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Opportunities Earned

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When Andre Miller wasn't traded at the deadline this franchise sent a clear message. This season would not be about rebuilding. This season would not be about tanking. This team would not make decisions based on money over success. This season was to be about one thing, continuing to get better. Taking one step closer to a championship.

That's really what we, as fans, should want from the ownership. Honestly, that's all we can ask for. It's with that in mind that I believe a change has to be made. After the jump we'll talk about motivation, rotations and the playoffs. Personally, I think you can't talk about one without the others.

Let's start with motivation. I've said, time and time again, that I love the way they've handle Marreese Speights. His minutes are directly related to his effort on the glass and on defense. Look at the stats, this philosophy has worked wonders, but I think they need to take it a step further. Motivation shouldn't happen in a vacuum. In fact, if you apply discipline to one member of the team and not the others, your lectures are going to fall on deaf ears.

Look at it this way. Say you're Marreese and you spend 30 minutes sitting on the bench watching other players make the same mistakes you've been punished for. Say you see guys out there taking wild shots, taking whole quarters off on the defensive end, making stupid decisions. Eventually, you're aren't going to see your own punishments as deserved, you're going to see them as a vendetta against you. It's human nature. I think we're getting close to this point, not because of anything I've seen from Speights, but from what I've seen from a couple of other guys on the team.

This is what I propose. Since his last benching, Speights has done everything the coaches have asked of him. It's time to put him in the starting lineup. Starting him isn't really the important adjustment, however. It's where you start him: at power forward.

Here's the lineup I want to see, explanation to follow:

PG: Miller
SG: Iguodala
SF: Thad
PF: Speights
C: Dalembert
6th Man: Ivey
7th Man: Ratliff
8th Man: Lou Williams/Willie Green, whoever earns it
9th Man: Reggie Evans

Think back to July, when the Sixers signed Elton Brand. Why where we all so happy? It was probably about 80% getting Brand, a former All Star, low-post presence, shot blocker, etc. The other 20%, however, was the realization that Willie Green would finally be out of the starting lineup. One player was upgrading two positions. It's time to make the same move, only with Speights this time.

If you're statistically-minded, look at it this way. Inserting Marreese into the lineup and removing Willie would be replacing the starter with the lowest PER (11.3 for Willie) and replacing him with the guy who has the highest PER on the team (20.8 for Speights).

If you want to talk about overall production, let's take a look.

Rebounding by position

Center: stays the same at 12.5 per 36 minutes.
Power Forward: increases from 5.3 per 36M to 9.0 per 36M.
Small Forward: decreases from 5.5 per 36M to 5.3 per 36M.
Shooting Guard: increases from 2.5 per 36M to 5.5 per 36M.
Point Guard: stays the same at 4.4 per 36M.
Total: Increase from 30.2 to 36.7 per 36 minutes.

You do have to factor in a drop in rebounding numbers for Iguodala and Thad, based on their positions moving them further away from the hoop, but how much of a drop? Even if it's 2 rebounds/36M, this move would still be a net gain on the boards and a drop of that magnitude is not reasonable to expect. This move would, without a doubt, make the team a much, much better rebounding team.

eFG by position

Center: stays the same at .506
Power Forward: increases from .530 to .572
Small Forward: decreases from .555 to .530
Shooting Guard: increases from .492 to .555
Point Guard: stays the same at .549

Again, you could probably expect a drop in Thad's eFG if you move him away from the hoop, probably Iguodala as well. But that decrease wouldn't come close to the gap between Speights and Willie.

I could go on with the stats, I could talk about how Iguodala's assist numbers should skyrocket in this lineup. I could talk about how Speights' blocks would plus the fact that he won't have a size mismatch at his position would immediately help on defense, but you get the point. Statistically speaking, this lineup is far superior to the one we're watching Coach DiLeo trot out there every night.

More importantly, I want to tackle this new lineup and rotation from an on-the-court perspective. First, take a look at this observation Dannie from Recliner GM had from last night's game:

More subtle thing I noticed in the 4th quarter that speaks to Lou's complete lack of real point guard potential. There was a pick and roll between Andre Miller and Marreese Speights that that Heat switched. That left Joel Anthony on Miller and a guard on Speights. Miller had the ball at the top of the key and saw this. He passed the ball to Lou on the wing with the intention of having him then feed Speights who had deep post position and a clear advantage. Louis Williams caught the pass and promptly put the ball on the floor not even looking at Speights and started to drive middle. Andre Miller yelled at Lou and pointed to Speights. Lou stopped, took Miller's directive and game Mareese the ball. Easy lay up. Hmm.

You can picture the play, right? Lou dribbles around with his head down, looking for an opportunity to take a bad shot while Speights has a huge mismatch on the blocks. Now take Lou out of the picture and put Iguodala in his place. What happens? Right, timely entry pass, easy hoop. Excellent offense.

This is what I'm saying folks. Every offensive advantage Elton Brand was supposed to give this team at the beginning of the season at power forward, Marreese Speights can give us right now. Even if Speights isn't as polished as Brand, he's still going to make this team more dynamic and provide options which simply do not exist with the current starting lineup.

I know there will be some people who say we don't have enough perimter shooting with Iguodala at the two and Thad at the three. My response: Do we have enough with Willie at the two and Iguodala at the three? I mean, take threes out of the equation for a second. If you need someone to hit a sixteen-footer, who would you rather have taking it, Speights or Green? If you need a three, would you rather have Willie or Thad taking it?

We don't have the personnel to put a good three-point shooter on the floor. He just doesn't exist on this roster, so what's the point of pretending that Willie is going to stretch the floor? On his best day, and I mean absolutely his best day, he's slightly below average. On most days, he's just plain bad. Is it worth living with the piss-poor performance in every other area of the game to get Willie's slight advantage from three over Iguodala on the floor? I say no.

I want to see what this lineup would do. I want to see what happens if you run the pick and roll with Iguodala and Speights. Will they go under the pick? If they do, Speights has his man sealed for a dive to the hoop. Will they switch it? If they do, Speights has a shooting guard on him. Will they double the ball? If they do, Speights has a wide-open fifteen footer, like the one Haslem hit in the fourth tonight. Will they fight over the screen? If they do, Iguodala has a clear lane to drive to the hoop. That's an effective pick and roll combo, something they haven't taken advantage of all season.

As for the rest of the rotation, I want to do away with the philosophy that we need intant offense coming off the bench. Instead, I want Ivey and Theo coming in for instant defense. I want Ivey coming in and moving Iguodala off the oposing team's best perimeter scorer. I want Theo coming in for Sammy and keeping the basket area secure. Most importantly, I don't want wholesale subs. Mix these guys in and always, ALWAYS, keep one Andre on the floor.

This would also send a message to Willie and Lou. You're saying to them, "You guys just cost yourself minutes. The only way you get them back is by playing smart, efficient basketball. You'll have your opportunities, but you have to earn your minutes back." If that happened, somewhere Marreese would be smiling. Smiling because he knows the playing field is level.

As I said at the beginning, this season is about taking a step forward. That means making the playoffs and winning a round. It also means developing the young guys. Minutes alone do not develop young players. Sometimes the only way to learn is by sitting on the end of the bench and thinking about what you did wrong, and how you're going to fix it the next time you get a chance. Maybe Speights would backslide. I'd be surprised if he didn't, he's a rookie. That's not the point, though. The point is that he's earned the minutes and the guys he'd be replacing have not.

This is the best starting five you can come up with out of the healthy guys on the roster. It's about time we see what they can do together. From this day forward, ask not Sammy or Marreese, ask Marreese or Willie.

by Brian on Feb 22 2009
Tags: Basketball | Marreese Speights | Sixers |