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Friday, March 5, 2021

Can the Sixers Turn a Lemon of a Trade Into Lemonade?

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

The 76ers rolled the dice and, well, we really don’t know what they rolled, because the dice bounced off the table and now we can’t find them.

The Sixers took a gamble when they traded for center Andrew Bynum and it appears that gamble was a bad one. As you probably know, Bynum has chronic knee problems and now there’s a good chance he won’t be able to play this year. In fact, he might never play basketball again.

Naturally, the Sixers are being criticized for trading for damaged goods, for not realizing that a 7-foot, 285-pounder with bad knees was not a good investment. They ended up trading away their best overall player, Andre Iguodala, and getting nothing in return.

But it’s hard to fault the Sixers for this one, simply because they had to do something drastic. They had a pretty good team last year as they made the playoffs, beat the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls in the first round and then took the Boston Celtics to the limit in the next round.

All in all, a satisfying season. But the Sixers, as coach Doug Collins has pointed out, had gone as far as they could possibly go with that roster. And that stuck them in NBA limbo, which is the worst possible place to be. In the NBA, you want to be very, very good, because that means you can compete for a championship, or you want to be very, very bad, because that means you can get a top draft pick and eventually become very, very good.

The Sixers were neither – they were very, very OK. And that means an eternity of making the playoffs and winning a round or maybe even two, but that’s it. And those middlin’ teams always end up with middlin’ draft picks and stay middlin’ forever.

Plus Iguodala’s big salary was like a millstone around their necks because they didn’t have enough salary cap room to make a big splash in the free agent market. Combine that with middle-of-the-road talent and middle-of-the-pack draft picks and the Sixers would be running in place forever.

So, they gambled. If they won, they would have a young and talented centerpiece for their franchise for years to come. If they lost – as it appears they have – they’re really not any worse off than they were before.

And they’re actually better off than they were before, because Sixers do have an escape hatch now. Bynum is in the final year of his contract – he’ll earn $16.1 million this season — and they’re certainly not going to give him a new one as long as his bad knees keep him out of uniform. And that means the Sixers will have a nice chunk of change in their salary cap next year and can once again try and revamp their team.

Of course, there’s still a chance that Bynum’s knees will get better and he’ll be able to play and be the dominating center of the Sixers’ dreams. There’s also a chance the Eagles will win their final six games, sneak into the playoffs and then go on to win the Super Bowl.

You can decide which has the better odds. As for us, we’re just waiting to pitchers and catchers to report to spring training.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan32@aol.com.

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