Since Mo Cheeks' sudden departure and Tony DiLeo's insertion as the Sixers' head coach the team has gone 7-6. After the jump, we'll take a look at the team's performance under each coach and try to draw some conclusions as to why performance in certain areas has changed, for better or worse.
Let's start with the numbers. In the chart below you'll find per game averages in all the standard stats, plus the four factors on offense and defense. I've bolded and italicized every category in which the Sixers have improved under Tony DiLeo.
First of all, under DiLeo this team has become much, much better offensively. You can attribute it to whatever you like, his coaching philosophy, Andre Iguodala's resurgence, the return of the running game or even Elton Brand's injury, if you're a defeatist. But you can't deny the numbers. A 5.6% jump in eFG? That's insane.
They've also done a better job in possession management, if you will. They're turning the ball over less, while creating virtually the same number on defense. They're blocking more shots, while not having as many of their blocked. The only drop we've seen in these categories comes on the boards, which they've done a much worse job on across the board.
While the defense is allowing 3.84 more points per game under DiLeo, the offense has made greater strides. What was a -1.7 point differential has been brought dead even.
Before I briefly talk about my thoughts on the root cause for the improved play, I want to point out one more thing. Under coach Cheeks, the Sixers out-shot their opponents (according to eFG) only 4 times in 23 games. Since Coach DiLeo took over, they've out-shot their opponents (according to eFG) 9 times in only 13 games.Why?
I'm going to break my reasoning down into two simple categories. Things DiLeo can control and things he can't. First, the positive moves he's made to help this team become better offensively.
- Rotations. Willie Green starts, but he rarely plays more than 20 minutes.
- Marreese Speights has seen his minutes go up.
- DiLeo doesn't seem to come into the game with a set number of minutes for each player. For the most part, he evaluates the game as it goes along and sticks with the hot hand as long as possible. This is something Mo Cheeks rarely did.
- Andre Iguodala's minutes have increased dramatically. He's not afraid to keep Iggy on the floor for 40+ per game, which can only help, considering he's been the team's most effective player.
- Taking the chains off - This one could probably go in both categories, but I'll put it here for now. DiLeo has instilled the "run at all costs" philosophy in his team. They push the ball mercilessly and even when there isn't a fast break opportunity available, they run their offensive sets against a defense that isn't completely entrenched. This has led to more seams to drive through, more free throw attempts, more backdoor opportunities and more open jumpers.
And now the things he can't control.
- Elton Brand's injury. When Brand went down any notion of forcing this team into a half-court game went out the window. It probably should've never been a goal. Yes, they need to execute better in the half court, but what we saw over the first 25 games or so was a team trying to turn itself into primarily a half-court team, instead of realizing they were still a running team who had a better option in the half court, if forced into it. I don't know if DiLeo would've made this adjustment on his own had Brand stayed healthy, he never really got the chance.
- Iguodala's shot. Iggy is playing much better ball, and it started under Cheeks. His slow start led to some of the offensive woes, along with Andre Miller's slow start, but it's impossible to quantify how blame for their play should be put on Cheeks' shoulders, and of course, how much credit for their resurgence should go to DiLeo. It may just be the way things naturally worked out, no matter who was coaching.
I have one more theory I'd like to float. In the comments, we've been talking about the team's lack of rebounding on both ends of the floor. My instinct is to blame the performance in this category on Elton Brand's injury. He's a dominant rebounder, and the bulk of his minutes at the four were taken by Thad Young, who has under-performed on the boards. There may be another reason, though. If you notice, it seems to be long rebounds that kill the Sixers on the defensive end. I think part of the problem may be the guards releasing too early to start the break. An early release would explain why the long boards are going to the other team's guards and coupled with the loss of Brand, it could explain the numbers.
Those are my thoughts on why this team has improved under DiLeo, leave your own in the comments.