Every year, for some strange reason, I like to make predictions about the upcoming NBA season. Last year I put a little bit of a spin on it, stating both what I would do and what I thought the 76ers would do. Much to my surprise, what ended up happening over the past 12 months was closer to what I wanted than what I expected: they amnestied Elton Brand, traded Andre Iguodala and re-signed Thaddeus Young to a fairly reasonable deal.
This year I'm returning to the more classic formula of straight predictions. These are a few predictions on what I think will happen. Some of it is based off of what I've seen, both during the handful of practices I attended during training camp and during the three preseason games I've watched so far. Some of it is based off of what I've been told, and some if it is based just on my opinion and gut.
I fully expect over 50% of these to not even be close to accurate. That's the world we live in when trying to make predictions before a season. It's also, to me, the most exciting part about sports: predicting the unpredictable. It's probably why I love scouting so much.
Andrew Bynum will play in less games than last year
On the surface, that's not a very profound prediction for somebody who only missed 6 games last season, until you recall that last season was only 66 games long.
The optimist will say Andrew Bynum just came off a relatively injury free season, and predicting he will miss more than 22 games is outlandishly Negadelphian. Others will look at the fact that Bynum has only appeared in 60 or more games twice in the 6 seasons before last year and say that is a no brainer.
Philadelphia 76er big man? Injury history? Bone bruise?
i'll believe he plays in the majority of the games this season when I see it.
Andrew Bynum will not be as bad against double teams as advertised
This may seem like I'm flipping on my earlier statements, where I said Andrew Bynum was really bad at recognizing double teams, but it's not. He is really bad at recognizing double teams.
But there's hope.
First, you have to recall just how bad of a shooting team the Lakers were. 6th worst in the league in 3 pt %, bottom half in three pointers made. Bottom half in spot-up efficiency (19th), overall jump shots efficiency (19th), and catch and shoot jumper shot efficiency (16th). All of this led to poor floor spacing and a situation where defenders were able to cheat down on Bynum in the post. That won't be the case with this years 76ers team.
Plus, Bynum will see a lot more double teams this year, and I believe with the constant repetition and improved floor spacing provided by far superior catch and shoot players that Bynum will improve.
He'll still likely be below average at it when the season is over, but he won't be horrible at it like he is now.
Evan Turner won't play 30 mpg - and won't start in at least half the games
A lot of things are factoring into this prediction.
First, I think it's clear Collins and the 76ers want to focus on the Jrue Holiday, and you could see a lot of a Jrue Holiday / Andrew Bynum two man game, and with good reason. It's one of the things I keyed on for the 76ers with Bynum now in the fold. I think it's clear they view Holiday as the primary initiator from the perimeter, and you'll see Holiday step up into a significantly bigger role than before.
The third wheel in the Holiday / Bynum two man game is not a place Evan Turner will thrive in. Whether it's Jrue Holiday penetrating, Holiday coming off the pick and roll, or Bynum creating on the low block, it will be imperative for the 76ers to fill the perimeter with good catch and shoot players, which Turner is not.
Second, I think it's time to accept the fact that Evan may not be as good as we hoped. This topic has been beaten to death and I'm not going to waste too much real estate in this article starting another debate on the topic, but at this point I think even Turner's biggest supporters have to admit he may not be a slam dunk top (or even #2) scoring option.
Then it comes down to fit. As I mentioned, Turner's inconsistent jump shot is a real detriment to both Bynum on the block and a Jrue / Bynum two man game. If the Sixers have better fits on their roster -- and Dorell Wright, Jason Richardson, and Nick Young all are significantly better catch and shoot players -- then I'm not sure Turner's talent level is high enough (and dependable enough) that you can throw fit out the window.
More importantly, I don't think Doug Collins views it as high enough that you can throw fit out the window.
I think you could see Turner start the first 15 or so games of the season, get benched, start a few more games, and get benched again. I don't think he's going to be a guy you will pencil in as a starter and be sure he's going to get 30 minutes per game.
Furthermore, I think Turner doesn't average more than 25 minutes per game after the all-star break.
Thaddeus Young becomes the starter at power forward
Also, it needs to be stated that Collins hedged that announcement by saying it was because he liked Thad's fit with Allen, making it sound as if Hawes will still be the starter when paired with Bynum.
(Although, Collins did say that Young needed to be paired with a "big" big man, and they don't get much bigger than Bynum).
On this one I might get into the trap of going with what I believe in and not what I believe Collins believes in. However, I believe that Thaddeus Young is not only the best player of the Young/Hawes/Brown combination, I also think he's the best fit.
If ever there was a time for Young's face-up-and-no-defensive-rebounding game to be featured, it's next to Andrew Bynum. If ever there was a time when you could get away with the tantalizing matchup nightmares he presents (both positive and negative), it's with this combination of players.
The Sixers also have enough depth to be able to sustain losing one of their core sparks off the bench.
Also, and most importantly, I can't believe that Collins will be happy with Hawes defense at power forward, which should be an absolute circus.
Jrue Holiday scores a relatively efficient 18 points per game.
This is the year I think Jrue Holiday steps up into a second option. This is the year I think his potential off the pick and roll is realized. His combination of shifty dribble moves, sweet jumper, and under-rated passing ability to big men diving towards the hoop blossoms into a legitimate 18 point per game option on offense, firmly establishing himself as the most well rounded perimeter player on the team and the one to initiate the half-court offense.
I also think this is the year Jrue Holiday becomes the leader on the team, even if he's not their best overall player.
76ers record: 46-36
I think if Bynum could stay healthy for 75+ games, they could challenge for 50 wins.
There you have it, some predictions that will probably look stupid in a few months. How do you think this season will unfold?