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PF/C Combos

Bob Ford's column today is mainly about Elton Brand's newfound position at the end of the bench for the bulk of the second half, and how this must look to the team's owner. Personally, I don't care how much each player is making. In a perfect world, you wouldn't dole out minutes based on salary. Not if your goals are winning and/or developing a roster. If your only goal is saving your job, then yes, coach by dollars. That's not the point of this post, however. I want to talk about the theory behind the moves Jordan is making.

Ford's theory is that Jordan is benching Dalembert and Brand because they are the culprits on the defensive end. Personally, I think that's a laughable stance to take. The over-helping and slow rotations are a team-wide issue, and frankly whether or not Brand and Sammy are rotating properly has had very little to do with the team's horrible defense. It's the perimeter guys who are sucking down into the lane, then having a tough time scrambling out to the shooters. Brand was burned by Ryan Anderson in the first game from three, but other than that, teams haven't really stretched him out with fours. Rasheed Wallace did his three-point damage mostly against the Sixer reserves. If a team is playing a lineup with a guy like Sheed at the four, then maybe it does make sense to sit Elton down, but that hasn't been the case for the past couple of games. If you want my opinion, Elton's benching has been 100% about offense. Particularly, it's been about Jordan wanting two bigs who can shoot from the outside on the floor to make the PO more effective. Defense be damned.

Here are the fourth-quarter results from the past four games:

  • 29-35. (Brand and Sam sat entire quarter)
  • 22-24. (Brand played the 5 for a stretch of 4 minutes)
  • 29-21. (Quarter started with a 13-14 deficit, then Sam came, played the remainder of the game, Sixers finished on a 16-7 run)
  • 36-20 (Brand and Sam sat entire quarter).

I think it's pretty safe to say that Jordan has not achieved the desired result of benching his two starting bigs down the stretch. This does beg the question, however, of which combo has been the most effective, on both ends of the floor.

In comes the handy rotation chart. Below, you'll see every combo at the four and five the Sixers have trotted out there. Points scored, points allowed, minutes played and then points scored and allowed per 48 minutes, so you can get a bit of an expanded view of their performance.
As you can see, Sam and Brand have done a fine job on defense, but their offense has been lacking. Essentially, the team treads water with those two on the floor. Speights + Smith has been a defensive sieve, but slightly better than the starters on the offensive end. The clear winner at this point is the Speights/Brand combo. This has been the most productive offensive duo of any that has played more than 10 minutes. It's been the most productive defensive unit of any duo that has played more than 18 minutes. The differential is through the roof.

It's not hard to understand why. Speights needs a strong defender on the floor with him, and his ability to unclog the lane by draining jumpers out to 20 feet should give Brand room to work one-on-one in the post (although this hasn't been properly utilized).

If you put any weight at all in the numbers, this is the front court you'd be finishing games with. Brand also has good splits when he's on the floor with Jason Smith, probably for the same reasons. No matter how much money he makes, nor what your short/long term goals are as a first-year coach, Brand should absolutely be on the floor until the numbers don't back it up anymore. Right now, it seems like Brand is being scapegoated and it really needs to come to an end.