Sixers training camp wrapped up this weekend and tomorrow we'll finally get to see them in action vs. the Nets. The big news of the weekend was Doug Collins saying that he would not use Thaddeus Young at power forward this season, only small forward. Whether he keeps his word or not remains to be seen, but I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt, for now. Playing Thaddeus at small forward has a few implications.
It will help the defensive rebounding when he's on the floor. We all know Sam Dalembert was a top 3 defensive rebounder last year, and losing him will hurt the Sixers tremendously. In order to hold their own on the boards they're going to have to piece together lineups where each player is a decent defensive rebounder at his position, and rebound by committee. Obviously that's not ideal, but it's the hand we were dealt after the trade. Playing Thaddeus Young at the four would do nothing but magnify the weakness. His career DREB% is 12.4, which would've ranked him 106 overall among 6'8'' or taller players who played at least 1,000 minutes last season. Pairing him with average rebounders like Speights and Hawes in the frontcourt may have made the Sixers the worst defensive rebounding team in the league.
It also creates a massive logjam at three positions. Jrue Holdiay, Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, Evan Turner, Jodie Meeks, Thaddeus Young, Andres Nocioni and Jason Kapono are going to have to split 144 minutes. Holiday and Iguodala alone warrant 75 minutes, which leaves 69 minutes for 6 players. If I had to guess I'd say Meeks is the odd man out and Nocioni gets a few minutes at power forward. Unlike Thad, he's a decent enough rebounder to get away with playing the four. Even then you're left with 60-65 minutes for Lou, Turner, Thaddeus and Kapono. Trying to predict how it's going to play out makes my head hurt, so we'll take the wait and see approach. Point is, someone may be unhappy with their playing time.
All things considered, I like the idea. I've always thought Thaddeus was better off at the three and the move all but eliminates his biggest weakness. Although awful for a power forward, his rebounding is adequate for small forward. And from what I've read it sounds like Collins isn't asking Thaddeus to do anything on offense that is beyond his skillset i.e. creating off the dribble. That's what coaching is all about, putting your players in position to succeed.
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"Absolutely," said Collins when asked if Quinn had a chance to make the roster. "We have the option of keeping a 15th guy. Before we made the trade to get Songaila and Brackins, we were looking at a possible 15th guy being a young big guy we can develop. So now we're looking at our roster and we lose Willie and we're looking at a third point guard. If CG continues to do what he does, now you go and you fight and say, ‘Look, we need to keep this guy,' ... You have to have some insurance at that third backup position."
"I'm not going to do that right now because I want [Thaddeus] to think as a three," Collins explained. "I told our big guys, 'I do not want to have to go to a small lineup right now so you have to rebound and defend your position so you don't make me want to tinker around and do that.'"
The anti-Princeton ...
A general observation about the offense: it's simple and allows the players to make their own reads. At no point during the scrimmage did you see a guy out past the three-point line, stuck, unable to initiate the offense. There were a few occasions when a team had to settle for a bad shot (I remember Hawes having to take a long three), but for the most part each team was creating things offensively, which is good for a team with so many creative offensive players.
Holiday/Turner not clicking ...
Back to the aforementioned backcourt of Holiday/Turner. In theory, this combo is exciting. But so far, it's just not happening out there on the court ... Set after set, we watched Holiday run the point and watched Turner try to get himself open off the cluster screen. He wasn't getting open. And when you consider that waiting for a fruitless cut turns the play clock from 18 seconds (we have time for anything) to 12 seconds (we better get going), it becomes an issue.
On Hawes ...
It was in transition and it was just Turner and Hawes. And Hawes just absolutely tomahawk slammed the ball on Turner. Turner kind of turned and shrugged like, ‘Wow, what can you do?' Hawes let out a roar. But for the remainder of the scrimmage, Hawes was relatively absent.
On Meeks ...
Meeks shot the ball well. He made two long three pointers. He's looking more and more like a guy who has to play at least a few minutes every game. He plays aggressively on defense, too, and seems to be able to stay in front of whomever he's guarding.
On Brackins ...
The jury is still out on what Brackins' impact might be this season. He can definitely spread defenses with his shooting touch, but he just doesn't play like he's 6-foot-10. He plays like he's 6-foot-6.
Cooney wonders where Turner's minutes will come from ...
So where does that leave Turner? Andre Iguodala is the starting "two" guard right now. Lou Williams will come off the bench and fill that spot for a good amount of minutes, probably moving Iguodala to the "three." Collins has said that Holiday will play "36 minutes for 82 games." That doesn't appear to leave a ton of minutes for Turner.
"Defense is all mental, so I'm good. I'm going to work every day to get better on defense and help the team out."
One of the most crucial components of the team's new offensive sets is the "cluster," which appears to be a three-man game away from the ball. Collins has been heard evoking the name of his former pupil, Michael Jordan, who ran the play to the tune of something like 25,000 points. With the Sixers, it's a three-man read between - using the starters as an example - Iguodala, Young, and Brand. Brand runs interference while Iguodala and Young make cuts off of him.
Up Next: Sixers open their pre-season tomorrow night against the Nets.