Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Above the Rim: What could have been

The 2012-2013 season was loaded with possibilities for the Philadelphia 76ers. After defeating the #1 seeded Derrick Rose-less Bulls in the first round of the playoffs last year, they brought the Celtics to seven games before being knocked out. As a team without a conventional “star,” the Sixers surprised fans by performing well with a solid nucleus of players who were great defensively. They could only get better from here, right?

In the offseason, the Sixers were a part of the monster 3-team trade that brought Dwight Howard to the Lakers. Philadelphia shipped Andre Iguodala, arguably the best one on one perimeter defender in basketball, to Denver, as well as young talents Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless to Orlando. In return, they got what seemed to be the biggest prize after Howard: Andrew Bynum.

Bynum has a great 2011-2012 season, playing 60 of a possible 66 games and posting career highs in point per game and rebounds per game while still putting up around 2 blocks per night and shooting 56% from the field. Not only had Bynum’s stats improved, however. He seemed like a much more polished offensive player overall. He was active underneath and had enough moves around the basket to score at will at times. He also made some small strides in the personality department, making less dumb decisions and acting more maturely overall. Again, this is just the season after the infamous JJ Barea incident as the Lakers were getting swept by the Mavericks in the second round. It was the best he’d ever looked, and it seemed things could only improve from there. However, Bynum has several documented knee problems, missing 124 games over the previous four seasons. The Sixers knew this, but figured Bynum’s size and talent don’t grow on trees, and decided to take the risk anyway.

Now seven months later, Bynum has yet to play for the Sixers and will sit out for the rest of the season, opting for arthroscopic surgery on his two ailing knees. The Sixers are floundering, currently 7.5 games behind the Bucks for the 8th seed in the playoffs. They've had injuries to Thad Young, Nick Young, and Jason Richardson that only add to their roster problems. Without Bynum in the lineup, they're very much the same team as last year, minus two starting caliber players in Iguodala and Vucevic. It also stings that Vucevic is averaging a double double for the Magic and is a dominant rebounder, something the Sixers could clearly use help with.
Bynum's unfortunate injuries are compounded with the fact that Bynum's contract expires after this season. Even with his awful injury history, some team with cap room will throw a lot of money at him. In all likelihood, the Sixers aren't that team, but they remain a possibility. If he does leave in the offseason, the Sixers are left in the dust and have to make some quick adjustments. Their roster needs an overhaul, and a coaching change might be in order as well considering Doug Collins is clearly frustrated with the situation.

It's hard to blame the Sixers for rolling the dice. Bynum could have been a franchise center, and as I mentioned earlier, those don't grow on trees. In the aftermath of his lackluster tenure with the Sixers, Philly fans can only look back and say "what if?"


Josh Brackett is a pre-junior Sport Management major at Drexel University from Boston, MA.  Josh has past experience in the sports industry at ClibHoops Scouting Service and the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis.  Currently, Josh is a member of the Drexel Athletics Event Management Team and he writes for his personal blog Get Buckets NBA

Connect with Josh Brackett on LinkedIn.

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