With Andrew Bynum likely to return around the All-Star Break, anticipation is amounting in Philly. This season has been ultimately disappointing thus far for the Sixers, and they head into tonight’s match-up with the San Antonio Spurs with a 17-23 record. As disappointing as that may appear to the eye, the Sixers sit in the 9th overall seed in the Eastern Conference, just three games behind the Boston Celtics for the 8th and final playoff spot. Inconsistency has been the word that surrounds this year’s team the most, but with the return of Andrew Bynum just around the corner, expect some drastic improvements. Bynum will almost certainly help the Sixers across the board, but here is five things desperately needed for a postseason birth.
Through 40 games, the Sixers are allowing 44 rebounds a night while grabbing just 41. With all due respect, it could be worse when your leading rebounder is Thaddeus Young and the most consistent big man on the roster is Spencer Hawes. However, the 23rd ranked rebounding team will drastically improve once Bynum returns. The big man averaged nearly 12 rebounds per game next to Pau Gasol with the Lakers. Having someone to count on for at least ten rebounds a night will allow for Young, Hawes, and players like Evan Turner to have more defined roles, and we will no longer have to expect role players to contribute more than they are capable of.
2.) Additional Open Looks for Perimeter Players
Without Bynum on the court, it is easy for opposing teams to contain the Sixers perimeter players such as Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, and Nick Young. When you add Bynum into the rotation, he will almost always demand a double team when the ball is in his hands in the post. This will allow for the perimeter guys to space the floor and get more open looks. Look for the shooting percentages of these guys to increase once Bynum returns, but also look for their attempts to possibly decrease. While a legitimate low post scoring option will allow for more open looks, it will allow for the Sixers to rely less on their perimeter shooting to win them games on a nightly basis.
3.) Rim Protection
Bynum is known to slack on the defensive end from time to time when he is not happy with his role in the offense. Don’t look for that to be the case in Philadelphia though due to the fact the Sixers do not have the supporting cast the Lakers had a year ago. Look for Bynum to get plenty of touches in the post, easy dunks off penetration by Jrue Holiday, and be involved in pick and roll situations as well. When Bynum puts forth the effort on defense, he is one of the best in the league. While known as a great shot blocker in his time in Los Angeles, that is not the extent of his defensive ability. His size and length bothers shots, and he does an excellent job of not allowing deep post position. It seems as though on a nightly basis the Sixers are getting dominated by the opposition’s big men, regardless of who it is. Andrew Bynum will change that, and just having him anchor the middle of that defense will change the way teams play against the Sixers.
4.) Low Post Scoring Option
Andrew Bynum averaged almost 19 points a night a season ago on a team with players like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol that demand many more touches than the supporting cast of the Sixers. Bynum proved to the league he had one of the best overall skill sets in the post. On a Sixers team that ranks 26th in points in the paint, look for them to call his number in the post extremely often on a nightly basis.
5.) Asset to Jrue Holiday
Some may think the return of Andrew Bynum may stunt the growth Jrue Holiday has made. Undoubtedly, Holiday is having an All-Star caliber season. Look for Holiday’s play-making abilities to improve and his assist numbers to increase. Having someone that Jrue can throw the ball to and count on every night will only help the team. While his scoring may suffer a little bit, having Bynum will allow Holiday to be more of a traditional point guard. The Sixers will no longer have to expect their captain to play at an All-Star level every night just to compete. Pressure will be lifted off of Jrue Holiday’s shoulders to do everything for this team once the big man begins to contribute to this team.
However you look at it, the return of Bynum is something all Sixers fans look anticipate, and deservedly so. The 7-footer will cover up many of the deficiencies that have been on full display thus far this season. With the Eastern Conference being so weak across the board, look for the Sixers to view the debut of their superstar as a fresh start to their season. Regardless of how disappointing this season has been, the Philadelphia Sixers have a reason to be confident and a reason to be excited.