No shortage of Sixers storylines

Spencer Hawes, who will start at the four position, looks to pass defended by Arnett Moultrie, who also will be part of the frontcourt rotation.
Spencer Hawes, who will start at the four position, looks to pass defended by Arnett Moultrie, who also will be part of the frontcourt rotation. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: October 12, 2012

THERE ARE many intriguing subjects 76ers fans will be scrutinizing Thursday night when the revamped team takes to the floor for its first exhibition game against the Magic in Orlando.

Of course, the most anticipated new arrival won't be playing as center Andrew Bynum is still rehabbing his sore knee with the hopes of getting back on the court in time to be ready for the seasons opener against the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 31.

Still, with so many new faces there are quite a few storylines worth pursuing. Here's a list of some things to look for.

The improvement of Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Holiday has had a wonderful training camp, showing a much improved passing ability and a consistency in taking the ball to the basket and scoring. Maybe the most improved part of his game, though, appears to be his outside shooting. With a roster now sprinkled with legitimate three-point shooters, Holiday has proven himself so far to be among the best on the team.

Maybe the most important aspect of Turner's game is the mental one, and the third-year swingman seems to be in a very good spot. Playing time is his. For the first time in his short career he is plugged into a spot, and barring a catastrophe, he should stay there. He is now the starting small forward - taking over the spot from the departed Andre Iguodala - who also will handle the ball a good amount. Perhaps no one on the team will prosper more from the gathering of good outside shooters than Turner. That will allow him to get to the basket in a regular fashion where he can score and dish. Forget about asking if his outside shot has improved, because it hasn't. For him to be most effective he needs to be getting shots inside of 15 feet, driving to the rim and going to the foul line. A reasonable goal for Turner would be to try and duplicate the numbers posted by Iguodala - say 15 points, five to six rebounds and four to five assists a game.

Can Jason Richardson find enough shots at the two guard? It appears the veteran, now in his 12th season, is penned in as the starting shooting guard. It seemed like the team struggled to find him shots sometimes in camp, mostly because the likes of Holiday, Turner and Spencer Hawes aren't used to playing with such a proven, deep sharpshooter. As practices have gone on, the team has done a better job of finding Richardson outside the three-point line, particularly when he slides out there on a fastbreak. Training camp seems to have made the 31-year-old a little heavy-legged, which has hindered his shooting a bit. But his stroke is a thing of beauty and should return when his legs do.

Can Hawes handle defensive assignments at the power forward spot? Collins is sticking with his plan to start Hawes at the four, eventually alongside Bynum in the frontcourt once he returns. Offensively that could prove to be quite intriguing, having a 7-foot brute force in Bynum and a 7-footer who can handle the ball and shoot from outside. Defensively, the concern is that Hawes will get beat to the basket, thus relying on Bynum too much for help and perhaps getting the center in foul trouble. It's a very legitimate concern. Fans can take solace in the fact that last season Elton Brand, certainly not the quickest afoot defensively, was the starting power forward. Michael Curry, Collins defensive coordinator, has the trust of his coach that he will make it work.

Where, when and how will Collins use Nick Young and Dorell Wright? Like Richardson, these two can kill it from deep. Young is just a flat-out scorer, ammunition Collins loves bringing off the bench, so look for him to most likely spell Richardson. At 6-8, Wright can - and has - played every spot from shooting guard to power forward in camp, and Collins has boasted endlessly about Wright's ballhandling, stating that when Holiday is on the bench, Wright could be in the game with Turner sharing the ballhandling duties. So busy has Collins been trying to mix and match during training camp that Nick Young hasn't even had a chance to run with Turner and Holiday.

How will the frontcourt rotation work? This will be tricky to work out as Bynum will miss all of the preseason, but let's look at it when he's available. As stated, Hawes will start at the four. Collins has said that when Hawes or Thaddeus Young are in the game they will need to be paired with a big, strong inside presence - such as Bynum, Lavoy Allen, Kwame Brown or even rookie Arnett Moultrie. While Brown might start some during the preseason for Bynum, once the starter returns Brown's minutes should be limited. Ideally, Bynum gets close to 30 minutes, with Hawes and Young splitting time at the four and Allen picking up minutes at both the power forward and center spot. Moultrie's and Brown's playing time should be situational.

Will Maalik Wayns see some time? With the way he has played in training camp, it would be awfully hard for Collins not to use him somewhere around 10 minutes a game. But with a lot of perimeter players, finding time will be difficult. If Wayns plays in preseason games nearly as well as he has so far, he just might force Collins' hand into finding a way to use him more than anyone expected.

Sixshots

The Sixers released guard Xavier Silas and journeyman center Mikki Moore. They still have 16 players on the roster . . . Doug Collins said the starting lineup for Thursday will be Jrue Holiday, Jason Richardson, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and maybe Kwame Brown. Brown sat out Wednesday's workout with a back spasm. If he can't go, Collins said he may start Arnett Moultrie because he wants Thad Young and Lavoy Allen to play together.


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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