It may finally be time to add “articles about Andrew Bynum’s return” to death and taxes among the list of inevitabilities.
Although the “if” has not officially turned into a “when” for his debut with the Philadelphia 76ers, Bynum continues to have his sights set on it happening shortly after the All-Star break.
And although the Sixers’ brass continues to take a cautious approach, the Philly fans —and the coach alike—have begun to imagine what life with Man of 1,000 hairstyles will look like. “I can't wait for that moment he says, 'Coach, I'm ready to go. Put me out there. Let's play,'” (coach Doug Collins, h/t timesherald.com)
Well, let me put it another way: They’ve re-begun to imagine. Mind you, it’s been about six months since his acquisition, so speculation of what the lineup would look like with him in it has played out for a while. (Fitting that Groundhog Day just recently passed.)
As the waiting continues, and players continue to drop like flies, the lineup questions remain. However, before all the chaos and confusion ensued, the initial starting ensemble, fueled by Collins’ interest in experimenting with Spencer Hawes at the “4,” may have consisted of the following:
Jrue Holiday —PG
The justification for this was reasonable. First, Collins was hoping, with Hawes’ ability to stretch the floor and make crisp passes, he could recreate something like this:
Assuming Holiday and Turner remain in the lineup, who should join them as starters when Bynum returns?
Secondly, with Andre Iguodala out of the picture, Evan Turner was finally going to get the chance at consistent minutes and prove once and for all if he was worthy of being a No. 2 overall draft pick.
Lastly, Richardson had been a starter his entire career and Holiday, of course, was a no-brainer.
Without Bynum, Turner has been equal parts dazzling and dumbfounding. J-Rich was never completely healthy and now his season—and perhaps his career—may be over. Hawes sputtered as a reserve but has had a bit of a revival lately since replacing Lavoy Allen as the starting center. And Holiday, of course, has been the best story of all, blossoming into an elite point guard.
Another variation, posed by a Bleacher Report colleague shortly after Bynum’s acquisition, featured the following:
This would be quite intriguing on a couple levels. The Sixers, who have struggled with size issues for years, would all of a sudden have one of the biggest lineups in the league, with a median height of 6’9’’. It also gives Turner a better chance to produce on the offensive side, as he should get better looks against smaller defenders.
The concern would be the unknown of Hawes and Wright logging in enough meaningful minutes. Although he’s always played smaller than his height, there still may be a learning curve for Hawes playing power forward and staying out of Bynum’s way in the post.
As for Wright, it’s been a disappointing first season in red, white and blue so far, shooting below 38 percent from the field—unacceptable for someone brought in for his shooting ability. But perhaps more consistent minutes will help him find his rhythm.
In neither of the aforementioned lineup scenarios was Thaddeus Young mentioned, even though he’s unquestionably been the team’s second-best player all season and is arguably having a career year as a starting power forward.
First of all, Thad has joined J-Rich and Bynum in the infirmary and won’t be back until the end of this month at the earliest. Secondly, heading into the year, the versatile Young had established himself as one of the better reserves in the league, infusing a 2012 second unit known as “The Night Shift” with nightly energy.
Inputting Young—capable but undersized at the 4—into the small-forward spot would give the team another high-percentage shooter to complement Bynum. But it also significantly depletes the bench, leaving them with Wright, an inconsistent Nick Young and Allen first off the pine.
Best bet? Let Thad, the quintessential team player, return as the sixth man, with the comfort of knowing he can slip back into either forward spot seamlessly if Wright slips or the Hawes experiment fails.
Regardless of how the lineup changes, I think we can all agree that we’d love for this to be the last “what-if” Bynum column and the precursor to the first “what-now” piece.