The Philadelphia 76ers dramatically remade their roster this summer, which is somewhat of a surprise after coming within one game of making the Eastern Conference Finals this past spring.
After falling to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the ECF, the Sixers decided to blow things up and threw their hat into the Dwight Howard trade bonanza. They emerged from the mayhem with Andrew Bynum on their roster, a legitimate big man and now the best center in the conference.
All it cost was longtime team leader, Andre Iguodala—who is now with the Denver Nuggets—and a first-round pick.
This cunning maneuver by team president Rod Thorn now has Philly positioned to make another run to the postseason and puts his team in a better situation to advance through it without needing as much luck (i.e. the season-ending injury to Chicago Bulls superstar Derrick Rose in Game 1 of the opening round).
Will the Sixers be able to repeat their regular-season success and earn a top seed in the playoffs? Will Bynum play with an edge that makes him the undoubtedly premiere big man in the East? Does this team have what it takes to challenge the Miami Heat for the right to go to the Finals?
Read on to find some answers to those questions and more in the 2012-13 Philadelphia 76ers season preview.
Andrew Bynum (Trade with Los Angeles Lakers)
Jason Richardson (Trade with Orlando Magic)
Dorell Wright (Trade with Golden State)
Nick Young (Free Agency)
Kwame Brown (Free Agency)
Arnett Moultrie (Draft)
Clearly, Bynum is the biggest superstar to wind up in Philly basketball since Allen Iverson was drafted back in 1996.
The center has seven years in the NBA under his belt, along with two championship rings and an All-Star starting nod, and he’s going to be just 25 years old when the season begins.
The Sixers are counting on him to lead them to new heights, and it remains to be seen if he’ll answer the call. Regardless, he’s a huge upgrade of Kwame Brown, a player that the team signed less than a month before the DH12 deal went down to be the starting center.
He’s much better served as a backup, and that is a role the defensively superior, but offensively lacking big will now play.
Speaking of the Howard trade, J-Rich ended up in Philadelphia as part of the player-swapping and projects to be the starting SG. He’s getting up there in years, but the talented man out of Michigan State still has something left in the tank and is a major upgrade over Jodie Meeks, who signed with the Lakers this summer as a free agent.
Philly added two quality free agents in Dorell Wright, a three-point marksman with great length at the 3, and Nick Young, a relentless gunner that could be an amazing sixth man when this team needs instant offense off the bench.
The team originally drafted Moe Harkless with the No. 15 pick, but swapped him to the Magic. However, the Sixers did pick up a quality rookie in Arnett Moultrie, who was traded to the city by the Miami Heat (No. 27 overall) for a future first-rounder.
Moultrie’s a raw youngster, but many analysts had him going in the lottery and he could be quite a surprise.
Andre Iguodala (Trade with Denver Nuggets)
Nikola Vucevic (Trade with Orlando Magic)
Jodie Meeks (Free Agency)
Elton Brand (Amnesty)
Iggy is the biggest loss the 76ers suffered this summer, but it was a necessary departure in order to make this team better. He’s fresh off an Olympic gold medal run with Team USA in the London Games, and will bring his premiere defense to a team that doesn’t need him to shoulder the offensive load—the Denver Nuggets.
Vucevic was sent packing to the Magic Kingdom to clear space and actually has a chance to start at center for Orlando. He put together a solid rookie campaign last year, scoring 5.5 points and grabbing 4.8 rebounds to go along with his 7’0”, 240-pound frame.
Meeks, who started 50 games in the lockout-shortened season at the 2, is now a Laker, electing to head west rather than try to renegotiate a deal with the 76ers.
Finally Elton Brand, signed in the summer of 2008 to be a superstar, was cut with one year, $18.2 million left on his contract. The Sixers used the amnesty clause, meaning he will still be paid, but it will not reflect against their salary cap. He signed a one-year deal with the Mavericks, a bittersweet end to his tumultuous tenure in Philadelphia.
Lavoy Allen/Arnett Moultrie
The 76ers starting five is a solid group that has a chance to compete on a nightly basis with any team in the league.
At the 1, Jrue Holiday will assume point guard duties, with the versatile Evan Turner technically backing him up—although the former Buckeye is expected to start at the 3. It’s up to coach Doug Collins to figure out how to massage the minutes to make this work, as reserve PG Royal Ivey should only be used in emergency or blowout situations.
At SG, J-Rich gets the nod with Nick Young likely being the first off the bench to spell the 31-year-old veteran. Both players are explosive with long-range capabilities, so the 76ers should always have a deep threat on the floor.
Turner will begin games at the 3, floating around to different guard positions when Wright comes in off the pine. Each of these swingmen has the ability to create matchup nightmares on both ends of the floor, and they are two of the more unique talents on the roster.
Hawes and Young are two incumbent big men that have a chance to make a difference.
Hawes had a career year in 2011-12, and seemed to get more aggressive with his rebounding and scoring. However, Young brings three-point range, defense and rebounding ability to the table and is likely going to get the nod as a starter.
Both players can and will be critical members of the rotation.
The pivot position is a great sight to see for 76ers fans, as Bynum is now locked in as a starter and should be an absolute force down low—especially against the size-starved East. Brown, a player that can man up and play defense with the best in the league, will spell at center.
Philly’s greatest strength lies in Bynum. He’s the focal point of this franchise and will be a matchup nightmare for almost every team in every game the 76ers play.
Coach Collins has the ability to craft an offense around this supremely talented young man and has the pieces to wreak havoc upon the enemy by bombarding from beyond the arc and pounding the rock inside with his new center.
If he can design an attack that showcases Bynum and has the floor stretched by marksmen like Holiday, Young, Richardson and Wright, this team is going to be a serious contender in the East.
However, there are some drawbacks on this roster as it is currently built, and we’ll get to them on the next slide.
When Jrue Holiday is the primary ball-handler for a team, there is cause for concern.
While we don’t doubt the 22-year-old’s skills, he’s yet to prove he’s a franchise distributor. The 6’4” guard out of UCLA has been more of a scorer during his three-year career, averaging 13.5 points compared to just 5.0 assists and 2.3 turnovers.
He’s got to prove he can make an offense go that will not focus on him creating scoring opportunities for himself, but rather his teammates—notably Bynum. He has to work on entry passing and finding spot-up shooters surrounding the perimeter.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see the 76ers gun for an in-season trade or seek a veteran buyout casualty to help with distribution.
Coach Collins is also a bit worrisome, as his controlling mannerisms have been an affront to his players in the past, a large reason why he’s never made it more than three seasons in one location as a head coach.
He’s been able to turn directionless teams around quickly, but he’s never been good with contenders and has only been as far as the semifinals during his career (1988 CHI, 2012 PHI).
We’ll see if things change this year, but odds are there are going to be some locker-room problems between Collins and some of his players.
If we were gamblers, the smart money would be on Young and Bynum clashing with the coach first.
All eyes will be on Bynum and his impact on the new franchise—including how he meshes with his teammates, how he handles coach Collins and the size of the chip on his shoulder after the Lakers ditched him for Howard.
It’s also worth noting how Turner improves after finally making a leap forward in the midst of last season. He’s going into his third year as a professional, a crucial time for development and a season that could determine whether he is a role player or star in this league.
Holiday’s emergence as a distributor and three-point shooter is something that Sixers fans should be monitoring, as the team’s success will be directly tied to how well he manages the ball and how unselfish he is with it.
It’s going to be an exciting season in Philadelphia, and 76ers fans should be looking forward to every game.
With Bynum in the middle, this franchise now has goals that match its newest center’s stature—massive.
Remember, the 76ers were a single game away from meeting the Heat in the ECF, but faltered to an aging Celtics team—their main opposition in the Atlantic Division this year.
Now they have to not only get back to the Eastern Semis, but also overcome and foray into the conference finals for this year to be a success.
That’s certainly doable, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work and effort from top to bottom. Each player needs to step up, accept responsibility and play his hardest on a nightly basis. There can’t be feuds with Collins or guys taking nights off, as every game is important.
Don’t sleep on the Sixers making some noise in the playoffs after a solid regular season.
The nightmare scenario for Philly involves coach Collins and his players fighting, the head man getting dismissed in the middle of the season and the team imploding in the midst of its fight to make the postseason.
There’s also the possibility that Holiday isn’t cut out to be the starting PG for the squad, Turner doesn’t evolve past his mild leap forward in 2011-12 and Hawes can’t handle guarding power forwards now that his position has switched.
Bynum is also notoriously injury-prone, having missed numerous games throughout his career for various ailments—including multiple knee problems, a strained Achilles and torn meniscus.
If he goes down with another leg or knee problem—something many big men unfortunately deal with in the NBA—it’s going to be sayonara to the 76ers’ chances to be a force in the postseason.
45-37, fourth place in Atlantic Division, seventh seed in Eastern Conference
Regardless, this is good enough for a postseason spot in the bottom of the East, but it likely has them facing a tough Indiana Pacers team in the first round.
Unfortunately, Indiana has just the guy to contain Bynum in 7’2” Roy Hibbert, and the two should play to a relative stalemate in any postseason meeting. The rest of the Pacers are just too deep and talented for this young and inexperienced Sixers squad to handle.
We’re projecting a tough, seven-game slugfest, but a first-round exit for Philly this year. The team is going to show a lot of improvement over the course of the year and should make it much deeper with a re-tooled and more dangerous unit in 2013-14.