Luck = a force that brings good fortune or adversity.
Well according to Webster’s dictionary that’s what luck is. And when it comes to the NBA, luck plays a huge factor in almost every part of the sport. Whether it’s for good or bad, a simple stroke of luck can change the fortunes of a franchise. Luck has taken it’s course with the Philadelphia 76ers. We can talk about the Wilt Chamberlain-glory days, watching Allen Iverson single-handily carry his team for years or the Moses Malone–Julius Erving days. Fo-Fo-fo-fo isn’t something that happens everyday. Yet every team has their streak of bad luck and this time luck ran just short with them. Like most expected, Andrew Bynum will be missing the rest of the season due to arthroscopic surgery on both knees.
But before I discuss Bynum and what’s next for Philly I’d like to take a look at how we assessed the 4-team trade that landed Bynum in Philly this past summer.
With the new technologies and ability to get news and information at an instate, we tend to judge things as soon as they happen without giving time for situations to correct themselves. Immediately after the super trade that landed Dwight Howard in Los Angeles happened we immediately killed the Orlando Magic for what looked like a heist by the Lakers. In hindsight it still is. You can’t possibly get equal trade value for a top 5 player in the NBA. Prospects are yet unproven and draft picks come with a lot of uncertainties. When the Orlando Magic received Arron Afflalo, a slightly above shooting guard, prospects Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, Al Harrington, the $20 million dollar salary dump, and a couple of first round draft picks, people questioned what the Magic front office was doing.
Fast forward to 2013, and they’ve currently walked away as the third winner in this trade. Dwight Howard is shaping into his 2011-12 physical form while fighting for a playoff spot with Kobe Bryant. Andre Iguodala and his Denver Nuggets are currently on a 12-game win streak and 5th in the Western Conference. The Orlando Magic, despite being only 18-49 have gotten glimpses from their trade pieces that give a window of hope for the future. As for the Philadelphia 76ers, the team most pointed to as a big winner in the trade are sitting in the worst place possible: their best player whom they owe $16 million hasn’t touched the floor the entire season and the team is currently looking at a lottery pick this up-and-coming summer, but as 9th best in the East the odds of that pick turning into a franchise changing player is unlikely. And with one of the weakest drafts to date arriving, the player they receive may be nothing but a role player for the gist of his career.
If the team probably had a chance to do the trade all over again knowing the chances of Bynum missing the entire season, they’d do it again. They never thought Iguodala was worth the money they gave him in the contract extension in 08-09 and based on their multiple attempts of ridding themselves of Iggy’s services, they weren’t going to get a better player to replace him than Bynum. As much as Doug Collins wants to point out how well Vucevic is doing in Orlando, he didn’t give Nikola the time of day last season. Instead he watched Spencer Hawes shoot his team out of a playoff series for an entire playoff series and struggle to defend any mobile body the Boston Celtics could throw at him. Mo Harkless had yet to touch the floor and would have likely seen minimal time behind a developing Evan Turner and Nick Young/Dorrell Wright.
Now comes reality. They won’t see their best player play. The first time they may see Bynum play in the Wells Fargo Center may be in a visitors jersey.But with knee surgery on both knees no one knows what to expect from Bynum next season. The glaring deficiency in the 76ers starting lineup, the center position, will continue to be a problem in 2013-14. The team will be paying a combined $9.5 million to Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown, two players who aren’t suited for a starters role in this league. And this leaves the team in an awful bind. Do they re-sign Andrew Bynum for something short of a max contract? Before they can re-sign him they have to figure out if he’s even open to return to the team. Some think Doug Collins may be the problem for Bynum’s lackadaisical effort to get back healthy. You have to wonder who the 76ers brass would choose if it was between having a star center or a coach who helped the 76ers bounce back into playoff form.
For Bynum’s open-market value, despite the news of surgery to both his knees, he’ll likely grab $12-$15 million in free agency. It sounds ridiculous, but owners aren’t shy when it comes to throwing the big bucks at big men. This past summer, Javale McGee, Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Roy Hibbert all walked away with at least $10 million per in their contracts. Based on Bynum’s play his last season in Los Angeles, you could argue that he was better than everyone but Kevin Garnett, so at least $12 million will be the starting price when it comes to ‘Drew. Unless some terrific news comes out about his knees and them negatively impacting his future in this league, someone somewhere is going to pay Andrew Bynum whether he’s ready to go or not.
And with all of that said comes the true question: would you want your team going after Andrew Bynum this off-season? Based on specific needs coming into ’13-14, the 76ers will certainly be in the running for Bynum’s services alongside the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns. Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld.com also thinks the Atlanta Hawks and Portland Trailblazers could be a possible landing spot for Bynum. The latter make sense, but a lot of things would have to fall through for Bynum to end up either a Hawk or a Blazer. While the Suns have been looking to sign any star player they can get their hands on, the Mavericks, who are likely to miss out on Dwight this summer, could bring in Dwight to help pro-long Dirk Nowitzki‘s career and get that organization back into the playoffs.
If I was a betting person, I’d look most at Phoenix to make a move. Their training staff should be the number one draw for Bynum, who’s only played 61 percent the available games since joining the NBA in 2005. While the first few injuries came off as fluke, they’re beginning to become routine and synonymous to the name and brand of Andrew Bynum. When the Suns failed to sign Eric Gordon to a max contract and didn’t make a move the trade deadline, basketball enthusiasts knew that wouldn’t be the last of their attempt to get a star. A possible Marcin Gortat/Jared Dudley for Bynum trade seems plausible for the Suns, but does a Jrue Holiday–Evan Turner–Thaddeus Young-Marcin Gortat-Jared Dudley starting five push the 76ers ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks as the 8th best team in the Eastern Conference? There isn’t a clear plan in what the Phoenix Suns are trying to build, but with their current roster they can only get better. That team is bad. But not best chance in the lottery bad. Luckily for them, they have a puncher’s chance of getting the ping pong balls to bounce their way. Their last two lottery picks, Kendall Marshall and Markieff Morris, haven’t exactly panned out the way they’d expect it, so the enthusiasm to continue to pick soon-to-be expendable players can’t bode well with them. Can you imagine Lindsey Hunter dealing with both Bynum and Michael Beasley at the same time?
And of course you could never count Marc Cuban out. He’s notoriously known for trying to pay for what he wants. If the Mavericks let everyone who’s a free agency walk and O.J. Mayo declines his player option, the Mavericks would be working with $34 million in used cap space. That’s enough for Cuban to give Bynum that max contract he’ll probably seek out. If Eric Gordon could receive a max after playing a total of 9 games prior to 2012-13, then Bynum could get the same. Does a healthy Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bynum guarantee the playoffs or a championship? While a championship is a reach, the playoffs is a much better projection.
But for now, Bynum’s health and reputation have taken a huge hit. Often criticized for his lack of heart in Los Angeles, fans and critics will look back at the 2012-13 season and wonder “what if” when it comes to his parasitic relationship with the Philadelphia 76ers. This offseason will be interesting to watch from the perspective of both Bynum and the 76ers, but whatever is done will never be able to replace what’s looking to be a forgotten season in Philly’s franchise. When a decision is made, it’ll be looked down upon. It’s hard to regulate how your reputation is perceived in this league, but whatever the future is for both parties, it’ll be hard for most not to remember how this entire fiasco went down. For better or for worse.