A few weeks ago, we detailed how Brett Brown has brought elements of the Spurs’ motion offense to Philadelphia. The three main actions — Strong, Weak, and Loop —comprise the Sixers’ base half-court offense.
For myriad reasons, teams can’t run only three offensive plays, no matter how good their personnel is. Defenses are too good to be allowed to key on so few actions; teams with less firepower like the Sixers especially have to run counters and other sets to keep defenses off-balance.
The Sixers are only ranked 24th in offense, scoring 101.2 points per 100 possessions. Considering their personnel, it’s probably fair to say Brett Brown is exceeding expectations at that end of the floor. It’s still only a month into the season, but the Sixers are far from the worst offense in the NBA, which was where many pegged them to finish. I sure did.
The free falling Sixers (6-11) visit the 6-10 Detroit Pistons today at the Palace of Auburn Hills in a game that certainly won’t get much attention in the Delaware Valley until the Eagles and Cardinals get done their football game. Here’s a look at some of the keys for the Sixers against the Pistons, coached by Sixer legend Maurice Cheeks:
*Equal Detroit’s bench: The Pistons leading scorer is Rodney Stuckey at just under 17 a game. He comes off the bench for Cheeks. The Sixers backups will be the first to get matched with Stuckey, so Tony Wroten and company will have to do a good job of keeping him out of the lane, something the Sixers were horrible at doing against New Orleans on Friday night.
*Stay even on the boards: In Andre Drummond (11.8), Greg Monroe (8.6) and Josh Smith (7.3) the Pistons have a trio of strong rebounders. That is not an area of strength for the Sixers. They’ll have to get strong board games from the guards as well as big men in order to stay close with Detroit. Drummond leads the NBA in field goal percentage at 63.6 percent.
The Sixers play the New Orleans Pelicans tonight and for the first time in many games may have a full roster with which to play. Spencer Hawes, who has missed the past two games with a tweaked left knee, said at shootaround this morning that his knee feels good and he hopes to be able to play. Tony Wroten, who has been battling a back strain which also cost him two games, could be back in the lineup tonight as well.
Here’s a look at some keys for the Sixers tonight.
*Get the ball into Anthony Davis: The Pelicans’ big man is a terrific shot blocker but mostly does it when off the ball. The Sixers need to take the ball right at him and then either look for a quick pass off or take it up strong into him.
Of all of Brett Brown’s objectives heading into the season, developing Michael Carter-Williams into a starting-caliber NBA point guard was probably most important. A rebuilding team’s rookie lottery pick is generally going to receive every opportunity to improve, no matter how much he struggles.
It’s still early, but while displaying an all-around game that has been a major catalyst for the Sixers’ better-than-expected start, Carter-Williams has entered the league with a higher baseline than most draft observers expected. In other words, he already looks the part of a starting point guard. The major question is why that is.
The playmaking ability that Carter-Williams showed in college was considered an area of strength as he made the transition to the pros. Among Draft Express’ Top 100 prospects last year, Carter-Williams ranked first with 7.3 assists per game. There was a major caveat, though: Carter-Williams turned the ball over on 26 percent of his possessions, third worst in the DX Top 100.
Losers of six in a row, the 2-8 Milwaukee Bucks invade the Wells Fargo Center tonight for a meeting with the 5-8 Sixers, who will once again be without starting forward Thaddeus Young, who is not with the team due to personal reasons.
Here’s a look at some of the keys for the Sixers:
*Get better play from Michael Carter-Williams: He made his return on Wednesday after four games off due to a foot injury and wasn’t very impressive. He seemed to rush his play when things weren’t going well and also seemed out of synch much of the game in the loss to Toronto. Though just a rookie, the team does seem to feed off of him, and that showed on Wednesday. They’ll need a much better effort from MCW tonight.
With the Sixers now 13 games into the 2013-14 season, we can start to see trends forming, of both an individual and a team nature. Some, like Spencer Hawes’ new-found emphasis on taking above-the-break three-pointers and Evan Turner’s attacking mindset, have been positive.
On the other side of the coin, areas that could use improvement have also certainly presented themselves, especially during the current stretch where the Sixers have lost eight out of 10 games.
Before the season, the Sixers were expected to “compete” for one of the worst records in the NBA. Even after the unexpected hot start, a very low win total seems very possible. Part of the reason Brett Brown was hired as head coach was his past experience as player development coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He seemed to be someone who could find a way to help shore up individual players’ weaknesses even in the midst of the team’s losing.
The Sixers return home tonight against the Toronto Raptors after dropping all three games on a recent road trip. After a 3-0 start they have now lost seven of their last nine games. That is the bad news, the good news is that it appears after missing the past four games point guard Michael Carter-Williams will be back in the starting lineup. Here’s a look at some keys to the game for the Sixers.
* Keep the Raptors off the offensive boards: Toronto is second in the league at grabbing offensive boards at 14 a game. For a team that doesn’t score that well, just 96.9 points a game, that is a huge lift offensively. Conversely, giving up those boards doesn’t allow the Sixers to get out and run and it also takes its toll on the defensive end.
* Pack in the defense: Toronto is not a good outside shooting team, having made just 32.6 percent of its three-point attempts. The Sixers can benefit from this type of defense in a couple of ways. One is by making the Raptors shoot from the outside it negates the way they like to score, with Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. It also will allow the Sixers to rebound the ball and get out on their fastbreak.
On Monday, as the Sixers were in the process of getting completely out-executed by the masters of execution, the San Antonio Spurs, former Spur Malik Rose offered a silver lining from the broadcast booth.
“It’s been a clinic on the offensive end for the Spurs,” Rose said. “But if you want to take away a positive from that, and it’s a loose positive, the Sixers run the same system. So at least they’re seeing what could be possible if they stay diligent and execute their offense.”
Sixers head coach Brett Brown understands the intricacies of the motion offense that’s come to define the second half of the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili era. Unsurprisingly, the former Spurs assistant has brought the successful system to Philadelphia and his youthful corps.