All eyes are on Evan Turner.
On Friday, the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Andrew Bynum from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team, blockbuster trade. With the second-best center in the NBA manning the middle, Philly’s once suspect frontcourt is now its strength.
The greatest obstacle between the Sixers and becoming one of the East’s elite teams is the lack of a top-notch perimeter scorer. The departures of Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks demand that Turner step into a larger role next season. His ability to successfully do so will ultimately determine how drastically the 76ers improve in 2013.
Philadelphia definitely won’t be held back by their bigs. Thaddeus Young will likely make his long-awaited return to the 76ers’ starting lineup next to Bynum. Young and Bynum’s combined average player efficiency ratio rounds out to 20.97 (the league average is 15.0)—that’s one of the most productive duos in the league.
Throw in Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen and rookie Arnett Moultrie coming off the bench, and there aren’t many deeper teams down low.
The Sixers' replacement for Iguodala, though, remains to be seen.
Dorell Wright took a step back last season on the Golden State Warriors. He isn’t a strong starting-caliber option. The newly acquired Jason Richardson can play the 3, but he’s significantly more effective at the 2. According to 82games.com, he recorded a net PER of -11.7 against opposing small forwards last season, but only -5.4 vs. shooting guards.
Turner, on the other hand, is actually more efficient at the 3 than the 2. He’s Philly’s best bet to replace Iggy in the starting lineup. But he must also replace Williams as the squad’s leading perimeter scorer.
Jrue Holiday, Nick Young, Richardson and Wright all know how to put the ball in the basket, but none will help a team advance in the playoffs as a go-to guy. Sure, Bynum will shoulder the scoring load, but centers don’t close games—perimeter players do.
Since being selected second overall in 2010, Turner hasn’t lived up to expectations. After a career at Ohio State in which he scored at will, he averaged just 9.4 points per game in 2012.
He's shown flashes of brilliance, though, with seven 20-point performances. Turner must make a habit out of 20-point efforts. He’s simply the 76ers' only wing that’s capable of creating his own shot on a consistent basis.
If Turner doesn’t blossom into a leader, this team will never take the next step as a legitimate championship contender until Doug Collins finds someone who will.
David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.
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