With the season a bit more than a week away, it's time to take a stab at a few predictions. Instead of going with basic stats, for now, instead I want to focus on minute distribution. The Sixers, like every other team in the league, have 96 minutes/game to fill at shooting guard and small forward. This year, 75% of the rotation at those positions will change, but who gets the bulk of the minutes?
Until Doug Collins says differently, Evan Turner is your starting small forward. There doesn't appear to be any getting around that, but just because he's getting the starting nod doesn't mean he's penciled in to play 30+ minutes/night at the three. If you asked me a couple of weeks ago, I would've told you Turner's minutes at the three would probably be limited by the necessity of using him to back up the point. Now, I'm not so sure that's the case.
The emergence of Maalik Wayns in the preseason might just keep Turner at the three. I think Wayns has probably done enough to earn a spot in the rotation, at least until he gets loose with the ball a couple of times. Beyond the impact on Turner's minutes, or where he plays them, the surprise performance of Wayns has hopefully mitigate a glaring weakness of the roster, on paper. Without Wayns, Collins would basically be forced to keep either Jrue or Turner on the floor at all times. Not that big of a deal if Turner is coming off the bench, but much tougher when they're both in the starting lineup. At a minimum, it would mean the starting lineups minutes together would be limited, unless you're going to play them both 40+ minutes.
Assuming Collins does trust Wayns to run the point on his own for a half-dozen minutes or so/night, Turner's minutes are coming on the wing. Long way of saying I think you can pencil him in for 30 of the 96 right off the bat. That leaves 66 for Richardson, Wright and Young to split. How will Doug Collins split those minutes up?
The cleanest way to do is split them down the middle, but rotations are messy. Coaches don't operate like that. I think it's probably going to come down to role. Of the three, I consider Wright the best shooter, Young the most explosive scorer and Richardson probably the best all around player of the bunch. We know Richardson's going to get the start, I also think it's probably a safe bet Collins will err on the side of a veteran for tight situations. I think he's probably a lock to get the second-most minutes on the wing. Richardson played 30/game last season, I'm going to pencil him in for the same this year. That leaves about 18 minutes each for Young and Wright, which sounds about right to me. You might see one for 30 one night, and the other for 30 the next night. When they need more deep shooting, Wright will see more. When the offense is stalled and/or Young is riding a hot streak, he'll get the lion's share off the bench.
I'm sure we'll see these guys steal minutes at PF, we'll probably see a smaller lineup from time to time with Jrue at the two and Wayns at the point. But the majority of rotations are going to feature two of these guys on the wings together. If Young proves himself to be a reliable enough three-point shooter where teams start worrying about him, Collins will probably have a lot more flexibility in terms of combinations at the two positions. If he's streaky, then I think we'll see Collins try to have one of Young and Richardson on the floor at all times to maintain the floor spacing.
This is where I think the rotations will start. I think they'll probably look like this until about Christmas, depending on how the team is playing. I think that's as much rope as Collins will give Turner. If he comes out of the gates playing halfway decent ball, then this rotation is fine. But if he comes out playing like he has in roughly 158 of his 161 career games, plus Summer League, plus this entire preseason, then I give it two months before Collins replaces him in the starting lineup and his minutes shrink into the teens.
Collins is fickle with his minutes. He's proven that again and again over his two seasons here. Richardson is least likely to wind up in Doug's dog house, Wayns is probably the most likely, with Turner running a close third. Nick Young should probably be on the shortest leash, but bad shots don't draw Collins' ire nearly as much as turnovers do, so I think he'll probably be fine. If there's going to be a major shift in this rotation mid-season, it's going to be due to one of three factors (1) Turner isn't getting the job done on the offensive end, and he's simply shifted to the back of the rotation (2) Wayns isn't getting the job done as the backup PG, so Collins has to adjust Turner's role to keep at least one guy capable of running the point on the floor at all times or (3) The team desperately needs a wing stopper and makes a trade to get one.
What do you guys think? Will Turner be in the starting lineup on opening night? Will he be there for the first game of the playoffs? Who do you want on the wings when the game is on the line? Will Wayns be able to grab the backup PG spot and hold on to it? Thoughts in the comments, as always.