The Philadelphia 76ers were never supposed to acquire Andrew Bynum. They seemed content to build for the future, eventually trade Andre Iguodala for prospects and focus on developing their own young talent. But when the opportunity to acquire the mercurial Los Angeles Lakers' center presented itself, the 76ers realized they had to jump on it.
Now, Bynum has his own franchise, which is still very much in transition. How will all the pieces fit? We consider that question in our 76ers' offseason review.
On pure talent alone, acquiring Bynum for Andre Iguodala and Maurice Harkless is a steal. They simply don't make big-man prospects like Bynum these days. He's an incredibly efficient low-post scorer in a league where they don't exist, and he's still just 25 years old. There are only a handful of players in the league that could leap to franchise player status, and Bynum is probably the only one that plays at a premium position like center. That the 76ers nabbed him without trading any significant future assets is huge.
That said, this will be an interesting transition for Bynum. On the one hand, he'll get far more touches now that he no longer has to share the court with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Given his scoring efficiency, he deserves those touches. On the other hand ... he will now have to deal with increased attention from defenders now that he isn't sharing the court with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. That may exacerbate some of his weaknesses, especially his struggles passing out of double teams. The superior high-post play of Gasol set up so many easy hi-low lobs for Bynum, and I don't know if he'll get those with the 76ers.
It's also worth noting that Bynum and Doug Collins don't seem like an ideal mix. Bynum clearly has some growing up to do, and while none of his personality issues are malignant, they may be magnified because of Collins' propensity to be a bit controlling. This is the first time Collins has ever had a big man as talented as Bynum, so I'm a bit skeptical that he will do a good enough job designing an offense that highlights Bynum's strengths.
It also doesn't help that the roster doesn't really suit Bynum's strengths. A four-out, one-in offense, as described in this must-read Liberty Ballers post, is a great way to use Bynum, but several key 76ers' players are either non-shooters or poor entry passers. I'm not really sure how Evan Turner fits in, for example, and I don't love that Jrue Holiday is the only primary ball-handler on the roster. An adjustment will be needed there.
But all that skepticism aside, this was a home-run acquisition for Philadelphia. They needed a franchise player and they got one without giving up too much. As fine a player as Andre Iguodala was, he wasn't taking the 76ers anywhere. Bynum very well could.
I actually think Richardson will help the 76ers a lot more than he helped the Magic last year. He's an ideal fit with a team that doesn't need him to do much ball-handling. The Magic, though, stretched him too thin, forcing him to focus more on his weaknesses instead of playing to his strengths. His spot-up numbers on MySynergySports.com were mediocre with the Magic after being outstanding with the Phoenix Suns. I expect them to end up somewhere in the middle on a 76ers team that will use him to space the floor for Bynum.
Another solid acquisition, especially considering they basically got him for free in a trade. Wright sometimes gets a little too trigger-happy trying to prove he's more than just a shooter, but when he focuses on his strengths, he's a real asset. He shoots a very good percentage from 3-point range, and he has a nice shot-fake-and-drive game when he uses it. I would expect him to start at small forward, given the 76ers' need to surround Bynum with shooters.
Paying Young $6 million for one year is better value than paying Lou Williams $21 million for four years, but I think the 76ers downgraded on the court here. Williams' ability to handle the ball without turning it over bailed the 76ers out so many times in the past. He had his weaknesses, but the 76ers will badly miss his ability to create a shot when the offense broke down.
Young is an instant offense player like Williams, but in a different way. He is a phenomenal spot-up shooter when he puts his mind to it, but he is a poor ball-handler, has zero court vision and can't create efficient shots on his own. The Washington Wizards tried using him as more of a pick and roll player before trading him to the Los Angeles Clippers, and it was a disaster. Ideally, the 76ers use him by running him off baseline screens and setting backpicks for him to fade into the corner when a point guard penetrates, but with so few primary ball-handlers on the roster, they may need Young to do more ball-handling than he's capable of doing.
KWAME BROWN AND SPENCER HAWES
You always need extra big men, and both of these guys signed fairly reasonable contracts. Hawes is a liability as a starter, but as a backup, he'll be fine. Brown is too limited to play a bigger role, but he can also play 10-15 minutes a game reliably, especially against teams with good low-post scorers.
It'll be interesting to see how Collins uses his big men. In addition to these two, he can deploy LaVoy Allen and Thaddeus Young with Bynum. Allen and Hawes would make sense as frontcourt partners if Collins wants to replicate the high-low action Bynum had with Gasol in Los Angeles, while Young is a better fit for a four-out, one-in style.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
The 76ers are clearly a team in transition, and I think that'll cause them to fall short of expectations in Year 1, but I really like the long-term direction of the franchise. In a couple years, this team will be a force in the Eastern Conference, with Bynum as the centerpiece. It just might not happen right away.