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Revisiting Iguodala At The Two

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Real and Speightacular on May 15 at 7:44
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Good stuff, but I still disagree with a few points.

"If scoring is the only thing we care about, then yes, he's better as a three. He was more aggressive in that he took more shots and got to the line more often."

Well of course scoring can't be the only thing we care about, but neither can it be neglected. On another team with a couple other dominant offensive players, like mebbe a SF and a C, or whatever, you can quite easily afford to have a 2-guard (a shooting guard) take fewer shots and not make them very often.

However on this team they really need Iggy's full offensive production. If by playing a different position forces him to play offensively in a way in which he's not comfortable scoring, then what? Shooting poorly for several consecutive weeks is not a "slump." This ain't baseball. Another issue overlooked is how Iggy playing the 2 might have affected Miller. While Iggy got more assists as a two, it's interesting to note that Miller didn't get into his usual distributing/scoring standards until Iggy went back to his 3 spot. Was Miller not getting the same opportunities he was used to?

The bottom line as always and forever is going to be wins and losses. The "efficiency differentials" don't amount to a hill of beans unless it translates to wins. So when you look at who they beat in that period, who they lost to and the point differentials in each case, you can understand why that squad's plus-minus didn't even crack the top 50.

Iggy's too good of a player to completely suck at any role you give him save center. His defensive prowess is always going to be something to rely on, but it seems the 3-spot, in the way this offense is run, is the best way for him to produce offensively within the flow without disrupting any other roles. And this team woefully needs that scoring or it's going to be tough for them to win games against the better teams.

Also, you can't in one breath say 21 games is a good enough sample size and then in another say the coach "panicked." That makes no sense.

As for what to do going forward, it seems to be the evidence to suggest the team plays better with Iggy at the 3 overwhelms theories to the contrary. So to me, you have Thad as an awesome chip who'd clearly be desired by most any team you can use to fill one spot and address the other in the draft. To me this is the simplest, most effective and strongest play to address those needs.

If you get a rook at either spot (one or two), Philly wasn't going to the finals this season anyhow, so let that rook(s) get the burn under their belt and by the time the playoffs come round, they'll be ready to cause a serious ruckus like Chicago did this year (weathering Rose's ups and downs til he and the post tradedeadline team settled into a working identity). The years after that we can expect deeper penetration in the post season.

OK, one response from me.

If by playing a different position forces him to play offensively in a way in which he's not comfortable scoring, then what? Shooting poorly for several consecutive weeks is not a "slump." This ain't baseball.

As I stated above, he was shooting horribly as a SF as well. He scored more at SF because he took more shots, but I don't think that was necessarily a good thing, considering how inefficient he was with the shots he was using. Explain to me how playing the two caused him to shoot horribly as three in the same games

Another issue overlooked is how Iggy playing the 2 might have affected Miller. While Iggy got more assists as a two, it's interesting to note that Miller didn't get into his usual distributing/scoring standards until Iggy went back to his 3 spot. Was Miller not getting the same opportunities he was used to?

Yes, obviously Miller's early-season struggles this year were due to Iggy at the two. Let's completely disregard his slow starts from the past 6 seasons. Let's ignore his offseason "training" routine and place all the blame on Iguodala playing the shooting guard. A and B both happened. This does not mean A caused B.


The bottom line as always and forever is going to be wins and losses. The "efficiency differentials" don't amount to a hill of beans unless it translates to wins. So when you look at who they beat in that period, who they lost to and the point differentials in each case, you can understand why that squad's plus-minus didn't even crack the top 50.

If you're using basketballvalue.com and sorting by either adjusted 1-year +/- or overall rating, the top 50 are populated by lineups with more than 37 minutes. Meaning, the top 50 are all lineups with limited minutes. If you want to see how that lineup measures up, use this link They were 10th in overall rating of lineups that were used for more than 250 minutes.

Also, you can't in one breath say 21 games is a good enough sample size and then in another say the coach "panicked." That makes no sense.

It makes perfect sense to say Cheeks panicked. His job was on the line and he messed with the one thing that was working for this team because it was new. Under pressure, he made a foolish decision, which is the definition of panic.


As for what to do going forward, it seems to be the evidence to suggest the team plays better with Iggy at the 3 overwhelms theories to the contrary. So to me, you have Thad as an awesome chip who'd clearly be desired by most any team you can use to fill one spot and address the other in the draft. To me this is the simplest, most effective and strongest play to address those needs.

Really? Which evidence are you talking about? Is it the +7.8 points/48 minutes advantage the team has with Iggy at the two or the +1.3 points/48 minutes advantage the team has when he's at the three? You know what, though. That isn't even a fair comparison, that's taking the entire season into account and EB wasn't there for most of it. Let's just look at the first 21 games, since that's really the only time the team even toyed with the idea of Iggy at the two.

In those games, with the lineup of Miller, Iguodala, Thad, Brand and Sammy, the Sixers outscored their opponents by 63 points. Even with Iguodala shooting 40% as a two guard, even with Miller's typical slow start as he worked himself into shape, even with Elton Brand knocking the rust off and not playing like Elton Brand, they out-scored their opponents by 63 points. Using any other lineup over the same stretch of games, the Sixers were outscored by 80. That includes every single minute Iguodala spent at SF.

And before you pull out the "Who did they play card," let me just tell you that argument is completely irrelevant. The first unit played the exact same teams the second, third, fourth and fifth units played. We aren't comparing this lineup to the Cavs starting five, we're comparing it to any other lineup the Sixers used over the same stretch of games. If you're saying this unit should have had a great +/- because of the teams they played, then you're making my argument for me. If that's the case, the Sixers played to their potential with Iggy at the 2 and woefully underperformed with him at the three.

The question we're trying to answer is "Are the Sixers a better team with Iguodala at the two?" According to every single stat I can find, the answer is a resounding yes. If you can point to one stat, one specific stat, that says the team played worse when Iguodala was at the two, please be my guest. If you can't find a stat, and you're just going to say, "Well, they started 9 and 12, so obviously it wasn't working," then just say that and we'll all know exactly what you're about. No need to use a ton of words if that's your logic.

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Real and Speightacular reply to Brian on May 15 at 14:00
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Wow, that's some response and you'll get one back from me in return.

"It makes perfect sense to say Cheeks panicked. His job was on the line and he messed with the one thing that was working for this team because it was new. Under pressure, he made a foolish decision, which is the definition of panic."

Yeah, see, I guess at the heart of it, we have different ideas of what "working" means. You see it as a particular lineup's defensive prowess whereas I'm most definitely going to look at things like win-loss and the quality of those wins. Is one approach more valid than the other, well, that's debateable I suppose but as you might put it, "the goal of basketball" is to win by scoring more points than your opponent. Normally you want to use stats to explain or uncover some phenomenon. Does the team's defensive efficiency adequately explain the record in that period?

And let's look at that record again, shall we?

VS Non-Playoff Teams
7-4 ... avg differential in those games: +6.5pts...# wins of 10pts+: 4

VS Playoff Teams
2-8 ... avg differential -9.9pts... 6 losses of 10pts+

You've got a set of excuses for Iggy (see, when I present reasons why Avery's not crazy/stupid for saying Iggy's not a natural 2, no, they're really "excuses." when you present meagre excuses for Iggy's anemic offensive production, no, no, they're "reasons." see how that works? ;-) : Oh he and Miller were off to their notoriously slow starts again. Alright, have you checked? Have you checked to see how Iggy's first 21 games of this season compare to the first 21 games of previous seasons or are you still sharpening a dull axe? See what I mean? I'll bet a lot that you haven't or else you'd state it because that's what supporting an argument is about.

Anyway, a lot of teams are not running full guns at the beginning of the season. That's commonly the time for guys to continue shaking off the summer rust, get used to new teammates (trades, draft), perhaps a new coach, a new system, olympic fatigue, new roles, whatever man. Most teams, one way or another, are in the same fresh season boat, Philly's rust isn't any more special than anyone else's.

Things in your favour, of the 21 games 10 were away games (and of those 10, 6 were against playoff teams). So that's something. I'm sure there are other layers to peel back, I wish I had all day.

"As I stated above, he was shooting horribly as a SF as well. He scored more at SF because he took more shots, but I don't think that was necessarily a good thing, considering how inefficient he was with the shots he was using."

Iggy's always been a poor jump shooter. That's not news, right? But as a 3, in that offense, he gets to the hoop at a better rate and that leads, wonder of wonders, to a much better PPS. I'm sure you're familiar with that stat. Take bad shots + no foul shots = bad. Take it to the hole + foul shots = much better.

"If you want to see how that lineup measures up, use this link They were 10th in overall rating of lineups that were used for more than 250 minutes."

Alright I recently claimed I'm no dumbass, but for the life of me I don't get where I'm supposed to be looking with that link. Which column do you want me to look at??

"In those games, with the lineup of Miller, Iguodala, Thad, Brand and Sammy, the Sixers outscored their opponents by 63 points."

63/21 is, by my count, exactly 3pts/game. Kind of a piddly stat anyway because it's all about the timing of the scoring, as you bloody well know. If they were able to beat up on the bad teams by bigger margins than they submitted to the good ones, you'd have something there.

"And before you pull out the "Who did they play card," let me just tell you that argument is completely irrelevant."
Holy crap, if you're going to say who they played doesn't count, yeah, we'll just have to part ways right there. I guess ES should book some games against some NCAA mid-majors at the end of the pre-season so the fans can get reeeeeally excited about the steamrolling about to commence.

I could cut some slack if that unit only played 6 mins a game or something. But the fact of the matter is they played, as you've admitted, the first and third periods just like any other starting unit in the NBA. First and third is norrrmal, it's standard operating procedure and you sub according to rotation/circumstance. They got enough run, didn't get it done.

Out of curiosity, seriously, if they continued with the lineup (and let's pretend Brand continued as he was) and they stayed at the same .429 clip, how long would you go before pulling the plug on it? Christmas? February trade deadline?

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Real and Speightacular reply to Real and Speightacular on May 15 at 14:12
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Dang it, edits...


Correction! avg differential vs playoff teams: -8.9

Addition! Playoff teams' average scoring against Philly in that period: 99.3. Philly's offensive might against those playoff teams: 90.4. Sixer defense was better at stopping and outscoring the crappier teams, but against the decent teams...not so much.

Aside from team stats that encompass an equal amount of time spent at the two and the three for iguodala. Do you have any other statistics to support your theory?

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Real and Speightacular reply to Brian on May 15 at 14:37
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First, you tell me what my "theory" is, Bri.

Start with this "As for what to do going forward, it seems to be the evidence to suggest the team plays better with Iggy at the 3 overwhelms theories to the contrary."

Back that up with one stat. One statistic showing that the team plays better with Iggy at the three. Just one. Prove to all of us that you can scratch below the surface even a little bit, that it's worth reading your diatribes. Frankly, I'm just not seeing a light on in there at this point.

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Real and Speightacular reply to Brian on May 15 at 15:13
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*sigh* Bri, I've given you a homework assignment as well. Please re-read and you'll find the challenges, including a simple explanation of which column in that link you keep using that I'm supposed to look at (I also want to see what lineup was doing all that crushing during the two runs after the new year). I'll wait.

Anyway, if you're going with that quote -- and I'll break for readability here, there was a tiny typo

As for what to do going forward, it seems to me the evidence to suggest the team plays better with Iggy at the 3 overwhelms theories to the contrary.

-- then we have to go back to what "works" means. It also means we have to decide what to do with quality of opponent. And lastly it appears we really do need to decide how much blame to ascribe to the backups (which you clearly imply was the problem).

So. You go do the homework I asked of you, and I'll do what you asked of me. Meetcha back at the clubhouse ;-)

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Real and Speightacular reply to Real and Speightacular on May 15 at 15:27
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Oh, wait, finally figured it out (duh), I had to organize by mins first. Ok, I'll be back.

Here's the link, again.

This will list the units which played the most minutes together in the league, by minutes. The simple efficiency (offensive rating minus defensive rating) can be found in the column marked "Overall RTG." So of the 50 most-used lineups in the league this year, this lineup for the Sixers ranked 11th in efficiency differential. It ranked 1st in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions).

I'm done with this conversation now. The homework assignment I gave you wasn't fair, there is no stat to support your argument, at least none that stands up to any kind of scrutiny. You're wrong, I'm sorry.

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Real and Speightacular reply to Brian on May 15 at 16:29
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Yeah, I got it, I finally flipped it around myself. But anyway, don't fret none, I will have a response for you, just not immediately. I've got to take a break. I just wish I could write a blog for a living as you do. But we've provided the folks some entertainment, haven't we? I'll have my agent negotiate a small cut.

But you still have work to do yourself, mister. If you think the questions I've asked of you are too uncomfortable to respond to, I'll understand.

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Real and Speightacular reply to Real and Speightacular on May 18 at 11:09
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It is with no small regret that I admit defeat. Not to a superior argument, but to indefatiguable time. The last few days have seen me engage Brian in some (I hope) entertaining if not actually informative dialogue. Argument and counter-argument, back and forth, call out and response (though, it should be noted, Brian has inconveniently left a lot unanswered). But while he has the enviable luxury of running a sports blog for a living, I do have other duties which went untended in all the gale-forced hot air. It's a tilted field in that respect and it's really difficult to compete.

Now that I've scrambled to catch up a little on the other stuff, I look back toward finishing the duel and find that I'm nearly on empty in the enthusiasm tank. And you can't get charged up playing a game the rules of which your "opponent" doesn't respect. The principal one being an expectation of full disclosure, that is recognizing where your argument has weaknesses. Due diligence on your own stuff. Just keepin it "Real." Because the ultimate goal of the game is not to win an argument by any means/obfuscation/willful blindness necessary, but to find the truth of the matter, even if it stings a little.

So since I can't count on Brian -- an otherwise excellent writer -- to do his homework properly, and I don't have the time/energy to do the heavy lifting myself, I'll try crowdsourcing and see if/how everything holds up.

Wouldn't blame you for a second if you got lost in the maze of matted threads so I'll try to thrash through the thicket of snipe with a recap here...

Iggy At the Two

The question is not whether Iggy can play the two. As I've said before, due to his amazing athletic ability, hard-nosed defensive mindset and overall skill (jumpshooting aside), my guess is he can be at least adequate in positions 1-4. The main question is:

Was playing Andre Iguodale at the two (shooting guard) a success when it was tried earlier this year?

If we look on the surface at the obvious, more standard measures, the answer is, clearly, no.

1. Statistically, he played worse than he normally does at the three
2. The team had a poor win-loss record

You might also want to look at how Iggy at the two may've affected others, for instance Miller, who also played worse during this stretch than at any other time in the season. But any way you slice it, it's certainly not stupid nor crazy for someone to say the "experiment" didn't "work." It would be at worst a potentially ignorant claim, but it would be the height of ignorant, blind arrogance to ignore those two points altogether.

So the counter-arguments were (respectively)
1. Iggy always has a slow start to the year (and so does Miller)
2. We're actually talking about the Iggy-at-two unit's results (+ve point differential)


Crowdsource homework assignment #1:

Compare Iggy's first 21 games of this season to the first 21 games of previous seasons. What's the truth of the matter? Is it true that his starts are about the same or has this one been noticeably worse?

Now I had already begun to nibble at the second point, that of that unit's play, but, fair enough, I did it by looking at who the team, as a whole , played. The essential point was that it's easy enough to rack up a point differential against inferior teams, but how they do against the stronger ones is the real barometer of success. For instance, if by fluke or design the coach decided to play that unit against the top ten worst offensive units in the league, what could you really say about that unit? Honestly, not a lot.

Or to turn it around the other way, would we be pleasantly surprised if the team had a 7-4 record against non-playoff teams with Iggy playing the 3 the whole time? No, I rather think we'd expect at least that anyway.

Crowdsource homework assignment #2:

Let's look at that unit's record more closely, shall we? It seems like Brian would rather us not look at that. "Move away from that curtain, Dorothy!" But the truth is right there and it will either vindicate Brian or make my point, namely that there are often many layers and surfaces to uncover and break through.

What immediately stands out is that this squad's defensive rating is pretty impressive -- as long as you don't look at who they played -- but their offensive output was truly wretched by any measure. And there's lots of other questions to wonder about.

  • How does that +/- compare against those of playoff units of similar minutes (say, within 25% of the I@2 unit's 343 mins)
  • Other teams had multiple winning lineups -- did I@2 disrupt other potential winning lineups for Philly?
  • How much was Brand responsible for that 21-game record?
  • What was the +/- of the main unit during the two extended win streaks?
  • As for the future, does Iggy himself want to continue playing the 2-spot for the next few years (and if not, how does that affect planning)? Does his comfort level count?
  • I mean, we could go on. And I'm not saying I have the definitive answers to these issues. But I hope it's clear that to stop at just one point or stat alone just because it appears to support a particular theory is foolhardy and cuts both ways. Dig deeper.

    I've been trying to pace my participation here, but it's a really good group of guys and ideas and commentary so it's not easy to pull back but I must stomp a little harder on the brakes because these things (speaking for myself) can quickly become a fun addiction. I'll step back for a while, let some others have a turn at the mic and pipe up more when we get closer to draft day (or if there are specific things re the crowdsourcing assignments to which I need to respond).

    G'day, gents!

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    Real and Speightacular reply to Brian on May 15 at 14:51
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    "Aside from team stats that encompass an equal amount of time spent at the two and the three for iguodala."

    Btw, I stuck to the same 21 games you did, so how do you figure this? If Iggy played essentially the 1st and 3rds as part of this uber lineup (so roughly 24 mins), but only averaged about 36 mins total for the game, how do you get equal time spent at both positions? What kind of math is that?

    He averaged 19 minutes/game at the 2, 18.2 minutes/game at the three. See the chart in the post.

    Still waiting for your one stat.

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    John reply to Brian on May 15 at 17:37
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    More important to nit pick the slump comment :)

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    Real and Speightacular reply to John on May 18 at 11:13
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    John, I often enough screw up the threading (or the system does it for me) so you have to look at the timestamps to get a better sense of the flow. It was an aside based on my mis-reading the part where Brian mentioned the unit playing in the 1st and 3rd (he said "part of' not the whole quarters).

    Thanks for your nitpick of the "nitpick" tho, that's a swell contribution.

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    bebopdeluxe on May 15 at 7:57
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    The problem isn't Iguodala at the 2. It was Andre Miller at the point.

    Find a PG who can shoot from distance and guard the perimeter...and it will be AMAZING how good Iggy is at the 2.

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    Real and Speightacular reply to bebopdeluxe on May 15 at 8:36
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    This can get chicken-eggish real quick and it's not easy nor a slam-dunk to pin all cause-effect and woes all on one person, but we do know that Iggy's was the only position change. Things are interrelated, but a root cause is in there somewheres...

    Actually, Dala has traditionally been a slow starter, for whatever reason. The last three years have played out this way. He seems to be one of those rhythm guys that needs to be in the flow of the season before he starts performing offensively at a high level.

    Also, the stats show that he might have been more aggressive at the three, but IMO, that is most likely a side effect of Brand and/or Thad not being on the floor. Mo's offense was geared around getting Brand the ball and sitting around and watching(Yet another reason I want the Princeton Offense or something similar. 5 man motion - what a concept!). If we can recall, there were numerous games where Thad and/or Brand started off hot, and Iguodala would wait his turn, which tended to come when he was playing with the reserves at the three. That might have distorted the numbers a bit.

    Even when he's at the three with the starters, he rarely takes a bunch of shots early. Whether that's something about him as a player, or it's the team's insipid focus to get Willie off to a good start is anyone's guess, but if you look at his FGA/min, I bet the first Q is the lowest of the four for him.

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    Sean reply to Brian on May 15 at 13:07
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    Agreed. I think it is him as a player as a reflection of his point forward mindset combined with him letting the game come to him. FWIW, I remember when Iverson Webber and Korver were in the starting lineup with him and people wondered why he deferred. I always thought it was because he recognized that those three players are liabilities on the floor if they are not scoring. It is the same thing with Willie, who also tends to play better d if he gets in a rhythm scoring wise. Sam, also, tends to focus better when he gets a dunk early.

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    john reply to Sean on May 15 at 13:10
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    I always thought his deferral to Iverson (and webber) was some sort of respect thing, never erally noticed it to korver as well - but your idea makes sense.

    Willie Green on the other hand seemed morally opposed to passing to kyle korver

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    deepsixersuede on May 15 at 8:27
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    Thad is the key to whether this works or not, Iggy is going to be Iggy at the 2 or 3. Offensively Thad has to assert himself and become a 20 ppg. scorer because Iggy, and this team, becomes better when he can fill the jack of all trades role and concentrate on defense. Defensively there are going to be nights where Thad is asked to chase a perimeter player around screens because Iggy is needed against a more physical player[P.Pierce] as an example.When Thad gets stronger that may change.And even if A.Miller comes back this may work but only if whoever gets Willies 20 minutes can stick a jumper and Thad!s jumper keeps improving ,along with Jason getting some run at the 5.But for that to work they have to improve defensively.

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    bebopdeluxe reply to deepsixersuede on May 15 at 8:41
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    As Brian's numbers confirm, when Iggy, Thad, EB and Sammy were all out there together, that was our best defensive unit - and that includes a below-average defender at the point in Miller. On offense, the big issue with that group was/is outside shooting - right?

    Please, please, PLEASE...do not bring Miller back.

    Get a PG who can SHOOT and DEFEND.

    They are out there.

    I'm pretty much with you, but I don't think you can really write off this lineup offensively entirely. Miller got off to his typical slow start, Brand was obviously rusty, and Iguodala was shooting horribly no matter where he played. If the lineup was given enough time to work out the kinks, I think we would've seen a huge uptick in their offensive production.

    That being said, plug in a PG who can spread the floor and defend and this lineup could really dominate.

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    john reply to Brian on May 15 at 12:06
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    I'd really like a point guard who doesn't need 10-15 regular season games to get 'in shape' - that's can be the difference between home court in the first round and not.


    Fair enough. Before this season, I think you could live with it from Miller because he would work his way into shape and be an iron man the rest of the year. He didn't miss any games this season, but those nagging injuries completely crippled him when he was on the floor. He obviously broke down and it wasn't a case of trading a slow start for say, 70 really effective games. It was a slow start plus about 20 games of him at less than 100%. Can't live with that.

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    Sean reply to Brian on May 15 at 12:20
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    Exactly, the problem I think we are beginning to see is the accumulation of all that Iron Man mileage. He is crafty and can get by on guile offensively, but defensively there is a major drop off. He is a step slow, and without hand-checking, there is no way for him to bridge that gap.

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    tk76 reply to Sean on May 15 at 15:16
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    to be dairy miller was great in the playoffs this year- even after limping through the end of the regular season.

    Yeah, those off days prior to game 1 and the drawn out playoff schedule really seemed to rejuvenate him. He never had a chance to catch his breath in the final month or so of the regular season.

    Brian - I don't think my head could take all the impacts you seem to inflict upon yours

    By the way - why can't you have a slump in basketball?


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    Real and Speightacular reply to john on May 15 at 14:14
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    Who said you can't have a slump in basketball, John? **waits patiently**

    As soon as you disprove on of brians factually supported assertions with some facts...I'll let you know

    Shooting poorly for several consecutive weeks is not a "slump." This ain't baseball.

    So what is it then?

    Brian, any way to look at what % of 'Dala's points came out outside shots vs. transition baskets over the course of the year? I wonder how much of his slow start/improvement is due to just getting more buckets in transition vs. actually shooting better. Haven't looked at the numbers, but of all the Sixers players in would seem he would benefit the most from improved defensive effort b/c he's so good in the open court.

    The best tool I have for this is 82games.com. If you scroll down to the shooting details you can see a breakdown of where his attempts came from, and how he performed from which distance. Then you can use the shot clock usage on the right to try to figure out what percentage of his points came in transition. I'd say most of the 0-10 seconds scoring was done in transition.

    This is probably something Derek Bodner could nail down with Synergy. Check out his site. I know he was looking for things to research earlier in the season.

    Unfortunately that data isn't there yet. long term goal, but I don't have it broken down that fine yet.

    I can get some of the data though (synergy for the win).

    "Brian, any way to look at what % of 'Dala's points came out outside shots vs. transition baskets over the course of the year?"

    Over the course of the entire year:

    20% of Andre Iguodala's field goal attempts came in transition. He shot 70.7% on those. 19% of his shots came from iso's where he was single covered, and he shot 36% on those. 18% from spot-up situations, 38.4%. 14% from pick and rolls, 38.1%. 9% off of cuts, 75.4%. 7% off screens, 41.5%. 6% off post-ups, 38.8%.

    Overall in the half court he shot 41.5% and had an efficiency of 0.87 points per possession. In transition he shot 70.7% and had 1.35 points per possession.

    Unfortunately I don't know of a way to say "only give me those stats between these dates". Still looking.

    As for your article, I agree almost to a T. I wrote the same thing a few months ago. Love your stat breakdown from the first 21 games. Well done.

    http://sixers.realgm.com/articles/125/20090312/can_iguodala_and_young_share_the_wings/

    Really good point in that article about playing the 2 with Korver at the three. That's why I think getting Curry would be a very, very good thing for this team. Thad's improving range at the 3 and a knock-down shooter at the point and Iguodala would absolutely flourish at the two.

    Good news buried at the bottom of Kate Fagan's latest piece:

    Avery Johnson: No word. Yesterday, Avery Johnson's agent said his client had not heard from Stefanski, nor had they contacted the team. Johnson is an ESPN studio analyst and former coach of the Dallas Mavericks.

    Let me weigh in a bit late on what has been a spirited discussion so far. Brian, I applaud your use of the floor-time stats, but one point that hasn't been emphasized enough (I think) is that the great +/- numbers for that Lineup (I'll capitalize it so we know we're talking about Miller-Iguodala-Thad-Brand-Dalembert) are skewed by just 3 games, blowout wins against the Knicks, Kings, and Thunder. I don't know how much the Lineup played in those games, but the average overall +/- for the players in the Lineup in those games was around +65. That seems to indicate that the Lineup was around 0 for the other 15 games it played together, since the Lineup was +63 overall (82games.com does say it "won" 9 of the other 15 floor-time units). While the Lineup allowed the Sixers to blow out bad teams, it did not help the Sixers to beat good teams (I think this was R&S's point somewhere).

    I agree that Iguodala at the 2 wasn't tried enough to learn definitively whether it can succeed. Qualitatively, though, there were a couple of things I noticed that affected his game when he played the 2. First, he seemed to think that being a shooting guard entailed taking more jumpers. As the year progressed, his shot selection got much better, which is good because he was #1 in the entire NBA on Inside Shots. Second, his being played by guards meant that he didn't beat his man off the dribble as often, which is where he is most effective. Theoretically, he should be able to post up guards more effectively than SF's, but posting up is not the strongest part of his offensive game (though it is improving) -- penetration is.

    I personally think the Lineup can work offensively, but NOT with the offensive system they tried (which was mainly focused on Brand). We learned that Brand was not a reliable dump-it-in-the-post option, especially when defended by decent defenders. We also learned that Brand is terrible at passing out of double teams. And we learned that Iguodala by nature will defer to others when the offense doesn't run through him (we saw this to a maddening degree even in the playoff series, when he would stand and watch Willie or Lou "do their thing" at the beginnings of the 1st or 2nd quarters). The offensive philosophy that I would envision succeeding with the Lineup is an offense where most plays run through Iguodala, everyone touches the ball, and everyone stays in motion. Dalembert would need to remain a threat, not just a crash-the-boards guy. Brand would not be the focus, but he would be a great kick-out option for 15-foot jumpers.

    Finally, I will repeat what I said earlier about Iguodala defending 2 guards: he seemed to have just as much trouble as anyone else at getting through screens, so he wasn't the elite defender that he was at SF. Part of it seemed to be that his poor offense was affecting his mindset on defense, but part of it is that his greatest strengths on D (fast hands, length, underrated strength) are neutralized when he's chasing around catch-and-shoot 2 guards with quick releases (think Hamilton or Gordon). Note, however, that he had a lot of success later in the year defending bigger 2 guards (Wade, Kobe, Roy, Joe Johnson), but those guys play more like SF's anyway.

    Thanks for the response Statman, I'll try to address everything below.

    Vs Knicks, Iguodala spent 17 minutes at the two, his+/- as SG was +6.

    Vs. Sacto, Iguodala spent 18 minutes at the two, for +22

    Vs. OKC, Igudoala spent 23 minutes at the two, for +29 (it was a 4-point game at the start of the third quarter, the starters played basically the entire third and blew their doors off with a +19 quarter).

    So in those three games, Iguodala's plus/minus at SG was a cumulative +57. (I can't really tell you if this was strictly with the starting lineup, because at times Cheeks would run with Williams, Iggy, Thad, Brand and Dalembert).

    I'm not sure what dropping their best 15% of games from the number really tells you though. I mean, if you dropped the worst 15% the unit would look a whole lot better than +63. I think +/- is a stat where you have to look at the entire picture for it to have relevance.

    What we're talking about here is which lineup is best for the Sixers, so for argument's sake, let's remove those three games from the team totals for the first 21 games. In the other 18 games, the Sixers were +6 with Iguodala at the 2, -111 without him not at the two (which includes his time at the three and his time on the bench).

    If we want to compare only Iguodala's floor-time stats, in the 21 games, the Sixers were +63 with him at the two, -21 with him at the three.

    I understand the thought behind "too many jumpers" when he plays the two, but I'm not sure it's supported by the stats. He actually took less threes when he played the two. I didn't dive in deep enough to check out mid-range jumpers vs. dunks/layups, but honestly, he was only taking 10.8 shots/36 minutes as SG, so it's hard to see him shooting them out of games when he was shooting so infrequently. The point about driving to the hole is definitely worth noting, in that he didn't do it as much (I'm assuming, based on his FTA/36), but from a philosophical standpoint, do you really think there are a ton of SGs who can stay in front of him if he wants to drive? I mean, take a look at the starting SGs in the Eastern Conference, I've put an asterisk next to the guys who I think may have a shot at using their quickness to stop his penetration, or at least slow it down.

    Quentin Richardson
    Vince Carter
    Ray Allen
    Anthony Parker
    Courtney Lee *
    Dwyane Wade *
    DeShawn Stephenson/Nick Young
    Joe Johnson
    Rip Hamilton
    Delonte West *
    Ben Gordon
    Michael Redd
    Mike Dunleavy/Brandon Rush
    Raja Bell

    Seriously, do you envision those guys as an impediment to Iguodala driving?

    Finally, when it comes to defense, I understand the logic behind worrying about him chasing guys off screens, but I still can't get over just how successful that starting lineup was. 92.01 is an insane defensive rating, and like I said before, that's with an out-of-shape Miller at the point and a rusty Brand at PF. I don't see how you can discount that?

    One thing we haven't talked about is foul problems. Twice, Iguodala got into early foul trouble and it hindered his ability to stay on the floor. Once it was against the Heat, he picked up two quick fouls trying to guard Wade. The second time it happened was against Orlando, and he picked up both fouls on Rashard Lewis, for some reason. I can't figure that one out. This has the potential to be an issue, but it didn't really present itself outside of those two games.

    All things considered, I think it's plain as day they have to go into the season with Iggy starting at the two. Beyond the desire to have both Iggy and Thad on the floor together, you have a boatload of stats to back up the notion that this is your best lineup.

    Forgot one thing.

    I wasn't impressed with Brand's passing out of doubles, but I don't think it was completely his fault. The Sixers did a horrible job of spreading the floor when he got the ball in the post almost without fail, and they almost never had an outlet for him on the strong side of the floor. More often than not, he had to make a dangerous skip pass across the floor to get the ball out of the double.

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    Statman reply to Brian on May 15 at 23:10
    +/-

    I wasn't impressed with Brand's passing out of doubles, but I don't think it was completely his fault. The Sixers did a horrible job of spreading the floor when he got the ball in the post almost without fail, and they almost never had an outlet for him on the strong side of the floor. More often than not, he had to make a dangerous skip pass across the floor to get the ball out of the double.

    I would agree that the spacing wasn't good. The problem as I saw it, though, was that Brand almost *never* made the skip pass (or if he tried, he didn't throw it well). Most often, he simply passed it back to the guy making the entry pass, which allowed the doubling defender to recover easily. All part of his not being the low-post asset that we had all expected.

    I have a different recollection. The Sixers routinely dumped the ball into the post and then immediately vacated, meaning there was no simple pass, even back to the guy who passed it to him. I agree he could've made more skip passes, although that's a dangerous pass to make, especially for an ender-sized guy with a bigger defender on him. More frequently, I think Brand would try to split the double and make a move into the lane for an 8-foot contested shot.

    Safe to say everything about their half-court offense was just pitiful in those 21 games. Whoever the new coach is, he needs to find a way to utilize the strength of each player on the floor and not try to force square pegs into round holes. That's something I'd be addressing in these interviews as well.

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    Statman reply to Brian on May 15 at 22:40
    +/-

    Brian, good stuff. The point about the 3 blowouts is that there is always a danger, when using a small sample size, that outliers will skew the data. So when 3 games produce +57 (using your stats) for Iguodala at the 2, then the +6 for the other 18 games doesn't seem so impressive -- especially since they were 6-12 in those games. Yes, you could go the other way and throw out the worst three games too, but there were more bad games than good games overall.

    To me, the point isn't whether the team was better with Iguodala at the 2 than Iguodala at the 3 in those first 21 games -- you've shown pretty conclusively that that was the case. However, the team as a whole wasn't very good during those 21 games, so it doesn't make the point that strongly (in my mind) that Iguodala MUST be used at the 2. The larger trend is that the team was significantly better once Brand got hurt, which coincidentally made Iguodala the focal point of the offense. Could that still have happened had Brand not gotten hurt? Possibly, but I maintain that the improved play would NOT have happened had they continued with the offense they were running. Running a Brand-centered offense arguably made all 4 of the other starters in the Lineup worse (though Thad started off the season hot).

    In particular, you noted that Iguodala penetrated less at SG, which doesn't surprise me. First, there were a lot of possessions in which Iguodala didn't touch the ball at all (just a Miller-Brand two-man game). Second, on possessions where Iguodala got the ball off a Brand kick-out (usually with one pass in-between), Brand was usually already in the lane, meaning that driving opportunities were reduced -- and more jumpers. Iguodala might be able to beat most of the other Eastern Conf. 2-guards off the dribble (good listing), but not if there's already someone else in the driving lane.

    So the question arises: why was the team so much worse with Iguodala at the 3 in those first 21 games? The one factor we haven't brought up is that Iguodala played the 3 almost exclusively with the bench during those games, and the bench was beyond horrible (or to single out one player -- Iguodala played the 3 when Lou Williams played the 2). To bring up a hypothetical "control," suppose Iguodala played the 3 and Thad played the 2 in the Lineup. I think the +/- numbers for the Lineup might have been just as good. The distinguishing factor was not whether Iguodala was playing the 3 or the 2 but whether he was playing with the starters or the bench (or Lou Williams, to single out one player).

    On the other hand, Iguodala's (and the team's) improvement after Brand went out wasn't so much dependent on Iguodala switching from the 2 to the 3 (although with Brand out, Iguodala's improved defense was certainly important to the team's success). Rather, the team's offense drastically improved after Brand went out (it's worth noting that none of the other 5-man units with Brand in them even averaged 1 point per possession). So I'll restate my opinion: the team can make things work with Iguodala at the 2, but the larger factor to overall team success is running the right halfcourt offense -- if Brand remains the focal point, the team will struggle. If Iguodala stays the focal point and Brand can contribute, I think Iguodala at the 2 could work well.

    As a final note, I will acknowledge that Brand brought good rebounding and excellent help defense when he played power forward, so the fact that the Lineup excelled defensively (even though Iguodala himself didn't play that well) is not surprising. The question that must be considered is whether they would be able to improve the offense with that Lineup (see above for my thoughts).

    Possibly, but I maintain that the improved play would NOT have happened had they continued with the offense they were running. Running a Brand-centered offense arguably made all 4 of the other starters in the Lineup worse (though Thad started off the season hot).

    Completely agree. The offensive scheme needs to improve w/ Brand on the floor. I have every confidence it will, basically because Cheeks won't be calling the shots anymore, and you'd hope they learned their lesson last season.

    One trend which was glaringly obvious as I went through the play-by-play from these games. Cheeks would bring either Willie or Lou in with anywhere from 8 to 4 minutes left in the first quarter, the team would go in the tank. Iggy was at the three in these lineups. Sometimes with Brand at the 5 and Thad at the four. Sometimes with Sammy and Brand up front and Thad on the bench.

    If they wind up thinking Thad is a better fit at the two, that's fine with me. I don't agree, but the key is that you have to go into the season w/ Thad and Iggy at the 2 & 3, unless something completely unexpected happens between now and then.

    I still have a tough time classifying Iggy's defense as bad when the unit defense was so unbelievably strong. He also wasn't getting lit up by anyone when he was playing the 2, outside of Wade, but he was in serious foul trouble that game.

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    Statman reply to Brian on May 15 at 23:21
    +/-

    I still have a tough time classifying Iggy's defense as bad when the unit defense was so unbelievably strong. He also wasn't getting lit up by anyone when he was playing the 2, outside of Wade, but he was in serious foul trouble that game.

    If we go by the 82games.com by-position opponent production numbers (which, as we have discussed before, should be taken with a grain of salt), Iguodala was much better at SF than SG. Off the top of my head, he got lit up by Joe Johnson (the first time) and D.J. Augustin while playing SG.

    I'm in agreement that Iguodala-Thad-Brand at the 2-3-4 needs to be tried. Putting them at the 3-4-5 would only work if they got exceptional rebounding and defense from the 1-2 spots (i.e., better than Willie and Miller).

    Good memory on Joe Johnson, he scored 30 points with Iggy playing SG for 34 minutes in that game (3rd of the season).

    Augustin had 8 points in the 15 minutes Iggy spent at the 2 in that game.

    Definitely agreed on the EB, TY, AI 2,3,4 combo.

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    Sean reply to Brian on May 16 at 10:26
    +/-

    I found what you said about Thad being the 2 offensively as interesting. It jogged my memory about something I'd read with both Jordan and Kobe Bryant in the triangle offense, where they were playing the 3 offensively as the attack position, especially for post-up opportunities. That could be something similar for the Sixers, especially since Dala said in exit interviews that he wanted to work on making his post game "more dominant."

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    bebopdeluxe reply to Brian on May 15 at 22:57
    +/-

    Agreed...the numbers - while not a ton - are certainly enough to suggest that Iggy/Thad/EB/Sammy is the lineup that has the best chance of being successful...if I am Stefanski, I spend a LOT of the interview process asking these guys how they would utilize that group - on both sides of the ball.

    This thread gets me to thinking...while we all want to get a kick-ass PG to jump-start this thing (through a trade or the draft), just signing a guy like Jack (or even a CJ Watson) - somebody who can shoot the 3 and play D....

    We might be surprised.

    Even if you do draft your PG of the future, I think you need to get a guy whose capable of playing 20-30 minutes at the point anyway. The odds of a point coming in and playing 30 min/night are very, very slim. Especially if we're talking about being a playoff team next year, which I think has to remain the goal.

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    deepsixersuede on May 15 at 18:26
    +/-

    Statman, regarding your last paragragh; that seems to be E.S.!s main issue and Thad guarding 2 guards may end up being the only answer for that.Or getting a starting 2 guard and letting Thad come off the bench but not lose any courttime.

    About Jordan's interview on csnphilly:

    A text message received from Jordan late Friday afternoon said the meeting between he and Stefanski, a former co-worker from his Nets days, went well. And while he did not want to go into the details, Jordan did say, “Most likely I will take the first offer.”


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    John reply to DeanH on May 15 at 21:07
    +/-

    Oh good - let's play both teams against each other and try and make them short circuit their proces...that's not something I am pleased to hear. Maybe it's normal to say things like that, but respect the process.

    So - jordan just wants a job - any job huh?

    Yeah, that's just silly. There's no reason to say anything publicly. If I'm the Sixers, I tell him we'll make our decision when we make our decision, if you've already taken the Sacto job, enjoy the lottery.

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    Tom Moore on May 15 at 21:44
    +/-

    No answer on Jordan's cell. Left message, but my guess is it won't be returned. Sixers not saying anything, other than to confirm he interviewed this morning.

    There are only two jobs officially available right now, correct? If you ask me, this is a buyer's market for coaches. The Sixers shouldn't feel any pressure to make an offer first, especially not for a guy who's 58 games under .500 as a head coach.

    Any guess on who the next guy to be interviewed will be? Probably have to wait until the end of the conference finals to interview Collins, right?

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    Tom Moore on May 15 at 22:03
    +/-

    I would guess Johnson or Collins. I agree that there's no rush. Stefanski knows Jordan the best -- he needs to talk to at least a couple more candidates. With days off between games, I'd think Collins would have time to fit in Stefanski.

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    Sean reply to Tom Moore on May 15 at 22:21
    +/-

    A candidate I would also like to see on the list is Elston Turner from the Rockets. He is Adelman's main defensive deputy, plus he knows Adelman's offensive systems from both Sacramento(Princeton Offense) and Houston(Read & React). He has no experience, but he was a former player in the league before becoming an assistant. What do you guys think?

    I'd absolutely check him out. Is read & react from that DVD set they're always advertising on league pass?

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    Sean reply to Brian on May 15 at 23:13
    +/-

    I believe that it is. I found a couple articles about it:

    http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/sports/5194395.html

    It sounds like a fascinating style.

    More about Turner:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2008/writers/chris_mannix/10/29/assistant.coaches/

    "Elston Turner, Houston. Like Budenholzer, Turner's name began to circulate near the end of last season. Turner was Rick Adelman's assistant for six seasons in Sacramento before following him to Houston. He served as Adelman's chief game strategist and organized the Rockets' game plans during the 2008 playoffs. A tenacious defender in eight seasons as a player, Turner is considered a strong communicator who has embraced Adelman's read-and-react offensive system.

    "Elston, sooner or later, someone that knows what he does will give him an opportunity," Adelman said."

    Sounds very interesting, also sounds like something Sammy will never get and Willie would be very bad at running, but that's no reason not to go with this guy. I'd definitely like them to bring him in for an interview.

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    Sean reply to Brian on May 15 at 23:32
    +/-

    Agreed. He sounds like the closest thing one could find to a compromise between a Van Gundy defensive approach with Eddie Jordan's wide open offensive style. I like that they said he is a communicator too, which is what Ed said he wanted.

    I really started paying attention to him with these playoffs, especially with this Lakers series. The Rockets get by on heart and effort, but their concepts allow them to create opportunities where none exist, and the defensive game plan is quite impressive.


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