Sep 17, 2012, 12:21 PM EDT
Today begins PBT’s team-by-team season preview, going through all 30 squads. We are starting in the deep Atlantic Division that could well send four teams to the playoffs, and we will move West from there. First up, your Philadelphia 76ers.
Last season: They were a slightly better than .500 team (35-31) that played great defense but struggled to score consistently. Their record got them the 8 seed in the east and they were doomed to another early first round exit until Derrick Rose blew out his ACL. With that gift they got past Chicago and pushed Boston to 7 games in the second round.
Key Departures: After years of rumors, the Sixers finally did trade Andre Iguodala, finding their way into the four-team Dwight Howard trade. As part of that trade, they did nave to give up Nikola Vucevic, who the franchise liked. They also amnestied Elton Brand, who played pretty well for them but was not worth the cost. Jodie Meeks took his outside shooting to L.A.
Key Additions: They added the second best center in the NBA in Andrew Bynum as part of the Howard/Iguodala trade, radically reshaping the roster and setting up some fun Bynum/Roy Hibbert battles in the coming seasons. They also added Jason Richardson and Nick Young to provide scoring at the two spot. They also added Dorrell Wright and No. 27 overall pick Arnett Moultrie.
Plus, this year the Sixers fans get to become the group that tries to convince themselves Kwame Brown can really help them if they just use him in the right situations. It’s a study in cognitive dissonance.
Three keys to Sixers season:
1) Andrew Bynum grows to handle the pressure of being the franchise guy. There is no doubt Bynum is talented and has been blessed with a body few in the NBA can deal with on the block (even if it is a bit fragile at times). In Los Angeles, he wanted a bigger role and was vocal about it while still being a good teammate most of the time. He is bright, he is thoughtful. But now he does not have Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol drawing the attention of defenders on the court and the media off it. This is his team, his spotlight. It is what he wanted.
Bynum is going to have to be the anchor on defense — he is going to have to be more active on the high pick-and-roll, his rotations will need to be consistently sharp not spotty. On offense, he’s going to have to recognize and pick apart teams when the double-team comes, and do it quickly. There is more, but the fact is Bynum can do all those things, he just hasn’t had to in the past for his team to have a shot at winning every given night. Now he does. There can’t be the lapses of effort when he doesn’t get involved early, there can’t be the moments of immaturity. It’s on him to step up. He can, but he has to prove it now. It’s that simple.
2) Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner need to take the next step. Together. The Philadelphia 76ers have potentially two of the best young perimeter players in the NBA. Holiday has been a good point guard — able to run the offense, set guys up — but needs his shot to finish better in the lane (he shot just 53.6 percent inside the restricted area and 37 from 3-9 feet) and maybe not take as many long two pointers (although he shot 40 percent on those). This is a contract year for Holiday, he needs to make a leap forward to really get paid.
Evan Turner’s showed flashes of looking like the No. 2 overall pick as the season wore on — he had solid rebound numbers and he moved the ball well. But he got outclassed in the playoffs, he’s got to hit threes at better than a 22.4 percent clip, he’s got to be consistent.
Turner had Iguodala and Meeks out taking shots and making plays on the wing, now they are gone and it is his job. He will start at the three and play some backup point, coach Doug Collins has said. The table has been set for him to make the leap, it is up to him.
3) Their defense cannot slip much. Last season the Sixers had the third best defense in the NBA, allowing just 96.6 points per 100 possessions (only Chicago and Boston were better). That is why they made the playoffs at all. With Andrew Bynum as a focal point in the post and growth from Turner and Holiday (plus Nick Young in the Lou Williams gunner off the bench role) we are expecting more from them on offense. But if the Sixers want to really take a step forward they need to still be a top 5 defensive team. Which is not going to be easy with the loss of Iguodala, one of the best perimeter defenders in the game today.
Andrew Bynum will help being a big presence in the paint (again, see point No. 1 about consistency) but guys on the perimeter have to step up and the team defense has to be there. If the offense gets better but the defense sags there will not be much improvement.
What one thing should scare Sixers fans? Andrew Bynum not re-signing with the team after this season. But, it shouldn’t scare them that much, I think he will. (He is not going to sign an extension, under the new CBA it makes far more financial sense for him to become a free agent then re-sign with a team, as Deron Williams did in Brooklyn.)
Bynum wanted to be the focal point of a major franchise, he is now. His ego will get fed and he’s closer to home (he grew up in New Jersey). Bynum is also a financially motivated guy and the Sixers max deal offered next summer will be one year longer and have larger raises than anyone else. But it is possible for this year to go sour, for the fans and tabloids to turn on Bynum and for him to decide he wants out as a free agent. If that happens, the Sixers essentially will have gotten nothing for Iguodala. It’s a concern, but not a huge one.
How it likely works out: After the Miami Heat in the East things are pretty fluid and a number of teams think they can be the two seed — Indiana, Boston, New York, Brooklyn. And you can put Philadelphia in that mix.
The question is, how much better are they now than the slightly above .500 team of last season? Is Bynum in the middle that much better than Iguodala on the wing (and Lou Williams off the bench). Can their defense hold while all their players take the steps forward expected of them?
I’m not convinced the Sixers are dramatically better short term, but I like what Philly did. Standing pat they might have improved to a six seed (probably 7-8) and would get bounced in the first round. Now there is a real chance for a Holiday/Evans/Bynum core to be very good and grow together over a few years.
I like the idea of going big with Bynum at the five and Spencer Hawes starting at the four in a conference where powers Boston and Miami are going small. Last year the Sixers were far, far to much of a jump shooting team that never got to the free throw line. Bynum will change that, he will score in the paint and draw fouls.
But I’m not convinced the success is instant or as strong as some in Philly expect. Bynum must adjust to his role and move the ball — the Sixers got off to a fast start last season in part because Spencer Hawes did a great job as a fulcrum moving the ball from the strong to weak side quickly. When Hawes got injured, they started to struggle. Now it’s on Bynum to do that job and it’s an adjustment.
Teams that expect a lot of guys to step up in the same year tend to have more fits and starts than a smooth, fast ride to the top.
I like what Philadelphia is doing, they are certainly a playoff team in the East and one that should have a goal of having their first-round series start at home. But I have a feeling their best years are two or three down the line, not this season.
Prediction: 47-35, which could be a four to six seed in the east. They are a team to watch, a team that might well be much better in April and May than November as they grow together. Last year they got out of the first round of the playoffs because of a fluke, if they get to the second round next season it’s because they are that good. And getting better.
Jun 20, 2013, 2:45 AM EDT
I’m not sure how good the Lakers will be with Dwight Howard next season — Lakers fans and players point to the 28-12 stretch and say they can sustain that, I’m not sold — but I know this: Without Howard the Lakers will be a mess next season. Kobe Bryant realizes that too and said…
Jun 20, 2013, 2:21 AM EDT
Not only is the Clippers/Celtics trade back from the dead (don’t say I didn’t warn you) it looks like it could come together Thursday. If Clippers owner Donald Sterling signs off on it this deal could come together Thursday reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. After superstar Chris Paul injected his influence to accelerate talks,…
Jun 19, 2013, 9:29 PM EDT
Game 7 of the NBA Finals. It doesn’t get any better than this. Kay Adams and I take a look forward to Thursday night’s game with a quick look back at Game 6 (no, Chris Bosh should not have been called for a foul on that last shot) then we start talking about how tired…
Jun 19, 2013, 8:30 PM EDT
Say whatever you will about how the Grizzlies dumped Lionel Hollins – and there’s a lot to say, most of it not favorable to the team’s management – but they’re conducting this coaching search the right way. They didn’t rush to hire the favored but unproven assistant, Dave Joerger. Instead, they interviewed safer choices like…
Jun 19, 2013, 7:41 PM EDT
Jerry Sloan is back with the Utah Jazz, and the world just seems a little more orderly. The Jazz have brought back Sloan as a “senior basketball advisor” the team announced on Wednesday. What does that mean? Some player evaluations (both before the draft at workouts and at places like Summer League), a little scouting,…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:57 PM EDT
One day after as dramatic an NBA Finals game as you will ever see — and one day before a Game 7 to decide the NBA crown — the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were back on the practice court and talking to the media. The Miami players, as you might expect, seemed confident…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:20 PM EDT
Update (6:40 p.m.): Chris Paul is the catalyst for trade talks resuming. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Clippers management believed Boston would eventually come back to them out of a belief that the Celtics-Rivers relationship would be difficult to repair, but league sources told Y! Sports that Paul’s desire to play for Rivers – and…
Jun 19, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT
At one point Grizzlies assistant Dave Joerger was considered a strong front-runner to replace Lionel Hollins, but Memphis has interviewed former head coaches like George Karl and Alvin Gentry. Apparently, those other interviews weren’t just for show before hiring Joerger, because the Grizzlies are on round two of interviews. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:…
Jun 19, 2013, 5:33 PM EDT
The Mavericks have made no secret about wanting to prevent the No. 13 pick from cutting into their cap room, whether that means trading the pick or drafting and stashing a player. The idea of wasting a lottery pick, either by dumping it in an uneven trade or using it on a lesser prospect just…
Jun 19, 2013, 5:09 PM EDT
Nerlens Noel would be a worthy No. 1 pick in many drafts if it weren’t for his ACL tear. His athleticism and defensive skills draw rave reviews from both traditional scouts and number crunchers. There’s safety in a consensus positive opinion, and Noel provides that on the court. But his ACL tear and the possibility…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:31 PM EDT
MIAMI — The Spurs held a five-point lead with a little more than 28 seconds remaining in Game 6, before the Heat mounted a furious comeback to send it into overtime and ultimately force a seventh game. As things looked particularly dire, with San Antonio on a 10-2 run and seemingly on their way to…
Jun 19, 2013, 4:21 PM EDT
The will he?/won’t he? saga about returning to coach his Atlantic Division team has ended. No new information on Doc Rivers, but Dwane Casey will be back with the Raptors. Raptors press release: Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri announced Wednesday that Head Coach Dwane Casey will return for the 2013-14…
Jun 19, 2013, 3:42 PM EDT
Dwyane Wade has been clearly grounded through much of the playoffs. While he has had some monster games — including Games 4 and 5 of the Finals — his right knee has held him back at times. Now you can add his left knee to the list of issues. Wade and Manu Ginobili banged knees…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:21 PM EDT
As a series moves deeper ratings go up — and Game 6 lived up to that, with a huge jump in viewership for ABC. An estimated 16.8 million people — a 14.7 rating — tuned in to watch Game 6, ESPN announced. The previous high this series had been 11.4 million viewers for a game…
Jun 19, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT
MIAMI — Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was the recipient of some rare criticism following his team’s collapse in the final moments of regulation in Game 6, and it surrounded his decision to bench Tim Duncan during some key defensive possessions. The end result, twice with under 30 seconds to play, was the Heat getting…
Jun 19, 2013, 1:18 PM EDT
MIAMI — For all intents and purposes, the game was over. Except that it wasn’t. The Heat trailed Game 6 of the Finals by five with under 30 seconds to play, and fans in Miami began streaming for the exits. Arena staffers in yellow shirts lined the baselines and the court across from the team…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:53 PM EDT
Now that the drama of Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett headed the Clippers trade talk has subsided, it’s time for everyone in Boston to act like adults and end this soap opera. To that end, Rivers and Celtics GM Danny Ainge are expected to sit down face-to-face Wednesday and talk, Ainge told the Boston Herald.…
Jun 19, 2013, 12:07 PM EDT
PBT’s own Brett Pollakoff tweeted this out when the Heat were down 5 with: 28 seconds left and the Heat had called a timeout. “Fans in Miami heading for the exits.” Thousands of them. Not anywhere near a majority, but enough to reinforce the stereotype. Plenty (again, far from all) fans in Miami fit the…
Jun 19, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT
Gregg Popovich is the best coach in basketball right now. One of the best of all time. He has four rings and built a culture in San Antonio that has them in NBA Finals 14 years apart and with consistent 50+ win seasons in between. But he is not perfect. He made a couple decisions…
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