I think they're worse than they were last year. At the same time, I understand why they traded Andre Iguodala's contract to get Andrew Bynum [who has missed the entire preseason with knee pain]. They'd gone as far as they could playing to the style they played last year.
Across the board they're now a pretty big team that's going to be hard to score against. They've changed from being runners and pressers to become a more traditional team in the half court offensively and defensively. But who guards the 3-men in the East? Who guards Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James and Paul Pierce and Gerald Wallace without Iguodala there anymore? Or who guards the best 2s, for that matter? There are other questions, too, a lot of questions.
Now that they've rebuilt the team around Bynum at center, they're going to need to have the floor spread out with guys who have to be guarded so that you won't be able to double on Bynum. The Magic got to the NBA Finals [in 2009] behind a young low-post center in Dwight Howard, but they did it with three great shooters around him. To do it in today's NBA, you have to have three guys on the perimeter to keep help defenders away from the post and put pressure on the defense. Here's what the 76ers have: Dorell Wright can shoot threes, Nick Young can, Jason Richardson can and Jrue Holiday sometimes can. But they're missing a stretch 4 or another guy who can stop you from doubling Bynum and turning him into a passer.
[Chris Mannix: What to expect from the 76ers this season]
Bynum's health and maturity would be my two big concerns if I were building my franchise around him. You're teased by the fact that he's 24 and has played on great teams, but he has never been the focal point. He's definitely one of the best young centers, but his maturity level at times makes you wonder if you'd want to make that move to depend on him. He has great size, he scores around the basket, he has a decent shot from 15 feet and he will rebound. He can affect the game defensively, but I think you can get him in foul trouble and attack him.
He wants to be the focal point and that's what the 76ers want him to be. But I don't think he's ready for it mentally. He's going to realize that those guys in L.A. made his life a lot easier because he was the third guy on the Lakers you had to worry about. The defenses he faces will be a lot tougher. You have more defensive-minded coaches and teams in the East. Bynum has never faced as many double teams as he'll see this season, and right now he's nothing more than an adequate passer out of the post. When he caught the ball in L.A., it was like he realized if I don't shoot it I'm not going to touch it again for a while. So the decisions he faced with the Lakers were a lot easier than the decisions he'll have to make with the ball in Philadelphia.
I'm a fan of Holiday's. He has size and quickness and he can shoot and defend. I've seen him get better every year. He's been in the league three years and he just turned 22. He's a 2010 version of the point guard. He's not Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, but there are not too many guys like that anymore. He plays more like a combo guard, but you're fine saying he's a point guard in today's NBA. I don't think of him as a pass-first player, but he'll pass or score based on whatever is available.
Because Holiday has quickness, his size is definitely an advantage and he understands the angles pretty well. He'll post up, he changes speeds, he can get by you into the paint and finish the play with a dunk, and he can shoot the three. He does things in stretches. You might forget about him and then all of a sudden he's going to score or influence 12 straight points. You have a tendency to sleep on him sometimes and he knows how to benefit from that. I don't know if he'll ever be an All-Star -- in the East he'd have to get past some pretty good point guards. But Holiday should be able to play well with Bynum. Holiday is as good a cutter as anybody off the ball.
[Rob Mahoney: Holiday doesn't deserve a contract extension ... yet]
It's going to be interesting to watch Thaddeus Young. I really like him, but he's now the second-highest-paid guy on the team [at $8.3 million this season], and how is he going to react to that? He's been most effective as the 4-man who can stretch out and make the paint-type 4s have to guard him out on the perimeter. In those situations, he can drive past his defender to the basket. He can also get out and rim-run after a basket. He'll get three or four scores out of those two things every game. But they may need him to do more than that now. He's an OK jump shooter, but he's definitely not one of those stretch 4s who makes you guard him out to the three-point line.
There's going to be a lot of pressure on Young and Evan Turner based on the way they've built their team this year. They're both going to have to be more consistent. I'm not a fan of Turner's, and it's probably 50-50 around the league in terms of where people stand on him. He does a lot of things well but nothing great. They'll hope Turner will become like Iguodala, a multidimensional guy who can post up smaller players, get out in transition, get to the rim and get to the free-throw line.
Turner needed good summer in the gym shooting threes. In the past, his effective shots always seemed to be rhythm shots and shots on the move, but if he spotted up that's when you noticed the hitch in his shot that is not pretty. He kind of jacks it up behind his head. It's one of those deals where if he made one or two he could get into a rhythm, but if he spotted up and you kicked it out to him off a dribble-drive, it was not an effective shot for him.
I want to see the roles they create on the wings for Turner, Richardson, Thaddeus Young, Nick Young and Wright. Defenses will be playing Richardson as a three-point shooter. He is content to run to the corners to shoot threes, though on occasion he will still get into the paint. His best days are behind him, but I still think coach Doug Collins will like him because he's tough and he will try to defend.
[Ian Thomsen: Atlantic Division preview]
I am not a believer in Nick Young. He jacks up bad shots, and he's all about Nick Young. He will tease you. That said, he's important for them because they need him to score. So he needs to be a consistent player and a three-point threat.
Wright is going to be a spot-up guy who will knock down shots, but he's not an innately tough player and that makes me think Doug won't love him.
Spencer Hawes is a better jump shooter than Thad Young and you might see him at the 4 alongside Bynum. In that case, he'll struggle to stay in front of 4s who can drive. If he does play with Bynum, they're going to be a big team. They're going to see teams playing zone against them, for sure.
Also in the frontcourt, Lavoy Allen benefited by sneaking up on people as a rookie last year. He'll get after it defensively and he can make mid-range jumpers. Kwame Brown will help them if he's healthy. He is still a good defender, and if Bynum is off the floor, Kwame will have the size to replace him. He's good at defending in the pick-and-roll and in the post. Their rookie big man, Arnett Moultrie, is a good athlete, but no one can depend on him this year.
Another question they need to resolve is at backup point guard. Royal Ivey should be your third point guard, not your backup.
Collins has tried as much as any old-school coach in the NBA to get through to his guys. You can see how much passion he still has [at age 61]. How much longer can he keep it up before he burns out?