2011-12 Sixers: Finesse Big Men, Missed Opportunities, Questionable Front Office, Death by Mediocrity

Apr 04, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Louis Williams (23) goes for a loose ball as Toronto Raptors center Amir Johnson (15) and forward Ed Davis (32) watch during the third quarter at the Wells Fargo Center. The Raptors defeated the Sixers 99-78. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE

The Sixers desperately need a different kind of big man. When you scan up and down the roster, every "big" possesses a relatively similar skill-set: finesse, jump shooters, who rarely finish around the rim, nor provide an intimidating presence on the defensive end.

The average NBA power forward/center, who plays at least 15 minutes per game, averages 3.2 shot attempts at the rim per game. Spencer Hawes averages 2.3 and Nikola Vucevic averages 1.9. Elton Brand averages 1.9 and Lavoy Allen averages 1.0. Thaddeus Young averages 4.5.

So four out of the five Sixers "big men" are well below average at getting to the basket, which explains why the Sixers attempt the third fewest shots at the rim in the NBA. The lack of a big who can consistently finish at the basket is especially devastating for the Sixers because of their personnel.

The team's biggest strength, without a doubt, is the trio of Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Andre Iguodala. On offense, they have three guys who can handle the ball and initiate the offense, and on defense, they lockdown most perimeter scorers. What do they have to do with bigs who finish at the rim? Well, approximately 65 percent of NBA big men's makes at the basket are assisted, opposed to 50 percent for guards. Bigs need guards to feed them the ball near the basket, whether it be off pick and rolls, alley oops or dribble penetration, and much like bigs need guards, guards need bigs to feed the ball to. Because the Sixers chose to collect finesse bigs rather than strong finishers, they're unintentionally underutilizing their biggest strength on offense – three great ball-handlers and passers.

It's not all about shots at the basket, though. Free throws are another major weakness of the Sixers – a weakness that would improve with the acquisition of a non-finesse big.

The average NBA PF/C, who plays at least 15 minutes per game, has a free throw rate of approximately 0.33. The free throw rates of Sixers bigs: Thaddeus Young (0.20), Elton Brand (0.18), Spencer Hawes (0.14), Vucevic (0.10) and Lavoy Allen (0.08) – all disgustingly below average for big men.

The third most common way big man score around the basket is by crashing the offensive glass and scoring off misses. Unfortunately the Sixers are a bottom five offensive rebounding team.

As it becomes more and more obvious with each Wizards and Raptors loss, the Sixers are a blatantly flawed basketball team, but a single big could fill so many holes – especially in the half-court offense. You may be saying, "Yeah, well where are we going to find that big man?" Well, not only did the Sixers pass on an obvious guy during last June's draft, but they – for whatever reason – failed to inquire about another low-risk, high-reward guy whose team was basically offering to give away at the trade deadline.

Mr. Kenneth Faried from Morehead State was selected by the Denver Nuggets six picks after the Sixers drafted Nikola Vucevic. Think back to the three glaring holes in the Sixers' offense: shot attempts at the rim, free throw rate and offensive rebounding.

Faried is attempting 4.2 shots at the rim this season – third to Al Harrington and Thaddeus Young as players off the bench. He ranks 10th in the entire league in such attempts per 40 minutes and would instantly become the Sixers best shot attempter at the basket.

As previously stated, the average free throw rate for NBA bigs is 0.33 – with the highest Sixers front court player at 0.20. Faried's FTR is 0.55, which is amongst the highest rates in the NBA.

Offensive rebounding? Faried has the second highest rate in the league at 16.2%, behind Nikola Pekovic. The highest Sixer is Nikola Vucevic at 11.0%.

Kenneth Faried has a PER of 21.9 – first among rookies – and has averaged 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds. 0.9 blocks and 0.8 steals on 60 percent shooting since becoming a starter for the potentially Playoff-bound Denver Nuggets. It's still early and the sample size is small, but it looks like the Sixers passed up on the perfect big man for their team.

J.J. Hickson also appears to be another mixed opportunity for the Sixers. Although he's been extremely mediocre throughout his career, sans a nice sophomore season with LeBron feeding him the ball, the Sixers could have easily acquired his services of a 23 year old big for nothing last month. The Kings were basically trying to give him away, before eventually releasing him.

Since parting ways with the Kings, Hickson has gone on to play extremely well for the Portland TrailBlazers. In eight games he has a PER of 22.9 and an OREB% of 10.5. He's also averaging 5.8 shot attempts at the rim (higher than any Sixer), and has a FTR of 0.33 (165% higher than any Sixers big).

Although the sample size is extremely small – having played only eight games for Portland – Hickson has sported an above average offensive rebounding percentage, free throw rate and shot-attempt-at-the-rim rate throughout his career. Because of his skill set, he's a guy the Sixers probably should've taken a closer look at. Worst case scenario, he walks either this off-season (qualifying offer) or next off-season as an unrestricted free agent.

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These are two prime examples of part of my frustration as a Sixers fan.

Questioning past draft picks, signings or non-signings is usually a very unproductive exercise, because as they say "hindsight is always 20/20". However; these two moves, in particular, were moves openly advocated here at Liberty Ballers. No, we don't know what the Sixers front office does or doesn't do on a daily basis, but more often than not, they appear to do nothing, which is a problem. Not only have they failed to commit to any sort of team-building plan over the past 10 years, the consistently let somewhat obvious (at least to us) opportunities pass them by.

The holes previously mentioned (big men who can finish, offensive rebound and get to the line) didn't just pop up today. They've been apparent since Dalembert's departure. So, the Sixers choose to pass on guys who fill a need in the draft for another finesse big – two, as a matter of fact – and don't take a flier on J.J. Hickson? How does that make any sense.

Thorn and Co. consistently fail to make easy, logical moves, let alone savvy moves. That, paired with the lack of commitment to any team-building plan, whatsoever, has Sixers fans fed up. Same story, different season.

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Just for fun, here are a few quotes from LB regarding this subject:

Final Thoughts on the Sixers Draft - Mike

Most importantly though, for the 4th straight year, the Sixers did nothing on draft day but make the one or two picks they were slated to make. No moves, no tweaks, no sign of activity to make me think they did anything during the draft except hope the one guy they wanted didn't fall during their Solitaire tournament in the War Room. This philosophical flaw in the minds of our brain trust is keeping the Sixers from maximizing their potential.

It's just frustrating to continue to put faith in a franchise that doesn't seem to know how to think creatively and on their feet when draft day comes and other teams draft circles around us.

Sixers 2011 NBA Draft Grades Compiled: "Phlegm" - Mike

I'm glad they got big men because it is certainly a need but they simply picked the wrong guys. Their decision-making is inspiring in its lack of inspiration. I know Doug Collins has a bigger basketball mind than I and Stefanski and Thorn are probably smarter people than we are as well, but that doesn't mean they made the right call.

Dust Settles: Semi-Rational Thoughts on The Sixers Draft - Mike

But it is another instance (drop in the bucket, really) where the Sixers fail to make the smart moves to squeeze every ounce of potential out of a situation and continue to settle for mediocrity.

Sixers 2011 Draft Primer Part 2: Big Men - Derek

[Faried's] offensive game in the NBA will likely be based almost solely on his ability to move without the ball, get offensive rebounds, and finish around the rim. He doesn't have terrific touch around the rim (but not horrible, either), but he has good length and is extremely quick off his feet, allowing him to get shots up before the defense is set.

This lack of athleticism, combined with struggling at times to finish through contact, makes it uncertain how well [Vucevic's] scoring around the basket and in the post will translate.

Sixers' Draft 2011: 5 Lesser Known Prospects - Jordan

His offensive game is unpolished, but he's getting to the line at an absurd rate (70.0), and he's a sick athlete.

He's basically a more athletic, better defending Reggie Evans, and I'd love to see him in a Sixers uniform. I think he'd instantly become a fan-favorite. Plus he just looks bad-ass.

The things you worry about with Faried are his competition at Morehead State and his size. 6'8'', 215 isn't ideal for an NBA power forward, but he's tough, athletic and works hard, so he should be able to maintain his defense and rebounding in the NBA. Rebounding usually translates. As far as competition goes he put up 20-18-2 against Flordia, 15-12-2 against Ohio State (Sullinger only had 8 points and 8 rebounds), along with 5 steals, and last year he had 17-7-2 and 2 steals against Cousins, Patterson and UK.

Sixers Draft 2011: Wish List Re-Visited - Jordan

Unofficial Sixers Draft Wish List - 05/15

1. Kenneth Faried
2. Chris Singleton
3. Lucas Nogueira
4. Markieff Morris
5. Tristan Thompson

NBA Trade Deadline Hypotheticals: JJ Hickson - Tanner

Hickson has been bad this season; there's no way around that. But if the Sixers acquire him for [a second rounder], is there really a downside? If he doesn't work out for them, they can let him walk next season. If he's something the front office thinks is worth holding on to, they can give him the qualifying offer thereby making him a restricted free agent. At the very least, he can provide some depth to a frontcourt that has seen Tony Battie play far too much.

There you have it. While not completely accurate, Mike, Tanner, Derek and myself all basically knew what we all know now. No one expected Faried to play this well offensively (and I'm sure he'll regress), nor did anyone expect Hickson to ball his brains out in Portland (will also regress), but we were fully aware of the assets they would've brought to the Sixers, and how the Sixers needed said assets. Yet the Sixers looked the other way.

Also, RE: Mike's comments on mediocrity/displeasure with the front office prove these problems aren't anything new. Sixers fans have been dealing with the same mediocrity and seemingly incompetent front office for a while now. We all brushed that stuff under the rug when the Sixers started 20-9 and a blast to watch, but now that they've collectively pooped their pants en route to a potentially epic collapse, we're back to square one.

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