That classic sports quote has interesting applications inside the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers locker room. Obviously the Sixers love offense, but they do not want to win very many games during the season of the “double tank”.
However, Sam Hinkie and Brett Brown are looking to foster a winning culture with long term NBA championship aspirations during this rebuilding process and that will be difficult to achieve as the L’s pile up. One way the Sixers’ brass can promote this culture in 2014-15 is to start stressing better play at the defensive end of the floor.
It’s no secret that last year the Sixers struggled on both sides of the ball, but they were especially horrid on defense in 2013-14. Brown & Co. were ranked last in the League in opponents points per game with an average of 109 points scored against them each night. Teams also averaged 47% shooting from the field and 37% from three against a Sixers defense that could not guard the perimeter.
With Thad, Hawes and Turner now playing elsewhere, the team is facing another season where they will struggle to score points. Thus if they hope to remain competitive (at least) in games during 2014-15, defense must be a priority this year. A strong defensive team often starts with a unit that has energy, passion and chemistry. That is what the Sixers have on this young roster and the coaches and front office should be focused on teaching this group in October and throughout the 2014-2015 season.
Head coach Brett Brown must instill in his young players that defense is a priority. The team must consistently get better on the defensive side of the ball in order at having any offensive production to start winning games. According to mySynergySports, the 76ers had the third worst transition defense in the League during 2013-14. A glaring issue is that he Sixers allowed the most fast break points of any team in the NBA last season. They have a great deal of speed on this roster, but often times the Sixers don’t stop the ball, or get lost running back on defense, causing confusion and defensive breakdowns. It also didn’t help the transition defense that the 76ers owned the highest turnover average in the League at a little less than 16 per night (So that needs to be addressed as well.). In short, transition points absolutely demolished the 7-6 defense last season, as they allowed opponents to score 18ppg. off fast break points. Stopping the fast break needs to be a focal point for Brown this month.
The Sixers also struggled on the perimeter defensively. They ranked towards the bottom of the League in opponent’s field goal percentage (47.1% — 28th) and they allowed the second most three-pointers per game (9 per game). Lastly, MCW and Wroten struggled to keep primary ball handlers in front of them and that allowed opponents to shot above fifty percent from the field on many nights.
If Hinkie and Brown change their attitude towards defense and make a real effort to teach this team how to play solid NBA defense, we should see an improvement at that end of the floor in 2014-15. The presence of Nerlens Noel and KJ McDaniels (ACC Defensive POY) should also provide an upswing on defense this season for the 7-6. Still, those two items will not be enough to see a great improvement on defense and I believe bringing in a defensive guru to assist Brown wouldn’t be a bad idea for this young team.
My first suggestion to help out the team defensively is former San Antonio Spurs stand out Bruce Bowen. Bowen was an excellent defensive player during his long career (5x 1st Team NBA All-Defensive selection) and could teach this team defensive strategies and tactics he learned from his time with the Spurs organization which is often called the Pinnacle of basketball knowledge. Bowen, who in his day frequently guarded the League’s elite scorers, certainly could instruct the Sixers young guards and wing players on how to play tough defense on the perimeter.
Additionally, Bowen and Brown are both familiar with the “San Antonio Way” and should be able to use Noel and Embiid defensively like the Spurs used legends Tim Duncan and David Robinson. It’s hard to use two big guys playing the 4 and 5 slots now a day, but rim protection on the defensive side of the ball is a place where the Sixers really struggled last year. Whether Embiid plays this season its something that Brown should be thinking about especially with his experience with Robinson and Duncan in San Antonio.
My second suggestion to help the team defensively would be noted defensive X&O coach Lawrence Frank, but Frank just signed on as an assistant coach with LA Clippers. So with Frank unavailable, I’d like to suggest former 76er assistant coach Michael Curry. Yes, I realize that Curry is currently the coach at FAU and that there may be some bad blood between the current ownership group and Curry after the way his departure from the franchise was handled, but those are minor details that can be worked out. Curry, who played for Doug Collins during his time in Detroit, is widely considered a very good defensive coach and was the architect of some great 76er defensive units during the late 2000’s.
Hinkie and Brown will most likely not take any of this advice, which is a shame, because the easiest way for this franchise to take a step forward during 2014-15 — in the creating a winning culture department and possibly the win column — is to improve every aspect of the 76ers defense.
Tyler Cook is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @ .
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