Ed Stefanski and Mo Cheeks may have put their heads together and solved one of the most perplexing anomalies in the NBA, Willie Green.
The problem with Willie is that the thing that makes him look so good sometimes, is the exact same thing that makes him a team-killer at other times. When Willie is on, he's almost impossible to guard. He uses his good frame to bully defenders, he uses his quickness to burn them and he uses his body control to stop on a dime. He can get his shot off whenever he wants. When that shot is falling, he's a scoring machine. Unfortunately, when his shot isn't falling, he doesn't have an off switch. There's no voice inside his head saying, "OK, it's not there tonight, I'm going to move the ball around, get someone else a shot." When Willie is on the court, Willie is looking to shoot.
This isn't usually a game-to-game thing, where Cheeks can recognize early on that Willie doesn't have it going and get him out of there. It comes and goes unpredictably within minutes. On many nights, Cheeks falls into the other trap, Green starts off on fire, and Cheeks leaves him out there too long, then he goes cold and erases all the good he did early with horrible shots and turnovers down the stretch.
So what is their solution? Simple, a little Garbage Time goes a long way. Mo is using Green for about 12 minutes less per game over the last three. He's basically instant offense in the starting lineup, then whenever the offense starts lagging, whenever guys aren't moving the ball and having a hard time getting shots off, it's time for Willie again. He comes in with the same energy he had to start the game, and carries the offense for a little while. This is the new formula with Willie, and I kinda like it.
Over the current three-game winning streak, we've seen Green subbed out after about 8 minutes have gone by in the first. Usually, Korver, Thad Young or Lou Williams will take his place for most of the second quarter as well. Then, as they near the 2:00 mark of the second, Green comes back in and the team goes on a run. It's like clockwork. The results have been dramatic.
Check out his numbers over the past three games: 68 minutes, 23/39 from the floor (59%) with 4 assists and only 1 turnover. 39 shots in 68 minutes, that's a very, very big number, but it illustrates my point exactly. When Willie is in there, he's in there to score. That's always been his mentality, the problem in the past has been his propensity to hijack the offense with bad shots and bad passes. If Willie isn't shooting, Willie isn't doing anything positive on the floor. He's a scoring machine. Limiting his minutes will increase his impact. Think of him as a highly-skilled specialist. He's kept on the bench, chomping at the bit until the offense needs a pick-me-up. He goes in, lights it up, then comes back out so the team can settle down and play some defense, move the ball around and run the offense. Another lull? Get Willie back in there to mix things up and give the team a spark.
It's the perfect solution, and it has the ancillary benefit of allowing extra minutes for Thad Young and Lou Williams. If Cheeks can keep using Green like this, Garbage Time is going to wind up being an important cog in the Sixers success this year and beyond (at the very minimum, he's making himself much more valuable as trade bait). I'm also going to have to come up with another nickname for him.