PACE: #16 94.0
OFFENSE: #18 104.0
DEFENSE: #10 102.5
Tom Thibodeau deserved to win the Coach of the Year award, but the trophy could have gone to Doug Collins as well. Collins took care of a team with no real superstars, who had heavily struggled early in the season by going 3-13 on their first 16 games, and improved them massively by allowing them to have a 38-28 record during the rest of the season. Collins knew he had no superstar available on the roster and therefore he had to maximize the whole roster. The outcome of that saw five different players averaging double digits points during the season! Elton Brand with 15 points per game was their leading scorer, while Iguodala, Young, Holiday and Williams all averaged more than 10 points per game.
Watching the Sixers offense on the floor was a bizarre exercise, as the Sixers were the 3rd best team in the league in scoring in transition with 17.6 fast break points per game, but they were just #16 in the pace factor. Because they were used to be a sum of bad shooters, the Sixers used to traditionally attack the paint, but last season they were just 16th in scoring in the paint with 41.3 points in the paint per game. At the same time, the Sixers were the 7th team with more “long twos” attempts! Finally, the Sixers were used to be on the top of teams that go to the free throw line, but last season they were the 3rd team with fewer FT attempts per game, with a free throw rate of just 27.3%!
If we think about it, it becomes easier to explain how they struggled so much earlier in the season, as the Sixers did things last year very differently from what they were used to do! Andre Iguodala was the one of the players who most benefited from this new system as he stopped being the team’s obvious go-to player. He attempted less 2.4 FG per game than in the previous season for example, but at the same time, he had a career high of 6.3 apg! Only Lebron James had more assists per game than him from all the non-PG players in the league!
Jrue Holiday has been learning quickly from a 20 years old player. Thanks to the system of sharing responsibilities, Holiday doesn’t need to carry the ball in every single play, however he still finished the season with 6.5 assists per game. On the other end, Elton Brand is still overpaid, but at least he is now being productive. Last season, he hit the 50% mark from the field for the first time since his monster 06-07 season. He had 15.0 ppg, while shooting 51.2% FG and grabbing 8.3 rpg, numbers which are quite decent, with Doug Collins having some credit for Brand’s comeback.
Doug Collins has also transformed the 8th worst defensive team in the league into the 9th best defensive team with basically the same roster! Their perimeter defense was supposed to be good due to the Iguodala factor and they were 6th in opponents 3PTS% with 34.0%, but they were also a tough team to score and rebound, despite not having a real strong inside presence in the roster.
Spencer Hawes was the team’s weakest link and the team addressed this weakness in the draft by selecting Nikola Vucevic, who may not be the prototypal big man that entered the league because of his athleticism and size, but this young man can shoot the ball and he’s a quite skilled offensive player.
The Sixers will have an interesting collection of young talent. Holiday, Evans, Vucevic and Meeks are all talented players. The problem for Philadelphia is that this will be a special season without a full length training camp and with a short schedule. They cannot afford to start tge season 3-13 once again! Doug Collins’ system is fully installed on the team and now it’s up to the coach to coordinate the roster full of young talent that the team possesses.