Less than 24 hours after acquiring Andrew Bynum, people are already questioning whether the Sixers can contend with the Miami Heat. The last time everyone was this adamant about the Sixers contention, was the summer of 2008, when the Sixers signed Elton Brand. That worked out well.
While I love the trade – love it – I'm not 100 percent board with the idea of Sixers as legitimate contenders for the Eastern Conference crown, just yet. While they added Bynum and a couple shooters, they lost Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand and Louis Williams, and I think those losses will prove significant.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Sixers challenged for a 50-win season and made some noise in the Playoffs, but it won't be an easy road, as nearly every team in their division improved during the off-season.
The Celtics lost Ray Allen to the Miami Heat, but if they remain healthy – a big if – they have Avery Bradley and Jeff Green returning from injuries, rookie big men, Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, to sure up the front court, and Jason Terry to come off the bench. Already equipped with two sure-fire Hall of Famers and Rajon Rondo, the Celtics will be better than last year, if healthy, and they have more Playoff experience than every other Atlantic team combined.
The Nets changed their location, changed their logo, and pulled a minor upset this off-season, by re-signing Deron Williams. They locked up Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries, while trading for Joe Johnson. They also C.J. Watson, who's a nice addition as sixth man. The Nets are worlds better than they were in 2012.
The Knicks lost Jeremy Lin in free agency, but added an array of newly-acquired pieces. Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, and Ronnie Brewer will join Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, to comprise of a pretty old team. Old, intriguing, and far from terrible.
The Raptors decided to bring over Jonas Valanciunas – who would've been the second overall pick in this year's draft – to pair with the newly-acquired Kyle Lowry. They also signed Landry Fields and drafted Terrence Ross. Much like the three other teams in the Atlantic, the Raptors didn't loss much this off-season. Lowry and Valanciunas should provide massive upgrades.
We know what the Sixers did was great, but there's still a lot of work to do. I could see them finishing anywhere from first to fourth in the Atlantic. I think they're better than the Raptors, no matter what, but this division is loaded.
If Bynum remains healthy and engaged, he's going to be a force, especially since he no longer has to worry about the glare of Kobe. But a lot of the Sixers success is going to depend on Jrue Holiday – he needs Playoff Jrue to show up, rather than regular season Jrue. If he develops likes he's supposed to, and Evan Turner fills Iguodala's role adequately – with Bynum making everyone else better – the Sixers could do some damage.
I'm tentatively predicting a second place finish for the Sixers, in the Atlantic Divison. However; it's August, and things will change. It's difficult to make a prediction when only two-fifths of the starting lineup are set in stone.
But the Atlantic is going to be tough.