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Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers’ Off-Season: #1. What About Andrew?

Jun 14, 2013, 1:20 PM EDT

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Philadelphia 76ers

This guy. After holding the Sixers hostage for the entirety of the 2012-13 season–maybe his fault, probably not totally–Bynum will continue to have the team in his grasp until at least July 1st, when free agency begins and Sam Hinkie and company can figure out whether or not the Funny Looking Kid With the Big Hair is gonna be a part of this team’s future. In the meantime, every major decision this team has to make–from what to do about Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, to who to draft or attempt to trade for, even to who is gonna be our coach next season–depends on whether or not Bynum sees his fro’s shadow at the beginning of next month.

Andrew is not only the biggest wildcard of the Sixers’ off-season, but the biggest unknown in all free agency. In his list of the 20 best available big man free agents, SI’s Rob Mahoney decided not to even rank Bynum, saying “it’s impossible to know where he fits into the free agent landscape or to predict what an interested franchise might offer.” Too true–there’s little precedent on the open market for a proven, talented, still-pretty-young big man with degenerative knee issues who didn’t play a single game the year before. He’s the ultimate risk/reward gambit, a guy who could very feasibly be the steal of the off-season or a franchise-crippling disaster. I could see him signing an incentive-laden deal somewhere for three years and $40 million, and I could see him landing a five-year, $85 million deal from a team desperate for a shot at relevance. The only thing certain with Andrew is that he’s going to cause some team a whole lot of regret this summer–possibly because they had the chance to sign him and didn’t, and possibly because they had the chance to sign him and did.

Where do the Sixers fit in with all this? Well, as Hinkie stated in his introductory press conference, the Sixers do have two advantages when it comes to dealing with Bynum–they can negotiate with him before any other team, and they have more information about his current and ongoing health status than any other team. (They can also offer him a larger max contract than any other team, in the somewhat unlikely situation that it comes to that). But otherwise, they’re just one of many suitors Bynum will likely have this off-season, a spate of partially or totally rebuilding teams with room for improvement in the middle, a list which may also include the Rockets, Mavericks, Cavaliers, and who knows who else. There’s no reason to believe he’ll be naturally inclined to lean towards signing with the Sixers, and the idea that he might give Philly a break out of some feeling that he “owes” us for not playing at all last year is, uh…well, we wouldn’t bank on it, anyway.

Of course, there’s probably some residual feeling among certain pockets of the Sixers faithful that we shouldn’t even try to re-sign the controversial big man. Drew didn’t exactly do a ton to ingratiate himself to the fanbase while riding the pine last year, and the more ridiculous stories and videos that leaked regarding Bynum over the course of the season–bowling, flamenco dancing, lawsuits involving the song “Currency” by Trina–the more a lot of fans wished the guy would just go away already. Even when healthy, Bynum has a reputation as an eccentric, to say the least, and there would be concerns about how his attitude would clash with the fanbase. Combine that with all the injury concerns, and news that TFLKWTBH had signed for big money elsewhere would probably be cheered by many in the City of Brotherly Love.

But as I’ve cautioned for the entire season, and will continue to do so now, be careful to cut bait too quickly with Andrew. There aren’t a lot of quality big men available throughout the league, and arguably none who have Bynum’s upside when healthy. The alternative to re-signing Bynum is to sign, trade for or draft a big who gives you at best, maybe 2/3 of what you get with a healthy Bynum–the scoring ability and fit but not the youth (Al Jefferson), the youth and the offensive talent but not the right fit (Josh Smith), or the youth and the upside but not the proven track record (Alex Len, Nerlens Noel or any number of other draft prospects). The Sixers have some good players, but they’re still badly starved for elite talent, which you really need to be a factor in this league. To discard a player like Bynum, an All-NBA performer when right, just because he’s a headache to deal with…it’s pretty short-sighted.

So does that mean we should do what it takes to re-sign him, potentially at any cost? Well, not necessarily, and a lot of that depends on Hinkie’s long-term plan for the team, and the Sixers’ inside knowledge of his knee(s) situation. The fact that we haven’t heard anything about Bynum or whatever progress he is or isn’t making these last few months would lead me to believe he’s not exactly right as rain, yet, but that doesn’t mean he’s dead to the world exactly either. More importantly, Hinkie might conclude that even with a healthy Bynum, the Sixers would be too far away from real contention, leading him to conclude that stripping the team down and rebuilding through the draft would be a likelier path to relevance than investing in a huge question mark like Andrew.

Personally, I’d say that if they can convince him to sign a short-term deal–something for just two or three years–then they should probably sign him, almost regardless of his health concerns or the possible price tag. If he’s healthy, then maybe he, Jrue, Thad and (in a super-perfect world) Evan can grow together as a young core of a team that can be competitive in the east for years to follow. If not, then we’re probably not going to be competitive for the next three years anyway, and we can just strip away loose parts, pile up losses and draft picks over the duration of his contract, and reset in the Summer of 2016. It’s far from a foolproof strategy, but it might be the highest-percentage play, and that’s probably what Hinkie is looking for this off-season.

But if I had to guess, I don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. I think ultimately, Drew will want the years, and he’ll get them from someone, but not from Hinkie, who’ll just see the injury risk as too great for a four or five-year commitment. Bynum will officially leave Philadelphia without having played a single game for us, and without us getting any kind of assets in return to replace those (Iguodala, Harkless, Vucevic, future 1sts) that we gave up for him. That would be an incredibly sad state of affairs, obviously, but throwing bad money after good just to “get something out of the deal” would be a gross miscalculation that our Smart Guy GM is probably too smart to make.

Still, I’d like to see Bynum in a Sixers jersey next season if at all possible. C’mon, Andrew. Think about how much fun you’ll have going to wrestling events with Spence and Evan. Plus, if you’re not too traumatized to get back into rolling, Wynnewood Lanes is really the shit.

  1. Tyler - Jun 14, 2013 at 3:08 PM

    Last year Bynum was insured meaning the Sixers recouped 75% of Bynum’s salary.. That is why there was no eagerness on the part of the team to have him play the last month to six weeks of the season. Any team that signs Bynum will insure him.. the premium may be higher but the cost doesn’t go against the salary cap so owners don’t mind. I fully expect the Sixers to bring him back, insure him and hope for the best as they hire an unproven assistant coach to take the reins on this upcoming disaster of a season

  2. jeo - Jun 14, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    “Bynum will officially leave Philadelphia without having played a single game for us, and without us getting any kind of assets in return to replace those (Iguodala, Harkless, Vucevic, future 1sts) ”

    if that were to happen, hopefully the NBA would make it right by fixing the draft so the Sixers could get the next Lebron like player…although there will never be one, but you get what I’m saying.

    • Lee - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:04 PM

      Yea,, you are saying that the league should “cheat” because the Six can’t draft OR trade correctly.
      I wish !!!!!!!!!!!

      • Matt S. - Jun 15, 2013 at 3:06 AM

        Hey why not? It worked for Pittsburgh in hockey.

  3. rondo - Jun 14, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    All 6ers fans should look very hard at the Lakers since Bynum departed.Lakers Fans deep down inside really never realize how much Bynum presence is missed. Howard is ok but when Bynum was playing center the Lakers won. I always wonder had Bynum played with a real point guard (something he never had in LA) and Holiday is the perfect man for that. Most fans got to forget about last year and check out Bynum. Bynum is a better offensive player then Dwight hands down and his defense is not to far behind.


    • Lee - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:08 PM

      Agreed,, agreed, agreed. Can’t give the guy away because we are pissed about last season.
      We need some serious Medical advise on this guy,much better than we received last season.
      IF HEALTHY, this guy must be signed (at a discount?) if the Six is to have a future.

  4. Mr_Whopper - Jun 15, 2013 at 5:22 PM

    I really do hope that they the Philadelphia 76ers,would finalize a good contract deal worth in the mid-range price cost of about $60.0 Million Dollars plus bonus incentitives if he(Andrew Bynum)takes the NBA Franchise Team to the first,second,and third play-off setups. And maybe next year,they might not only make it to NBA Finals Play-Offs,but they might even win them all with the hopes of the starting line-up with Bynum still healthy enough to play basketball during those moments of time where he may have to really shine on everyone in and out of the Arena both home and away. My best bet is to keep him and maybe surround him with more up and coming rookie-talented high -level superstars-to-be NBA Franchise Team Playerss. And noticed I’ve mentioned the word team before the word players. This NBA has to simply jell a-lot more better than last year,and that’s in order to work with their hope-to-be signed Starting Center named Andrew Bynum the right way. I wish them all good luck in the very near future that would ly ahead of us all. Sign Him Will Ya,76ers!!!!!

  5. raidruss38 - Jun 20, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    It would b idiotic not to resign Bynum…there is no better available free agent…assuming the surgeries were successful, of course…3 outta da final 4 teams left in this year’s playoffs all had Biggs!!! The other team has LeBron & Wade…Sixers dont b stupid, bring da boaw Bynum back…


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