I'd like to preface this rant by saying I am, by no means, off the bandwagon. The team is too good at defense, too solid against lesser teams, and too historically thrifty at not turning the ball over that jumping off now would be irrational and short-sighted. But there's no doubt about it, the Sixers have been awful since beating the Lakers two weeks ago. I'm allowed to be worried, as all of you are.
As the team now stands, they still can't be considered one of the few teams capable of winning a championship. They're just not there yet. And that's OK! Because erstwhile dreams of tanking for draft picks and expiring contracts are no longer within the realm of possibility and neither are they desirable. The past ten years taught us that winning to stay mediocre netted no big free agents nor a loyal fanbase. But what's past is prologue, and Collins has gotten them way past mediocre.
Long term, this team will be fine. They're one big free agent piece away from becoming the powerhouse they can be and that hasn't changed in the past two weeks of bad basketball. My ass is firmly planted on the top deck of the Sixers double-decker bandwagon Knight Bus and I won't be getting off in Abergavenny with Madam Marsh.
On that note, excuse me while I whip this out.
If you've been wondering why we always hate on the long two-point jump shot, it's because it is the worst shot in basketball. It still only counts for two points (while one step back would be worth three), and it's the furthest away from the basket, giving it that much less of a chance of going in. The league average for shots at the rim is 62.6%. This doesn't count the trips to the line due to bumping uglies down low, nor does it reference the turnovers as a result of driving the basketball. Average for two-point shots outside of three feet? 37.6%. Three-point shots have an eFG of 51.8%. Again, this is league average - not just for the Sixers.
What conclusions can we draw from this? Teams should focus on either: A) Take shots at the rim and either get fouled or make easy layups; or, B) Take three-pointers because they are, by definition, worth three points. This isn't to say that any jump shot from 4-22 feet should be strictly forbidden, because if you're open and it's the best shot available, take the damn shot. But settling for mid-range or long two's is exactly that: Settling. And if it's a major part of a team's philosophy, they're destined to falter.
So, the Sixers. Doug Collins is a defensive-minded gent, and he knows everything I've written in the last two paragraphs. He knows it. Whether he acknowledges it is an entirely different matter. The Sixers average 19.1 shots per game at the rim, five shots LESS than league average. Conversely, the Denver Nuggets, a similar team to the superstar-starved Sixers and one with better jump-shooters, leads the league with an astounding 32.8 shots at the rim. Unsurprisingly, the Nugs lead the league with a 35.8% free throw rate. The Sixers, as we've told you, are in the historically low percentile for FTR, currently at 23.1%.
There's no reason for the Sixers to take as many outside shots as they do. None. While, through the first third of the season, Lou, Jrue, and Dre were making shots at an astronomically high rate, there shouldn't have been any doubt as to how quickly those numbers will fall. And they have considerably. All three of them are shooting far below their season average in the month of February. The simple fact is, while they are average shooters, slumps happen, and when they happen, they happen hard. The only way around that is to take the ball to the basket, get easy shots, and get to the damn foul line.
Collins knows his team isn't comprised of the best shooters. They're passable, they're playing over their head, sum of the parts, etc. But the one thing stopping him from telling his guys to, hey, take the ball to the freaking rim, is his love affair with not turning the ball over. Collins practically climaxes to the low turnover totals after every game. And it's great! That's phenomenal how well they're taking care of the ball. Turnovers, by nature, lower the amount of shots you can take and give you less opportunities to score points - I get it.
But if not turning the ball over is coming at the expense of, I don't know, TAKING A GOOD SHOT, then it's not worth it. A Louis Williams 28-footer four seconds into the shot clock is a turnover. An Andre Iguodala contested fadeaway jumper is basically a turnover. Every time Jrue Holiday decides he doesn't want to use his ample ability to get to the rim, it's a turnover. Missed shots, especially for THE WORST offensive rebounding team in the league, are going the other way, just as a turnover would.
I'm not suggesting that they Jeremy Lin it, driving excessively and recklessly turning it over 9 times each. But there IS a happy medium between being obnoxiously conservative with the ball and pissing it down the defender's pants. And if Collins doesn't light a fire under somebody's ass - it doesn't seem like he's going to - then they're going to lose to decent teams and it'll be painful to watch them do it to themselves.
I strongly urge you to stay with me on board because the Sixers are exactly who we thought they were. A very good team with too many holes to contend against the top tier. If this season ends in a 2nd round playoff 7-game exit and a big-time free agent comes in the offseason, 2012 will have been a success. And again, that's fine.
But down the road, Collins will have to get his shit together and understand the same things he preaches on defense apply on offense as well. The team who takes the ball to the basket wins more often than not. Our collective feet are extremely bloody from all of the gunshot wounds.