Bob Ford: A rare commodity for the Sixers

Posted: August 12, 2012

Andrew Bynum, the new starting center of the 76ers, was acquired in an unwieldy four-team trade Friday that was apparently designed to prove once again that the Los Angeles Lakers can pretty much pull off anything they want.

Denver, Orlando, and the Sixers were bystanders getting a taste of the action, but the Lakers, despite an already healthy payroll, were able to add the best big man in the NBA. If that doesn't seem fair, at least it seems familiar.

Denver and the Sixers came out of the deal reasonably well, but Orlando emerged as a stripped-down shell with a pocketful of first-round draft picks and what appears to be a rebuilding project that will extend far into the future. That's what happens when the best big man in the league - your big man - decides he wants to leave. It's time to turn down the lights and save electricity.

By getting Bynum, along with shooting guard Jason Richardson, in exchange for Andre Iguodala, Nic Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and a future lottery-protected first-round pick, the Sixers not only have explained some of their previously puzzling moves, but they also have saved the local populace from enduring the Kwame Brown era at center. For that alone, there should be a parade.

Last season, in his first full season as a starter (albeit a lockout-shortened one), Bynum averaged 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. He had been hampered in the previous few seasons by knee injuries and, it seemed, an organizational indifference by the Lakers regarding him.

To put Bynum's 2011-12 season in perspective from the Sixers' point of view, if Bynum's numbers were transferred, he would easily have led the team in scoring. The last true center who averaged more than 18 points and led the Sixers in scoring was Moses Malone in 1986. The guy before him was Wilt Chamberlain in 1968.

Aside from those two, it hasn't been a great half-century for franchise centers since the Sixers relocated from Syracuse, which is a very big reason that the team's only two titles came with Chamberlain on the floor for one of them and Malone on the floor for the other.

Other than that, it has been a lot of Shawn Bradley, Harvey Catchings, Mike Gminski, Manute Bol, and the like, a tradition that continued last season with Spencer Hawes, a nice enough guy but not to be confused with Malone or Chamberlain.

Bynum isn't in that class, either, but he turns 25 in October, gets out of bed every day and is 7 feet tall, and can really play, particularly on the offensive end. He is probably the second-best center in the league, behind only Howard, and he is by far the most talented center the Sixers have had since Malone.

Did I mention that he also prevents us having to watch Brown, who would instantly have claimed the prize for worst hands on a starter in franchise history? He would have taken that mantle from the legendary Darrell Imhoff, and not by a little bit, either. Brown's preferred method of gathering in a pass is to let it strike him in the chest and then smother it before it rebounds away.

There is risk with Bynum as well, but none regarding his hands, which are excellent. The biggest risk is that he is far from certain to remain healthy. He also has a little attitude to him, which can be good if properly channeled, but it leads him to do some wifty things at time.

The Lakers were particularly unamused when, left home on a road trip to do rehab after one knee injury, Bynum was photographed at the Playboy mansion with a Playmate straddling his shoulders. That apparently wasn't in the prescribed program.

When he delayed an offseason surgery to go on vacation at the World Cup in South Africa and then didn't recover in time to start the season, that didn't go over well, either.

Still, whatever the risk and even if Bynum chooses to leave as a free agent after the season, this was a deal the Sixers had to make. They get a fresh start without Iguodala bringing everyone down in his role as Eeyore, The Swingman Nobody Appreciates. They added a perimeter weapon in Richardson and have set themselves up for a strong push in the free-agent market next offseason.

It is a little scary that the Sixers traded another first-round draft pick, after burning one to get power forward Arnett Moultrie, and that they also dealt their last two first-rounders, as well. They can argue that with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen, Thaddeus Young, Bynum, and Moultrie, they are plenty young enough, and also have youngish players in Hawes, Dorell Wright, and Nick Young. Thaddeus Young, at 24, now has the longest tenure with the team.

Another risk is that Harkless turns out to be a special player, which a lot of people think is possible. Even so, the trade still would be the right move for right now. It will be interesting to see how Doug Collins sets up his starting lineup and his rotation. There are still six players between 6-foot-6 and 6-9 on the team, so those swingman minutes will remain hard to come by.

At last, however, there is someone tall on the team who might live up to his height. It has been a while since the Sixers had one of those. Just for a change, it will be nice to give that a try again.

Contact columnist Bob Ford at, read his blog at, and follow @bobfordsports on Twitter.

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