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.)

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

After epically bad game, Odubel Herrera maintains he's 'making good swings'

Don't be shocked if Pete Mackanin gives Odubel Herrera the Maikel Franco treatment this weekend after Herrera's epically bad game Thursday afternoon.

Herrera, batting third for the first time since May 9, went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts in the Phillies' 2-1, extra-inning win over the Rockies (see Instant Replay).

He's the first player in the majors this season to go 0 for 5 with five Ks and the first Phillie to do so since Pat Burrell in September 2008.

(And no, that doesn't mean the Phillies are winning the World Series this season.)

Herrera is in a very bad place right now. He's hitting .226 with a .275 on-base percentage, and he has 28 strikeouts with one walk in May.

But you wouldn't know it from talking to him after the game Thursday. Herrera wasn't downtrodden or beside himself. He was typical Odubel, flashing a few smiles and remaining positive.

"I feel that I am making good swings but I'm just missing the pitches," Herrera said. "But I feel I am swinging the bat well. 

"I don't really know what it is exactly. But I am seeing the ball well. I don't know if it's when I charge at the ball or the timing of my swing. It's definitely at that point. Maybe it has something to do with the balance of the bat and my body. 

"Besides being positive, I have to check the video to see what I'm doing wrong and make some adjustment. But I'm staying positive, for sure."

Herrera and Franco, batting third and fourth, went 1 for 10 with seven strikeouts Thursday. They're both hitting below .230. They're supposed to be cornerstone pieces for the Phillies, so it's extremely troubling. Even if the Phillies were winning games recently it would be troubling.

Mackanin was elusive when asked if he'd consider benching Herrera Friday. But there's no real reason to believe it would do any good anyway. There's a fine line between giving a player time to clear his head and preventing him from having chances to bounce back.

"You know what, let me enjoy this. We'll discuss that tomorrow. Let me smile for a while," Mackanin said. 

"It's a tough decision. That's a tough decision. You wonder if he needs to be in there seeing pitches and batting or does he need time off? I'll think about that."

Herrera did say that he and Franco have leaned on each other during this rough period. They talk and try to motivate each other every day, but right now the results aren't there. Both are swinging wildly at too many pitches out of the strike zone and just making it too easy for opposing pitchers. When that's coming from the middle of your order, you're going to have problems scoring runs. 

On this date a year ago, Herrera was hitting .327 with a .901 OPS. Franco was hitting .260 with a .748 OPS.

Some of the struggles are because of pitchers adjusting to Herrera and Franco as the book on them expands. 

When asked if that's the case for his two young players, Mackanin referenced the Phillies' own adjustment to Rockies slugger Charlie Blackmon.

"I was pretty happy we got to Blackmon, that guy is a heckuva hitter and we pitched him really well today. There's an example of what you're talking about," Mackanin said. "Little by little, we're going to get there. We're going to start playing better."

Like Herrera and Franco, Mackanin has no choice but to think positive and hope for the best. It's a long summer, after all.

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

Instant Replay: Phillies 2, Rockies 1 (11 innings)

BOX SCORE

Tommy Joseph hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning Thursday to score Michael Saunders and snap the Phillies' five-game losing streak with a 2-1 win over the Rockies.

The win is their first victory in a game not started by Jeremy Hellickson since May 1. It also prevented the Phillies from being swept by Colorado.

At 16-29, the Phillies have the second-worst record in the majors. The Rockies, 32-17, have the second-best record in the majors.

Starting pitching report
Vince Velasquez pitched well, allowing one run over five innings to a stacked Rockies lineup, but he again had a short outing because of a high pitch count.

Velasquez put nine men on base and struck out seven. He threw 94 pitches, 70 for strikes.

After Velasquez's last start in Pittsburgh, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the right-hander's secondary pitches simply need to improve, that he needs to be able to show more than just a mid-90s fastball.

On Thursday, Velasquez threw 72 fastballs, 14 curveballs, four sliders and four changeups. The Rockies swung through only two of those 22 off-speed pitches and went 4 for 6 when putting them in play.

Mackanin left Velasquez in to hit for himself with runners on first and second and no outs in the bottom of the fifth and Velasquez popped out on a sacrifice attempt. Many fans have already questioned the decision, but let's keep in mind Velasquez has handled the bat well. He's 6 for 17 (.353) on the season and tied for the major-league lead in hits among pitchers. He had an infield single in his first at-bat.

Rockies left-hander Tyler Anderson continued the theme of mediocre starting pitchers stymying the Phillies. Anderson allowed just one run on six hits over seven innings with seven strikeouts.

In the series, Rockies starting pitchers allowed three runs in 27 innings. They had a 1.00 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and more than a strikeout per inning. And these four starters — Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez, Tyler Chatwood and Anderson — entered the series with a combined 5.27 ERA.

Bullpen report
Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, Luis Garcia and Jeanmar Gomez each pitched one scoreless inning. It's understandably been overlooked during the Phillies' skid, but the bullpen is finally in a groove. Over their last seven games, Phillies relievers have allowed just two earned runs in 22 2/3 innings for a 0.79 ERA.

Neris threw 10 pitches, all of them strikes. He's allowed one run in 9 2/3 innings since his meltdown at Dodger Stadium.

At the plate
Before the walk-off hit, Joseph stayed hot with a home run off the ivy wall in dead-center to start the bottom of the seventh.

Joseph is hitting .329 in May with six doubles, six homers, 15 RBIs and a .657 slugging percentage. The only first basemen in the majors with a higher slugging percentage this month are Yonder Alonso, Justin Bour and Paul Goldschmidt.

Joseph has now played 148 games with 498 plate appearances in the majors — slightly less than a full season. He's hit .255 with an .804 OPS, 28 home runs and 23 doubles. Those numbers are just above the league average for first basemen over that span.

Batting third, Odubel Herrera went 0 for 5 with five strikeouts. He's the first player in the majors this season to do that and the first Phillie since Pat Burrell in September 2008. Herrera is hitting .226 with a .275 OBP. 

Maikel Franco returned to the lineup after a two-game benching and went 1 for 5, singling up the middle in his first at-bat and flailing at a low-and-away, two-strike breaking ball to strike out with two on and one out in the eighth inning. He then struck out on three pitches to lead off the 11th.

Cameron Rupp walked three times, raising his on-base percentage from .330 to .345.

Up next
The Phillies start a three-game series at home against the Cincinnati Reds, who they haven't seen since the opening week of the season.

Friday, 7:05 p.m. — Aaron Nola (2-1, 3.52) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-4, 6.75)

Saturday, 4:05 p.m. — Jerad Eickhoff (0-5, 4.70) vs. Scott Feldman (3-4, 3.99)

Sunday, 1:35 p.m. — Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.36) vs. Amir Garrett (3-3, 6.00)