The 76ers thought they had struck gold when they traded for Andrew Bynum. Instead, they have received no production from the injured star, and are headed toward another fight for one of the lower seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia has fought on without their star center, running under the dynamic guard duo of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Both are talented, but far from able to lead a team to the NBA Finals. Even though it doesn’t seem realistic, the 76ers are trying to go to the NBA Finals. And, they have a shot: just not this year.
Bynum’s injury has killed the team, and if they make the playoffs, they will probably have to deal with the Heat or another talented team in the first round. Miami is definitely more talented, and even though the Knicks, Bulls and Hawks are all beatable, they are certainly going to be hard to beat without home-court advantage (although I think the 76ers would take the Knicks).
Last year, in the playoffs, against the Celtics, the worst rebounding team in the NBA, the 76ers lost in seven games because they had Spencer Hawes down low, and he struggled. Bynum can fill that need and add the element of better rebounding to a team built around defense.
Holiday is taking major strides, though, averaging 18.6 PPG and 8.9 APG. He has a respectable 2.4 assists-to-turnovers ratio, as he has done a very nice job setting up Turner, Jason Richardson and Thaddeus Young. Holiday is more of a scoring guard, but he is focusing on getting everyone else involved, which is exactly what he should be doing. He can execute the drive-and-dish, and with Bynum, he will only get better.
Turner is a scoring threat who can shoot if needed (43.7 shooting percentage, 14.3 PPG), and has the size to drive and get layups and floaters, and he is starting to develop into a complete player who can help take the team places in his prime years. He is a good defender who contests shots well and can take the best players, and he has been key in helping the 76ers allow the seventh-fewest points (95.7) in the league. With Bynum, that will get better. Why?
Because the 76ers are far from elite with rebounding, Bynum will be able to help the 19th best rebounding team in the league end opponent’s possessions quickly by snatching rebounds away from opponents. He will help the offense, since he is a scoring threat who could thrive with a change of scenery. As Chris Yuscavage of complex.com reported, Bynum feels Kobe Bryant stunted his development in Los Angeles. In Philly, he could break out.
With Bryant and a bunch of other shooters, Bynum averaged 18.7 PPG and 11.8 RPG in 2011-2012. He will be the main man in the 76ers offense, and he won’t be hurting on defense. In 2013, the 76ers can get a fresh start with Bynum, Holiday, Turner and everyone else, and they will be a decent rebounding team, a great defensive team, and an average scoring team.
They have experience, because they beat the Bulls in the playoffs last year and lost to the Celtics in seven games in the second round (they went 7-6 last year in the playoffs). Two of the players that they didn’t have in 2011-2012 are Bynum and Richardson, and both are playoff veterans who know how to handle the big stage for sure.
Philadelphia won’t crumble in the playoffs, and if they draw a matchup against the Knicks in the first round, they can definitely swipe a game on the road and take down the Knicks, who are not serious contenders. New York lives with Carmelo and the three-ball, while the 76ers are a complete team with the ability to win on an off-day from Bynum, Holiday or Turner.
The 76ers have the talent to do something this year, and they have the talent to do even more in the future. While Holiday, Turner and Bynum are all experienced, they are young and are all in or entering their prime. 2013 and 2014 are the perfect years for Philadelphia to break onto the scene and do something special, because they are a talented team getting better by the year.
Fans can hope for the best for this year, because Philadelphia can get somewhere. But next year, with Bynum for a full season and the young core getting better, the 76ers will be real contenders. They have the talent, and they will get much better on offense with Bynum and with Turner developing. And that all adds up to one thing.
A chance at glory for the first time since the Allen Iverson days.
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