In the 2011-12 season the Philadelphia 76ers showed growth that not many people expected from them and now this season they are looking to build on that growth and let the world know they are a serious contender in the NBA. Last season the Sixers finished with a 35-31 record and in third place in the Atlantic Division just one game behind the New York Knicks for second place. During the 2012 playoffs the Sixers upset the number seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs in six games (4-2) but then fell to the Boston Celtics in the Conference Semi-Finals in a tough seven game series, 4-3. Now they come back with new major new additions looking to take that next step in the East.
When talk arises regarding the 76ers starting lineup, it must begin with the arrival of their first possible franchise player in over half of a decade, Andrew Bynum. Last season Bynum finally took the step that many had been waiting on for a while of becoming a true dominant NBA big-man. During the 2011-12 campaign, Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game for the Los Angeles Lakers along with being named an All-Star and to the All-NBA second team both for the first time in his career. Bynum’s arrival will now allow Spencer Hawes to move from center where at times he was over matched last season to power forward which is his natural position. Last season Hawes averaged 9.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game and this year he should have an even better season with Bynum playing the at the five and himself playing at the four.
The second most important piece in the Sixers starting unit is without question Jrue Holiday. Last season Holiday also had his breakout season averaging 13.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game and if he can continue to take the correct steps in his growth as an NBA point guard then he and Bynum could make for a formidable duo for years to come in Philly. Evan Turner moves from shooting guard to small forward which should be a better fit for him and his play is also critical for the 76ers. Last season Turner averaged 9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game; his versatility and ability to play solid defense will be extremely important for Philadelphia as they attempt to enter the elite class of teams in the East. Rounding out the starting lineup is veteran swingman Jason Richardson who was a part of the blockbuster deal that landed Bynum in Philly. Last season while with the Orlando Magic, Richardson averaged 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and one steal per game. The Sixers are hoping that J-Rich can provide them with a reliable, knockdown shooter from the perimeter which is something they lacked last year.
On paper the 76ers reserves seem like they have a chance to be really good as a unit, now I say on paper because they did some major reconstruction to it. Returning to the Philly bench are forwards Thaddeus Young (12.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and one steal per game last season) and Lavoy Allen (4.1 points and 4.2 rebounds), but they are the only two key cogs from their bench last season back for 2012-13. Young is crucial to their success because of his versatility being able to play both forward positions exceptionally well and Allen is a physical, tough four who can give Hawes sometime to rest while he takes to the court.
Now the question is how the newcomers will fit in with this unit and those newcomers include instant offense swingman Nick Young, sharpshooter Dorrell Wright and the much maligned big-man Kwame Brown. Last season Young averaged 14.2 points per game while splitting time with the Washington Wizards and the Los Angeles Clippers. Wright averaged 10.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and shot 36% from behind the arc last year for the Golden State Warriors. Brown played just nine games last season for the Warriors but if he can just give Bynum a few minutes of rest every night without totally screwing up then he’ll be worth the two-year/six million dollar contract that they signed him to. Young and Wright are much more crucial to the Sixers second unit because if they can knockdown open shots and not clash with what was already working for this unit last season then expect big things out of this entire team.
Head Coach/Front Office:
The Sixers Head Coach Doug Collins is one of the smartest coaches currently in the NBA. Collins not only knows the game of basketball inside and out but he also has a terrific way of getting the best out of young players which is why he is the ideal coach for this Philadelphia squad. Collins enters the season with 408 career coaching victories and if all goes as it should he will exit the year with more than 450 wins.
The Sixers General Manager Tony Dileo took a huge risk by trading away his fourth leading scorer from last season and face of the franchise Andre Iguodala, letting his leading scorer from last season Lou Williams walk in free agency and using the amnesty clause on their fifth leading scorer from last season Elton Brand. All three plus Jodie Meeks are now gone and have been replaced with the likes of Bynum, Richardson, Young and Wright; if the moves pay off then Dileo will be looked at as a genius but if they don’t then he when be ridiculed for breaking up a team that was on the verge of being a very good team.