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A Simple Solution?

Thumbnail image for Donyell answers the call. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Can one player negate a team weakness? I guess the more pertinent question is can one player, playing less than 15 minutes/game, negate a team weakness? If negate is too strong of a word, how about mitigate? Let's take a look at Donyell Marshall's effect on a key stat for the Sixers this season.

It's no secret that the Sixers have been outscored from three pretty regularly this season. In fact, it's been their biggest weakness, and a thorn in their side so many times I've lost count. The past three games have shown us what Donyell Marshall can do in limited minutes. Beyond the stats, his shooting has energized the team, opened up the lane and forced the opposition to completely adjust their defense.

The question I've been asking myself is what will it take for the Sixers to address this problem in the future? Would one lights-out shooter added to the rotation be enough? I suppose that depends on your goal. If you want to conistently out-score your opponent from three, then probably not. If you merely want to narrow the gap and keep it manageable, then maybe the answer is yes.

I realize this is a horribly small sample size, but let's take a look at what has happened to this diferential when Donyell Marshall has played more than 10 minutes in a game this season. It's only 5 games, believe it or not:

Marshall Less Than 10 Minutes
  • Sixers average 4.1 made threes on 12.92 attempts
  • Opponents average 6.95 made threes on 19 attempts
  • A deficit of 2.85 threes per game
Marshall More Than 10 Minutes
  • Sixers average 5.4 made threes on 17.4 attempts
  • Opponents average 6.2 made threes on 19 attempts
  • A deficit of 0.8 made threes per game
This is a far from holistic look at team statistics, but still, you can see how having one shooter on the floor, even for limited minutes, can affect the split. The big concern for the Sixers, however, needs to be whether they can retain their advantage in other areas and add a shooter to the mix.

In Marshall's case, the team retained its edge in both free throw differential and offensive rebounding in all 5 games he logged more than 10 minutes of PT.

I'm not saying Donyell is the long-term answer. The guy is 35 and honestly I don't think he could hack 15-20 minutes per game. He can, however, handle around 10. Maybe one decent run each half to give the team a quick boost from deep. While the sample size is small, I don't think you can ignore it. He's a specialist, and a specialist who doesn't seem to kill you in other areas of the game. Hopefully, the team will look at him that way and continue to work him into the game.

One thing this exercise says to me is that the shooting problem isn't necessarily as dire I originally thought. Maybe one great shooter in a limited role can make a legitimate difference in this area. Finding a guy to shoot 40% from three for 10 minutes a game is much less daunting than somehow landing a dead-eye shooter to play 40 minutes a night.

If you're wondering exactly how indicative of winning this stat is, in games where the 3PM differential is -1 or better, the Sixers are 18-8. In games were the differentials is worse than -1 the're 16-24.