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Looking At The Bigs

The Sixers' backcourt has garnered the lion's share of attention so far this summer, and rightly so, but there are issues up front as well. After the jump I'll lay out what I think the rotations at the four and the five should look like.

I'll start with my summation, then give my logic below. Doling out the 96 minutes at the PF and C was easier to do before I actually looked at the numbers, and even when I worked the math out, there was still a key decision to be made, which we'll talk a little about later on. Here's the first distribution I came up with:

  • Power Forward: Brand (30 min), Speights (15 min), Thad (3 min)
  • Center: Dalembert (28 min), Smith (10 min), Speights (7 min), Brand (3 min)

The list above would probably be my, "You're coaching for your job," rotation. With no mandate to get the young guys extra minutes, and my only concern being winning as many games as possible this season, this is the rotation I'd use. I don't want to mess around with Thad at the four for more than a brief stretch to mix things up, ditto Brand at the five. I believe Speights' natural position is the four, so I'm utilizing his abilities at the four, and trying to keep the offense running efficiently through the four when Brand is out of the game. There aren't a ton of minutes for Jason Smith, so he's going to have to earn them in the center rotation. Dalembert will play 28 minutes per game.

I know people will laugh and say he'll never last for 28 minutes, but that's not accurate. If you look at Sammy's game logs from last season, he only fouled out twice, both times in November. He totaled five fouls eight different times. In those games, only twice did he commit five fouls in less than 25 minutes of action. 22 times he committed four fouls, in those games he averaged 22 minutes. 50 times he committed three or fewer fouls, in those games he only averaged 24.4 minutes. My point is that yes, at times Sammy's minutes were cut because of fouls, but it wasn't necessarily his fault, at least not entirely.

As the season wore on, Coach DiLeo followed a disturbing pattern. He'd leave Sammy in at the beginning of the game until he picked up his second foul, then sit him for the remainder of the half. Then he'd play him at the beginning of the third quarter either until he picked up his fourth foul or it was time to go small toward the end of the quarter. Once he picked up that fourth foul, he was done for the game quite often. This just doesn't make sense, on any level. Typically, players are pulled if they accumulate two fouls in the first, three in the second or four in the third simply so they don't foul out before the fourth quarter. Usually, the player goes back in the second until he picks up his third, goes back in fourth until he fouls out or picks up his fifth if it's early in the quarter. The Sixers never did this Dalembert. Essentially, he played most of the season with only 4 fouls at his disposal, two per half. Had normal rotations been used to protect Sammy, instead of punishing him, he easily could've averaged 28 minutes last season.

It's never acceptable to go to the press with your gripes, at least not in my eyes, but when you think about it, maybe Sammy had a legitimate reason to be upset. Yes, I realize Sammy can frustrate the hell out of you, and I realize he's shown almost no emotional, or basketball growth over the past several seasons, but the fact remains, he's a dominant force on the glass, and he is one of the best rim protectors in the game. The anti-Sam argument on defense is mainly his pick-and-roll defense and switching, both mental aspects of the game, and he both things he needs to tighten up. But he's one of the few guys who really makes up for those gaffs with serious production on defense. Goaltends happen, and honestly, I'd rather live with one every other game, than have a tentative shot blocker. When in doubt, clear it out.

On offense, we all know Sammy wants to be more than he is and do more than he should. Fine, he wants to shoot 15 footers from time to time, he has no low-post moves. It really doesn't matter. The guy puts in his work on the offensive end as well. Here's a fun stat for you, in 82 games Dalembert had more offensive rebounds than missed field goal attempts 45 times. He only attempted more that 10 shots nine times. The boneheaded plays are unbelievably frustrating, but when you look at the numbers, Sammy has accepted his role, and he's even thrived in it on the floor. I'm not inside his head, but if his complaint last year was how his minutes were doled out, he can definitely make the case. He produced when he was on the floor, and if he saw more action this team wouldn't have gotten killed on the boards so often, especially the defensive glass.

Okay, that's enough of a rant for this morning, let's continue with the topic at hand. If my concern isn't squeezing every last win out of this roster, my rotations at the four and five would vary as such:

  • Power Forward: Elton Brand (28 minutes), Marreese Speights (12 minutes), Jason Smith (8 minutes)
  • Center: Sam Dalembert (15 minutes), Marreese Speights (15 minutes), Jason Smith (12 minutes), Elton Brand (6 minutes).

If the front office tells me this season is a free pass. It's a year to figure out exactly what you have on the roster, so they can assess where the true weaknesses lie as they tool up for a title run a year or two down the road, then I'm going to get Smith and Speights extra minutes at both the four and the five. Sam's clock in Philly is ticking down to zero and the team needs to know if Speights is strong enough, physically and mentally, to man the five spot when it's time for Sam to leave. They have to know if Smith is more than a finesse big, can he clean the glass and protect the rim?

Rumor has it the Sixers will try to bring in a stiff big man for the veteran's minimum, but I highly doubt he'll see much burn. The bigs rotation is awfully crowded right now, and even more crowded if Eddie Jordan decides to lay Thad at the four for heavy minutes, which is a distinct possibility.

Speaking of Jordan, anyone care to guess at what his minute distribution for the bigs will look like? Let me know in the comments.
by Brian on Jul 21 2009
Tags: Basketball | Elton Brand | Offseason | Samuel Dalembert | Sixers |