The Philadelphia 76ers have had a monster preseason, if there is such a thing. They are first in the Eastern Conference in scoring and third in scoring defense heading into their final preseason matchup against the New York Knicks Monday night. It’s been a pretty impressive run in preseason for a team that has been without it’s best player, Andrew Bynum. Bynum is expected back anywhere from this week to Thanksgiving. It just depends on who you ask.
The Sixers open up their regular season on Halloween against the Denver Nuggets. Sixers fans can’t wait to get this thing going. They are already getting a taste of things to come with this new look offense and they haven’t even seen what kind of impact Bynum will have. Before we get into the season, let’s break down my Sixers predictions and see what could transpire over the next six or seven months.
Andrew Bynum Will Play At Least 60 Games
If Bynum can’t play until after Thanksgiving, he would miss 12 games. That means he could still miss 10 more games the rest of the season to play in 60 games. Bynum has missed just 51 games over the last three seasons combined, including just six last season. Sometimes it takes a few years for these big men to fit into their giants bodies and be able to hold up for close to a full season. Remember, Bynum turns 25 this month.
Andrew Bynum and Jrue Holiday are Eastern Conference All-Stars
Andrew Bynum making the Eastern Conference All-Star roster is just a matter of him to staying healthy for the first half of the season. He doesn’t have a Pau Gasol to compete with in the post anymore. A healthy Bynum will average at least 20 points and 10 boards a game.
Jrue Holiday will be a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t. Holiday has been a budding star over the course of the last three seasons. Competing with Evan Turner and Andre Igoudala on the perimeter, Holiday has still averaged over 13.5 points and 5.5 assists over the last two seasons. Now Igoudala is in Denver and Turner is clearly the third or fourth scoring option, behind Bynum and Holiday. Bynum should help Holiday’s points and assists both reach career highs this season. Look for Holiday to average close to 20 points and at least eight assists per game this season.
Dorell Wright Will Breakout In Philadelphia This Season
Dorell Wright has been the most impressive Sixers during preseason in my opinion. I don’t see how he doesn’t crack the starting lineup during the regular season and stay there. I also fully expect him to become their number three scoring option, behind Bynum and Holiday. I would predict Wright to win the league’s Most Improved Player Award, but he did just average 16 points a game two seasons ago.
Wright is a very long wing man at 6’9, with some seriously deep range. He has hit 360 three points shots over the past three seasons, and should get the most open looks from the outside in his career while he plays alongside Andrew Bynum and Jrue Holiday. His length also makes him a valuable defender and a solid rebounder.
Keeping Wright at the small forward spot means Evan Turner is guarding shooting guards and not small forwards. Turner is a good defender when he isn’t trying to man up against somebody much bigger than he is. Starting Turner and Wright together gives the Sixers much more length on the wings. They can use their 6’7 and 6’9 frames to play right up against their man, while Bynum defends the basket underneath. I predict Wright really grows as both a defender and a complete scorer this season.
Sixers Win 50 Games and Reach the Eastern Conference Finals
This may sound overly optimistic, but the Sixers won 14 of their first 20 games last season (on pace for over 56 wins) and 24 of their first 41 (on pace for 48 or 49 wins). They are a much improved team in a weaker Eastern Conference, excluding the Miami Heat of course. Why shouldn’t they improve their win total with a much better offense and a dominant big man?
In order for the Sixers to win 50 games this season, all they have to do is win 12 or 13 of every 20 games. This is a deep, deep team. The bench is loaded, there are shooters everywhere and most teams don’t have a true center that can handle Bynum. This team isn’t the favorite in the Eastern Conference just yet, but 50 wins doesn’t sound so crazy if everything goes according to plan.
I believe the Sixers are a 40 to 45 win team, even without Andrew Bynum. They have enough depth to still be competitive without a solid post scorer. They did go 35-31 without one last season, and they had a lot fewer scoring options as well.
With Bynum, I project this team wins the Atlantic Division, gets to 50 wins and the number two seed in the Eastern Conference. They should easily get past the 7 seed in the playoffs and win a close series against the 3 seed in the next round against the likes of Indiana Pacers or Chicago Bulls. That should leave us with a Sixers-Heat Conference Finals matchup.