Doug Collins is never one to throw his players under the bus. Especially after a horrific shooting night by Andre Iguodala, the 76ers coach would often regale the media about the former Sixer's job of guarding Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce, and other spectacular perimeter players the Sixers encountered.
It was true, but it was really stating a weakness. It's one endemic not just to Iguodala - he is one of the better defenders in the league - but to the Sixers as a team. Night in and night out the Sixers were forced to make adjustments and readjustments to what their opponents did at the offensive end, rarely working from a position of strength and dictating tempo.
If the trade for center Andrew Bynum plays in the regular season as well as it has so far, those days are no more.
Bynum is conservatively listed at 7-foot, the same height that the Sixers list Spencer Hawes. If Bynum is 7-foot, Hawes is really 6-9. Bynum's addition to the Sixers along with players such as Kwame Brown (6-11), Dorrell Wright (6-9), and a few others has helped to transform the Sixers into one of the longest teams in the league.
What Bynum is, on top of being a giant human being, is the best pure low-post center in the league. And that includes Dwight Howard, who still must show he can bounce back from back surgery.
"Huge size, great athleticism for a guy his size, tremendous skill," is how Sixers president Rod Thorn described Bynum on Friday. "What center in this league is more skilled than Bynum? What center in this league is bigger than Bynum? He's an all-around player with size, skill, strength. He's got the whole package."
Just 24 years old, Bynum has already won a pair of championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and, yes, it is fair to suggest that Kobe Bryant almost certainly wouldn't have five championship rings if Bynum - of whom Bryant was not a fan - weren't his teammate.
An all-star for the first time this past season, Bynum averaged 18.7 points as the third option on the Lakers behind Bryant and Pau Gasol. (What Sixers fan isn't happier to have Bynum than Gasol, wildly rumored to be desired by the Sixers for Iguodala at the end of the season?)
Bynum gives the Sixers low-post scoring that they haven't had since Charles Barkley. He is a career 56.6 percent shooter who is going to demand a double team, consequently forcing opponents to jump out on a Sixers squad that has better shooters this season (in Jason Richardson, Wright, and Nick Young) than it did last season, when it took the Celtics to the seventh game of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Yes, teams will be forced to pick their poison against the Sixers. Say what you will about Kwame Brown, the Sixers starting center for all of three weeks this summer, but as a massive body off the bench who can rebound and defend the post, the 10 minutes he'll see per game at his salary ($3 million) all of a sudden makes more sense.
Bynum's presence should cause a ripple effect on the roster. For instance, if Thaddeus Young hasn't gained those 10 pounds of muscle that Collins wanted to see him pack on this summer, it's OK because Young is not going to be forced to play against guys who outweigh him by 20 pounds.
In fact, the Sixers' new size and length should allow them to experiment with multiple matchup problems. Don't forget, before Mark Jackson arrived in Golden State and started messing around with Wright's game, Wright was matchup hell for other teams, a 6-9 player who averaged 16.4 points per game while splitting time at shooting guard and small forward. He finished third in league voting for most improved player.
I know that concerns exist about Bynum's knees, but I don't think that's going to be a problem here. Get Jeff Ruland out of your head. Bynum is two seasons removed from his second knee operation, and since then has had his best seasons ever.
The best way to view Bynum's knee question is to note that he put off the last surgery, in the summer of 2010, so that he could battle his way through all 23 playoff games to help the Lakers win the second of two titles. This he did while also playing with a strained Achilles tendon, the same injury that sidelined Hawes for months this past season.
Bynum comes to the Sixers eager to establish himself as a franchise player, something that was impossible to do in Los Angeles alongside the aging superstar Bryant. Bynum is motivated and, considering he was raised in Plainsboro, N.J., he's virtually home.
And even if he doesn't re-sign here, a move that would be tantamount to flushing away more than $20 million, the Sixers, who can offer him the largest free-agent deal, will have plenty of cap space and tradable contracts in the summer of 2013.
Honestly, what's not to like?
Inside the Sixers: The New-Look 76ers
Here's how the top eight spots in the Sixers' rotation could look like when Andre Iguodala and his new Denver Nuggets teammates play Andrew Bynum and the Sixers on Oct. 31 at the Wells Fargo Center to open the season:
Center: Bynum was locked in here the minute the trade was announced Thursday.
Power forward: Spencer Hawes or Lavoy Allen - an interesting battle as Allen has already said he wants to start.
Small forward: It makes sense to put Evan Turner here. He was the best defensive rebounder on the roster, and, let's face it, he's not a shooting guard.
Shooting guard: It has to be veteran Jason Richardson. This isn't Jodie Meeks we're talking about.
Point guard: Jrue Holiday, the team's best player in the playoffs, stands to benefit substantially playing alongside the Sixers' new additions.
TOP THREE RESERVES
Thaddeus Young no longer has to come off the bench and bang with the bruisers.
Kwame Brown can give Bynum breaks at center.
Dorrel Wright is perfect for a change of pace at either small forward or shooting guard.
- John MitchellEndText