Throughout the month of November, Hoops Rumors will look back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
For the first month or so of the offseason, it was difficult to understand exactly what the 76ers were doing. Elton Brand was amnestied in the last year of his contract to clear cap room, but the Sixers used that space to lock up players like Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, and Kwame Brown -- decent frontcourt options, but not exactly the sort of high-impact signings you'd expect after clearing an $18MM salary from your cap.
Besides letting go of Brand, the Sixers also elected to let Lou Williams walk, signing Nick Young in his place. Presumably Philadelphia didn't want to be on the hook for the lengthy multiyear deal that Williams would command, but from an on-court perspective, Young certainly represented a step down from last year's runner-up Sixth Man. To make matters worse, the Sixers agreed to pay Young more ($5.6MM) than Williams will earn this season in Atlanta ($5MM).
Throw in the fact that the Sixers seemed to be stockpiling small forwards, having drafted Maurice Harkless and traded for Dorell Wright, and it was unclear exactly what direction this team was headed. It was unclear, that is, until the second week of August, when the team landed Andrew Bynum.
By dealing Andre Iguodala and Harkless in the four-team blockbuster, the Sixers cleared their glut of small forwards and acquired another shooter in Jason Richardson to go along with Bynum. At that point, the previous roster moves made a little more sense. With Bynum in the middle, shooters like Richardson, Young, and Wright could thrive on the outside, and the team would have the go-to guy it had been lacking over the past several seasons.
The team's previous moves still aren't entirely defensible, but it's easier to understand the thinking with Bynum on board. Clearing Brand's salary was likely necessary to avoid bumping up against the tax threshold when all was said and done, and it's not like the club needed to save the amnesty provision for another undesirable contract. Additionally, while going from Williams to Young may represent a downgrade, at least having Young on a one-year deal wouldn't affect the Sixers' cap flexibility when it came to locking up Bynum and Jrue Holiday past this season.
One problem, of course, with the team's offseason strategy is clear now that the season is underway and Bynum has yet to make his Philadelphia debut. The Sixers are building around a franchise player that has appeared in more than 65 games in a season just once, back in 2006/07. Even though he's only 25 years old, Bynum has a history of knee issues that have kept him out of action so far this fall and appear to have delayed his Sixers debut until 2013.
While the Sixers are off to a solid start without their star center this season, the roster isn't one that's built to make a playoff run, or perhaps even earn a spot in the postseason, without Bynum. That's true of many contenders and their star players, but it's of particular concern in Philadelphia, where the team went all-in to land the ex-Laker this past offseason, and will have to decide by next offseason whether he's worth a pricey long-term commitment.With solid secondary options and young players like Holiday, Hawes, Evan Turner, and Arnett Moultrie under contract past this season, the Sixers have a decent core in place to complement Bynum. And the club's willingness to take a risk and make a splash this summer is commendable. But given Bynum's health questions, it's still too early to say whether the acquisition will be a success. It's certainly possible that we eventually look back on these few months as a mere blip on the radar in a long, fruitful marriage between Bynum and the 76ers. If not, this offseason could be remembered as the summer the Sixers gambled and lost.