Now that the dust has settled and we've had a chance to see Iverson on the floor with the Sixers, let's talk about what we expect from him going forward.
Let's get a few facts straight before we get into it, though. The Sixers played worse offensively last night than they have been. In fact, it was their least-efficient offensive game in the past 10. It was also their most efficient defensive game, against a very good offensive team, since November 18th vs. Charlotte.
I attribute the better defensive rating to the use of the big lineup. The crazy rotations still allowed Denver to get whatever they wanted, but they were good on the defensive glass, limiting second-chance opportunities. Plus, Iguodala locked down Melo. The only contribution Iverson made to the improved defense was maybe an extra spring in the step of his teammates.
I'm going to give some leeway on the offensive problems. Iverson was obviously out of shape, so I'm not going to say definitively he's going to make this team worse on that end of the floor simply because I liked a lot of what I saw in that game, and I don't know where he's going to be, athletically, when he rounds into shape. How much has he lost?
Overall, I saw a lot more to be optimistic about from Iverson than I thought I would. His shot selection was pretty good, even if he only shot 4/11. He wasn't playing like Willie Green out there, he took good shots for the most part, they just didn't drop.
What excites me, however, was how he seemed to sublimate himself for the better of the team on the offensive end. He ran a brilliant two-man game with Brand on several occasions, leading to clean looks for Brand from the elbow, or an open jumper for himself. He was looking for his teammates on drives that got cut off (one nice pass to Thad for a wide-open baseline J sticks in my mind). Even though this was clearly Allen Iverson's night, he didn't try to make the game about him. He was working well with his teammates, showing a level of trust never witnessed in his first go-round in Philly. Of course, this is a much more talented offensive team than any he played with back then, who knows what the old AI would've done with this crew.
There were definitely dry stretches, thanks mostly to too much dribbling. The funny thing is that the Sixers still ran their insane Princeton dribble handoffs ad nauseum, and when they weren't killing the shot clock 30-feet from the hoop, it was too much isolation for my taste. The offense worked, and I mean, worked to the point where it could be an efficient scoring machine, taking advantage of the best qualities of their best players, when Iverson worked that two-man game, or used his handle to get into the lane for a kick.
Simple sets led to easy, high-percentage shots. If we see more of that, and Iverson gets his legs back under him, I believe we could see improved offense with him on the floor, with the caveat that he can never take 20-25 shots in a game. That's just counter-productive.
What do you guys think, can he help on offense? Can he help on offense enough to make up for what he costs on defense? Will Jordan stick with the big lineup, or was that a one game concession to the powers that be in hopes of getting a W in front of their first (only?) sellout crowd of the season? Thoughts in the comments.