The Sixers need Andrew Bynum on the floor to be a serious team in the Eastern Conference. They need him on the floor to have a shot at home court advantage in the first round. They need him just to be a playoff team. They probably don't need him to get off a decent start, however.
Don't believe me? Take a look at their schedule through the first 12 games of the season:
- vs. DEN
- @ NYK
- vs NYK (back-to-back)
- @ NOH
- @ BOS
- @ TOR (b2b)
- vs. MIL
- vs. DET
- vs. UTA
- vs. CLE
- vs. TOR
- @ CLE (b2b)
That's five games against teams who finished last season above .500. Two of those will be against the Knicks, probably without Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire.
Apparently, no one knows when Bynum is going to be back. Some say there's still a chance he could go on opening night, others are saying much longer. It's human nature to want him on the floor as soon as possible. He was the big reason for hope this summer. No one is more itchy to see him suiting up than I am. But the reality of the situation is he could be out until after Thanksgiving and the remaining players should be able to keep the Sixers above .500. With or without him, the Sixers should wake up on November 22nd with no worse than a 7-5 record. Something like 9-3 isn't even out of the question.
Doug Collins has talked about learning to play without Bynum, learning to win without him. I suppose that's important, but really I think the reason they're being so cautious with him is they can afford to be. Granted, some of these bottom feeders from last season have improved over the summer, but if the Sixers look like they did in the preseason, this stretch of schedule should be a cakewalk.
Turner: The team picked up Turner's $6.68M option for next season yesterday. This is the double-edged sword of picking high in the first round and not hitting a home run with the pick. Under no circumstances would someone give a player coming off two seasons like Turner has played a two-year deal for $11.97M, but the Sixers are locked in to that money and they just have to shut their eyes and hope he plays up to the money. The alternative is to admit you blew the #2 pick, lick your wounds, and save that money for a useful piece. Apparently, they aren't there yet.
Jrue: Jrue's agent and the team are apparently still in negotiations for a contract extension. Tom Moore pegged the numbers at Jrue's representatives looking for a near-max deal, while the team is offering a deal starting at $9M/year. I'd rather the team hold firm at this point. If Jrue goes out there and has an All Star season, great. Then he's earned a near-max deal. If he goes out and has a decent year, then you let the market set his price in restricted free agency next summer, or you get the deal done yourself. Even if Jrue does blow up, matching a max offer sheet someone else signs him to next summer is going to save the team money vs. the max contract they could give him this year or next (one fewer year, lower yearly increases). Jrue is a good player, but he's not worth anything near a max deal right now. Even paying him $52M/5 years ($9M/year with max increases for 5 years) is paying for the player you think he's going to become, without a ton of evidence he's going to become that guy.