A Different Type of Brotherly Love
The Philadelphia 76ers are the first team, outside of the NBA Champion Miami Heat, that we’ll preview out of the Eastern conference. Quite frankly, this is something that I had been planning on doing since they swung Andrew Bynum in that mega-deal with the four teams and junk. However, I figured I’d save it for when WLOTF’s season previews started. So here we are.
This isn’t the same Philadelphia 76er team that started off as hot as the blazing sun last season only to cool off and plummet down to a 35-31 record to finish the season. This was the team that seemed to have the Atlantic division in their grasp at a certain point during the season only to see that slip away gradually because of offensive struggles. Though this team was one of the top teams defensively last season–ranking 3rd in defensive rating and 3rd in points allowed, also–there was clearly some work that needed to be done on the offensive end. Last season, their two best offensive players were Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young. They posted offensive efficiency ratings of 110 and 111 respectively.
Though those are some respectable ratings offensively, that’s not going to consistently get the job done. Lou Williams, their leading scorer, was scoring 20.5 points off of the bench but doing it on only 40% shooting. For your go-to scorer to be a 6th man isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but its not good either. Their bench play was strong, and their team was balanced. That along with their versatility defensively worked in their favor in getting them into the playoffs at the end of the season. They got back to running the floor for easier buckets and defending as well as they had all year.
They even pushed the ECF Runner-up Boston Celtics to a 7 game series after advancing passed the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls in the first round. You can easily say that the Philadelphia 76ers exceeded expectation last season. Being one game away from the Conference Finals isn’t an easy thing to do by any means. They should be proud of what they accomplished. This season, they’ve seemed to take the proper steps into becoming a contender once again by trading for Andrew Bynum. This will be a new team with a new dynamic that can do some damage in the Eastern Conference.
This offseason, the 76ers seemed to have wanted to get away from relying on transition buckets so much and build a team that could play in the half court. Along with Andrew Bynum, the team also picked up gunners Nick Young and Dorell Wright. They both have three point shooting percentages of 37% and 36%, respectively. The acquisition of their shooting presence is going to be huge. Especially since they lost their leading scorer in Lou Williams to the Atlanta Hawks and lost their best shooter in Jodie Meeks to the Los Angeles Lakers. They need to make up for those points somehow. This inside-out combination between Bynum and the shooters they have on this roster will surely provide some scoring spark.
Turning the page
The Philadelphia 76ers, in gaining Andrew Bynum, lost their long-time franchise centerpiece in Andre Iguadola. They had to give him up to the Denver Nuggets in that monster four-team deal for Dwight Howard. Howard virtually changed the shape of the Eastern Conference with his value as a player, and the Philadelphia 76ers changed as much as any team involved–possibly even the most.
The reason why Philadelphia was able to give up Iguadola so easily is because they believe that he is on the decline. He’s a combo 2/3 that has a shaky jumpshot outside of spotting up, is good in most skills that he has but not exceptional in any one skill, and is also getting ready to enter his 30’s. This is when NBA players generally will start their decline. However, the 76ers were proactive in the search for their next centerpiece on the perimeter. They drafted Evan Turner to eventually take the reigns from Andre Iguadola. Turner showed flashes of what he could potentially be last season and that gave the team enough confidence to say that they would be able to let AI9 go.
It wasn’t likely a tough decision to make. They’re getting the center that they’ve been looking for since the late 70’s and 80’s. Andrew Bynum is a monster in the paint and a very efficient and potent player offensively. This should only aid Turner in creating space for himself when cutting off of the ball.
Though they definitely should improve as a team offensively, that’s not to say that the 76ers won’t have a few snags along the way. If they aren’t able to get any consistency from out of their shooters in Young and Wright, their offense will suffer tremendously. Turner is a guard/forward who thrives in making his living in the paint. He’s a tremendous rebounder for a guard and that’s because of his length and size combined. He’s 6’7 with a 6’8 wingspan and can play the 2 and 3 positions with ease. He played the point in college primarily, so don’t be surprised if we see any of that out of him this season.
The only problem is that Turner’s outside game isn’t proficient enough for me to be comfortable with how he’ll mesh with Andrew Bynum. Turner takes 3.3 shots from 16-23 feet per game and only makes 38% of them via hoop data. That’s the league average in percentage just about, however, the league average for shots taken there is 1.8 (stats taken via Hoopdata.com). Turner’s true shooting percentage is also well below the league average of 52%. Sitting at 48% TS, Turner must improve on making his jump shot more consistent than ever this season. He’ll need it to free up space for Bynum in the post when he’s on the floor.
The task of initiating and executing the offense will be on the shoulders of Jrue Holiday, Turner, and Thaddeus Young. Turner will likely see a boost in minutes this season so his production is going to be crucial.
Doug Collins is a coach who is very versatile. From year to year, he’ll stretch out his bench or he’ll shorten it depending on the production of his players. He knows how to milk out of his roster whatever he needs them to do. I believe that he’ll do the same thing with this 76ers team this year. They don’t have much depth because of the Bynum trade, the amnestying of Elton Brand, and a few key losses during free agency so the rotation will likely only be 7 or 8 deep.
Jrue Holiday- 34.5 Mpg
Evan Turner- 33.2 Mpg
Dorell Wright- 23.4 Mpg
Lavoy Allen- 26.7 Mpg
Andrew Bynum- 36.1 Mpg
Thaddeus Young- 29.5 Mpg
Nick Young- 22.8 Mpg
Spencer Hawes- 18.7 Mpg
Arnett Moultrie- 18.4 Mpg
Maalik Wayns- 16.3 Mpg
Jason Richardson- 13.5 Mpg
Kwame Brown- 17.3 Mpg
The 76ers will try to keep a consistent bunch of shooters around Andrew Bynum while playing a game that’s going to probably be slower than the pace that they played at last year. They’ll likely rank near last in pace once again, but this time it won’t be because they are isolating on the perimeter. Instead, they’ll operate through the post more. They’ll have an inside out game and Andrew Bynum will thrive.
They’ve risen into contention for a 3-6 seed with on trade–that’s something that’s very rare in the NBA. Bynum will change the fortunes of this franchise soon enough; especially if Evan Turner develops the way that the team thinks that he will. Jrue Holiday will be a key factor in running this team and the offense. It should be somewhat familiar to him because of the offense that was used when he played in UCLA. I suspect they’ll have some of the same concepts, but we’ll see. This will definitely be one of the more interesting teams to watch next season.