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Integrating Kapono

So you have a glut of big men, one with a very bad contract and really no way to find minutes for him. You also have the worst three-point shooting lineup in the league. Somehow, you find a way to trade that bad contract for the guy with the best three-point percentage in the history of the game. This trade was a win for the Sixers, but simply adding Jason Kapono to the roster won't solve the shooting problems, and some serious work needs to be done to integrate him.

If you look at the teams Eddie Jordan coached in Washington and Sacramento, they loved to shoot the three. Over his years in Washington, the team averaged about 1500 attempts per year from deep. In other words, 50% more than the Sixers took last season. Even without the addition of Kapono, I would've expected the Sixers to heave more threes this season, the difference now is that I expect the three to be a weapon, rather than a prayer, for the team.

Two things need to be addressed quickly, however. First, Kapono needs to be used as a specialist. He needs to be the guy who is consistently spotting up beyond the arc and he needs to be the beneficiary of plays the other guys are making. Catch-and-shoot, period. I don't want Kapono making plays off the dribble, I don't want him pump faking. As far as I'm concerned, the majority of his shots should be three-point attempts. With the Princeton offense running through Iguodala, Thad and Brand, defenses are going to lose Kapono. He needs to be able to flow to the open spot off the ball, catch and shoot. Period. That's his role for 15-20 minutes per game. This needs to be explained to him right away, and it needs to be reinforced throughout the season. Catch. And. Shoot.

The second key is pretty simple. When Kapono is on the floor, the Sixers need to surround him with defenders. He is immediately going to be the mismatch. Teams will immediately attack it whenever they can. You can't expect him to stop penetration, you can't expect him to stick with even a moderate athlete who can handle the ball, so you have to be prepared for it. Coach him to take away jumpers and devise a scheme so he knows exactly where to funnel his man, then have a shot blocker waiting in the lane. It's imperative that the Sixers math Kapono's minutes with Dalembert's if at all possible.

I know a lot of Sixers' fans are concerned about Eddie Jordan's philosophy regarding trading offense for defense. I share your concerns, but it's going to happen to some degree no matter who the coach is. I firmly believe you can cover for one guy, you can't cover for several on the defensive end. If we see a lineup like this, there will be problems:

PG: Lou Williams
SG: Jason Kapono
SF: Andre Iguodala
PF: Thad Young
C: Marreese Speights

Honestly, I'd like to see this lineup when Kapono is used:

PG: Iguodala
SG: Kapono
SF: Thad
PF: Brand
C: Dalembert

Four solid defenders and Kapono, with four offensive weapons and Sam. I think that's a nice balance and I think you can run with this lineup for a stretch each half.

Now, for the fun stuff. Let's say Kapono winds up averaging somewhere between 15-20 minutes per game. What kind of numbers can we expect from him? Let's call it 1,400 minutes. For his career, he's averaged .110 three's attempted per minute, making .049 of those attempts. Extraplolate that out over the minutes and it's just not good enough, 70 for 153 from three. That's what I mean by making him a specialist. This is the biggest problem Kapono has had over the past couple of season, he doesn't take enough threes. Last year, only 38% of his attempts were threes, and that was the highest percentage of his career.

Let's stick with the 50% number for Kapono (for comparison, 55% of Ivey's attempts last season came from three), and say he takes 6 shots per game. That means 3 attempts from three per game, let's assume his percentage drops to 40% with the increased attempts, that puts him at 1.2 made threes per game, 98 on the season. I'm going to set the bar a little higher than that. 100 made threes from Kapono. Considering where his minutes will probably come from (out of Andre Miller's share, if he isn't re-signed most likely), that would be a gigantic boost to the team's efficiency from three.

That's the good Kapono could do for this team. The two keys I mentioned earlier (make him a specialist, and play him with a defensive lineup) should help minimize the damage he does to the team with his pourous defense and maximize his impact on the offensive side of the ball.

By no means does this make the team complete, but I do view it as a big step in the right direction, if he's properly integrated and the big picture, on both ends of the floor, is taken into account when doling out his minutes.
by Brian on Jun 10 2009
Tags: Basketball | Jason Kapono | Offseason | Sixers |