Yes, Yes, 1000 Times Yes: Iguodala for Bynum, Best Thing Ever

Yes, Yes, 1000 Times Yes: Iguodala for Bynum, Best Thing Ever

Wonder of wonders, it looks like this thing is actually going down. No champagne-popping until everyone signs on the line that is dotted, and maybe not even for another 24 hours after that 'til we make sure that David Stern doesn't get up to his meddling ways, but ESPN and just about everyone else is reporting that the four-teamer Enrico posted about earlier today is indeed legit, and should be processed as early as Friday morning.

To recap, the trade in discussion is one that the great majority of the country will refer to as the "Dwight Howard trade," since by far the most notable part of the deal sees the All-World center Howard going from Orlando to the Los Angeles Lakers, with Orlando getting Al Harrington, some young'ns and draft picks in return, some of which the Sixers would provide. But the part of real consequence to the Sixers would see Philly's All-Star, Olympian and oft-rumored trade target Andre Iguodala sent to the Nuggets, with Lakers' All-NBA center Andrew Bynum coming to Philadelphia in return. (Philly also appears to be sacrificing young players Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic in the deal, as well as a future protected #1 pick, and absorbs overpaid veteran shooting guard Jason Richardson as part of the deal.)

As hinted at in this post's title, this is just about the greatest thing ever for the Sixers. A team long marooned in the middle of the NBA pack, with good coaching and solid players but no stars and no ceiling to speak of, this is the move for a franchise player (or at the very least, a potential franchise player) that Sixers fans have endlessly clamored for. Last season, Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game, on 56% shooting. Every single one of those statistics would have led the Sixers last season. And that was while he had to split rebounds and post touches with Gasol, not to mention having teammate Kobe Bryant leading the league in shots per game on the wing. This guy is an absolute force in this league—and he's still only 24.

Almost as importantly, the Iguodala-for-Bynum swap instantaneously makes sense out of what is currently a very unbalanced roster. Never mind having to worry about starting Spencer Hawes and Kwame Brown together anymore -- Bynum sends Brown to the 10-15-minute-a-game bench role where he belongs, and (hopefully) relegates Spence there as well, with the younger, more defensively competent Lavoy Allen brought to play alongside him in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, losing 'Dre opens up our wing glut to allow the penetrating, playmaking Evan Turner to play alongside the more complementary spot-up shooter Dorrell Wright. A Holiday-Turner-Wright-Allen-Bynum starting five, with Youngs Nick and Thad, Richardson, Brown and Hawes coming off the bench...that's not a bad top two lines, really.

And what do we lose in 'Dre? Well, a lot -- our perimeter defense will  suffer, and while Bynum will certainly be a defensive upgrade over Hawes (just about anyone would be), he's not nearly polished or mature enough on D to completely cover for our wing guys. But just everything else 'Dre gives us -- his playmaking, his scoring, his athleticism -- could be fairly well compensated for with increased minutes for Holiday and Turner, and without Iguodala or free-agency departee Lou Williams to dominate the offense, we could finally see exactly what we have with those two guys at the wheel. It's a step the team probably had to take at some point or another.

Naturally, the deal would not be without its pratfalls. Despite his obvious statistical career year last season, even casual fans should probably be able to recall a couple of stories over the last year involving Bynum being...difficult, to say the least. He clashed with Lakers coach Mike Brown over his desire to shoot threes, which he promised to continue shooting despite getting benched for doing so. He avoided huddles, joking that he was "getting his Zen on." He told reporters that he wasn't worried before a potential close-out game against the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs, because "close-out games are actually kind of easy." And of course, he missed the first five games of the season after clocking Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Barea in the Lakers' own elimination game of the 2010 post-season, a move stunning in its immaturity and carelessness. Bynum's arrival would almost certainly spell doom for Coach Collins, who might not be able to co-exist with a space cadet like Bynum for more than a road trip.

Perhaps more pressingly, acquiring Bynum might not be a long-term fix for the Sixers, as Bynum's contract expires at the end of the season. Bynum has never expressed much of an opinion about playing for the Sixers, because to my knowledge, up until 24 hours ago he had no reason to be asked about such a circumstance, but it's not hard to anticipate Bynum at least playing at testing his options in free agency should he be dealt to Philadelphia and play out the remaining season on his contract there—and in reality, he very well might walk to go play for whatever big-market superteam inevitably brews in the NBA over the next season.

And yeah, we are giving up some assets here beyond 'Dre. We still have absolutely no idea what we would have had in Harkless, and it always sucks to give up a young, talented player before you even get a chance to experience what he could have brought to the table. Nik Vucevic may have fallen out of the rotation towards the end of the year, but he was still a promising young big man, showing a refined touch around the basket and a (sporadically) reliable jumper that very likely will allow him to remain in this league for a long time. And while there's no point in waxing poetic about a likely lottery-protected #1 pick...well, you'd still rather like to hold on to those if possible.

Sportsnite's report on the deal above

Nonetheless, the assets they lost are likely all replaceable (and in fact were quite redundant on the team in the short term), and the upside far outweighs the risk with Bynum. The maturity complaints are legit, but they've been levied against countless great players who either outgrew or eclipsed them—including Bynum's teammate, the five-time champ Bryant. And while Bynum might split after the season, chances are also pretty decent that he'd end up staying—the Sixers will be able to offer him more money and years than anyone else, and if everything goes right, a Bynum-led Sixers team could be a top-flight team in the East next year, with a young, steadily improving core. If the Deron Williams experience in Brooklyn has taught us anything, it's that in the NBA, a franchise player in the hand is worth two on the trading block.

And if they do their best and Bynum does split...well, all you've lost to get him for a year was a guy who was probably gone the next season (if not earlier) anyway, and you still have Turner and Holiday to build around in free agency. Or, if it all totally goes to hell, you blow the team up entir
ely and rebuild from scratch. Either way, you're not just spinning your wheels every season, trotting out the same basic NBA experiment and hoping for different results. You're moving in a direction, and in the weird-ass world of the NBA, sometimes moving backwards can be just as productive as moving forwards. That's all we've asked for from this team for the longest time, and now they're actually doing it.

With all the short-term moves the Sixers were making this off-season, signing no player of real consequence but signing nobody for more than a year or two, it seemed like the team might very well just spend the next couple seasons twiddling their thumbs waiting for a game-changing trade to roll around. Well, this is the trade. It popped up a lot sooner than many of us were expecting, but it's here, and the Sixers deserve a lot of credit for seizing the opportunity and actually, presumably, hopefully, getting it done. It might have been years before an opportunity like this rolls around again, and as Sixers fans, we should be praying that it goes through ASAP.

(Much more on this to follow in the days to come, but if in fact we have seen the last of Andre Iguodala as a Philadelphia 76er, I'd just like to take this opportunity to say that despite all the miscasting, despite all the frustration, and despite all the times I've called for him to be traded, he was truly a great Sixer and I can't wait to root for him as a Nugget.)

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

Sixers Injury Update: Simmons rolls ankle, taken for precautionary imaging

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- Ben Simmons rolled his right ankle during scrimmage on the final day of training camp. He was taken for precautionary imaging. The results have not yet been completed.

Jerryd Bayless did not scrimmage because of a sore left wrist, which the team continues to monitor. He sat out of Thursday's scrimmage for the same reason.

Jahlil Okafor participated in Friday's scrimmage in accordance to his load management. The Sixers are being cautious with players as they return from injury. Okafor underwent right knee surgery last season. 

Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

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Temple vs. SMU: Get ready for offensive firepower in AAC opener

Temple (2-2, 0-0 AAC) vs. SMU (2-2, 0-0 AAC)
Lincoln Financial Field
Saturday, Noon, ESPNews

If recent history tells us anything, we should expect to see some crooked numbers on Lincoln Financial Field’s scoreboard Saturday afternoon when SMU visits Temple in the conference opener for each team.

The last two times these AAC programs have met, the final scores have wound up 59-49 (a SMU win in Dallas in 2013) and 60-40 (a Temple win in Dallas last season).

Temple is coming off a 48-20 homecoming demolition of Charlotte. The game was basically over early in the second quarter, a frame in which the Owls scored 28 points to blow away the 49ers. SMU is coming off a 33-3 home loss to in-state rival TCU. The Mustangs hung tough for the first half and the score was 6-3 at the break, but the Big 12 powerhouse Horned Frogs took over in the second half.

Weather could play a factor Saturday, though, as current forecasts call for a chance of scattered thunderstorms in the Philadelphia area all afternoon.

Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s the matchup.

Scouting Temple
The Owls’ offense has been in a much-needed groove since the second half of the narrow loss at Penn State two weeks ago.

Last week, Walker went 15 of 26 for 268 yards and two touchdowns – a 51-yard bomb to Adonis Jennings and a 40-yard quick strike to Brodrick Yancy. On the season, Walker has completed 57.8 percent of his passes for 846 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. His favorite target has been Keith Kirkwood, who has 14 grabs for 191 yards and two touchdowns through four games.

It should be no coincidence that Temple’s offensive revival has come with the return of star senior running back Jahad Thomas, who missed the first two games of the year with a dislocated left thumb. In the two games Thomas has played, he’s got 127 yards on the ground and four touchdowns. Sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who also has four rushing scores, leads the Owls with 166 yards on the ground. Last year against SMU, then-freshman Jager Gardner ripped off a school-record 94-yard touchdown run.

One other offensive note: Temple head coach Matt Rhule was finally pleased with his offensive line after the way it played against Charlotte. Earlier this week, he praised offensive line coach George DeLeone and the job he’s done recently trying to get work out the issues on the line. The Owls didn’t give up a sack last week. True freshman Matt Hennessy started at left guard last week while redshirt sophomore Jaelin Robinson saw time at right tackle. Don’t be surprised if they see significant playing time again.

Two things have concerned Rhule defensively – a lackluster pass rush and the tendency to give up big plays.

Through four games, the Owls have yet to establish any sort of consistent pass rush. They have just four sacks through four games. They had 10 in last year’s opener against Penn State alone. The good news for Temple’s pass rush is that SMU starts a freshman QB and his given up nine sacks through four games, so opportunities to disrupt the pocket should be there on Saturday.

Temple’s defense has allowed 10 plays of 20 yards or more from scrimmage this season, including a 66-yard touchdown run by Charlotte’s Kalif Phillips last week.

Injury-wise, the Owls are relatively healthy. Sophomore wideout Ventell Bryant, who was believed to be dealing with a shoulder injury, announced on his Instagram this week that he’d been cleared to play.

Scouting SMU
The Mustangs’ rebuilding efforts took a big hit during the first game of the season when senior quarterback Matt Davis, who played very well against Temple last season and hurt the Owls with both his arm and legs, was lost for the year with a knee injury. Redshirt freshman Ben Hicks has stepped in and his tenure so far hasn’t been so hot. He’s completed just 50 percent of his passes this year and has thrown just two touchdowns compared to seven picks.

Despite the inexperience and lack of production at quarterback, SMU will still push the tempo with a fast-paced offense that can rip off chunks of yardage instantly and averages 448 yards per game. A big reason for that is the play of sophomore wideout Cortland Sutton, who has 449 receiving yards and four touchdowns already this season. Sutton, whom Rhule had very high praise for earlier this week, averages 24.9 yards per reception. Sophomore tailback Braeden West is no slouch, either. He’s averaged 93.8 yards per game on the ground this season and has two rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, SMU has a couple of ballhawks in its secondary. The Mustangs are tied for tops in the nation with 10 interceptions through four games. Sophomore corner Jordan Wyatt is tied for the team lead in picks with three and also leads the Mustangs with 25 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Walker will have to be wary of where Wyatt is at on the field. Senior Horace Richardson also has three picks already for the Mustangs.

While SMU’s takeaway numbers are pretty, the Mustangs’ total defense numbers are ugly. They give up an average of 449.8 yards per game, which ranks 98th out of 128 teams in the FBS. The 27 points the Mustangs allow per game are good 70th in the FBS.

History
Saturday will mark the third meeting between the schools in the last four years and fifth overall. As mentioned above, the two teams combined for 208 points the last two times they’ve met. Those last two meetings have been the only meetings between Temple and SMU that have had definitive finals. They tied in both 1942 (6-6) and 1947 (7-7). So feel free to call Saturday’s game a rubber match.

Storyline to watch: Second test for Temple's secondary
Thus far this season, Temple has faced a triple-option team in Army, an FCS team in Stony Brook, a weapon-filled offense in Penn State and a second-year FBS team in Charlotte. Needless to say, Penn State was the only true test Temple's defense, specifically the new-look secondary, has had to face and it didn't go so well, especially in the first half when the Nittany Lions tore the Owls apart with slant plays for huge chunks of yardage. While the Owls' defense calmed down, the Nittany Lions still finished with 287 passing yards and 403 total yards. Temple's secondary will have its next test on Saturday with Sutton and SMU's receivers. Corners Derrek Thomas, Artrel Foster and Nate Hairston and safety Delvon Randall have a prime opportunity to gain more confidence against a young quarterback with a tendency to make mistakes. Junior safety Sean Chandler is still the unquestioned leader of the group.

What’s at stake: Getting conference play started on the right foot
If the Owls want to be taken as a serious threat to repeat in the AAC East, this is a game they have to have against an inferior SMU team. This is the first of nine straight AAC games, and even though SMU is in the AAC West, this game is still a tonesetter for rest of conference play. The Owls don’t want to fall behind right off the bat. And they really don’t want to fall behind right of the bat this week, with a short week and travel to Memphis for a game on Thursday looming. Yes, that’s two games in five days coming up for Temple.

Prediction
Even if the weather doesn’t hold out, points will be scored at the Linc on Saturday. Just not as many as the past couple of years. At this point in time, Temple just has more talent and it looks like the Owls are finally getting things in sync. Temple 38, SMU 21