GM Tony DiLeo and the Philadelphia 76ers' front office have some tough decisions to make over the next year concerning the futures of the team's three most promising players in Andrew Bynum, Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.
Andrew Bynum was the Sixers' marquee acquisition of the offseason and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Jrue Holiday, the starting point guard, is a restricted free agent at the end of this season and will draw a lot of interest from teams around the league. Evan Turner, the number two overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2012-2013 season.
Obviously, the Sixers would like to keep all three players, but it will likely cost them most of their cap space for the next three to five years.
Andrew Bynum has had a rough start to his Sixers' career, as he has been sidelined because of an offseason knee surgery. However, when he returns he will be the first star to put on a Sixers jersey since Allen Iverson.
Bynum has always had the talent to be one of the best centers in the NBA, but before last season he never played up to that potential. Last season Bynum proved to the rest of the league that he is the second best center in the league.
The stats also backup the opinion that Andrew Bynum is the second best center in the NBA. Bynum recorded a 23.01 player efficiency rating, or PER, good for second in the league behind Dwight Howard. Bynum also averaged 11.8 rebounds per game, good for second among centers.
Extending Bynum is an obvious decision for the Sixers, and they must try to get it done as soon as possible. Bynum is just 24 years old and will be good for a long time, as long as his knees hold up. Bynum deserves a maximum deal, and the Sixers must give that to him. The question is not whether the Sixers would give Bynum an extension, but rather if Bynum wants to stay in Philadelphia.
If you had to pick one player to let leave in free agency, who would it be?
Jrue Holiday is a different story.
The Sixers would love to bring Holiday back, at the right price. However, there are reports that say Holiday's agent, Tony Dutt, is asking the Sixers to give Holiday a maximum deal. This would be devastating to the franchise for the next five years.
Holiday has not proved that he can be more than an average starting point guard. The lack of his potential turning into production has made giving Holiday a max deal preposterous. If the Sixers are smart they will wait until midway through this season to discuss an extension. This way not only will the Sixers be able to see Holiday's improvement, but they will also see how Holiday plays alongside Andrew Bynum.
Jrue should make significant steps this season, and if he does the Sixers must extend him. Holiday needs to be more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor, and get to the free throw line more often. Holiday posted just a .14 free throw rate last season. Holiday must improve on that if he wants to become an elite point guard.
Holiday also took too high of a percentage of his shoots from 16 to 23 feet. These shots can be some of the worst shots in basketball, as players might as well take a few steps back and attempt a three pointer. Holiday averaged 3.6 attempts per game from 16 to 23 feet and only shot 40 percent from that range. Comparatively, Holiday shot 38 percent from three, so if he just takes more threes he should improve mightily.
If Holiday can improve on those areas of his game, he will without question be re-signed by the 76ers. However, giving Holiday a maximum contract is not in the best interest of the Sixers, as they will be stuck in a similar situation as when they signed Elton Brand. If the Sixers sign Holiday to a maximum deal, they will be set back for the next five years.
Extending Evan Turner is still a tough call.
The Sixers picked up the fourth year option on Evan Turner's rookie contract. However, at the end of the 2012-2013 season Evan Turner will be a restricted free agent.
Turner has shown improvement over the past two seasons, but is still not living up to expectations. Turner posted just a 12.68 PER last season, which is not very good for a starting shooting guard. However, he recorded a 12.2 rebounding rate, which was the best in the NBA among shooting guards. Turner is a versatile player who can rebound, pass, and score effectively. However, he needs to prove that he can do it on a more consistent basis.
Therefore, the 76ers front office should wait for this upcoming offseason to think about an extension. If Turner proves that he has improved since last season, the Sixers must re-sign him. On the other hand, if Turner fails to show any improvement the Sixers should only re-sign him if he will accept a mid-level exception contract (around $5 million per year).
In conclusion, the 76ers should attempt to re-sign all three of these players, but only at the right price. The Sixers will be a good team this season, but in order to become a great team the Sixers must add a few pieces. The new contracts of these three players will shape the way the team is built for the next five years.