Sixers in desperate need of help up front

RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Without Andrew Bynum (right) , Sixers must come up with an alternate big-man plan quickly.
RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Without Andrew Bynum (right) , Sixers must come up with an alternate big-man plan quickly.
Posted: December 06, 2012

ABOUT A WEEK ago, while delivering his latest update on MIA center Andrew Bynum, Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said the organization has "plans for the future" if Bynum's aching knees prevent him from playing.

After watching the Sixers get taken apart, 105-88, by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday at the Wells Fargo Center, I'd say the future is pretty much now.

The Sixers don't have to give up hope that Bynum will eventually be able to play this season, but whatever contingency plan they have needs to be put into action.

This team plays hard. It gives effort. But on some nights that hasn't been enough, and as the season moves on it's going to happen more and more often.

It doesn't matter if it's against division-leading teams like Oklahoma City, New York and Chicago or against a struggling team like Minnesota, the Sixers can find themselves in a matchup where their margin of error is just too minuscule to come out on top.

As it is constituted right now, this Sixers team doesn't have the luxury of not playing a near-perfect game. Right now, too many variables have to click at the same time for the Sixers to win games.

At 10-8, the Sixers have managed to stay above .500, but they are not in a positive situation for long-term success over an 82-game schedule.

Against Minnesota, the defense wasn't up to snuff from the start. After Evan Turner gave the Sixers a 7-6 lead with a three-point shot at 9:43 of the first quarter, the Timberwolves went on a 28-14 run to end the quarter.

By the time the first 24 minutes had been played, the Sixers had surrendered 65 points, the most they had allowed in any half this season.

This Sixers team doesn't have the capability to overcome an 18-point halftime deficit, not when it has no credible inside presence on offense and has to rely primarily on fastbreaks and jump shots to put points up.

The Sixers have no go-to set on offense. If the jump shots aren't falling or the fastbreak is gummed up, the offense grinds down.

There's no reliability to what they do. They average 92.8 points, but they got there by scoring in the 100s in six games, the 90s in three games, the 80s in seven games and 70s in two games.

That's a helter-skelter attack. It is the definition of inconsistent.

Inconsistency is the thing that makes head coaches lose the most hair and age prematurely.

"You've just got to fight," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "You've got to compete. I'm not going to run up and down the sidelines. All I'd do is get tired. That isn't going to work, and then they'll look at me like I'm a maniac."

The Sixers do fight. They do compete. But when you are trying to win NBA games with no true presence in the interior frontcourt, it sometimes comes down to numbers. When you are a jump-shooting team and shots don't fall, you only hit at 42.2 percent from the floor and lose by 17.

Without the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum in the middle, the Sixers are a doughnut. If they had three dynamic All-Stars like the Miami Heat's LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, maybe that wouldn't matter.

The Sixers have young and improving players in Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, but they are just not enough to cover for the lack of size and bulk in the frontcourt.

At 6-8 and 235 pounds, Young is by far the Sixers' toughest and grittiest interior defender. In a heavyweight-vs.-middleweight matchup, Young limited Minnesota's All-Star big man, Kevin Love (6-10, 260), to six points and 10 rebounds.

On Saturday at Chicago, Young was pitted against the 6-11 Yokim Noah. Young approaches the out-of-weight-class matchups gallantly, but over the course of an 82-game grind, they eventually will grind on him.

But right now, he is the Sixers' best option.

Bynum is out. Spencer Hawes (6-11) and Lavoy Allen (6-9) are softer big men who prefer to drift away. Veteran Kwame Brown is back to being just there. Rookie Arnett Moultrie (6-11, 245) has not yet earned the confidence of Collins.

A team with a weak frontcourt rarely gets easy baskets. It has to work hard on every possession, and sometimes that wears players down in a game.

It's hard to see what the Sixers' alternate plan could be, because nobody is going to deal a quality big man less than a quarter into the season.

Still, DiLeo said there is one. Now would be a good time to put it in action because right now, there are just too many nights on the schedule when the Sixers are going to be physically overmatched.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: philly.com/Smallwood

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