It’s officially official: Andrew Bynum (and Jason Richardson) are Philadelphia Sixers, Andre Iguodala is a Denver Nugget, and Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless are members of the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard becomes a Laker, Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington go to the Magic, and Chris Duhon and Earl Clark also make the move to LA. 3 1st round picks and a few 2nd rounders make their way back to Orlando as well. I could write something here about the winners and losers of the trade, but they seem fairly obvious to me, so I’ll handle this in bullet-point form:
- The Lakers-got the NBA’s best center without giving up Pau Gasol
- The Sixers-got the NBA’s 2nd best center and upgraded from Kwame Brown to Andrew Bynum in the starting lineup
- The Nuggets-gained salary flexibility and got a very good player who is an excellent defender and a perfect fit for their up-tempo club that likes to run
- Steve Nash-pick and rolls with Dwight Howard? Pick and pops with Pau Gasol? Alley-oops to Howard and Gasol? Kobe Bryant? Yup.
- Sixers Fans-ownership and management actually listened to their cries for a star player
- Jrue Holiday-is going to look much better next season with Bynum to work with on offense
- Moe Harkless-will get consistent playing time on a lottery team with little pressure to make the postseason and plenty of time to grow into his body and develop into a good player
- Nikola Vucevic-will hopefully get to actually play and improve for the Magic, as Doug Collins had a strange aversion to using the 2011 1st rounder
- Laker fans-The team will always be contending for a title. Always. It seems cosmically destined at this point.
- Dwight Howard-he whined, cried, and weaseled his way into the perfect situation, even if he doesn’t appear to realize it yet since he wanted to play in Brooklyn
- Andrew Bynym-finally gets to be the #1 option on a team. It’s what he’s always wanted.
- The Magic-somehow got the worst package out of all 4 teams involved despite trading away the best player
- Magic fans-seriously: between Shaq, Dwight, T-Mac, and Grant Hill’s ankles, I’m not sure how much worse things can get
- NBA fans of 27 teams-Sixers fans, Lakers fans, and Nuggets fans are happy with this. The rest of the NBA’s fanbases are probably PISSED, because everyone hates the Lakers. Everyone.
- Arron Afflalo-becomes the guy known as “the centerpiece of a Dwight Howard trade”. A lot of added pressure on a player who derives the majority of his value from fitting in seamlessly on any type of team and is best as a 3rd-option. Now he’s the best player on the Magic? Yeesh.
- The Clippers-hey guys, was that 8-month run as the most talked about team in LA fun? Yeah, that’s over now.
- The Thunder-just when it looked like they would only have to deal with the aging Spurs for the next few years in order to make the NBA Finals
- The Heat-another very, very legitimate contender for the title has emerged
- LeBron James-he might be the best player in the world right now, but he might not have the best team. A lot of the pressure that was lifted off his shoulders in June is placed squarely back on them.
- Chris Bosh-will have to deal with Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol down low in a potential NBA Finals matchup. That’s a whole different animal than Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Kendrick Perkins
- Michael Jordan-if Kobe wins a 6th (and 7th) NBA title in LA, there are going to be a lot of people making dumb comparisons between him and Jordan
- The Magic-seriously, this was an awful trade
Now, let’s get to the on-court impact for the Sixers. On defense, they figure to take a slight step back. Andre Iguodala was one of the league’s premier defenders at any position, but among wing defenders he was in the top 5 for sure. The Sixers are hoping that Evan Turner can step into that perimeter stopper role vacated by Iggy. However, the interior defense will be greatly improved now that Bynum, who is an elite shotblocker, is playing C rather than Spencer Hawes. Hawes will probably still struggle defensively at PF, but when Lavoy Allen is in the game at PF the Sixers will have a formidable duo down low defensively.
On offense, there’s a really good article by Sebastian Pruiti over at Grantland that discusses how Bynum will impact the Sixers. Basically, what Pruiti says is that Bynum is an excellent post player (70th percentile) and he is one of the best in the league at making cuts and scoring (96th percentile). However, the Sixers’ offense last season rarely did either of those things, utilizing a post-up just 9.3% of the time and hitting a cutter only 9.7% of their possessions. That will have to change this season if the Sixers are to be as effective as possible. Jrue Holiday is going to have to evolve as a point guard and learn to find Bynum in the post and off cuts. Another new wrinkle to the offense is the outside shooting. The ball is probably going to be down low a lot more now that they have a legitimate post presence, and Bynum will hopefully be able to kick the ball out to open jump shooters on the wing with the attention he’ll command. New offseason acquisitions Jason Richardson (who was part of this very trade), Dorrell Wright, and Nick “Swaggy P” Young are all excellent jumpshooters, so this team’s outside game could become a lot better in a hurry. One final aspect I’m looking forward to on offense is how Spencer Hawes and Bynum work together. For all of his inabilities around the hoop offensively and defensively, Hawes is a surprisingly effective player further away from the basket. He’s got very good range for a big man and he’s a very good passer. I really look forward to Hawes passing out of the high post to Bynum in the low post.
I’d expect the Sixers starting lineup to look something like this next season: Jrue Holiday at PG, some combination of Evan Turner and Jason Richardson/Dorrell Wright manning SG and SF, Spencer Hawes at PF, and Bynum at C, with a bench unit of Nick Young, whoever doesn’t start out of Richardson/Wright, Thaddeus Young, Lavoy Allen, Arnett Moultrie, and Kwame Brown. Things that jump out to me right away are the team’s depth at wing and in the frontcourt. Bynum-Allen-Young-Hawes-Brown-Moultrie is one of the deepest frontcourts in the league, even if the quality drops off after Bynum. At wing, some combination of Turner, Richardson, Wright, and Young should be able to get hot and play well every game, meaning that (in theory) the Sixers should always have some sort of consistent scoring from at least one of their wing players. The only major problem I see with the roster is that there’s no real backup PG to Jrue Holiday. The lack of a primary backup ballhandler to Jrue makes me wonder if the Sixers would consider starting Holiday-Richardson-Wright-Hawes-Bynum and using Evan Turner in the Lou Williams role off the bench as a 6th-man type player who plays PG when Jrue is on the bench. I’d rather not see that, as I’d like to see what the Holiday-Turner-Bynum trio can do together as much as possible, but it’s a very feasible scenario. If that’s the case, the Sixers could run two very solid units onto the floor: Holiday-Richardson-Wright-Hawes-Bynum figures to struggle a little defensively but put up a good deal of points, while Turner-N. Young-T. Young-Allen-Brown would be one of the best bench units in the league. As a side note, Thaddeus Young seems to be a bit of an odd man out on this new-look Sixers team unless the Sixers drastically reduce the role of Kwame Brown and make him the 5th big off the bench. In that case, Hawes-Bynum and Young-Allen would be the two main tandems of big men. I think Bynum covers for Hawes’ struggles defensively well, and as I stated earlier they could work off each other offensively. Meanwhile, Allen can cover for Thad Young defensively as long as the other team doesn’t have a true center in the game and Young can carry the scoring load for the frontcourt since Allen’s offense is still somewhat limited. Brown and rookie Arnett Moultrie would probably both receive limited playing time if that’s how the Sixers decide to utilize their big men. I’m also very intrigued by a potential lineup of Holiday-Turner-Thad-Allen-Bynum. It’d be a 3-big lineup and its success would probably have a lot to do with Turner and Holiday’s ability to score from the perimeter and Thad’s ability to defend opposing small forwards, but that has the potential to be a matchup nightmare for opponents.
It’ll probably take some adjusting to initially, but this new-look Sixers team has the potential to be a massive upgrade over last year’s squad. There’s a very real possibility that this team wins the Atlantic Division next season. The Celtics are a year older and lost Ray Allen (but added Courtney Lee and Jason Terry), the Knicks severely downgraded at the PG position (goodbye Jeremy Lin, hello Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton!), the Raptors struck out on Steve Nash, overpaid Landry Fields, and highly-touted Lithuanian rookie Jonas Valanciunas looked mediocre in the Olympics (though they did strike a deal for excellent PG Kyle Lowry), and the Nets have depth questions surrounding them (though Williams-Johnson-Wallace-Humphries-Lopez is a very good lineup). The Atlantic figures to be one of the NBA’s most competitive next season, but the Sixers have an ace in their sleeve: the division (and the conference)’s best center in Andrew Bynum. This team should finish in the top half of the Eastern Conference, and could very easily make a deep postseason run. I don’t see anybody in the conference outside of Kevin Garnett being able to handle Bynum defensively, and only the Heat look like they’re in a tier above the Sixers right now since Derrick Rose’s injury figures to knock the Bulls from the top of the conference. Let’s look at the Eastern Conference playoff picture from last year again: Bulls-Heat-Pacers-Hawks-Celtics-Magic-Knicks-Sixers was what the seeding looked like for the postseason this year. The Bulls figure to drop to the very bottom of the playoffs, if not fall right out of it. The Hawks look to stay roughly where they are, subtracting Joe Johnson but adding Al Horford after he missed most of last season. The Magic won’t make the playoffs. The Celtics should stay roughly where they are. The Knicks should stay where they are. The Heat should finish as the 1 seed. The Pacers will need Roy Hibbert to repeat his career year in order to stay at the 3 seed. Really, who’s standing in the Sixers way from finishing in the top half of the conference? An Eastern Conference Finals berth is possible. It really is. Now, they wouldn’t get past the Miami Heat, but who knows what could happen in the postseason? And Bynum gives them a puncher’s chance of recruiting another top-tier free agent to come play for them in 2013 (assuming he re-signs himself, but since the Sixers can offer him the most years and most money I’d assume he will). Does Josh Smith sound good next to Bynum? What about Paul Millsap? Al Jefferson, perhaps? Does David West tickle your fancy? How about Kevin Martin at the 2 and sliding Turner to the 3? The possibilities really seem endless. It’s a new era of Sixers basketball, folks, and for the first time since the early 2000′s and the peak of the Allen Iverson era, the future couldn’t look any brighter.
Topics: Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bynum, Arnett Moultrie, Dorrell Wright, Evan Turner, Jason Richardson, Jrue Holiday, Kwame Brown, Lavoy Allen, NBA, Nick Young, Philadelphia Sixers, Spencer Hawes, Thaddeus Young, Trade