FanPost

Touring the Eastern Conference, Volume I: Philadelphia 76ers

As we get ready for the new season, I thought it would be a good idea to take a tour through the Eastern Conference and preview all the teams. First up in our little adventure, the Philadelphia 76ers. Take the jump and we'll get down to business.

How'd the Sixers do last year? Let's take a look:

2011-2012

Record

Offensive Efficiency

Defensive Efficiency

Offensive Rebounding %

Turnover Rate

Free Throw rate

Effective FG%

Opponent eFG%

Philadelphia 76ers

35-31 101.7 96.6 24.4 10.88 21.7 47.96 46.05

League Average

___ 101.8 101.8 26.93 13.77 27.6 48.7 48.7

There were two prevailing points of view on the Sixers' season and subsequent playoff run. The first one, espoused by Philadelphia management, is that the Sixers took another step forward and the young players will gain from the experience. The other point of view, held by myself and our friends at Liberty Ballers, is that the Sixers run was a bit of a mirage and that management would be best served focusing on a rebuilding effort.

Moving on, the strength of Philadelphia was their defense. They finished in the Top 5 in defensive efficiency, as their defense carried them for much of the year. They started to hemorrhage late in the season, as they almost lost their playoff position to the Milwaukee Bucks. The real strength of the defense was on the perimeter, as opponents shot only 36.3% from deep two (16-23 feet). Most importantly, they forced their opponents into the second most shots from 16-23 feet at 23 per game. As a general rule, deep twos are the worst type of shot in basketball, and the more of those shots you force your opponent into, the better. The perimeter defense was anchored primarily by Andre Iguodala, one of the best defenders in the NBA.

The offense was faitly pedestrian. The league average offense scored 101.8 points per 100 possessions. Philadelphia? 101.7. Since Allen Iverson's glory days, the Sixers have lacked a "shot creator," which is code for a high usage player they can run their offense through. As such, the offense wasn't one of the league's best. Something that really stood out about (and not in a good way) was the preponderance of deep two pointers. Last season, they attempted 24.5 field goals from 16-23 feet, which was the second most in the league, trailing only the Charlotte Bobcats. They weren't all that great in this area, as they shot 38% (well, 37.9% if we wanna be specific), which was right at the league average. One of the main problems with taking a ton of deep jumpers is that you aren't attacking the basket enough, and as a result you don't get to the free throw line. This holds true for the Sixers as well. Last year, they were dead last in the NBA in shots at the rim and in free throw rate. This speaks to one of two problems for Philadelphia. The first problem is that they lacked the "shot-creator" who can get to the rim at any time and draw fouls. The other problem is that the Sixers have lacked a dependable post presence they can get the ball to consistently since 1992 (that was Hall of Famer Charles Barkley's last season in Philadelphia). The 76ers addressed this problem (impressively, without a General Manager), which I'll get to next.

Key additions: Andrew Bynum (acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Lakers), Jason RIchardson (acquired via trade from the Orlando Magic), Nick Young (acquired via free agency), Dorell Wright (acquired from the Golden State Warriors via trade) & Kwame Brown (acquired via free agency)

Key departures: Andre Iguodala (traded to the Denver Nuggets), Elton Brand (released via the amnesty clause; later claimed off waivers by the Dallas Mavericks), Lou Williams (signed with the Atlanta Hawks) & Jodie Meeks (signed with the Los Angeles Lakers)

The roster as presently constituted

In this section, we're gonna take a look at every player on the roster and see what to expect from them in the 2012-2013 season. Let's start the show!

Starting Point Guard:

Gyi0064388318_extra_large_medium

Photo from SB Nation Philly

Metric

Jrue Holiday 2011-2012

Point guards in 2011-2012

Holiday's career

Minutes per Game

33.8 23 31.2

True Shooting %

49.6 52.4% 52.7%

Assist rate

28.41 38.1 36.08

Rebound rate

5.4 5.9 6.6

Turnover rate

13.2 17.8 16.7

Usage rate

21.78 20.94 20.5

Player Efficiency Rating

14.77 13.48 14.4

Win Shares per 48

.148 .100 .092

Wins Produced per 48

.079 .099 .091

It doesn't look particularly great for Holiday, but there was an encouraging trend. Every season he has been in the league, he has seen his turnover rate decline. This decline is in all likelihood due to gaining more experience at the point guard position at the NBA. The former Bruin won't be mistaken for Andre Miller in terms of his passing, but he's shown himself to be a capable passer in his three year career. In a slow paced offense with a team that didn't feature a great shooter or post player, Holiday did well to average over 4 assists a game. With the roster overhaul, look for Holiday's passing to improve.

When we take a look at Holiday's shooting, there was a decline but I wouldn't fret about it. His % dropped thanks to missing more shots at the rim, but I think Philly's addressed the cause of that drop. He had more of his shots blocked in 11-12 than in any other season, but if you subscribe to the belief that having Andrew Bynum in the paint and some more shooters on the perimeter will create more space in the lane for Holiday to drive to the rim (I do), than Holiday should see an uptick in his shooting percentages.'

Holiday played for Ben Howland at UCLA, so he knows a thing or two about defense. This knowledge showed itself in the team results, as the Sixers allowed 100 points per 100 possessions with Holiday vs. 101 without (small difference, but every point matters when your offense was as mediocre as Philadelphia's was last year.) On an individual level, Holiday was about average, as PGs amassed a 14.4 PER against him, which is right around the average of 15. One good sign for Holiday's defense is his ability to play the passing lane, as he finished tied for ninth in steals per game last season with close to two per game.

We on that Holiday for MVP bandwagon too!

Starting Shooting Guard:

2869656164_c7a05f1ccf_medium

Photo from Ridiculous Upside

Metric

Jason Richardson 2011-2012

Shooting guards in 2011-2012

Richardson's career

Minutes per Game

29.5 23 34.6

True Shooting %

50.2 52.7 53

Assist %

12 17.95 13.8

Rebound rate

7 6.6 8.1

Turnover rate

8.7 12.56 9.9

Usage rate

20.2 19.79 23.6

Player Efficiency Rating

13.3 12.59 16.6

Win Shares per 48

.084 .099 .099

Wins Produced per 48

.095 .099 .112

The former Spartan, Lottery pick and Dunk Contest Champion has had a decent career all things considered. He's played at an average-slightly above average level for 11 seasons and has done it at a reasonable price.

I had always thought Richardson's love affair with the three pointer started when he got to Phoenix, but my memory must've blacked out the early parts of his career (I don't even remember him playing for the Charlotte Bobcats). Richardson has consistently been one of the league leaders in long range attempts, and has been fairly efficient from deep. He's shot over 35% from three seven times in his career, including 36% from last year in Stan Van Gundy's offense in Orlando. He shot 42% in the corner last year, which should help Philadelphia immensely, as they shot a league worst 31% from the corner (h/t Courtside Analytics for the info).

While he's not as athletic as he was in Golden State, he's still a capable defender. He can be a physical defender at times and can play a decent small forward in a pinch. The Sixers have improved their depth on the wings, & Richardson figures to play a key part in their success

Starting Small Forward:

20120501_ajw_ag5_121_extra_large_medium

Photo from Liberty Ballers

Metric

Evan Turner 2011-2012

Small forwards in in 2011-2012

Turner's career

Minutes per Game

26.4 22 24.5

True Shooting %

47.9 52.7 48.1

Assist rate

24.24 15.99 24.09

Rebound rate

12.2 9 11

Turnover rate

14.28 12.28 13.2

Usage rate

20.35 17.98 18.67

Player Efficiency Rating

12.6 11.96 11.75

Win Shares per 48

.068 .099 .064

Wins Produced per 48

.111 .099 .103

Turner's a bit of an enigma. He's clearly talented, but that talent hasn't carried over to the results so far in his young career. He was placed on the highly successful second team in favor of the now departed Jodie Meeks, but I'm sure the organization is hoping for more than just a second teamer. His shooting improved last year, but it wasn't anything to be proud of. He shot 44% from the field, which is certainly disappointing but not entirely harmful due to the relative lack of possessions Turner used on offense. He was league average shooting the deep two, but he'd probably do well to get a few more attempts at the rim, where he shot a very good 67% (although, he took only two shots per game at the rim).

One area he has excelled at is defensive rebounding. Turner was the best rebounding guard in basketball last year & was a major reason why the Sixers had the 4th best defensive rebounding rate in the NBA last year. Due to the presence of Andre Iguodala, Turner spent the majority of his minutes at shooting guard. With his move to the 3, the influx of new talent, and his already above average passing skills, this should be the year ET puts it all together.

Starting Power Forward:

Hawes_spencer-76ers-dl_medium

Photo from Canis Hoopus

Metric

Spencer Hawes 2011-2012

Power Forwards in in 2011-2012

Hawes' career

Minutes per Game

24.9 21 22.9

True Shooting %

51.7 53 50.1

Assist rate

24.61 12.85 17.23

Rebound rate

16.3 13.6 14.5

Turnover rate

13.8 13.43 14.8

Usage rate

20.3 18.61 19.7

Player Efficiency Rating

18.1 14.47 13.6

Win Shares per 48

.152 .099 .055

Wins Produced per 48

.139 .099 .006

I have to admit: I don't know why the Sixers are starting Hawes at the 4. He's not particularly athletic, isn't well regarded as a defender (as far as I know) & seems to catch a ton of hell from Doug Collins.

But when we take a look at the numbers, there is some positive to glean from it. One is his jump shooting. Hawes shot 43% from deep two, which was above the league mark of 38% for other Centers. Hawes being on the elbow shooting jumpers will take away from his offensive rebounding, as he was second in the team in offensive rebounding rate, but it will free up space down low for...

20120404_gav_sv5_023_extra_large_medium

Photo from SB Nation Los Angeles

Metric

Andrew Bynum 2011-2012

Centers in in 2011-2012

Bynum's career

Minutes per Game

35.2 18 26

True Shooting %

59.4 53.8 60

Assist %

7.4 11.96 7.4

Rebound rate

18.7 15.1 17.1

Turnover rate

13.9 16.86 13.7

Usage rate

23.8 15.55 19.6

Player Efficiency Rating

22.9 12.7 19.8

Win Shares per 48

.183 .099 .174

Wins Produced per 48

.208 .099 .199

The biggest problem for Andrew Bynum is that he is now seven seasons into the league and people still use the word "potential" when describing him. His career began as a raw teenager with immense size and soft hands. He had the potential to develop his game and be a very good player. Then after a few year he was a talented big man who had the potential to be dominant if he could ever stay healthy. Now he is a dominant big man who has the potential to be a Hall of Fame caliber center if he ever matured. The first two hurdles, developing skills and staying healthy, were somewhat easier to clear. The first comes with practice which can be enforced by the team. The second comes from not having bad luck with freak injuries. The final hurdle of immaturity is more difficult. The team has no way to force maturity and the immaturity won't just go away. Some will point to the man being only 24 years old and "still a kid". However, 179 players in the league (3 out of 8) are Bynum's age or younger and two-thirds of the league has played in seven or fewer seasons. I don't recall seeing stories about 3 out of 8 players parking in handicap spots, lifting playboy playmates during knee-rehab, or taking ill-advised threes (ok, maybe that one does occur). Maturity is the biggest downfall for Bynum, both on and off the court.

- Actuarially Sound of Silver Screen and Roll

Bynum is such a weird player to discuss. He's clearly one of the best centers in the sport, but, as Actuarially noted, it feels like something's missing. On occasion, as Sound notes, he can do really dumb stuff, but those negatives aren't enough to outweigh his positives.

When we get into his play on the court, we see a boatload of production. Bynum would probably tell you something different, but he got a ton of touches in the post last season. He averaged 6.5 attempts at the rim per game, which was 4th among Centers, trailing only Greg Monroe, Dwight Howard & Nikola Pekovic. The even better thing about this was how successful he was shooting the ball. He shot 73%, which was a few % points behind Howard & Tyson Chandler. Bynum's success at the rim will be crucial for Philadelphia, as they were last in the NBA in shot attempts at the rim and in team free throw rate. Bynum drew fouls 17.2% of the time, although he wasn't a particularly great FT shooter (69.2%). Off the top of my head, I don't recall Doug Collins coaching a dominant big man, so it'll be interesting to see how he adapts to Bynum.

There's always been the critique of Bynum that he doesn't do a good job getting rid of the ball when faced with a double team. But, Bynum did make progress as the season progressed. As Beckley Mason of TrueHoop notes:

However, there is some reason to expect progress. Bynum did become quicker and more accurate with his passing as the season progressed, especially when he knew where the double-team was coming from.

Mason goes on to conclude that he believes Bynum will be less efficient, but I'm not sure if I can reach the same conclusion. Mason mentions the increase in floor spacing Bynum will have in Philadelphia than he had in Los Angeles, and that had me thinking of Dwight Howard and the Magic. With the Magic, in order to lessen the amount and effectiveness of the double teams Howard would face, Stan Van Gundy had shooters camped out from behind the line. That strategy proved to be successful, as the Magic posted above average offensive efficiencies, including coming in second in 2009-2010. Doug Collins is no Stan Van Gundy, and that sort of shows itself in Collins' coaching history. His teams have generally played at a slow pace with a minimal amount of three pointers taken. Of course, we can't just leave it at that as there is some context behind it. I mentioned earlier that Collins didn't have a great post player during his coaching runs (he did have Michael Jordan and healthy Grant Hill so I wouldn't feel too bad for him), he also hasn't had that many great three point shooters. The only year where he had truly great three point shooting was in 1996-1997, when Joe Dumars & Terry Mills were both in the Top Ten in three point percentage (Detroit finished 9th in attempts).

To bring it back to the present (& Mason's point), this Sixers team should be able to make teams pay for doubling Bynum. Wright is a career 37% shooter from downtown, J-Rich is a career 37% shooter from three & Holiday hits on 38% from his takes from beyond the arc. Having these shooters will allow for Collins to open things up a bit and the three pointers should start to fly.

It's one thing to be super productive on the court when you're a starter. It's another to be able to do it for big minutes every night. Bynum was 3rd in minutes per game for Centers with 35.3, trailing Howard (I heard that dude is pretty good. Maybe the Nets should try to trade for him?) & the underrated Marc Gasol. One key factor in this increase in minutes was Bynum cutting down on his fouls. After averaging over three fouls per 36 minutes every year of his career, Bynum committed about 2 fouls per 36 minutes. Another, and perhaps more likely reason, for Bynum's minutes jump was Lakers coach Mike Brown. The Lakers didn't have much depth outside of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol & Bynum, so Brown played them heavy minutes (Kobe & Pau were #4 & 7 in minutes per game last year).

Bynum occasionally has bouts of laziness on defense, but on the whole, he's a positive factor on that side of the ball. He was the 5th best rebounder in the league last year, including this 30 rebound gem vs. San Antonio that would've made Dikembe Mutombo proud. The Sixers were one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the league, and with Bynum in tow, hey should remain one of the league's best (especially considering Howard & Ryan Anderson, Orlando's two best rebounders, are elsewhere). With him on the court, LA allowed 103.8 points per 100 possessions, which was above their overall mark of 101.7. But when Bynum was on the bench, they allowed close to 107. 'drew's length & physicality on defense helped him hold opposing Centers to an eFG of 47.5%, which was below the league average mark of 50.6 for Centers.

The Bench:

Gyi0063707611_medium

Photo from Bullets Forever

Metric

Nick Young 2011-2012

Shooting Guards in in 2011-2012

Young's career

Minutes per Game

27.9 23 22.9

True Shooting %

51.2 52.7 52.6

Assist rate

5.39 17.95 9.12

Rebound rate

4.4 6.6 4.8

Turnover rate

8.8 12.59 9.7

Usage rate

24.5 19.79 23.7

Player Efficiency Rating

12.9 12.59 12.8

Win Shares per 48

.040 .099 .045

Wins Produced per 48

-.060 .099 -.043

Meet the Sixth Man. One area where he should be able to help Philadelphia is the corner three. As Courtside Analytics notes:

**** The addition of Nick Young should help; he’s lethal from the right corner, where he hits about 57%!

Young didn't do a great job of getting to and converting his opportunities at the rim. Young averaged a little under two shots a game at the rim, & shot 56.8% on the whole, which was below he league average mark of 62.6%. As a member of the Wizards & later the Clippers, close to 90% of his shots were of the jump shot variety. He was one of the best in the league in an area where you really don't wanna have that many attempts. He shot about 45% from 16-23 feet, which was one of the best marks for SGs in the NBA. His attempts from deep two went down when he joined Los Angeles, but he didn't get as many minutes with LA as he did in Washington. Instinctively, you'd think a player that shot well from deep would shot just as well on a shot that's a little closer to the basket. But that wasn't the case for Young on shots from 10-15 feet. He shot under 25% from that distance, which was one of the worst for 2 guards last year.

When you're not providing that much value on offense, you need to make up for it on the defensive side of the ball. Young wasn't able to do that for either Washington or Los Angeles. In Washington, the Wizards allowed 111.5 points per 100 possessions while scoring only 100. The Clippers were 4 points better on offense with Young on the bench but about a point worse on defense without Young on the court. Standing at 6-6 and being reasonably quick, Young should be a good individual defender. He was essentially league average, as two guards and small forwards shot a little above the league average eFG of 48.7 for the respective positions.

20120428_ajw_aw6_067_large_medium

Photo from Liberty Ballers

Metric

Thaddeus Young 2011-2012

Small forwards in in 2011-2012

Young's career

Minutes per Game

27.9 22 28.2

True Shooting %

53.8 52.7 54.8

Assist rate

9.19 15.99 8.77

Rebound rate

10.3 9 10.3

Turnover rate

6.83 12.28 10

Usage rate

21.54 17.98 20.7

Player Efficiency Rating

18.99 11.96 16.5

Win Shares per 48

.171 .099 .116

Wins Produced per 48

.133 .099 .103

Young is a perfectly solid player. He can hit his midrange jumpers on a fairly consistent basis, can finish well at the rim and is a decent enough rebounder for his position.

One thing I would recommend for Young is to cut down on his deep twos. And it's not because he's bad at it. He shot 39% and took three attempts a game from 16+ feet, which was around league average for power forwards (40%). The shots I would recommend for him are shots at the basket. I mentioned earlier about teams doubling Bynum, and with Young's excellent ability to finish at the rim, he should get some good looks cutting to the basket.

Young will be playing power forward this year, & he was an OK defender on an individual level. Opposing 4's had A PER of 18 against him, which was above the league average mark of 15. He's athletic and quick, which works for him as he will be tasked with guarding small forwards as well as power forwards.

Dorell_wright_medium

Photo from Golden State of Mind

Metric

Dorell Wright 2011-2012

Small forwards in in 2011-2012

Wright's career

Minutes per Game

26.4 22 25.2

True Shooting %

55.3 52.7 53.8

Assist rate

15.16 15.99 15.88

Rebound rate

9.7 9 9.5

Turnover rate

8.2 12.28 13.2

Usage rate

17.3 17.98 17.6

Player Efficiency Rating

15 11.96 14.4

Win Shares per 48

.099 .099 .094

Wins Produced per 48

.155 .099 .141

We should've signed Wright in 2010 instead of Travis Outlaw. And while I'm sure you're probably saying "Well, duh! Of course you'd say that now after the fact," but there were some people here (shoutout to Gina) who were begging the Nets to sign Wright at the time.

So what does Wright bring o the table? Lots and lots of three point shooting. After leading the league in takes and makes in 10-11, Wright's attempts went down (but that might've been due to a decline in minutes as Klay Thompson began to take shape). He still attempted about 5 per game and hit on 36% of them. He's also not bad when it comes to attacking the basket. He doesn't do it often, but he did convert on 68% of his at the rim attempts so he's not strictly a three point shooter.

Wright can defend two positions, but he didn't defend them well when he was a Warrior. Opposing 2s & 3s had PERs of 17 & 17.9 againST Wright, which were both above the league average for those positions. Wright also played some power forward, but the offensive benefits of that alignment aren't enough to compensate for the defensive shortcomings Wright has at that position. As far as the team defense with Wright on the floor, it wasn't pretty. With Dorell on the floor, G-State allowed 112 points per 100 possessions vs. 108.1 without him. Wright is moving from one of the league's worst defenses to one of its best, so I would expect Wright's defense to be up to par playing with the Sixers.

Gyi0064262866_extra_large_medium

Photo from Rufus on Fire

Metric

Kwame Brown 2011-2012

Centers in in 2011-2012

Brown's career

Minutes per Game

35.2 18 22.4

True Shooting %

51.9 53.8 52.4

Assist %

3.2 11.96 6.7

Rebound rate

17.3 15.1 14.5

Turnover rate

20.3 16.86 16.7

Usage rate

17 15.55 15.9

Player Efficiency Rating

11.1 12.7 12.6

Win Shares per 48

.031 .099 .075

Wins Produced per 48

.037 .099 .066

If I was friends with Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, I'd have asked them to write this part of the post so he could go on some more about how much Kwame Brown sucks. But since I don't know either one of those gentlemen, I guess I'll have to go on about how much Kwame sucks.

By any measurable (i.e statistic), Brown is horrendous. He can't shoot worth a damn, he's a turnover waiting to happen as soon as he catches the ball, & if you believe Kobe, Kwame was afraid to be anywhere near the ball at the end of a close game.

But all is not lost with the former Number 1 pick. Due to the suckiness of his offensive game, Brown has focused exclusively on his defense and rebounding, & it's working for him. He's essentially a league average rebounder and physical defender whose size serves as an impediment to opposing big men in the post. It'll be interesting to see how Kwame plays seeing as how he's coming off a pectoral injury that cost him 57 games last season.

20120307_jel_aw8_117_extra_large_medium

Photo from SB Nation Philly

Taking a look at his DraftExpress profile, Maalik Wayns profiles as a decent backup point guard. He got better shooting the ball at Villanova, & seems to be a player that can take over a game with his shooting moreso than with his passing. Doug Collins doesn't really play rookies big minutes, so we might not get to see much of Wayns.

20120304_hcs_sy4_082_extra_large_medium

Photo from SB Nation Philly

Then Lavoy went out and stopped Kevin Garnett again. Or at least he helped a great deal within the Sixers team defense. This is a rookie we are talking about. A guy drafted 50th overall and not someone I'd heard of prior to game 1 of this series. We're getting to know him now though.

Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog

I didn't know this, but Allen was ranked as he worst player in the NBA last year by ESPN. Now it doesn't make sense to rank a rookie as the worst even though he hasn't played a game and there are guys like Chris Duhon around, but that's ESPN for you.

What do we expect this year?

I think the Sixers can win the Atlantic Division this year. Even though they finished as the 8 seed, they were leading the Atlantic Division for much of the year before they collapsed late in the season. Along with their changes, the Eastern Conference has undergone some changes as well. Now that Howard is out West & Derrick Rose will be sidelined for a good part of the year, that leaves some room for Philly in the 3-5 seeds. They'll be playing in what promises to be a tough division, as the Nets have improved their roster, the Toronto Raptors have bolstered their roster, the New York Knicks were right near the top of the division & should be near the top again & the defending Divisional Champion Boston Celtics are still a force to be reckoned with until proven otherwise.

Required Reading: Check out the excellent Liberty Ballers

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