As Thursday’s 3 pm trade deadline fast approaches, the Sixers are expected to be very active. Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young are the team’s most likely trade chips.
With that in mind, the Sixers will probably become even more shorthanded for the remaining 26 games after Thursday’s deadline. Fresh off multiple embarrassing 40-point losses before the All-Star break, that’s a scary proposition.
The team’s two young guards, Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten, will receive more opportunities as a result of any major departures. One way that they can help the Sixers remain somewhat competitive is by using the extra offensive responsibility to emphasize their strengths. Here are two ways they can do that.
1. Exploiting Carter-Williams’ size. It’s happened. Carter-Williams, still the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, has hit the dreaded wall. Rather hard, too. Among other things, he’s struggling mightily to make shots.
One way to help out Carter-Williams in this regard could be posting him up more frequently against his smaller counterparts. According to mySynergySports, the 6-foot-6 rookie has recorded only 12 possessions out of the post where he’s shot the ball, turned it over, or drawn a foul.
I like a specific set that Brett Brown has shown flashes of running due to its simplicity. The Sixers initially align themselves in a 1-4 set, with all five players at or above the foul line.
The two bigs, Hawes and Young, take a step further up toward the three-point line. After making the pass to Young, Carter-Williams doesn’t waste any time. He sprints straight down the middle of the lane to post up Suns guard Ish Smith, one of the many point guards that Carter-Williams enjoys a healthy size advantage over.
Making sure Carter-Williams occupies such prime real estate alone with “a mouse in the house” takes some nuance, though. On the weak side, Hawes sets a tight diagonal screen that Anderson runs off.
Young has no intention of passing to Anderson, but look at the shot below and notice how preoccupied Miles Plumlee and Marcus Morris are with defending the action (specifically, how their heads are focused on Young). They aren’t able to help Smith, who Carter-Williams has already established position against. It’s an easy lob over the top for Young.
Post-ups are never going to be the main source of offense for Carter-Williams, but it can certainly be an effective part of his game against smaller guards. For example, Kyrie Irving is on the docket tonight.
Brown has chosen to focus on the more traditional elements of running a team during Carter-Williams’ first year. Still, it would be nice to see a few more post-ups from the rookie. Here’s video of a few.
2. Getting Wroten on the move. When Wroten receives a ball screen, defenders pretty much know what’s coming: He’s putting his head down and trying to get to the rim with reckless abandon. Wroten makes it there a lot, but is converting less than half of his attempts from close range on the season.
Over the long haul, Wroten needs to make serious improvements on his jumper. Currently, he relies on Eurosteps and other difficult shots for an unworkable majority of his offense.
A major reason that Wroten has been a poor pick-and-roll player this season is his all-or-nothing approach. Once he starts heading downhill off the screen, he’s usually trying to score at the rim. Defenders, like Kelly Olynyk and Marreese Speights below, can retreat toward the basket and wait for Wroten.
On simple high pick-and-rolls, defenses can load up against Wroten and shrink the floor, neutralizing his greatest asset: speed. One counter for Brown could be starting Wroten off-ball in more sets. If Wroten receives a dribble handoff on the move and is already accelerating at a high level, it’s harder for defenders to stay in front of him.
There are many ways the creative Brown can place his speedy second-year guard in motion. Wroten can cut right to left, immediately make an entry pass from the wing to the post, and cut directly off that pass like he does in “motion weak” once below.
Wroten can cut from the right corner toward the top of the key at full steam heading in the direction of his stronger left hand. He does so out of “motion strong” once below.
Wroten can even inbound the ball, run off a screen, and receive dribble handoff, as Brown has drawn up a few times.
While Wroten is still trying to figure out the NBA game, placing him constantly on the move seems like it could help increase his productivity. Unlike his outside shooting, the Sixers’ Energizer Bunny’s cutting might positively impact his teammates.
Bob Cooney has been at the Daily News for more than 20 years, working in the sports department for the past 15. This is his third season on the Sixers beat. He has covered just about everything, but mostly college basketball, where he was the La Salle beat writer for six seasons. E-mail Bob at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.