There are still a number of games to be played in the NBA's preseason, but the Philadelphia 76ers are guaranteed at least a tie for the exhibition season's best record. The Sixers finished at 6-1 and rolled through the majority of their games without anyone putting up much of a fight. What does that mean exactly? Nothing. After all, the only other team with a chance to finish the preseason 6-1 is the Toronto Raptors. But when you consider that the Sixers have added at least six new faces to a roster that reached Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals in 2011-12, fans can rest easy that the new talent is gelling with head coach Doug Collins' system.
We've seen a few surprises from this team that should have the Sixers' faithful giddy. We also haven't seen a lot of what this team is going to be about. Here's three questions that need answering.
1.) How will Andrew Bynum affect the Sixer's early chemistry when he returns?
The big coup of the offseason was the move that brought Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Sixers in a four-team trade that sent Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets and Dwight Howard to Los Angeles. Bynum didn't play this preseason, resting a troubled knee. The Sixers have said that Bynum will be ready for the start of the regular season. He received another knee injection Monday with the idea that he will begin full scale practices with the team on October 24, a full week before the season opener against the Nuggets at the Wells Fargo Center Halloween night.
Bynum has been at practice. Bynum has learned the system. Collins has involved Bynum by asking him where he prefers players to be when he's in the post and what game he's most comfortable playing. The Sixers have done a great job without Bynum playing in the system Bynum will supposedly play. The question is if he's ready, and if that chemistry will carry on when he is.
2.) Are the Sixers really this good a shooting team?
The Sixers shot 46.8% from the field in the preseason, including 41.3% from beyond the arc. They held opponents to below 30% from beyond. The Sixers haven't had a team shoot over 40% from three-point territory since, well, the dawn of man. The best they've ever mustered is 37.9% in 1994-95, led by the immortal Dana Barros.
This is not to say that they will continue that unconscious pace, but the additions of Nick Young, Jason Richardson and Dorrell Wright, to go along with the improved outside game of Jrue Holiday, give the Sixers are formidable quad of snipers unlike the franchise has ever seen. Collins has been encouraging the new sharp shooters to let loose in transition, which is usually frowned upon. He's going to let them be who they are. Couple the transition three game with Bynum in the middle kicking out to shooters on occasion, and this will certainly not be your daddy's 76ers.
3.) Just exactly what will the Sixers bench rotation look like?
We know Holiday will play the point with Evan Turner at the three and Bynum in the middle when he returns. We haven't had clear answers as to who will start at shooting guard and power forward. And we still don't know who will get the lion's share of minutes at those positions in crunch time. The Sixers have the makings of a deep bench that will be able to score with any bench in basketball, especially with those shooters and more depth in the middle.
The question Collins must answer is what combinations work the best. In the Sixers preseason finale, Holiday, Turner, Wright, Kwame Brown and Bynum didn't play. On other nights, Collins gave Thaddeus Young and Richardson the night off. There hasn't been a game where the full complement of Sixers other than Bynum hit the floor.
This team should have the depth to come at you for 48 minutes. They should have the bodies to bang inside, the shooters to drop daggers from the outside and a continually improving facilitator in Holiday running the show.
A 6-1 preseason is nice, but means nothing. There's much to anticipate, but still a wealth of mystery to what this team will look like when the chips are down.
Pete Lieber is a freelance writer and a Philadelphia sports enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter at @Lieber14.
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