As you may well know, every football announcer on the face of the Earth has at least once uttered the phrase that the NBA is "a copycat league," and many basketball announcers have followed suit. My question is, have you ever heard the phrase used in basketball blogging? If not, allow me to be the first person that you read to say BASKETBALL BLOGGING IS A COPYCAT ENDEAVOR.
Now with that said, we’ve seen many other websites use the "ask one opinion question and have a bunch of experts answer it" model. And guess what? WE’RE STEALING IT.
So a bunch of our experts (note: we know nothing) at LB answered questions about the Sixers upcoming season to serve as a sort of prediction post. I’m sure we’ll use the model later for much smaller matters, but for now here are our predictions, in their 2000-word glory.
1. Put away the knee lubricant aside for a second. When do you think Andrew Bynum plays his first game in a Sixers uniform?
Michael Levin: Can't put the knee lubricant aside, it's stapled to my body. If I could, I'd ballpark it at 11/24 against the Thunder. Everything I've been hearing on the record and off has worried me more and more. God help us.
Tanner Steidel: If by "put the knee lubricant aside for a second" you mean for me to put it aside my bed, then I'm 10 steps ahead of you. I'll say Drew is out for the first month or so. From what they taught me at Western Salisbury Elementary School, one month from opening night is December 1, meaning the first game he'd appear in is @Chicago that Saturday night.
Justin F.: There is zero chance of me putting away any type of lube. If you want a specific game, December 7 versus Boston at the Wells Fargo Center. The game is already scheduled to be televised. Player intros are going to be epic, you guys (ed. note: Hang in there, Karl).
Kami Mattioli: Mid-to-late November. I'm gonna go with the 22nd in Milwaukee.
Roy Burton: November 12. Not only is that the start of a five-game homestand, but it's exactly two weeks from now, and that should be plenty of time for Bynum to get through a few practices without pain. If Bynum isn't any closer to game action by then, his knee might be worse off than we think.
Brandon Lee: I have this weird feeling they'll want to debut him at a home game. So let's say 11/14 vs. Detroit. That might be too optimistic but it's really hard to know what to think with all of this uncertainty. At the very least I think he makes his debut in 2012 sometime.
Mike Baumann: I dunno, but Andrew Bynum's knees have their own page on the local CBS website, so I doubt this is the last we'll hear of it. Having to pick a date, I'd say he takes a couple more weeks and returns to limited action around Nov. 16, but you might as well use a dartboard to pick that one out.
Derek Bodner: This is a tough one. I don't think he'll be out too long initially, but I doubt this is the last we'll hear of it. Throwing a dart at the dart board, I think he'll play his first game November 12th at home against Milwaukee, will play less than 2 weeks, then will be on the shelf again. I think he'll be back "full time" mid-December.
Rich Hofmann: In looking for the most dramatic return possible, I was tempted to say 12/16 against some stupid team from California. But alas, I don’t think he’ll be out for that long. Let’s go with Sunday, 11/18 against Cleveland. Why? Because God hates Cleveland.
2. I know preseason isn't supposed to mean much, but can we take anything out of how well the Sixers played? And if so, what?
Levin: There are three things I take away from preseason, and they're all from players that weren't on the team last year. One, Maalik Wayns is better than I gave him credit for. Could be a solid backup point. Sorry about before, Sheep. Two, Dorell Wright is just as good as I hoped he'd be. Three, Nick Young could be a really, really good offensive player if Collins got him to drastically improve his shot selection. It worked in preseason, let's see if it translates when it counts.
Tanner: The two biggest things I can take out of preseason are how Nick Young can, for some reason, make me fall even more in love with him each and every day and Spencer Hawes' haircut. I'm honestly hoping for him to go straight rat-tail at some point. Or maybe as a tribute, go old school Kurt Rambis hair. the possibilities are endless. Seeing as nothing I've said is actually serious, I don't take anything out of preseason NBA.
Justin: The only thing you can possibly takeaway from the pre-season is that Maalik Wayns is the second coming of Steve Nash and/or Nick Foles. But seriously, I always take very little away from pre-season games, whether they be successes or failures.
Mattioli: This team can shoot the hell out of the ball, and the backcourt is
arguably more dangerous than last year's. Case in point -- Maalik Wayns proved he is a more-than-capable back-up floor general with a dangerous treyball -- or at least definitely more capable at running the point than Evan Turner was. Throw in the sharpshooting displays of Nick Young, who seems to have ice in his veins, and the question becomes "Lou who?"
Burton: We have shooters! Jodie Meeks was the only player who could consistently stretch the floor for the Sixers last year, and now we have three guys who can do that in J-Rich, Dorell and Swaggy. Oh, and we learned that Maalik Wayns is WAY better than Royal Ivey.
Lee: Sure, preseason makes diamonds right? Oh, that's not how the phrase goes? If you can take anything out of the Sixers preseason, I think it's that they might be better without Bynum than we originally thought. The other obvious takeaway is that this team can really shoot the ball well from 3. That'll be fun to watch should it continue.
Baumann: I think there's at least a reminder that the Sixers can run a pretty deep rotation if they want to. Whether this means more insurance against an extended Bynum absence or the opportunity to beat up on opponents' second units during the course of the game, it's been a comfort for a team that still has a ton of question marks.
Bodner: There's two things I will take away from an extremely positive preseason: Maalik Wayns is deserving of NBA minutes, and we slept a little bit on Dorell Wright. I'm not ready to say our backup point guard problems are solved (although I think our backup point guard is Evan Turner), but I'm more comfortable with Wayns playing in a regular season game than I was a month ago. As for Wright, not only is he an obvious fit with Bynum, but I think his presence is going to help Jrue out quite a bit as well.
Hofmann: I was stunned by how well they played. The Sixers beat Brooklyn and Boston (for three quarters at least when they had their starters in) on the road against their regular rotations, without Bynum. Make whatever preseason excuses you want, those teams played those games hard, and with their regular rotations. Right now, the Sixers looked on their level, at least head-to-head. Which brings hope for when they hopefully have Bynum, who should combat the inevitable drop-off from the other players.
3. Assuming Bynum is healthy at some point, how do you think the frontcourt rotation shakes out?
Levin: I think Thad will eventually take most of Spencer's minutes, even if Hawes remains the de facto starter. Lavoy will get a handful and Kwame will see a lot of bench time. Moultrie might not even exist at this point.
Tanner: When Bynum returns, I see him, Lavoy, and Thad getting the majority of the minutes. Spencer will get the average amount of minutes but he'll be more of an outsider looking in. Kwame Brown won't see the court because I'll poison his pre-game Tab every night. You think he'd smarten up and stop having Tab if he keeps getting sick. But he won't.
Justin: Everyone's dream/nightmare of Spencer Hawes at the 4 comes to fruition. Thad and Lavoy will go from starters to bench players, Arnett Moultrie will go to the D-League if not already there, and Kwame's most difficult in-game task will be keeping the bloodflow to the anus while sitting for two-and-a-half to three hours. Oh, and something about a starting center named Andrew Bynum. I hear he's pretty good.
Burton: Initially, I think Collins will go with the Hawes/Bynum combination in the frontcourt on most nights with Young/Allen as the primary reserves. On those occasions when the Sixers face a team with a stretch four (or when the "positionless" Miami Heat are on the schedule), I wouldn't be surprised to see Young start in place of Hawes.
Lee: Some combination of: a healthy dose of Bynum, too much Hawes for my liking, enough Kwame to spell Bynum for a breather, a good amount of Thad/Lavoy, not enough Moultrie because he'll either be in the D-League or relegated to Graveyard Shift duty.
Baumann: I know the Sixers are committed to going big, but I don't know how well they can defend with Spencer Hawes playing significant minutes at power forward. With more and more teams going small at power forward, I'm hoping Thaddeus Young steps up and allows the Sixers to make room for him there, but don't know how likely that is.
Bodner: I think Hawes will start far too many games than I'd want him to, even if he is only the starter in name and isn't closing games. I think Kwame will fall out of the rotation for at least half the season, being behind Bynum, Lavoy, Thad, and Hawes. I think Moultrie will see a cup of coffee in January, getting some small (but regular) runs for about 2 weeks before heading back to the bench and/or d-league. In terms of minutes, I think it will end up being Bynum, Young, Hawes, Allen in that order, with nobody other than Bynum playing more than 30 per night.
Hofmann: Let’s start with the premise that Hawes and Bynum can’t play together for more than 5-10 minutes in the middle of the game and on a few nights, not at all. So then, I think it’s simple: Start Thad with Bynum, let Lavoy and Hawes come off the bench, and mix and match. Done. Hawes guarding bench players would limit the damage he causes infinitesimally. Oh yeah, why did they sign Kwame? Or trade for Moultrie?
4. We couldn't not have a Turner question, so let's make it a fill in the blank. Evan Turner's 2012-13 season is ________?
Tanner: ready to see all sorts of "Evan Turner apologist" mode from me. Is it okay if I'm completely self-aware about it?
Justin: Underwhelming. His rebounding will remain elite, but his offense continues to be inefficient, and the "BUST!" bandwagon will be at an all time high. He'll continue to do what he does well, but I am really beginning to doubt ET ever reaches his potential.
Mattioli: Delayed vindication, if he can finally prove that he is capable of
living up to his second-overall-pick potential.
Burton: Underwhelming. He shot less than 35 percent in the preseason, and was probably the most disappointing rotation player on the roster. I think his numbers will more or less be in line with last year, and his chances of signing a long-term extension with the Sixers will take a severe hit.
Lee: Unsurprisingly disappointing.
Baumann: Going to include a rebounds/steals/assists triple-double.
Bodner: Far too similar to what he's done so far. He'll rebounding exceptionally well, which will help if Young starts at power forward eventually. He'll play average-to-above-average defense, he'll wow us with some ball handling moves, but he'll continue to misfire from the perimeter and struggle finishing against athletes. He'll do just enough to give some of the fanbase (and front office) hope, while not enough to answer any long term questions. As I've said before, I think he's on the bench (but still with a decent role) well before the mid-way point of the season.
Hofmann: I wish that I could say "scrumtrulescent," but I can’t. He’s still going to be one of the greatest rebounding guards in history, and a passable defender, but the other stuff is worrisome. We’ve covered this a lot, but I don’t see how he improves at putting the ball in the hole at an acceptable rate. And with a new vision centered around bringing in catch-and-shoot guys around a low-post shot creator in Bynum, ET’s skillset seems like a poor fit even before you look at his production. Let’s hope I’m wrong.
5. Two fill in the blanks in a row! The Eagles season so far has been _____________?
Hofmann: ANOF^N*&&YDAKDM;LSAAL;DA;,LAADMK LLD!A#KKLD&ALKMDE. That’s how it’s been.
6. Omar Little/Brother Mouzone style "gun to your head" question, because everyone loves these: Let's assume Bynum plays 65-70 games. What's the Sixers' final record and where do they finish in the Eastern Conference? And why?
Levin: I'll hold strong at 47-35 and the 4-seed. From a personnel standpoint, I think they're the 2nd or 3rd best team in the East. But teams like Indiana and Boston have been together for longer so they may have the edge at least this season.
Tanner: I originally was going to say 44 wins but to stay with "The Wire" theme here, I'll say 45. After they win their final game of the season, Omar comes in the locker room and give his "but these 4-5's beat a full house" speech. Clearly Miami is ahead of them and I think Boston is going to win a ton of games as well. Barring some unforeseen injury or Hibbert not caring now that he got a beastly contract, Indiana should be up ahead of them. I'll take Atlanta to finish over the Sixers too just because it'll be so Lou to do that.
Justin: 46 wins. 5th in the Eastern Conference. If Bynum sits five games or less, I'd put them at 48-49 wins and challenging for the division crown and maybe the 2-seed. If Bynum sits 20-30 games, .500 and a possible 8-seed. If Bynum sits half the season, the Sixers miss the playoffs entirely.
Burton: Assuming that I don't have any Honey Nut Cheerios to help earn a stay of execution from Omar, I'll slot the Sixers at 46-36 and have them finishing in the No. 5 spot in the East. I think they're just as good as Brooklyn, but I see the Nets winning about 47-48 games. 50 wins and the No. 4 seed isn't totally out of the question for the Sixers, however.
Lee: I'll say 49-33, which should be good for about 4th or 5th in the East. A healthy Bynum makes this team hard to beat. Between his post dominance and the improved outside shooting, I don't think the Sixers will have too much trouble scoring. I also expect the defense to hold up despite losing Andre Iguodala. AND THAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE, BECAUSE STONE COLD SAID SO **glass breaks**
Baumann: 44-38, fifth in the East. If the Sixers re-sign Bynum and continue to develop with a core of him, Turner and Holliday, they will be at the very least fringe contenders for the NBA title for the foreseeable future. But this is still an intermediate step in the process, and we need to bear in mind that the Sixers were more the "No. 8 seed" type of team last year than they were the "finished one game away from the conference finals" kind of team.
Bodner: If Bynum plays 70 games, I say 49-33. I don't think he will, but that's my number if he plays that much. With the shooters we have to space the floor, I think he does a better job of handling double teams, and I think he and Jrue can form a good two-man game. And I think Doug Collins and Michael Curry are going to have this team defend the heck out of the ball.
Hofmann: The preseason suckered me in big time. I just love the way all of the shooters played, and also love what Collins has said about getting more free-throws and shooting more threes, and because of that, the pre-preseason pick of 43 gets a huge four game bump to 47 wins and the 5th seed. I think that the number is simply of matter of Bynum’s health, because if healthy, it’s a lock that he’ll be great. Take a look at the schedule and think about every night that he’s going to have a huge mismatch. And newsflash, that’s going to be pretty much every night he suits up against an Eastern Conference opponent.
Alright guys, this wraps it up. Please give us your answers and/or pick faults with ours (but not mine, obviously) in the comments!