Suddenly, a major overhaul for 76ers

Posted: August 10, 2012

The worry of 76ers fans after the team lost Game 7 in the Eastern Conference semifinals to the Boston Celtics was that the unexpected playoff run would give management a false hope of security, that overhauling a group that went 35-31 in the shortened season was not now a necessity.

Worry no more. On Friday, the NBA approved a four-team trade that brings humongous center Andrew Bynum to the Sixers and sends enigmatic Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets. The Sixers will also get veteran 6-6 shooting guard Jason Richardson and depart with this year's initial first-round draft pick, Maurice Harkless, second-year center Nikola Vucevic and a protected first-round pick, all going to the Orlando Magic.

Of the key players who took the floor against the Celtics in that season-ending loss, gone are Elton Brand, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks and Iguodala. In their place the Sixers have now added a hulk in the middle in the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum, big outside shooters in Richardson, 6-7 Nick Young and 6-9 Dorell Wright. They also collected banger Kwame Brown and 6-10 rookie Arnett Moultrie.

Coach Doug Collins often refers to coaching as putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Well, this summer has given him a lot of new pieces and seemingly has changed the team's makeup from one that scored best when running to one that can still do that but also should be able to score more easily in the halfcourt.

The starting lineup will be almost totally revamped. Jrue Holiday will run the point and Evan Turner most certainly will stay with the first five, but most probably will move to small forward, replacing Iguodala. Wright or Richardson most likely will step into the starting "two" spot, while the power-forward slot would seemingly be up for grabs.

In a meeting with the media before he left for London for his role as basketball analyst for NBC, Collins said he was toying with the idea of starting Spencer Hawes at power forward, reasoning that Hawes likes to step out and shoot the ball away from the basket and is a very good passer and could still rebound the ball. That, of course, was when it appeared Brown was going to be the starter in the middle. Now with Bynum, will Collins go with a pair of 7-footers or turn to another direction?

Though he provided terrific spark off the bench for Collins the past couple of seasons, could it be time for Thaddeus Young to be installed as a starter? Collins has stated repeatedly that when Young is on the court he needs to be paired with rebounders. Bynum, who averaged 11.8 boards (and 18.7 points) for the Lakers last season, can certainly do that, and the coach called Turner the team's best rebounder last season. Also, Lavoy Allen was the team's best big man in the playoff run against the Celtics, providing a toughness and physicality that the team was sorely missing. That certainly is the case no more.

How about a starting lineup of Holiday, Wright, Turner, Hawes and Bynum? Turner and maybe Maalik Wayns could spell Holiday at the point, while Nick Young and Richardson provide shooting off the bench. Thaddeus Young and Brown could spell Hawes and Bynum, while Allen finds minutes filling in both the "four" and "five" spots.

Whatever the solution is come Opening Might on Oct. 31, Collins certainly has a lot of pieces to play with. But for the first time since 2004, Iguodala will not be one of them. Instead, he'll be on the visitors' side when the Nuggets and Sixers open the season at the Wells Fargo Center.

The subject of trade rumors for the past several seasons and the main subject of the fans' ire over that time as the team mired in mediocrity, Iguodala's value was probably as high now as it has ever been. Collins heartily campaigned for Iguodala to be named an all-league defender, stating that he was the best shutdown defender in the NBA. Iguodala, who has seen his scoring average dip in each of the past four seasons, made his first All-Star team last season and is on track for a gold medal as a sub for Team USA. His all-around game is coveted by many around the league, but it had run its course in Philadelphia as Iguodala was stuck with the tag of being aloof and not good enough to be the star player to carry the team out of the muck of mediocrity.

Now, not only does the product on the floor appear better than the one that finished last season, it is also much younger and leaves plenty of options for whoever president Rod Thorn's successor may be.

Holiday (22), Turner (23), Allen (23), Thad Young (24), Hawes (24) and Bynum (24) are all under 25, while Wright and Nick Young are 26. They are a very young team but also one that has much experience. And while it would appear to be a group to keep together for a long time, the front office has many options due to many short contracts.

Bynum has 1 year left at $16.5 million. The Sixers have gained Bynum's Bird rights, meaning they can sign him to a 5-year extension worth $102 million while other teams can only give him $80 million over 4 years. Additionally, Hawes ($6.5 million per season) is signed for just 2 years while Wright ($4.1 million) and Nick Young ($6 million) are signed for 1. Brown is signed for 2 at $3 million per, but has a player option at the end of this season.

Early in the summer, the Daily News broke the story that the Sixers were actively searching for a replacement for Thorn, whose contract expires after this coming season. Whoever gets the job can thank Thorn for going out with a bang and leaving plenty of options for the future.

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