For the last two seasons, the Sixers have been a team that really likes to get out and run. They finished first in the league in pace in 2013-14 and sixth last season. Although the offense was historically bad in both seasons, it experienced some of its finest moments while pushing the pace. In the first three games of this year, however, the pace has slowed dramatically, and this should be addressed.
Some would argue that creating more possessions would disadvantage the Sixers since favored teams should be expected to win over a larger sample of possessions. This is a fair concern, but also one that fails to take into account just what kind of team the Sixers are. First, the Sixers are way overmatched talent-wise against nearly every other team in the league. The team is not focused on accruing regular season wins this season, and the losses will pile up regardless of the chosen style of play. Second, Philadelphia’s roster consists largely of long, athletic, young players who thrive on opportunities in the open court. For their speed and stringiness to truly do damage, the players need to repeatedly create opportunities to finish in transition.
Moreover, as corny as it sounds, this Sixers team can get some W’s by putting in more effort than opponents. There are nights when even the top NBA teams simply don’t bring it (whether because of injuries, fatigue, resting key players, or trying to coast). This is completely understandable and is not intended as a knock on the teams. When their opponents are having off-nights, the Sixers need to be ready to pounce, and doing so requires cranking up the tempo.
Due to a lack of spacing and general offensive talent, Philly really struggles to score in the halfcourt, and, as previously mentioned, pushing the ball in transition creates opportunities for the athletic Sixers (like Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel, and JaKarr Sampson) to finish at the rim. Rim runs and drives are not the only chances created by high-tempo teams, however; three-pointers often become very high percentage looks when they come out of transition offense. The Sixers’ two best shooters last season – Robert Covington and Hollis Thompson – were excellent at knocking down transition threes, making 42.7 percent and 46.8 percent of shots from beyond the arc in the first six seconds of the shot clock, respectively, per NBA.com/Stats. Part of this was due to Michael Carter-Williams’s quality reads in the open court, but T.J. McConnell and Isaiah Canaan can no doubt create similar looks for their teammates. They should at least make an effort to run more, even if they will not always make the optimal decision once the fast break begins.
It is true that Jahlil Okafor needs to get post touches, and trying to push the ball would seem to run counter to this. However, Okafor can contribute to the speeding up of play, posting earlier in the shot clock and making quicker decisions once he gets the ball. These alterations, which should become easier and easier as Okafor’s conditioning improves over the course of the season, would help his development and the overall offense. Brett Brown, for his part, agrees that the pace should be upped. After the game against the Jazz last Friday, Brown declared:
“We cannot play slow. As good as I think Jahlil can be, that bothered me a lot. We need to play with speed.”
via CSN Philly.com
Hopefully this is a signal the team’s pace will start to climb – and its win total along with it.