How Philadelphia 76ers Plans Change Depending on Andrew Bynum's Availability

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2012

Nov 16, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum (33) during the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at the Wachovia Center. The Sixers defeated the Jazz 99-93. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The future is almost here for the Philadelphia 76ers, as they await news on Andrew Bynum and his two bum knees. After they find out what's going on, they can finally start making decisions for the future.

Bynum is supposed to get his knees checked out on the 20th, at which point the doctors will give a definitive answer as to whether his knees are healing or not.

It's a line in the sand for the 76ers. If he's healing, then they can move forward, if not, then they can just continue to push back his already-delayed debut.

For the most part Bynum seems to be healing—he says himself that his knees are starting to feel better and that the right knee is pain free. However, the doctors are going to have the final say, giving the 76ers a definite answer to their questions about his health and availability.

It's been a long time coming, and even if it's bad news on Thursday, at least it's some news.

So, as we anticipate the news on Bynum's future, how will it all affect the Philadelphia 76ers?

Bynum being cleared to practice is obviously the ideal situation, so if that happens the Sixers can start looking forward to the playoffs.

If they can find a way to package a few pieces and trade for a big guy who can come off the bench to rebound and put up a few efficient points, then that's definitely in play. Otherwise, this team will stand pat.

Of course, there's always the possibility that Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen become more effective with less playing time. They'll be able to expend more energy in a shorter period of time, which might improve their output.

Bynum's presence fixes so many of this team's problems. They Sixers lack an offensive force inside who can constantly be a scoring threat. That's exactly what they get with Bynum.

As for the rest of the team and their fit with Bynum, things change dramatically when he's inserted into the lineup.

Jason Richardson can go to being a spot-up shooter in the corner. Jrue Holiday can be less of a penetrator and run the offense more. Evan Turner can continue in his current role, but he can work even more on his slashing and mid-range game.

It's hard to say how good they will be if and when Bynum emerges, but we can expect Doug Collins to work the big center into the rotation with the hope that he eventually finds the flow of the offense.

Adding one of the best big men in the league to their lineup is going to make the Sixers a dangerous team in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Can they come together well enough to pull off an upset and win their way to the Eastern Conference Finals? Probably not, but they can give people some problems along the way.

If the news regarding Bynum's knees is bad, then there's really nothing to talk about.

Should Bynum come out of his appointment needing a few more weeks of rest, then the Sixers can keep on trucking, just as they've been doing for the first six weeks of the season.

However, if it seems he's going to need surgery, then things start to get interesting.

Most likely that will mean the end of Bynum's time in Philadelphia. It's unlikely the team would want to invest a huge sum of money in a guy who has yet to play a game for them.

They'll retain him if some sort of discount is on the table, but if he goes for a maximum (or even a near-maximum) contract offered by another team, expect Philadelphia to send him on his way.

With that, it's time for the 76ers to invest in the future of the team. Jrue Holiday officially has the keys, and he, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young become the focus of this team for the next few seasons.

Sure, losing Bynum would mean they threw away Moe Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, but it also means they have cap space available this summer, rather than waiting for Andre Iguodala's contract to expire after next season.

If they continue to struggle and the playoffs start to shrink from view, everyone but Holiday, Turner and Young will be on the trading block, including rookie Arnett Moultrie.

With or without Bynum, this team has a strong young core. Throw in trade assets and cap space and this team won't be down for long.