Top 5 storylines at Sixers camp

Posted: October 02, 2012

THE MOST anticipated 76ers preseason in about a decade will start Tuesday when the team takes the court at Saint Joseph's with dominant center Andrew Bynum and proven outside marksmen Dorell Wright, Nick Young and Jason Richardson - all acquired in the offseason - to complement returning youngsters Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner and a slew of big men with varying abilities.

Three of the Sixers' top five scorers are now playing elsewhere. The much-awaited trade of enigmatic swingman Andre Iguodala to Denver helped bring Bynum from Los Angeles, while the team also decided to part with Elton Brand (amnestied and now with Dallas) and Lou Williams (who signed with Atlanta as a free agent).

Coach Doug Collins has to be feeling like an artist with a clump of clay in front of him, trying to figure out how he is going to mold the team he has been given for his third season.

Here's a look at the five most interesting storylines in training camp:

1 Andrew Bynum and the frontcourt: Similar to when Moses Malone was brought here in 1982, all eyes will be on Bynum and how he will be able to carry the organization on his gigantic 7-foot, close-to-300-pound frame. The obvious concern is health, as the soon-to-be-25-year-old has played each game of a season just once in his 7-year career. Last season, though, he missed only six of 66 games and posted career-high averages of 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 35.2 minutes a game. Those numbers are even more assuring since the shortened 2011-12 season was played in such a small time frame. Wanting to ensure his suspect knees continue to be at full strength, Bynum had a noninvasive knee procedure done in Germany that former teammate Kobe Bryant swore by.

Who he'll be paired with in the starting lineup is intriguing, with Spencer Hawes looking to be the front-runner. That would give the Sixers two 7-footers on the floor with a true post presence in Bynum and, in Hawes, a good passer and shooter who can also rebound. The roles of Lavoy Allen, Thaddeus Young, Kwame Brown and rookie Arnett Moultrie are among many riddles on Collins' plate.

2 Evan Turner and his progress: The flashes shown by the second-year swingman last season had fans salivating and questioning why Collins wasn't playing Turner more. The answer was twofold. One was that Turner mostly showed just that - flashes. His overall play wasn't consistent enough for Collins to put unwavering trust in the No. 2 pick from the 2010 draft. The second reason he didn't see the court more or couldn't overtake Jodie Meeks as a starter was because Iguodala was entrenched in doing many of the things that Turner does best - rebound, defend and take the ball to the basket.

With Iguodala now removed, it is Turner's time. Collins has said there is no one who has worked harder this offseason, who wants to succeed more than Turner. The question that always arises is about his shooting. The key for Turner in that regard is getting to the right shooting spots for him, which is 18 feet and in. With all the added sharpshooters and Bynum, getting to his hot spots should be easier.

3 Where is Jrue Holiday now? Now in his third season as the team's starting point guard, this is a huge year for Holiday. No one was hurt more by the lockout last season than Holiday, who needs his game to be tighter than it was a year ago. The playground game that popped up too much with one-handed passes that often led to fastbreaks the other way have to become a thing of the past. He will no doubt benefit from having the dominant center and from all the terrific outside shooting surrounding him, allowing him to not have to force his offense as much as last season. He should score about the same as or more than last season's 13.5 average, but his .432 shooting percentage should rise. Also, with Iguodala's 5.5 assists gone, Holiday should boost the 4.5 he dealt last season.

4 Can the defense remain as solid? Like him or not, the Sixers lost one of the premier defenders in the league in Iguodala. Turner will be relied on to pick up a lot of that slack. In Wright, they have a player who was counted on as a defensive stopper early in his career, and Bynum will certainly make up for a lot of perimeter mistakes by swatting shots near the basket. The concern is if Hawes does garner the starting power-forward spot, how will he cover smaller, faster players? But remember, Brand was the starting power forward last season and also played a lot of time at center. Undersized Thaddeus Young plays a ton of minutes at the power forward, and yet Collins and associate head coach Michael Curry still found a way to form one of the top three defensive teams in the league.

5 How will Collins fit all the pieces? There is no one more excited for this upcoming season than the coach. He revels in putting puzzles together and he has a bunch of intriguing pieces with which to work. Last season the team needed to get its points from its defense, with steals and rebounding that enabled it to get out on the run. A halfcourt offense was pretty much unheard of. Now there's Bynum and all that outside shooting and the varied offensive talents of Turner. Collins still will look for his team to get out on the break as much as possible and shoot many threes from that. But if that doesn't work, there's always that mammoth center in the post.


Contact Bob Cooney at cooneyb@phillynews.com. Follow him on Twitter @BobCooney76. For more Sixers coverage, read his blog at philly.com/Sixerville.

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