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Some Integration Plan

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For most of the season, I've been harping on how Eddie Jordan has failed to integrate Elton Brand in the team's half-court offense. If you've been watching, you've noticed that about 90% of Brand's touches happen at least 20 feet away from the hoop. Mostly, his shots come off dribble drives or offensive rebounds. After the jump, a few stats to back up this theory.

Click on the image to enlarge, take a look at the stats and we'll discuss after.
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When you look at those numbers, two big drops immediately jump out. The percent of field goals assisted on at the rim, and the field goal percentage of shots in the less-than 10-foot range. Both percentages have dropped by nearly 20%, which is astounding. Let's start with the first number.

Think about watching the Sixers offense. How often does Brand receive a pass anywhere near the hoop? Maybe one out of 20 possessions, one out of thirty? It's literally not more than once or twice per game, and usually he's doubled when he does get the ball on the blocks. (at the rim is defined as layups and dunks, I believe). Two ways to read this: one, he's just not getting the ball passed to him in deep position (which he isn't). The other possible explanation is that he doesn't convert against set defenses, his field goal percentages are artificially high because of tips, offensive rebounds and put-backs. Anecdotal evidence points heavily to the former.

The second drop is alarming. His short jumpers and baby hooks simply are not falling anywhere near as frequently as they did prior to the Achilles injury. Again, the percent assisted on drops here, by a little under 8%, but I'm not sure that explains this away. Elevation could be an issue here, but most likely it's a touch thing. He's getting more of his shots blocked this season (7.6% to 4.4% in 2007), but he still seems capable of getting these short jumpers off. This is a stat I want to take a closer look at after another month or two, I think the percentage will rise. Another possible reason for this drop is related to the lower % assisted on, a good number of these attempts come off dribble drives from 18-20 feet away from the hoop. I don't think that's a real strength of Brand's game and I really don't like making my power forward create off the dribble regularly.

When you look at the other two distances, you see field goal percentages more in-line with his 2007 numbers, although still lower. The % assisted on in the 10-15 foot range is problematic. The Clippers used Brand much more efficiently in pick and roll/pop situations. The Sixers simply don't, or when they do, he's further from the hoop when he receives the pass.

Across the board, his attempts are down. When you look at his overall numbers, only 52.3% of his made field goals are assisted on this season, as compared to 62.2% in 2007. I know the argument is going to be made that the Sixers don't have a legitimate point guard, in 2007 LA had Sam Cassell and Shaun Livingston splitting time right down the middle at the point, they averaged 6.9 and 6.1 assists/36 minutes, respectively. Livingston was young, and Cassell has never been known as a great distributor. He was a shoot-first point, even at 37-years-old in 2007 (16.0 FGA/36 minutes). Still, the argument holds a little water, simply because Lou is a shoot-first guy as well, and even this year he's barely cracking 5.0 assists/36. The Sixers do have another playmaker on the floor at all times in Andre Iguodala (4.9 assists/36), but truth be told, the only Sixer guard who ever seems to look for Brand either in the post or off screen and rolls is Jrue Holiday. Watch closely tonight to see what happens on the rare occasion where the team runs a P&R just above the foul line with anyone other than Jrue handling the ball. Brand will slip into space, and rarely get the ball. The ballhandlers seem more concerned with moving the ball into the corner on the strong side, or executing yet another dribble handoff.

So these are the results, with a little interpretation, mostly subjective. But what's the root cause? Is it an offensive system that pulls Brand further and further away from his effective area on the floor? Is it a coach who apparently despises Brand? Is it inexperienced ball handlers who don't have that innate feel for where Brand is going off a P&R, and just don't get him the ball in a timely manner? It's probably a mixture of all of these ingredients, but one thing I believe is certain. The Sixers are leaving efficient points on the table by not focusing on Brand more in the offense.

One final note, in Iverson's brief time on the floor with the Sixers, he looked like he "got it" and was very comfortable hitting Brand for baby jumpers or dives to the hole. This is perhaps the only thing I'm looking forward to from his return, which it looks like will happen later tonight.

Preview coming around 7pm.

By the way, I completely forgot to give credit for the stats I used. Check out www.hoopdata.com, the site rocks.
by Brian on Dec 28 2009
Tags: Basketball | Elton Brand | Sixers | Stats |