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.
Mar 13, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
“I didn’t touch him. All he did was scream. The ref gave him calls all night because he was screaming.” That was from John Wall talking about Kemba Walker after the Bobcats beat the Wizards Wednesday night. The league is not fond of people questioning their officials’ integrity (regardless of cause) and on Thursday came down…
Mar 13, 2014, 4:09 PM EDT
Coaches are micromanagers almost by nature. They want control, they want to set things up. So in crunch time, when their team needs a bucket, they almost inevitably call a timeout to set up a play. Of course, that also lets the defense make substitutions and set themselves up as well, but coaches want that…
Mar 13, 2014, 2:46 PM EDT
LaMarcus Aldridge is out at least a couple games after a nasty fall, but it looked a lot worse.
Mar 13, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Steve Nash is honest — yes, he wanted that last year and $9 million. Nash also says the obvious — every one of the people commenting on this site or calling talk shows saying he should not have played 10 games this season (too many to get a medial retirement), that Nash should have walked…
Mar 13, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
Portland has lost four in a row and is 7-9 in their last 16 games. In a tight Western Conference, that is trouble — gone is home court advantage in the first round as the hot Clippers and Rockets shot past them. Portland is now the five seed with Golden State just 1.5 games back.…
Mar 13, 2014, 12:52 PM EDT
J.J. Redick has missed more than a month and counting with a bulging disc in his back. He’s a strong shooter and underrated defender – the type of role player the Clippers surely want for their playoff run. Or not? The Orange County Register (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball): The team will…
Mar 13, 2014, 12:15 PM EDT
Underrated moment at the the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive were on a panel together, and Ranadive basically accused Boston of tanking. “And what are you doing?” Grousbeck jabbed back. Tanking doesn’t exist (says Adam Silver), but if it did (it does), Grousbeck is having a…
Mar 13, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT
With the Bobcats clinging to a three-point lead over the Wizards midway through the fourth quarter Wednesday, Kemba Walker rose for a corner 3-pointer. John Wall appeared to contest the shot cleanly, but the refs called a foul. Why? Wall, via J. Michael of CSN Washington: “I didn’t touch him. All he did was scream,”…
Mar 13, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Evan Turner played his way out of the NBA cellar before the trade deadline. Apparently, the only question was which championship contender he’d join. The Pacers traded for Turner, but reportedly he could have been a Spur. Marc Stein of ESPN: It emerged shortly after trade deadline that San Antonio tried hard to make deadline-day…
Mar 13, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT
A month and a half ago, Magic Johnson pledged to stop complaining about the Lakers. He’s almost kind of sort of barely maybe trying to live up to that. Magic: I love Jim & Jeanie Buss, but we need Phil Jackson to be the face of our great organization, the Los Angeles Lakers.— Earvin Magic…
Mar 13, 2014, 10:15 AM EDT
The Warriors and Clippers don’t like each other, but it seems the Warriors particularly dislike Blake Griffin. Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut went after Griffin in December, and they successfully got the Clippers star ejected. Bogut even made a point not to apologize. Add Jermaine O’Neal to the list of Warriors who’ve feuded with Griffin.…
Mar 13, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT
No word on when Aldridge will return.
Mar 13, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
To quote Cartman: Respect my authoritah. Blake Griffin basically said that with this dunk. He has broadened his game this season, adding a far more consistent jump shot to go with handles and improved defense (which he showed off all night on the pick-and-roll against Stephen Curry), but the man can still dunk. With authoritah. As…
Mar 13, 2014, 8:44 AM EDT
There was no way we were going to get through a PBT Podcast without talking some more about Phil Jackson and the Knicks. So that comes up in the latest PBT podcast with myself and Eytan Shander of NBC Sports Radio. But we spend a lot more time talking other things, such as the slumps of…
Mar 13, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
BOSTON – When he was about 8 years old and accompanying his dad to his NBA games, Tim Hardaway Jr. used to grab a basketball and wander onto the court beyond the 3-point arc. There, he’d attempt NBA 3 after NBA 3. It’d be years until he’d make them regularly and even longer until he…
Mar 13, 2014, 3:53 AM EDT
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while playing table tennis against a robot… Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets. In a game against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, The Truth was the best player on the court. He couldn’t seem to miss on his way to 29 points on 9-of-12 shooting including 5-of-7…
Mar 13, 2014, 12:55 AM EDT
Normally posting video of one player dropping another with a crossover if it only leads to a missed shot is a bit gauche, but in this case, it’s worth making the exception. Tony Wroten seems to mystify Kings rookie Ray McCallum here, and McCallum trips over himself trying to keep up. Again, Wroten should have…
Mar 13, 2014, 12:11 AM EDT
Brooklyn started to look like a threat this season when they were forced by injry to go small without Brook Lopez, which meant coach Jason Kidd slid Paul Pierce over to the power forward slot. You knew Pierce could score at the four, but the surprise is how much better the Brooklyn defense is with…
Cole Aldrich, nearly four years after being drafted in lottery, gets double-double in first career start
Mar 12, 2014, 11:11 PM EDT
BOSTON – As a swarm of media enclosed Cole Aldrich, the playful calls began from his teammates in the less-crowded areas of the New York Knicks locker room. “Cole Stoudemire!” “Cole Chandler!” Aldrich could hardly contain his smile as he discussed his first career start with larger-than-usual-for-him audience. Without the Knicks’ highly paid big men,…
Mar 12, 2014, 11:01 PM EDT
Memphis grinds, they defend, they make the game ugly and throw you off your game. That is how they won 6-of-7 and vaulted into the Western Conference playoff picture. But they can make shots when they need to. Mike Conley did that for the game winner against the Pelicans on Wednesday night — he came…
- Interesting stat: Teams score better in crunch time when they don’t call timeout 4
- Blake Griffin with as powerful a putback dunk as you’ll see (VIDEO) 11
- PBT Podcast: What is with the slumps of Miami, Indiana? Plus of course Phil Jackson talk. 2
- Extra Pass: Beyond Phil Jackson, Knicks should see Tim Hardaway as instrumental to their future 8
- Wednesday NBA grades: Brooklyn is all about The Truth 9