When the Sixers first acquired Isaiah Canaan before the 2015 NBA trade deadline, we checked in with Ethan Rothstein of The Dream Shake to get to know him a little better. He had this to say about Lil' Sip:
He's not big enough or a good enough passer to hand over the keys to an offense, and is a willing but below-average defender. His upside is like a Norris Cole type, but a better shooter/worse ball-handler.
After watching him play around 25 minutes a night for the past year and a half, I now know nothing has ever had as much veracity as that miniature scouting report.
Philadelphia made Canaan the de facto point guard at the start of the 2015-16 regular season because of Kendall Marshall's slower than expected recovery from a torn ACL, and it was an unmitigated disaster. The ball constantly stayed glued to Canaan's mitts, resulting in poor movement and a ton of long, isolated three-point attempts by the 24-year-old. It came as little surprise that when Philadelphia went out and acquired Ish Smith to take over the reins as starting point guar, the team's offensive production immediately surged.
With Smith's return to the franchise and T.J. McConnell's surprisingly solid play, Brett Brown opted to move Canaan over to shooting guard to better showcase the one thing he does well: shoot threes. The move certainly paid more dividends than having him run the point.
Canaan finished the season shooting 36.3% from beyond the arc, and 40.1% in catch-and-shoot situations on nearly four attempts per game. Those numbers are really solid, and with the NBA becoming more reliant on perimeter shooting, his knack for threes could be enough to land him a roster spot. It's everything else about his game that makes him almost unplayable on a legitimate NBA team.
Other than his aforementioned distribution woes, he is incredibly ineffective off the dribble. His handles are sloppy, and most shots he takes around the rim are so wild because he can barely keep the ball under his dribble. It's a large part of the reason why 67 percent of his shots are from beyond the arc, and the few shots he takes from inside the three-point line are so ineffective. His shot chart (courtesy of NBASavant) is ugly.
There's also the issue of playing someone built like a point guard defending much more sizable shooting guards. With Canaan standing at just 6' 1" and the average shooting guard being somewhere around 6' 5", that presents an immediate mismatch which has certainly highlighted by opponents. It would be fine if Canaan had actually shown an ability to defend well at all, but he really hasn't. He has a tendency to look lost, especially chasing his man off the ball, and he struggles to move laterally. If Philadelphia finds a Michael Carter-Williams-like point guard this offseason (in terms of height), they could consider having Canaan defend ball handlers, but his lack of speed and agility will hurt him. He's just one of those guys that's impossible to hide on that end of the floor.
I'm swiping left on Isaiah Canaan. He's a one-trick pony, and although that one trick is super important in today's NBA, every other facet of his game is so poor that he struggles to contribute to the Sixers in a positive manner.
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