This time last year most of us were looking forward to a new perimeter trio for the Sixers. Jrue Holiday at the point, Evan Turner at shooting guard and Andre Iguodala at small forward. A lot has happened between now and then, most of it not involving those three players at those three positions at the same time. Today, let's take a look back at the season and see if J.T.I. was given a chance, how well they performed and maybe take a look into the future as well.
There's a pretty common feeling among the optimistic that this trio wasn't given a fair shake in 2009-2010 and given more of an opportunity, they'd click. BasketballValue.com provides us with rotational data, so let's take a look.
Jrue, Iguodala and Turner played a total of 354.75 minutes together during the regular season, and another 19.97 minutes together in the playoffs. Of course, there were a ton of funky lineups thrown in there with Iguodala at the four or five, or even Turner at the four, so let's narrow it down. The Sixers played 289.13 minutes during the regular season with Jrue, Turner and Iguodala playing the 1, 2 and 3 and another 13.99 minutes in the postseason. So we're talking about a total of 303.1 minutes combined of what was the imagined combination, in their imagined positions.
Their effectiveness was a mixed bag, to be kind. The Sixers scored 580 points in 575 possessions total with JTI at 1,2,3, for an offensive efficiency rating of 100.87 (the team as a whole had an OFR of 106.6. On the defensive end, they allowed 609 points on 589 possessions for a defensive efficiency rating of 103.4 (the team as a whole had a DFR of 103.4). So all told, they were a better defensive team with that combo, a much worse offensive team, and on the whole, a losing team.
When we take a closer look at the numbers and move a couple of variables around, we can sort of start to see how the trio could maybe work together, and also we can pretty well identify an Achilles heel.
With JTI at 1,2,3 and Brand at the five, the team's DFR drops to 92.105 (in 96.75 minutes). With JTI at 1,2,3 and Hawes at the five, the team's DRF rises to 109.03 (in 141.9 minutes). With JTI at 1,2,3 and Thad at the four, the team had a differential of +5.608 (104.58 OFR, 98.969 DFR) in 147 minutes. With a lineup of Jrue, Turner, Iguodala, Thad and Brand, the team had a differential of +8.73 (101.75 OFR, 93.02 DFR) in 87.3 minutes.
If you think about it, all of those numbers make sense. The two huge advantages of having JTI on the perimeter are excellent rebounding from the "smalls" and excellent playmaking by the smalls to the bigs. The big weakness is probably scoring on the perimeter. So pairing JTI with the Sixers two best offensive bigs is probably the best way to put the ball in the hoop. On the defensive end, the only reason Hawes was even passable was his defensive rebounding, that wasn't needed with JTI on the perimeter, so only his tremendous weaknesses were on display. On the other hand, putting Brand at the five and Thad at the four would usually cause a deficiency on the defensive glass, but not with plus rebounders at the one, two and three. This lineup was tremendous for the Sixers last year, and if all the players return whenever we have NBA basketball again in the future, I'd expect to see more of this combo.
Do the numbers tell us JTI can work? Under certain circumstances, I think so. But if we're looking for them to thrive, they're going to either need significant offensive help from their bigs or at least one of them to make a leap in the scoring department. Obviously, there were offensive limitations when those three were on the perimeter together last season, possibly to the point where you could never project them to be a very good offensive unit, but that doesn't mean they couldn't be successful. They've got the ability to lock teams down and they demonstrated it last season. The question is how can they go from being terrible offensively to even just a bit above average. That's all it would take.
Oh, and giving them a real center to work with wouldn't hurt, either.