchise more money.
Among Philly's other questionable moves was the decision to bring Lavoy Allen back for $3 million per year—a deal that required the Sixers to use part of their mid-level exception. That decision, which triggered the use of the mid-level on a fringe rotation player, is what ultimately led to the ill-advised—and ultimately failed—attempt to shed money by letting Brand and Williams walk.
After all these moves, the Sixers' roster isn't capable of playing the way they did last season, when Philadelphia had the NBA's fifth-best point differential and should, statistically, have won far more than 35 games.
But the team is still relatively young, and it has something only a couple of other NBA squads do: a star-quality center in his prime.
The Sixers swung big and got Andrew Bynum, but surrounded that solid move with a number of head-scratching personnel decisions. Had last year's team remained intact, another playoff berth would have been highly likely. Now, there's far more uncertainty surrounding the team. If Bynum's knees continue to bother him, the Sixers are suddenly staring down a lottery pick.
Ultimately, a healthy Bynum and some improved play from Philly's youngsters could mean the team's future ceiling is actually higher—but that would require virtually everything to break right. Realistically, the Sixers—now full of question marks and forced to invent a new style on the fly—may find themselves struggling to make the postseason at all.