The 76ers front court so far this season has been beyond abysmal. Spencer Hawes is averaging a whopping 5.4 points per game on 46% shooting to go along with 3.4 rebounds over his last 8 games. Kwame Brown has been the mistake most of us thought he would be, and Lavoy Allen, while starting to show signs of life, hasn't been near the player he was in the Boston series last year.
Just how bad is it? According to 82games.com, the 76ers centers have produced an average of a 12.7 Player Efficiency Rating, with a PER differential of -3.4. Only the Thunder (11.2 PER at the center position), Magic (11.3), Bobcats (11.5) and Raptors (12.4) get less production from the pivot.
Lacking the overall talent the Thunder have, and having considerably higher expectations than the Magic, Bobcats, or Raptors, the 76ers center position is as problematic as any team in the league.
This leads many pundits to proclaim that the 76ers need to make a move to get some big man help in here, lest the season be wasted away. Especially with the uncertainty around Andrew Bynum, the 76ers have to do something.
Right? Not so fast.
First, let's get some ground rules.
We're not talking about trading somebody who could legitimately help the 76ers compete for the Eastern Conference title should Andrew Bynum return, someone ironically like his former teammate Pau Gasol, as the 76ers are not going to have the trading chips (short of trading Jrue Holiday, which doesn't make any sense) to land somebody of that caliber.
We're also not talking about trading for a potential cornerstone of a franchise. No matter what package the 76ers put together, neither Anthony Davis nor Kevin Love are suiting up in the home locker room of the Wells Fargo Center any time soon.
We're talking about the rotation-level player likely to be available for the 76ers as the deadline approaches. We're talking about Doug Collins trying to find a role player, the type of role player who might be more valuable to the 76ers because of his ability to step in and fill a position and/or skill set of need that the team is sorely lacking.
First, we have to take into account that the 76ers are running low on assets. Assuming they make the playoffs, they'll owe Miami a 1st round pick in this upcoming draft. They also owe Orlando a future first round pick as early as 2015. With the NBA's rules requiring that you can't fail to have a 1st round pick in consecutive years, barring the 76ers ability to acquire a 1st round selection, the 76ers do not have a 1st round draft pick to trade until 2017.
They're also not loaded with cap space. As of now, if they renounce the rights to Andrew Bynum and Dorell Wright, they'll have around $44-$45 million in committed salary and just about enough cap space to have a near max level contract for a player coming off of a rookie scale contract.
However, should the 76ers make a trade during the season, and without the ability to trade a draft pick, they're likely going to have to offer salary cap flexibility as a carrot in order to entice a team to dump off even a marginally productive big man. As of now, that salary flexibility is the backup plan to Andrew Bynum signing long term next offseason, whether he leaves on his own accord or whether he is not brought back next year because the 76ers deem him too risky of an investment. If Bynum doesn't work out, the 76ers can try to find a way to clear a little bit more salary cap space and head into (more) rebuilding with an ascending Jrue Holiday and cap room to work with.
Is finding the next Kwame Brown to try to plug a hole, even a gaping one, worth giving that up? That's an emphatic no from me. If Andrew Bynum comes back, the acquisition isn't necessarily going to be a good fit with Bynum's style of play and may not see substantial minutes later on in the season and playoffs. If Bynum doesn't come back, the 76ers are not legitimate contenders anyway and losing salary cap flexibility to win 44 games instead of 41 doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.
The 76ers center position is a major problem. But the team finds itself in a position where teams often overpay, where they make mistakes in the hopes of plugging a hole in their roster. These moves rarely work out, except rare situations where a team is legitimately a title contender and the right role player just happens to be on the market.
The 76ers likely weren't ever going to be a title contender this season even with a healthy Bynum, and without Bynum they certainly aren't.
For as much pressure as there will be to find a "solution" to the big man problem outside of Andrew Bynum, I for one am hoping that the 76ers avoid making a move based out of desperation until they have a much firmer grasp on the future of #33. The only solution to the teams big man problem is currently sitting court side. Everything else is just panic.