By Tolu Oladele
Lets be frank, the 76ers have had rotten luck in their search for the next “answer” sans Allen Iverson.
With no true superstar on their roster since Iverson’s departure in 2006, the Sixers’ organization has stayed completive through drafting young talent and making sensible trades—making a playoff appearance 4 times in the last seven seasons. But to reiterate, this organization has had very few breaks in acquiring a cornerstone to their franchise. The last game-changing talent was Iverson and since then the 76ers have only made two moves to bring their team back to elite status during the Iverson tenure.
In 2008, the Sixers signed Elton Brand, an All-Star and consistent 20 and 10 guy to a five year deal. On December 17, 2008 Brand went down with a shoulder injury that needed season ending surgery. When he finally returned to the Sixers, it was clear he wasn’t the same player. He was no longer that consistent 20-point scorer and aggressive rebounder he was before arriving to Philly.
This past summer the 76ers were apart of a 12-player blockbuster trade that landed them Andrew Bynum another 20 and 10 threat. But the dominated big men has yet to suit up for a game this season—chronic knee problems—for the Sixers (12-11) who are now sitting with the 8th best record in the Eastern Conference. Although it’s still early to determine the Bynum deal a “bust” we can still evaluate if the Sixers needed to make this move.
Andrew Bynum is in the final year of his contract and is owned $16.8 million. Worst-case scenario, the 76ers are only renting Bynum for the year since he will be a free agent this summer. But if you look at the moves made by the Sixers since the acquisition it is clear the Philly brass have “gone all in.” Especially since they added Jason Richardson and Dorrell Wright to stretch the floor in anticipation for Bynum’s low post scoring.
It’s very clear that the 76ers want Bynum to sign a long-term contract and be the new face of their franchise. They traded Andre Iguodala—an all-Star and one of the best perimeter defender in league—for Bynum. Iguodala would guard the best scorer on the opposing team, but head coach Doug Collins knew what he was giving up “Andre’s one of the better defenders in the NBA,” Collins said. “We knew that. Giving him up, we thought we were going to have one of the best post defenders (Bynum).”
Collins is highlighting the fact that Bynum has not played a single game because of his right knee problem along with a number of setbacks. “My left knee is still really sore right knee is actually better, so that’s good,” said Bynum on Monday, who last spoke to the media on Nov. 25. “It’s just pain, just by walking around. Worst case scenario it’s another month.” At first glance this is great news to Sixers’ fans because they still have an above .500 record and will be getting Bynum who definitely help them move up the standings in the Eastern Conference.
Even with this hopefully prediction of his return his comments concerning the actual problem doesn’t sit well with scouts and fans:
“It’s just continuous pain,” he said of the left knee. “It’s just the bone bruise has to heal. It’s a mirror image of my right knee and my right knee took four months. I think we’re a little bit ahead of the curve because two months my right knee was swollen pretty big. So we’ve gotten the swelling out of that already (in the left) and I think it could be quicker. If my left knee gets better and feels like my right knee then I’ll be playing.”
Bynum will probably be out a whole lot longer than one month to comeback from this type of pain or have season ending surgery. And it seems that the Philly brass would agree with this claim as well because recent reports state that they have been inquiring about acquiring starting caliber center. “They got to be a little panicked now,” one GM said. “They could get a really interesting deal for him. I could see them doing that.” This is a reasonable option because they will be guaranteed to get talent in return instead of nothing if Bynum leaves for free agency.
Overall the Sixers were wise to trade for Bynum. Iguodala wasn’t cutting it as the “guy” for Philly for a number of reasons. With the Sixers style of play they normally had balanced scoring nights and no one was really a designated closer for the 76ers. While this was good in terms of versatility, a team needs a star to consistently close games—especially in the playoffs. Iguodala couldn’t do this. Bynum can do this and also put fans in seats because of his drawing power. And now with Evan Turner playing better he could fill the void that Iguodala has left. Acquiring Bynum was a calculated risk because if it worked the Sixers would be in the upper echelon in the East but if it failed they could cut their losses in a trade or with free agency.