4 Philadelphia 76ers Who Are Stepping Up While Andrew Bynum Is Injured
Okay, maybe not his shoes because those things have to be pretty large, but there are players who are playing well in his absence.
They are stepping up and contributing in areas where Bynum's lack of attendance hurts the team.
Even though we're only two games into the season, it's clear that there are some players who will be valuable for the Sixers all year.
Let's take a look at four players who have stepped up while Bynum recovers from his injury.
Jrue Holiday, PG
The fourth-year point guard is averaging 20.5 points and nine assists per game. He's been able to get to the hoop at will, but has also come into the season with a good deep ball.
In Philly's second game of the year against the New York Knicks, Holiday went 5-6 from the three-point line.
This is coming from a guy who only averages 0.9 three-point makes a game.
His confidence is what's been most impressive, though. It's as if he knows that the Sixers need him to step up, and that he is welcoming it with open arms.
Dan Favale, Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, wrote an article about why Holiday deserves a big contract extension. He's since gotten that extension, and here were Favale's reasons why it made sense:
Which leaves the Sixers in need of a leader, both statistically and emotionally. A leader who can inspire them to play postseason-caliber basketball in Bynum's absence. A leader who has historically stepped up his performance when the situation called for it.
A leader who is up for a contract extension this season.
A leader who deserves to get paid like a star, because he is one.
His leadership is crucial toward Philadelphia's success. If the Sixers are going to want to have a good record while Bynum is gone, then the most important player on the floor will end up being Jrue Holiday.
So far, he's looked like he's going to do everything he can to put Philly in the best possible position to win games.
You can't ask for much more than that.
Dorell Wright, SF
Dorell Wright makes this list because of how he's filled in on the boards. He's grabbing rebounds at an amazing rate.
With a career 4.2 rebounds per game, Wright had a seven- and nine-rebound game in the Sixers' first two games.
Andrew Bynum averaged 11.8 rebounds per game last season, and his absence means that there are almost 12 rebounds up for grabs. If you're a Philadelphia fan, then you want the Sixers to be the ones getting the majority of those 12 boards.
Another impressive aspect is that he's coming off the bench and rebounding so well. There isn't much height on the floor right now so being able to grab boards with the second unit is very useful.
Chances are good that Wright won't keep his rebounding numbers this high for too long, but he's doing it while Bynum's out and that couldn't be more important for Philadelphia.
Thaddeus Young, SF/PF
It's not always easy to see how somebody affects a game unless they put up big numbers. If you haven't been watching closely, then you've probably missed Thaddeus Young's strong start.
Philadelphia's loss to the Knicks was by 16 points. Still though, the Sixers were only minus-one with Young on the floor for the game. He had Philadelphia's best plus/minus.
Speaking of plus/minus, he's actually leading the team with a plus-17 performance through two games. That's impressive considering that they've won a game by eight and lost a game by 16.
That means that Philadelphia's plus/minus is minus-eight.
Having such a high plus/minus means that a player is generally doing the little things to win. Stuff like playing help-side defense, making the extra pass on offense or defending the other team's best player.
Young has actually taken up the challenge of guarding the opposing team's best player because of the absence of Andre Iguodala. (Iguodala guarded that man for the Sixers last year.)
John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News wrote about Young stepping up and defending the opposing team's No. 1 threat:
There are a lot of changing roles on this team, and one of the biggest may be what occurred on Sunday with forward Thaddeus Young having to guard [Carmelo] Anthony.
For the longest time, guarding any opposing No. 1 option in the 6'7" to 6'9" range fell to Iguodala. He forged a nice reputation of being able to do a quality job against some of the most electric offensive players in the game...Athletically, Young, 6'8" and 235 pounds, probably was the best option the Sixers had.
Carmelo Anthony still had a good game for the Knicks, but Young is giving all of his effort out there.
Bynum is not going to be guarding players like Anthony, but he will be in position to stop them when they get to the rim.
Young is taking these guys on and keeping the Sixers in the game without Bynum's presence under the hoop. He couldn't be doing much more to put Philadelphia into positive situations on the floor.
Spencer Hawes, C
Spencer Hawes is coming off the bench and playing like a top-level role player.
That's all that Philly can ask of him when it comes to Bynum.
Hawes came out of the gate with a crazy 16-point, 12-rebound performance against the Denver Nuggets. It might also be important to point out his five blocked shots.
His numbers were less impressive against the Knicks in game No. 2. Before you go and criticize his eight points and five rebounds, it's important to recognize that he only played for 15 minutes and picked up four fouls in that time frame.
Sure, his performance against the Knicks wasn't great, but he has a tough hole to fill. At 7'1", he's the Sixers' tallest player and up until this point, his game has proven that.
There are a number of things that you're going to get when Bynum is on the floor.
You'll get great post play, strong interior defense and an occasional outburst. Most importantly, maybe even a three-pointer or two. (Yes, that was a joke.)
Of course they're not the same player, but there are a number of similarities between Bynum and Hawes.
Hawes isn't going to ever be close to the post player that Bynum is. He will bring perimeter shooting to the equation, though. As demonstrated by going 2-3 from three-point range against the Nuggets.
His interior defense is also pretty close to Bynum's. Having a thinner frame doesn't help Hawes out, but his long arms make up for his lack of weight.
And let's not forget about all of the crazy on-court antics that Hawes brings to the floor. In reality, if you look closely, it appears as though he is a shy person on the court. It's difficult to think of another player with such an introverted personality while playing.
At the moment, Hawes is stepping up in Bynum's absence and bringing as much of a "big man's" game as he can. He is certainly not his season-long replacement, but Hawes' presence is definitely helping to slow down the effects of Bynum being gone.