This edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews key upcoming 76ers games – features tonight’s opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers and our pal Andrew Bynum. That’s right, Bynum is miraculously healthy enough to ball tonight at the WFC, but still complaining about knee pain and apparently is contemplating retirement.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into the Cavaliers team the Sixers face tonight from our colleagues Scott Sargent and Ben Cox at waitingfornextyear.com as Scott and Ben will answer Fo’ questions on their Cavs from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) All Things Andrew Bynum: How many minutes does he play? How does he move? How badly is he heckled by the WFC crowd? If Bynum was a piece of gum, by the end of the game I’ll know what flavor he is…
2) The Sixers Perimeter D: I realize that Brett Brown is sticking with the “pick your poison” defense he’s installed where guarding the paint is top priority, but at some point the Sixers guards/wings have to start defending opposing players more honestly. Continually running out at or recovering to your man on the perimeter is not the way to play D in the NBA. We all learned that after GSW and the Wizards buried 33 treys on us in two games. So I’ll be interested to see if Brown learned anything and tweaks his philosophy at all.
3) Thad Young: Thad had a simply horrible game vs. the Wizards and is averaging only 13 points per night so far. Really outside of his 29 points vs. Washington in game #2 of the season, he has not done much at all. The Sixers rarely call plays for Thad, but I would like to see a conscious effort by Brown to get #21 going tonight.
4) Which offense will carry the night: The Sixers (ranked 7th in points per game & 3rd in FB buckets) want to get out on the break and push the pace of the game. On the other hand, the Cavs (ranked 26th in points per game & 20th in FB points) would rather engage in a half-court battle. Whichever team can stamp their offensive blueprint on this game tonight will likely come out the winner.
Q&A with Scott Sargent and Ben Cox from waitingfornextyear.com…
Philadunkia: What was your reaction to the signing of Andrew Bynum?
Ben Cox from waitingfornextyear.com: I was shocked and excited. Bynum wasn’t on my radar as an option for the Cavs, so I was pretty blown away when the deal was announced. I was pleased with the contract structure and how many outs GM Chris Grant gave himself. Then I immediately started day dreaming.
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: Yeah, Cleveland fans aren’t exactly used to getting a free agent whom they covet, so to hear that the two sides were able to come to terms on an agreement after what seemed like ages of rumors and speculation and visits to other teams, it was refreshing to see that things aren’t as bad here as perception may have been.
Philadunkia: How much patience will you/Cavs fans have with Bynum if he continues to complain about knee pain and plays only 12 minutes or less per night for the next 20 games or so?
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: I’ve already gone on record to call this signing a win-win for Chris Grant and the Cavaliers. They have done an excellent job of keeping expectations low—it was originally thought that we wouldn’t see the big man until the calendar flipped, and boom, there he is on Opening Night. Everything he gives the Cavaliers, especially early on, should be considered a bonus. Don’t forget, if it wasn’t for an injury, Cleveland’s starting center (Anderson Varejao) was well on his way to an All-Star nod just one season ago so it’s not like they’re hurting for talent down low from a starting capacity; depth is the issue, and it’s safe to say, even at 12-15 minutes per game, Bynum brings that.
Ben Cox from waitingfornextyear.com: Myself? Tons of patience. I have *really* low expectations for Bynum. I’ve also maintained that anything the Cavs get from Bynum is considered a bonus. If he can give them an extra push or a boost towards the playoffs, great. But I really didn’t expect him to play for at least mid-November and I’m actually shocked he’s getting minutes this early (and I wonder if it’s because the Cavs have an early opt out, so he needs to show them *something*)…If he keeps complaining about knee pain… well, the dude has crappy knees.
Philadunkia: Any insights into rookie Anthony Bennett’s struggle to get playing time and contribute?
Ben Cox from waitingfornextyear.com: It’s a mix of things, in my opinion. First, he’s clearly pressing and rushing his shots. I don’t know if it’s because the game is moving too fast, if he’s not getting great looks or if he’s unsure how to play an auxiliary role. He’s part of a bench unit that includes Jarrett Jack and CJ Miles (both, um, more than willing shooters) and Bynum, who draws a ton of attention.
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: Regarding playing time, this goes back to the depth issue—the Cavaliers have a starting power forward who will log at least 30 minutes a game. Math unfortunately dictates that the most Bennett could receive in terms of time is 18 minutes. Now, there will be foul trouble; there might be a nagging injury or two (though it’s worth mentioning that Tristan Thompson started all 82 games last season). The other factor is Mike Brown who traditionally rolls with veterans over rookies, especially in game situations. And to say Bennett isn’t contributing is a bit of a misnomer. He’s among the best in defensive efficiency thus far and has shown solid energy on that side of the floor. Does he take too many threes at this point? Probably. But he’ll figure that part out. The concerns getting him in here was his defense, and he’s shown that given the right system and right leader (check and check) that that part of his game could be developed.
Philadunkia: The national “experts” seem to be split on Tristan Thompson. So give us your thoughts: Is he a rising NBA PF headed for a breakout year or a solid player putting up numbers on a bad team?
Scott Sargent from waitingfornextyear.com: I think a “breakout” is a function of expectations. Thompson should, and most likely will, be a guy who averages a double-double with the occasional scoring pop if his shot is falling. For one reason or another, the ‘experts’ still think Thompson is a raw athlete who just happens to be employed by a basketball team. One watch of his footwork and awareness on the floor and it’s glaringly obvious that he’s light years ahead of where he was when he came into the league.
With so much offense coming from the Cavaliers’ backcourt, he’ll never be asked to shoulder the load from an offensive standpoint. He’ll never be Tim Duncan or Karl Malone, but Tristan Thompson is a more-than-capable starting power forward in the NBA.
Ben Cox from waitingfornextyear.com: I feel it’s a little bit of a mix. I don’t know if he’ll be have a breakout year, but he’s getting better. Tristan has worked his butt off to become a passable offensive player but I just don’t know where his ceiling is. His jumper looks better coming off his right hand, but it’s not like he’s a knockdown shooter. He’s got a quick first step but not a great handle. It can take awhile for bigs, so I’m not ruling anything out. But at the moment, I don’t see him being a reliable third offensive option on a good team.
You can follow Ben Cox on Twitter @WFNYBen.
You can follow Scott Sargent on Twitter @WFNYScott.
You can follow us on Twitter @philadunkia.