After watching 8 games start to finish, I found myself thinking about why the Sixers' offense looks so unbelievably stagnant at times. There are plenty of reasons, some philosophical and some just fundamental. The philosophical reasons (no deep shooters, no true post presence) can't be helped all that much. The fundamental problems can be fixed with a few adjustments to the offense.
We're going to take a look at one set the Sixers seem to run very, very often. Please excuse my graphic skills, I threw these images together quickly, just so I could get my thoughts across visually.
For the purposes of the slides, and the explanations, we're going to assume it's the starting lineup on the floor.
1 = Andre Miller
2 = Willie Green
3 = Andre Iguodala
4 = Reggie Evans
5 = Samuel Dalembert
The first image shows the base set. Miller has the ball in the middle of the court outside the three-point line. Iguodala, Green and Dalembert are on the right side of the floor, Evans is alone on the left side on the low blocks.
OK, in this second slide we're taking a look at the initial motion of the offense. It's set up to get the ball to Iguodala on the left wing. He runs his man through a double screen along the baseline and gets the ball foul-line extended on the left side. If he comes through clean and loses his man, it's an open shot or even penetration to the hole leading to points. If the defender on Iguodala fights his way through the screens, this is where the offense begins to break down. The red numbers are the defenders, by position.
Let's freeze her for a second. This alignment is exactly the position the Sixers do not want to be in for long, for one simple reason. Reggie Evans is not an offensive threat. What happens at this point far too often is the ball freezes in Iguodala's hands and Evans posts up his man on the lower left block. Sometimes he passes in there, usually he thinks better of it, but either way, the offense stalls. This play is designed to get the ball to the 4 in that position, but Evans is not equipped to receive the ball there and do any damage.
The next slide shows how the offense progresses from this point. Willie Green dives through the lane, looking for a pass at the hoop for an easy bucket. Dalembert flashes to the foul line, where he's open for an easy 15-footer, sometimes (this also should draw the opposing center out from under the hoop, possibly opening the back door for Green.) Miller floats the area originally vacated by Green, providing an outlet or an open jumper if someone helps on him. Then Evans comes up and sets a screen for Iguodala. If the defender goes under, Iguodala has an open mid-range jumper, if he tries to fight over it and help doesn't come, Iguodala has an open drive to the hoop. If they play it properly, Evans slides to the hoop, or slips to the corner for a short jumper. Again, this is not a desirable effect because Evans is not a weapon on offense. When you play the two-man game with a guy who has no offensive game, it's very easy to defend. This is the situation Iguodala has found himself in too many times. Teams play this pick and roll to perfection, and he tries to force a pass into a bad situation.
The biggest problem with this defense is that Iguodala doesn't have any help. Evans is the worst offensive option on the floor, by putting him in close quarters with Iguodala, you're effectively creating a double team on your best player and limiting his options.
The weak-side motion is good, but it's all directed at the basket and the defense is already keyed in on stopping Iguodala on the drive.
Here's a small tweak to the same set that I think would help the Sixers get into their offense faster, get the right guys touching the ball, and open the floor up a little bit for penetration and easy opportunities.
In this variation of the same play, Evans sets the pick to get Iguodala open on the wing, then immediately goes across the wing and sets a pick for Dalembert. Sammy flashes from the lower right box to the lower left box, and if the pick is good it will force a switch or make the defensive center trail Dalembert across the lane. This opens Dalembert for a short turnaround jumper or post move, and it should give him good position on the low block. He probably isn't going to draw a double team, but if the shot isn't there, the offense continues to run in the next slide.
There's a lot going on here, so we'll go one step at a time. First, Iguodala gets the ball to Dalembert in the post, then streaks down the lane for a possible give-and-go at the hoop. If it isn't there, he continues through the lane and Evans sets a pick on his man as he goes by. Miller floats to foul-line extended on the left side of the floor to give Dalembert an outlet to get rid of the ball, Green slides to the top of the key and Iguodala remains in the corner. At this point the defense is stretched across the floor. If nothing is there, Dalembert outlets the ball to Miller, who then swings the ball to Green, who then swings the ball to Iguoadala who should be alone in the corner. Quick passing is key. It's another way to get the ball to your best player in a scoring situation. You can also run the pick and roll with Dalembert, who can hit an open jumper, instead of Evans from this position.
It's a small wrinkle, and I'm far from an NBA coach, but I think something like this would give the Sixers a much more effective offense. Running the two-man game with Iguodala and Evans is counterproductive and they need to get away from that set.
Something to keep an eye on when you're watching tomorrow night as the Sixers take on the Blazers at the Wach tomorrow night. I'm going to be on the road, but thanks to DirecTV's deal the NBA, I'll be able to watch the game online. I have to say, this was a pleasant surprise I discovered earlier today. If you're a League Pass subscriber, it's free. DirecTV has the same deal with the NFL.