Earlier this week, NBA statistics guru John Hollinger of ESPN released his Sixers 2012-13 season forecast. For those that aren’t subscribed to ESPN Insider (I have it from buying a magazine subscription), I’ll give you a summary. Although the article does present some great stats and info, his conclusions and predictions about this upcoming season for the 76ers are incredibly pessimistic and less statistically based than what his writing is used to. His message is this: the Sixers entered the offseason a very deep and young lineup with the potential to make some strategic offseason moves and be a team to be reckoned with. Every move they made outside of the Bynum deal erased that possibility, according to Hollinger. I, for one, argue most of his thought process on this one. So, here is my review of the offseason and prediction for the upcoming season in contrast to Mr. Hollinger’s.
--The approaching article is around 2000 words. Don't be ashamed to skim--
I’ll start from the same point that he did: Draft Night. Even though they've made some horrible decisions in the past, I've grown to trust the Sixers' front office when it comes to the draft. Excluding Evan Turner due to his clouded future, taking Samuel "Slammin' Sammy" Dalembert 10th overall was the only true "Say What?" decision that didn't turn out to be more of an "I Told You So" one – Since drafting Larry Hughes in 1998, at least. You could argue taking Mo Speights at 16 didn’t work out, but he’s actually shown a lot of promise as an athletic, scoring bigman, so I’m counting him into Evan Turner’s to-be-determined group. With that said, I liked this draft for my own reasons, which could be moronic and completely false in your opinion, but I'll sing my song anyway.
I think Harkless was drafted with the plan to help fill the void that would be left by a potential Iguodala trade (although he hadn't yet, if the takeover by Collins and his clash with Iguodala were as extensive as Hollinger suggests, I'd say Dre' was already looking into cheap airfare), as Harkless is extremely athletic, a very capable defender (though his PF role in college is certainly different than the wing defender Iguodala is), and his height for a SF could have equated to the same benefits that Iguodala's style of playing bigger than his 6'6 frame suggests provided. As for the Moultire trade, nearly every amateur and expert had him going to the Sixers at 15 instead of Harkless. They clearly liked him a great deal, but his price was evidently a lot lower than 15, which is why they waited to pull the trigger until Miami took him at 27. Here's where the middle ground that can't be found between Hollinger and I: he see this team's future a little darker than I do, but I think trading a lottery protected future first round pick for a big man with great size (at the time, they had no size in their front court) and the potential to become a quality starter was well worth it, especially when that Sixers roster was so young and really had nowhere to go but up from their 8th seed finish that resulted in a 15th pick - even if a trade didn't happen. Hollinger also mentioned that Moultrie didn't fill a roster need. That may have been true, and still might be true even with all of the moves this offseason, but his designation on draft night was very clear: Elton Brand's replacement. Regardless of if you agreed or disagreed with Brand’s amnestying, he's both injury prone and approaching elderly, in basketball years at least. The risk and liability that paralleled Brand was either becoming too much to take, or had already reached its threshold. Yes, Lavoy Allen could possibly fill Brands shoes in Philadelphia, but there was no guarantee that another team wasn't going to throw a bunch of money at a prospect that shined in the playoffs, and there is a much better chance in finding a replacement between the two of them rather than just Allen. Throw in the fact that both these players could look good in trades (just as one proved to), and these were great investments.
Their handling of Allen's rookie contract was, in fact, horrendous. Everyone saw the trouble that his one year, no team option rookie contract would cause this off season the moment he started producing in the place of Hawes and Brand during their injuries. I'm not defending the decision to needlessly leave out a team option or another season or two at the minimum, but he was, after all, just a local Philly boy that was ranked as the worst player in the NBA by #NBARank in 2011. The deal was obviously done lazily, but they clearly had just as little faith as the journalists did in him making the team, let alone standing out. Regardless, after his very surprising rookie season was capped off by locking horns with Garnett in the playoffs, they needed to sign him back. And a young, defensively gifted PF with loads of potential, respect, and work ethic could be a lot more expensive than 6 million over two years.
Amnestying Brand was the way to go. Yes, the wrap he received was harsh considering he's still an effective and efficient player, but that's only when he's healthy, which rules out most of the 4 years he played in Philly, safe for 2010-11 where he evidenced the player he can be while not being plagued by injuries. When he's hurt, though, his presence on the floor was basically a burden to his teammates. Hollinger mentions his production as a defender, which he displayed even through injuries over the years, but he was bullied throughout the Celtics series by Garnett and seemingly had no effect on Brandon Bass in his breakout Game 5 performance. Lavoy proved his defense was either good enough to counter Brand's departure or surpass it - hell, I think he's already done that. Yes, the Sixers are paying 16 million dollars for Brand to compete against them, but the amnesty clause allows that 16 million to vacate from the salary cap, so it's just coming out of the pockets of the Adam Aron and the rest of the (m/b)illionaires that run the Sixers, which shows me dedication to the team that I never noticed from previous owners that shall remain nameless for fears that his company will cut my cable or internet for defamation. The power forward minutes vacated by Brand will be of much better use in the hands of Thaddues Young, Allen, Spencer Hawes, and Moultrie.
The day that Lou Williams was signed by Atlanta, I did a Judd-Nelson-Breakfast-Club-fist-thrust. He was ineffective at just about everything but scoring, which he accomplished while also frustrating the hell out of his team's fanbase. He was a horrendously streaky three-point shooter who couldn't rebound, pass, or finish strong. He had two moves that ever had a positive result: the long 2, which I recall Hollinger himself saying was the worst quality of this team before the opening round of the playoffs last year, and his drive. To start the season, Lou's drive was basically the only way a foul would be called for Philadelphia, but the fouls stopped being called toward the end of the season and into the playoffs. Since his drive would be committed to the foul and desperation heave, it became fruitless. If Williams isn't getting his foul calls, he's worthless. As evidence, look at any of his postseason numbers:
His replacement, Nick Young, wasn't exactly a bad signing in my opinion. Sure, Williams might be a slightly better defender (Williams' poor defense was called out by Andre Iguodala last season, as detailed by Sports Illustrated), but he suits the team much more effectively. Williams needs the ball and the offense run through him to be effective, where as Young has the jump shot to play off ball. His FG% did regress pretty extensively last season, but even if it doesn't bounce back, it'll be the same 40.whatever percent that Williams has posted in three separate seasons. It's worthy to note Young's outstanding shooting in the post season, as well. A player that shoots 51.5% from the three point line in the post season seems pretty essential to a team that couldn't buy a three during crunch time last post season. All in all, the one year, 5.6 million dollar contract he signed is roughly the yearly salary Williams received from Atlanta, and it comes without a multi year commitment.
The Sixers sign Kwame Brown. Ugh. I hate even attempting to defend his signing, but I guess he's an alright rebounder and defender, which they needed desperately in the post all season (though Hollinger argued against that need, big men scored at will throughout the season, and the playoffs revealed how easily the Sixers could be out hustled to rebounds and in the post), and he was signed before Bynum was acquired. All I can say is I hope Moultrie can learn to play up and replace Kwame quickly.
Like Hollinger mentions, you can't beat free, which Dorrell Wright was. He's going to be more important to this offense then most think, though. Since the defenses will crash on Bynum, I think the 2012-13 Sixers offense will do what the Magic have done With Dwight Howard since they drafted him, which is to fire, fire, fire from 3. Having the 3 point shooting efficiency of Jrue Holiday, Young, Wright, Jason Richardson, and even Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes being able to stretch the long 2 and occasional 3 will make this offense nearly impossible to stop, especially for 7 games.
Not much to say about signing Spencer Hawes to the tune of 13 million over 2 years. Seems like a pretty safe signing of an above average shooting bigman that already knows the system. Personally, I think he thrives being able to play off of Bynum with his new role at the 4, as his nice jumper will stretch defenses to the point where they can't exactly bear down on Bynum.
The big kahuna: trading for Jrich and Andrew Bynum. This trade was obviously an incredible deal for the Sixers, and that's coming from quite possibly the last fan of Andre Iguodala in Philadelphia. I'm honestly happy for him, though. Hopefully Denver will give him the respect that a poor man (more like, steady income making man)'s Lebron, both offensively and defensively, deserves. And ultimately, it's the at best seventh or eighth best wing player in the league with 3 unproven prospects for the game's second most dominant center and an athletic wing player that knows how to compliment a low post force with some rangeI'll take that...But my Iguodala jersey will be sported at the Sixers Halloween home opener against Denver...count on it.
So where exactly should the Sixers stand come playoff time? That depends on so many variables. Will Evan Turner or Jrue Holiday take their next steps? How will the Sixers' amazingly efficient defense of last season be affected by losing it's best defensive player in Iguodala? Does Royal Ivey bring back his pregame break dancing? How bad is Bynum's knee? As it stands, I see Bynum making it back to action without missing too much time, and the Sixers utilize their range-friendly offense to become a top offensive team in the NBA. They'll need about 55-58 wins to secure the East's second seed, which I see them attaining due to Boston's aging lineup and Derek Rose's knee injury hindering his ability to cut and be an effective playmaker, at least for a large portion of the regular season. Regardless, I'm just happy the season is finally here. Let's all avoid as much speculation as possible, sit back, and enjoy a full NBA season (sorry, NHL fans. We felt your pain last year.). Enjoy everyone!