After the Sixers lost in South Beach and the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Toronto Raptors, the Sixers season became mathematically over. Now six games behind the Bucks with six games to go and Milwaukee holding the tiebreaker, there will be no playoff games in Philly this year. Regardless of the putrid record, how surprised should we really be?
There were huge expectations for this season when the Sixers made a blockbuster deal to bring in the All-NBA 2nd team center, Andrew Bynum. This was supposed to be the year we could possibly make a run at the Eastern Conference Finals, without getting help from opponents’ key injuries. With Bynum failing to play a single game and Jason Richardson being out since January 18th, the team has been playing with no production whatsoever from the trade. Not only did they not get production from Bynum for the entire season and Richardson for the second half, but they gave up Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, and Mo Harkless to make the deal. Many people forget that we also lost Lou Williams and Elton Brand from last year’s Eastern Conference Semi-Finals team.
This season has been labeled disappointing, embarrassing, and pathetic, but how fair is it to say that the Sixers missing the playoffs is really disappointing? How many seriously expected them to be playing basketball in May or June with no Bynum? When a team loses what the Sixers lost and get nothing in return, it is not surprising when they struggle.
Andre Iguodala was missed this season at both ends of the court. Iguodala has always been an elite defender, but he was also extremely effective in transition offensively. Along with Lou Williams, they got into the open court as often as possible and got to the line more than anyone on the team. Without the two, the Sixers fell out of the top ten in fast break points for the first time in Doug Collins’ era. Also, the Sixers finished second from the bottom in free throws attempted, only to the lowly Orlando Magic.
As this season comes to an end, we shouldn’t be all that shocked with the way it went. If Bynum was healthy from the start, it would have been a different story, but he wasn’t. He didn’t play a single minute for the Sixers, and the team along with its fans spent much of the season waiting for his return. That day never came.
With all that said, huge strides were made by Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young this season. Young stepped into the starting power forward role and played extremely well all season long. With hustle and skill, Thad was one guy the Sixers could count on to produce on a nightly basis. As for Jrue Holiday, he was selected for his first All-Star appearance and established himself as one of the better all-around point guards in the NBA. Holiday made improvements to every aspect of his game. Most impressively, the young point guard showed his ability to create offense for himself and others.
The hardest part of the Sixers’ struggles to swallow is not this season, but it’s the next five seasons. There is a huge chance Bynum will walk away from the Sixers this summer, and the team will get nothing in return. Once viewed as a foundation and building block to take this team to the next level, the 7-footer is now possibly a franchise-crippling acquisition. It looks like Bynum may never play a game for the Sixers, and if that is true, the team will be left directionless and stuck at mediocre.
This off-season will be one of the most intriguing in recent memory. Regardless of what Bynum decides to do, the Sixers have many more questions than they had entering this season. The team will be in the lottery for the first time in Doug Collins’ three years as head coach, and there will be many decisions to be made. As for how disappointing this season is, if we knew Andrew Bynum wouldn’t play a single game, what would our expectations have been for the Sixers?