NBA Philadelphia 76ers

Top Five Alternatives to Andrew Bynum in Free Agency for Philadelphia 76ers

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Five Alternatives to Signing Andrew Bynum

Eric Hartline-USA Today Sports

The 2012/2013 season for the Philadelphia 76ers has been nothing short of a disaster. At 30-44, the 76ers are all but eliminated from playoff contention and will be heading to the offseason with many questions to answer.

This year’s prize acquisition, Andrew Bynum, did not suit up at all this year for the 76ers and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.

According to an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bynum’s agent has indicated the Sixers are still in play to sign the big man in the offseason. “I still feel like the ball is in their court,” agent David Lee said.

If the ball is in the Sixers court as David Lee says, it might be best to pass the ball to another team. Unless there is a way doctors can guarantee Bynum’s knees will be good to go for the long haul, there is no way this team can afford to offer him a max contract.

With next year’s salary cap expected to be set around $70 million, the Sixers will have approximately $24 million in cap space. The $46 million in team salary goes to eight players: Jrue Holiday, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie and Kwame Brown. Assuming the Sixers can re-sign Dorrell Wright and Damien Wilkins at a reasonable price, they should still have around $20 million in cap to improve this team for next season.

Even though a healthy Bynum would be the best free agent alternative, here are the top five realistic alternatives heading into free agency for the 76ers if they decide to go in a different direction (Sorry, no Chris Paul or Dwight Howard dreams here).

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Number 5: Tyreke Evans

Cary Edmondson-USA Today Sports

Tyreke Evans has a qualifying offer of just under $7 million coming his way from the Sacramento Kings. If he decides to decline this offer, a team like the Sixers could make a run at him. He is averaging a career low 15.6 points per game this year; but he is a Chester, PA native and he had his best game of the season at the Wells Fargo Center, dropping 29 points. He would be an ideal fit at shooting guard alongside Jrue Holiday because of his ability to attack the rim and get to the free throw line.

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Number 4: O.J. Mayo

Jerome Miron - USA Today Sports

After getting off to a red hot start, O.J. Mayo has cooled off a bit. He is still averaging 16 points a game and shooting 41% from behind the arc. His scoring ability and clutch shooting could be something helpful to this Sixers team that lacks outside shooters. Mayo has a $4 million player option for next year that he will most likely decline, as he will earn more on the free agent market with his play this season.

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Number 3: Al Jefferson

Russ Isabella-USA Today Sports

If the Sixers cannot get Bynum or Dwight Howard, why not go after the next best center on the market: Al Jefferson from the Utah Jazz. The unrestricted free agent is having another solid year at 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. Jefferson would be the post presence that the 76ers so desperately need. The one they were hoping to get out of Andrew Bynum. Jefferson warrants a double team and has the ability to get to the free throw line and kick the ball out to open shooters; two things that the 76ers were extremely inefficient with this year. Jefferson won’t come cheap, but it might be worth exploring if they do not trust the health of Bynum.

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Number 2: JJ Redick

Benny Sieu -USA Today Sports

A knockdown shooter: something the 76ers have not had since the days of Kyle Korver. J.J. Redick is all of that and more. A career 39% shooter from three, Redick is averaging a career high 14.3 points and 3.9 assists in his contract year. Pairing Redick in the backcourt with Jrue Holiday would mean another solid ball-handler and passer, as well as someone with the ability to hit an open shot. Redick would make fans forget everything that Dorrell Wright and Nick Young couldn’t do and could help bring hope back to this franchise.

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Number 1: Josh Smith

Joshua S. Kelly

Whether the Atlanta Hawks want to admit it or not, Josh Smith is a max deal player. If the Hawks are going to let him walk, this is the perfect time for the 76ers to make up for their mistake from a few years ago when they pursued Elton Brand over Smith. The Sixers are a way better team when they are out on the break running. Smith will provide them with intensity and athleticism that they lost when they let Andre Iguodala go.

He is averaging 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and almost two blocks per game. He is a difference maker on both ends of the floor and he would give the 76ers one of the biggest starting lineups in the NBA. With 7 footer Spencer Hawes at center, 6’7 Evan Turner at shooting guard and 6’4 Jrue Holiday at the point to go along with Smith and Thaddeus Young, this lineup would be tough to compete with on the offensive and defensive glass. If the 76ers don’t trust the health of Andrew Bynum, the best move would be to lock Josh Smith up and go back to a running style of offense that showed success in the past.

Zach Slotter is a Philadelphia 76ers writer for Follow him on Twitter @zlot6, Like his Facebook page, or add him to your account on Google.