The Philadelphia 76ers entered the 2012-13 regular season with high hopes, extreme optimism and playoff aspirations.
Unfortunately, things didn't quite go according to plan.
After ending the year with a record of 34-48 and no postseason appearance, the 76ers now head towards an offseason filled with uncertainties and "what ifs."
Despite finishing 14 games under .500, Philadelphia was only four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As bad as things were, this team was right there in the thick of things fighting for its postseason life.
Several question marks linger over this franchise as we move towards the summer months. The answers to those questions will go a long way in determining where this team will find itself in the next three to five years.
Was this past season just a write-off, or are there deeper issues that need to be addressed?
All stats/numbers courtesy of Yahoo! Sports, Basketball-Reference and HoopData.
The second pick in the NBA draft hasn't been kind to many teams over the last decade.
Only two players (Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge) who were selected second overall have made an All-Star team since 2002.
Evan Turner joins a list of players that includes Marvin Williams, Michael Beasley and Hasheem Thabeet who have yet to validate their high draft picks.
Turner has shown a slight improvement in each of his three seasons, but he has yet to truly live up to the investment that comes with being drafted so early.
In 2012-13, Turner put up career-highs in points (13.3), rebounds (6.3), assists (4.3) and steals (0.9). His shooting percentages left a lot to be desired (41.9 percent from the field), but this past season was certainly his best since entering the league in 2010.
He's set to become a restricted free agent at the end of next season, making $6.7 million in the final year of his contract.
Unless he makes huge strides in 2013-14, the odds of Philadelphia re-signing him to a long-term contract are slim to none. His inconsistent play and questionable attitude are huge red flags.
Now may be the time for the 76ers to trade Turner while his value is at its highest.
A fresh start may be best for both parties.
Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Royal Ivey, Damien Wilkins and Dorell Wright all saw starts at shooting guard this past season. None of those players averaged any more than 10.6 points per game. Only Richardson is under contract for next year, as Wilkins, Wright, Ivey and Young will become unrestricted free agents this summer.
If the 76ers are serious about improving and possibly contending in 2013-14, then they are going to need a more viable scoring option at the two spot.
Philadelphia was one of the worst offensive teams in the league last year, averaging a miniscule 93.2 points per game. They need scoring and they need it fast.
Cue J.R. Smith.
Smith was named the 2012-13 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, averaging 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists off the bench for the New York Knicks.
He's likely to leave the Knicks to test the free-agent waters, as he will make a lot more money on the open market than if he were to pick up his player option of $2.9 million.
Smith would be the perfect running mate to pair up with All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday in the backcourt. Not only is he instant offense, but he possesses a clutch factor to his game that no one on the 76ers roster really has.
Smith averaged 1.6 points in situations where the Knicks were either tied or behind in the final five minutes of games. Holiday was the leader for the 76ers in that department at 1.3 (numbers courtesy of NBA.com). Smith also has two buzzer-beater game-winners to his credit during the season as well.
As productive as Smith has been in a reserve role over his career, Philadelphia can present him the opportunity to have a larger role as a full-time starter on a young and hungry team.
With Doug Collins stepping down as head coach, new team president Sam Hinkie is working hard towards finding his replacement.
Current assistant coach Michael Curry could be the man for the job.
Curry has been with the team for the past four seasons. He's already established relationships with all of the players, so it would certainly be an easy transition from assistant to head coach if the opportunity presented itself.
Jrue Holiday endorsed Curry for the position earlier this month in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer:
I've known him for the last three years. He's somebody I trust, and somebody I'd love as a head coach. I think he was the glue to our team last year. Obviously we were defensive-based, which is big for us. That was our calling card, and Mike was responsible for that.
If management is looking to bring on an outside hire, then assistant coach Brian Shaw of the Indiana Pacers is someone the 76ers should keep a close eye on.
Shaw has been the right-hand man for esteemed head coaches Phil Jackson and Frank Vogel, whom he's currently coaching alongside in the Eastern Conference finals. He's interviewed for several jobs in the past but has yet to be given the full reins as a head coach in his own right.
He has a tremendous knowledge for the game and what it takes to win, having won championships as both a player and assistant. That winning mentality is something this franchise could use a lot more of.
Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga and Mason Plumlee of Duke are two players that Philadelphia could realistically acquire with their 11th overall pick.
Olynyk would seem like the safer choice. He's younger and has more upside than Plumlee, who could easily see himself fall in the draft after having stayed the full four years at Duke.
The Bulldogs' early exit from the March Madness tournament shouldn't hurt Olynyk's stock, as he averaged a stellar 23.5 points and 9.5 rebounds over their two games. During the regular season, Olynyk averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds.
The 76ers' depth in their frontcourt is extremely shallow, especially with Andrew Bynum being on the shelf and possibly leaving in free agency. Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and Arnett Moultrie are all they have left.
At the very least, Olynyk would provide some insurance at the 4 and 5 spots, which would become all the more important if Bynum never ends up playing for the team. He's not going to blow anyone away with his athleticism, but he has a solid enough post game that should translate well at the pro level.
If Olynyk is off the board when Philadelphia makes their selection, then Plumlee, Cody Zeller of Indiana (if available) or Alex Len of Maryland would be great picks as well.
The 76ers took a major gamble when they traded for star center Andrew Bynum back in August of last year. His history with injuries was well-documented, yet management firmly believed that he would be a huge piece to the puzzle in vaulting this team up the standings in the Eastern Conference.
Well, at least in Year 1, that didn't happen. Bynum missed the entire season due to issues with both of his knees.
He's set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, so there's a possibility that Bynum could leave the team without ever having played a game in a 76ers uniform.
The 76ers gained his Bird rights by trading for him in the summer of 2012, meaning they can now exceed the salary cap if they do in fact choose to re-sign him.
When healthy, Bynum is one of the most dominant centers in the NBA. His best season came back in 2011-12 with the Los Angeles Lakers when he averaged a double-double of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds.
He's played a complete season just once in his career, and that was back in 2006-07. With all of the work that's been done on his knees, it's hard to say whether or not Bynum will ever be able to return to his All-Star form.
The 76ers gave up an arm and a leg to acquire him, so they should do everything in their power to keep him around to at least see what Bynum can offer the team on the court. It's going to be a huge risk, but hopefully one that pays dividends moving forward.
At just 25 years of age, Bynum has the potential to be even greater than he is, if he can stay healthy.
Philadelphia shouldn't throw in the towel just yet on Bynum. He's too young and too gifted to not, at the very least, give him a shot as the focal point of the offense.
The perfect scenario would be for management to sign him to a short-term deal, have him prove his worth and that he can stay healthy, then sign him to a longer contract once he checks out.