Dribbles: The Andrew-Bynum-in-Philly debacle

So I’m a little late to the ballgame here, but I wanted to get in some quick thoughts on the Andrew Bynum debacle, now that, before he ever dribbled competitively in a Sixers’ uniform, his season is officially over. Bynum had arthroscopic knee surgery on both (knees) today, meaning he’s out for the year and, as an unrestricted free agent this summer, probably permanently done in Philadelphia.

  • Um, what a disaster.

After the Bynum deal went down in August, there were no real concern about Andrew’s health, and even after he was diagnosed with a bone bruise in September, the 76ers expected the big man back for the season opener. Then, the delays kept coming, and the team kept pushing his return date before the inevitable finally came Monday.

In Philadelphia’s defense, it’s not like this guy has a horrible injury history, either. He played 60 games in a 66-game lockout-shortened campaign last season, then started all 12 of the Lakers’ postseason games, even averaging 37.6 minutes per in the process. Bynum’s only played one full, 82-game season in his 8-year career, but has appeared in at least 50 games, of which he’s started the vast majority, every season since 2008-09.

  • So, for a guy who never played, the 76ers gave up WHAT!?!?

Before we delve into just how many young pieces Philly gave up in this deal, remember that, for them, this deal centered around a swap of franchise players, Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum. Iguodala’s a very good player — a great athlete who can slash to the basket, finish around the rim, defend from baseline to baseline and more, but he had also been on the trading block for years. And even though Philly peaked probably higher than they should have last year, pushing the Boston Celtics to 7 games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals — a series they advanced to mainly because of Derrick Rose’s torn ACL in Round 1 — this team was not winning anything with a core centered around Iggy. So they dealt him for, when healthy, one of the league’s top 3 centers.

What hurts most for Philly fans is the 3 young pieces they gave up, all to Orlando — a protected 1st-round selection, Nikola Vucevic and first-rounder Moe Harkless. Vucevic, who did start 15 games as a rookie in Philly last year before falling out of Doug Collins’ rotation in the postseason (he played 3 playoff minutes), is averaging a double-double, 12.4 points and 11.5 rebounds, on the NBA’s second-worst team; he’s also tied for 4th in the league in rebounding. Harkless, 19, has started 44 games for Orlando, and despite limited range, has, by all appearances, shown upside as the team’s swing-forward of the future.

In the deal, Philly also took on Jason Richardson’s contract, which, assuming he wisely extends his player option in 2014-15, pays him about $6.4 million per through 2015. (In fairness, J-Rich, 32, was averaging double-figure scoring numbers before a left knee injury prematurely ended his season in February.)

  • So what does Philly do now?

If I’m GM Tony DiLeo, I cut my losses on Bynum this summer and move on. Why compound the organization’s error in dealing for Bynum — which, again, looked like a good deal at the time — by giving him substantial long-term money? There’s a desperate team out there who will give him 8-figures annually, and that team should not be Philly, especially when such a deal would likely put them over the salary cap.

Further reading: Take a look at this Deadspin compilation of Bynum’s highlights in Philadelphia.

Follow me on Twitter @PatrickJDuprey.

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