After speaking with Coach Jordan yesterday morning, and listening to him interviewed alongside Ed Stefanski on the WIP in the afternoon, one thing became abundantly clear to me. As of June 4th, the plan for this team is to start Andre Iguodala at the three, Thad Young at the four and Elton Brand at the five. After the jump, we'll examine what this means in terms of mismatches.
Obviously, it's only the beginning of June, we have no idea what the roster will look like, and there's still the chance that even if the roster doesn't change, something drastic will happen in training camp to shuffle the lineup. Still, these three guys in the front court appears to be the plan right now, so here goes.
The strength of the lineup would be the intense pressure it puts on opposing front courts when the Sixers have the ball. Iguodala is a handful for any three in the league, I don't think I'm going out on a limb when I call Thad Young the most athletic four in the Eastern Conference, and Elton Brand is more than capable of sucking centers out of the lane, and their comfort zone. I have a feeling no matter how the Sixers round out their starting lineup, these three guys are going to get the bulk of the team's shots, probably upward of 60%, maybe more. The Princeton offense, if run properly, should be able to get an open look for one of them just about every time down the floor, that's the beauty of the system.
Offense, however, isn't really my concern. Thad was exposed in the playoffs by Rashard Lewis. Lewis took him down on the blocks and abused him time and time again. It's kind of ironic, because Lewis isn't one of the bigger fours out there, he's actually more of a three. A typical, banging four is going to have his way with Thad on the blocks unless he really bulks up and works on technique this Summer. Brand is under-sized to defend the five, so centers with solid low-post games will also give the Sixers trouble. A team with a good offensive four and five will almost certainly be too much for the Sixers to handle. Defensively, we don't have to worry about Iguodala for a second.
So, let's take a look at the front courts in the Eastern Conference and see where the matchup problems may lie. Obviously, a lot of these rosters will change significantly, but we'll do the best we can.
New York - David Lee, ? and ?. No matchup problems here, the Sixers will have a size and skill advantage on the Knicks this season, easily.
- New Jersey - Robin Lopez, Yi Jianlian, Bobby Simmons. Lopez will be a handful for Brand, but the other guys are not. I don't foresee a problem with EB, TY and AI at the 3,4,5 against the Nets.
- Toronto - Bargnani, Bosh, ?. In this case you shift Brand onto Bosh, put Thad on the perimeter-oriented Bargnani and there's really no gross mismatch.
- Boston - Perkins, KG, Pierce. Problems here. Luckily, KG isn't the focal point of the offense.
- Orlando - Howard, Lewis, Turk/Pietrus. Big, big problems here at the 4 and the 5.
- Miami - Jermaine O'Neal, Haslem, Beasley. Haslem is a tough matchup for Thad, size-wise. Brand can handle O'Neal at this point of his career. I think the Sixers hold their own here.
- Atlanta - Horford, Smith, Williams. Good size matchup for the Sixers. Josh Smith rarely goes inside, which helps.
- Washington - Haywood, Jamison, Butler. Haywood has good size, but he really isn't an offensive threat. Jamison is a tough matchup for Thad, but not a gross mismatch. Sixers should hold their own.
- Cleveland - Ilgauskus, Wallace/Varajao, James. LeBron is a mismatch for anyone. Ilgauskus is just too big for Brand to cover down low, both Wallace and Varejao are too big for Thad, although neither is a real offensive threat. This matchup is a big, big problem.
- Chicago - Noah, Thomas, Deng. Brand should be fine against Noah, ditto Thad on Tyrus, Iggy on Deng is a mismatch in favor of the Sixers.
- Milwaukee - Bogut, ?, Jefferson. No idea here. Brand has a size disadvantage on Bogut, but a quickness advantage. The four would be the key, but I seriously doubt Milwaukee makes any noise this Summer. This matchup favors the Sixers.
- Indiana - Foster, Murphy, Granger. Murphy is more of a perimeter player, so Thad can stick with him. Foster has a limited offensive game. No problem here.
- Charlotte - Okafor, Wallace, Diaw. This is a problem matchup. Okafor is probably too physical for Brand to handle one-on-one. Wallace is a very strong, quick PF/SF. Diaw has a high skill level for a big guy. I'm not sure how you match up with these guys (who guards whom?)
- Detroit - ?, ?, Prince. No idea who their center and pf will be. No way to guess.
So, on paper, this small lineup of Brand, Thad and Iggy upfront would probably be at an immediate disadvantage against only maybe four teams in the Eastern Conference. Of course, most of those teams would also have a problem covering the Sixer forwards on the perimeter. Only Orlando really poses a serious problem, with scorers at both the four and the five, both with big mismatches. I suppose it could work, theoretically.
The more important question, and something maybe we'll take a stab at over the weekend, is how are the Sixers going to round out their starting five. I'd feel a lot more comfortable about this configuration if at least one of the guard positions was settled, and right now, they're both completely unkown factors.
Thoughts in the comments, as usual.