Back in August, the Philadelphia 76ers did something they hadn’t done in forever, swinging for the fences and acquiring all-star center Andrew Bynum in a four-team, blockbuster trade. It brought excitement and optimism to Philadelphia as the long-suffering Sixers fans waited for the first true player with superstar potential since Allen Iverson was chucking his way into their hearts.
The problem is the Sixers and their fans kept waiting … and waiting … and waiting. As it turns out, the introductory press conference was the highlight of the inaugural season of the Andrew Bynum era, and it was all downhill from there. Instead of playing basketball and becoming the franchise center the Sixers haven’t had since Moses Malone version 1.0, he became a whipping boy for his ridiculous hair, further injured himself bowling and seemingly had no interest whatsoever in earning any of his generous contract. Most recently, he was spotted flamenco dancing, looking no worse for wear despite his knee troubles. Andrew Bynum was the ultimate tease.
This is all maddening to the Sixers and their fans, and it’s become maddening to NBA fans everywhere. How bad has it gotten? TSFJ’s own Justin Tinsley gave me a pass to use an unkind racial slur on Andrew Bynum for his shenanigans, a pass I have chosen to decline (and one he pulled back anyway).
The only way Andrew Bynum could make things worse at this point is to bash Philadelphia and its fans. He’s pretty much public enemy number 1 among most Sixers fans. I certainly got tired of hearing about him.
Yet having said all that, not only do I think the Philadelphia 76ers were right in trading for Andrew Bynum, but I believe they should, in fact — despite the debacle that was 2012-13 — re-sign Andrew Bynum and give this experiment a real shot.
Now before you all go out and say the Rev must have lost him damn mind — I see you, Kenny — let me explain.
It’s been proven time and time again that in the NBA, you absolutely need a superstar or two or three to have any shot at an NBA title. The Sixers currently have exactly zero of those, and only one player who as the potential to be such in all-star point guard Jrue Holiday.
Andrew Bynum, when healthy, has shown superstar potential. Admittedly, that has been rare, but at just 25 years old, he’s arguably the most talented center outside of Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol in the entire Assocation — and he may be better than both. The potential to be the best at his position is there. He is a superstar waiting to happen if he gets his health and his head right. Maturity typically comes with age, and I believe it’s worth the gamble on his health.
The only way in the NBA to get a superstar is through free agency, trade or to strike gold in the draft. That’s it. The Sixers already made their play via trade, and they simply don’t have the assets to try and land another one that way. The draft is a crapshoot, and there doesn’t look to be any LeBron, Durant or Duncan in the upcoming draft class — plus the Sixers don’t exactly have the best track record via the draft. Just look at Evan Turner.
That leaves free agency, and the upcoming crop is … well … underwhelming. The biggest names out there are an aging Manu Ginobili, Dwight Howard and a good but not great Al Jefferson. Manu is either re-signing with the Spurs or retiring. The Sixers have a better shot at going 82-0 next season than signing Dwight Howard, and Al Jefferson … no thanks.
The following year offers little in the way of options as well. The unrestricted free agents are headlined by aging superstars Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce, who would never in a million years head to Philadelphia, as well as an aging Pau Gasol too, who seems unlikely to be interested in the Sixers as well. Well, the LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Melo, Stoudemire group can all opt out, but again, the outlook isn’t great for any of them being even remotely interested in Philadelphia.
There aren’t a whole lot of viable options out there in 2015 either. So the free agency route looks grim. That means the Sixers’ best option outside of bringing Bynum and all his baggage back is to roll the dice through the draft. Tank the next few seasons, stockpile high draft picks and hope you find a star caliber player or two to pair with Holiday.
That’s exactly why I think re-signing Bynum is the best option. Now, if someone wants to go out and give him a full max contract, I have no qualms with the Sixers letting him walk. But if they can pay him a mini-max for three or even four years, why wouldn’t they?
Think about it. If Bynum winds up being healthy and the player he showed the potential to be in Los Angeles, the Sixers have their superstar center along with the emerging Jrue Holiday, immediately turning the fortunes of the franchise around. Two young stars, a point guard and a center, and suddenly Philadelphia looks like a pretty attractive place to the top free agents out there. Take two works out the way take one was supposed to.
If Bynum ends up being a perpetually injured head case who doesn’t help the Sixers … well, then they’ll suck anyway, landing those ping pong balls and lottery picks they’d get if they don’t sign Bynum to begin with. They’re right where they’d be if they don’t sign Bynum, without the potential of Bynum being healthy and the dominant force the Sixers envisioned when they traded for him in the first place.
That’s the biggest reason the Sixers should re-sign Bynum even after everything. No matter how you slice it, he’s still Philadelphia’s best option at landing a superstar, a true difference maker on the court. And if it doesn't work out? They're where they'd be anyway if they chose to stockpile draft picks and land in lottery.
It may sound crazy, and in some ways it is, but at the end of the day, Andrew Bynum gives the Sixers the best chance available to become something more than a average or worse NBA team, and that's precisely why they should re-sign Andrew Bynum.
Reverend Paul Revere, aka Joe Boland, is a sports blogger out of Philadelphia whose life revolves around sports 365 and a quarter days per year. Keep up with Rev at his own personal blog, The House That Glanville Built and on Twitter.