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What Changes Can We Expect?

First, doesn't this seem a bit premature? (although I did take the time to click it 100 times, the highest I got the Sixers was #2, they took Ricky Rubio) And also, this was just a class move.

Now, moving forward. A couple of articles this morning about Sixers' practice and Coach DiLeo's thoughts for how to get this team on the right track. One passage stood out to me from Kevin Tatum's article.

But overall, the idea for the Sixers remains to run the ball down the court. If a fastbreak doesn't materialize, DiLeo wants the Sixers to go right into the offense while the floor is spread, as opposed to pulling out and waiting to get into a half-court set.

Excellent, excellent point. You can run for easy opportunities on the break, you can also run to get into your offense before the defense has a chance to settle in, in a perfect world, you run for both. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing philosophy. "If you get a turnover, a block or a long rebound you run, otherwise you walk the ball up the court." That doesn't make sense. Run on everything, let Brand trail the play and if you don't have a numbers advantage, let Brand run right to the post for an entry pass.

This is a great start, philosophically, but it shouldn't end there. This team's half-court problems won't go away until they solve two problems: Floor spacing and floor balancing. I've heard plenty of lip service paid to the former, but not much about the latter.

I wrote a long post about this back in early November, you can check it out here. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. Ultimately, I think these two issues are responsible for the Sixers' slow start and Mo's pink slip.

Let's simplify it a little bit. Think of this as a two-man game. Isolate the strong side of the floor first, EB is down on the low blocks on the left side of the floor. Andre Miller has the ball. He dribbles to the left wing and delivers the entry pass to Brand. Now freeze that image in your mind. Miller on the wing, his man guarding him. Brand in the post with his man on his back. Two defenders to guard two Sixers, leave Miller to double and he can step in for an easy 15-footer. Stick with Miller and Brand has his way with the defender.

Simple, right? Now put the other guys on the floor. Here's an image:
Spacing the floor is extremely easy. To achieve this, you don't have to fight with defenders. You don't have to set picks. All you need to do is be disciplined, and occupy a specific area on the floor. The problem is, the Sixers never, and I mean maybe twice all season, have had this type of spacing on a play when Elton Brand got the ball in the post.

I'd say about 99% of the time the ball is dumped down to him, there is no one on the strong side of the floor. Miller makes the pass and goes to the weak side. If he gets the ball from the wing, the passer quickly cuts along the baseline to get to the weak side. Dalembert almost never stays at the high post on the weak side, he leaks down to the hoop.

There are two keys, and they should be like a mantra for the other guys.
  1. Give EB an outlet (on the strong side)
  2. Keep out of the lane
That's it. Spacing the floor is that simple. In just about every article I've read about Mo's dismissal the writers have mentioned that defenses don't have to worry about the Sixers' outside shooters, so they collapse on Brand when he gets the ball in the lane. That statement is patently false. The Sixers may lack oustide shooters, but the reason Brand gets collapsed on is that there's no spacing. Everyone hangs around the lane and their man can easily double. EB doesn't have a simple outlet pass to make, so he either needs to fire a diagonal pass across the lane to get it out of the double, or try a tough interior pass to Sammy, who is always standing too close.

If you want to see shooting percentages rise for Iggy and Thad, try this a couple of times. Get the ball to Brand, keep Miller on the strong-side wing, when the double comes, outlet to Miller, swing to Iggy at the top of the key, swing to Thad in corner. If you move the ball quickly enough, it'll be a wide-open shot for Thad. If they overcorrect, you have a backdoor opporunity for Thad or a driving lane for Iggy. If you swing the ball to Iggy quickly enough, EB may even have an opportunity to seal his man under the hoop with no weakside help in the area to stop him once he gets the ball.

Master this, then you can build an infinite number of plays off of it. Continue to isolate Brand on the strong side and clog the lane and we're going to see career lows from EB this season. Simple as that.

Not to mention the fact that running a proper offense like this will give your perimeter players better shots. If they continue to shoot at an alarmingly low percentage, then you can worry about upgrading the roster. Fix what's broken before you make that decision, though.
by Brian on Dec 16 2008
Tags: Basketball | Elton Brand | Floor Spacing | Mo Cheeks | Sixers | Tony DiLeo |