Through ten games, the Sixers sit at a happy 6-4, all things told. The offense has been mostly putrid (28th in the league), the defense has been mostly fantastic (2nd in the NBA) and some players have jumped out more than others. While our eyes tell us something, they don't tell us everything, so I've pored over some numbers to identify five of the most intriguing stats this season. Strap on your sample size pants and dive in.
Jrue Holiday in Isolation
The biggest issue people had with this team coming into the season was their inability to create shots for themselves. Especially without Andrew Bynum, the team was going to struggle as much as last season's squad to score in the half-court. Losing Lou Williams certainly made them, on paper, a more offensively challenged club. But that's where Jrue had to step up.
In looking at Jrue's play in iso situations, Synergy gave me all the instances in which a particular possession ended in a field goal or a turnover. Offensively, he's been dynamite. I use the word dynamite because it's criminally underused but also because it's necessary. Of all qualified players, Jrue's 1.28 Points Per Possession (PPP) in isolation is good enough for best in the league. The best. In. The League. Almost twice as good as Lou's 0.65 PPP. BOSS.
Defensively is an even bigger joke. Jrue's only gottem challenged in an iso 22 times this season, but his opponents are putting up a putrid 0.41 PPP (on 22.2% shooting) under those circumstances.
Jrue's shot creation (and 48.5% shooting from beyond the arc) has opened things up for himself and his teammates. Opponents have to scheme for him and he's done just fine using his teammates when he's trapped or double-teamed. The Sixers would be much, much worse without Jrue's success in isolation.
Thaddeus Young on the Glass
Our biggest gripe with Thad has been his inability to excel at anything other than scoring 2-point buckets. His rebounding rate had been putrid, his defense spotty, and his jumper was appalling. This season? Not so.
Thad is posting career highs in defensive rebound percentage (17.5% versus his career average of 13.1% is still not excellent, but we'll happily take it next to the alternative) and spot up shooting (46% compared to last year's 42.9%). He's still a cutter to the core, which puts him at a bit of a disadvantage without a major post threat to feed him the ball, but he's still cutting with efficiency, averaging an astonishing 1.45 PPP on the 22 attempts this season.
He's still going to be eminently more valuable when the big guy gets back, but boosting his rebounding numbers has certainly helped his cause even without him. From an on/off-court perspective, he's easily been the Sixers most important player.
The Damned Dribble Hand Off
Rich brought it to my attention last night, so I took a harder look at the Sixers success with the hand off. It's a favorite of theirs to use. Sort of a pick and roll with the option for the big to keep it themselves. Theoretically, not a bad plan. But because the Sixers bigs don't do a great job setting the screen and the guards don't do well using them, it hasn't been worthwhile so far.
Last season, the team shot 37.7% on hand off's, which encompassed 4.9% of their plays. Not a huge chunk, but one that's not ideal in returning to. This year, it's been used 6.5% of the time and the percentage has dropped further, this one to 32.7%, good for 0.64 PPP. I'd probably limit the hand offs to Spencer Hawes (who can pass or hit a jumper out of it) and set down screens simultaneously so other options present themselves away from the ball.
Holy Three-Point Shooting
The Sixers may not have the best offense in the league, but it sure as hell isn't because they aren't hitting from deep. The acquisitions of Jason Richardson, Nick Young, and Dorell Wright, in addition to the success of Turner and Hawes and Jrue's continued awesomeness, have launched the Sixers into the upper tier of three-point shooting at a 40% clip.
And that's all with Dorell shooting much worse than he normally does AND the non-existent franchise center in the middle. This team will be able to cook if it ever gets the chance to do so. A bit more prudence on two point shots (with the elusive foul call thrown in there, please) would do well for boosting offensive efficiency.
The Doug Collins Lineup Shuffle
Doug gets feelings. It's not about the X's and O's, he says, but about managing people. So he'll throw people in and out of his doghouse at will depending on his feelings. Dorell Wright's minutes have dropped lately. We're not sure why. Especially since the best lineups for the Sixers this season have been with Dorell involved.
According to 82games, the Holiday/Turner/Wright/Thad/Hawes lineup has played the most minutes together, combining for a +4. The most successful lineup with at least 20 minutes together subs Nick Young in for Turner: Holiday/Swag/Wright/Thad/Hawes. Lots of shooters, cutters, movers, and fluidity there. Also: Swag.
No telling where the lineup shifts will happen down the road, but Doug's benching of Dorell doesn't jive with what has gotten the Sixers to 6-4, so I wouldn't assume this is a permanent change for Wright.