Canaan Ball Free Zone

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando MagicEveryone sitting close to the pool’s edge can breathe a sigh of relief.  It’s a good bet that there won’t be any Canaanballs for the 76ers in 2015-16.

Last week, Head Coach Brett Brown revealed that trade deadline acquisition Isiah Canaan would miss the remainder of the season with a foot sprain (He missed 6 games total because of the injury).  The 23-year-old guard only has a partially guaranteed contract with the team for next season, so his 18 points (7-12 on FGAs) and 6 assists outing against the Wizards on April 1st may have been the last time Canaan wears the Sixers unfiorm.

If you recall, Canaan, who was acquired on trade deadline day in the deal that sent K.J. McDaniels to Houston, appeared in 22 games for the Sixers this season, cracking the starting rotation in 12 of them.  He averaged 12.6 points and 3.1 assists per game over that span, while shooting 37% from the field and playing 26 minutes per game.

 

His biggest asset to the team was his outside shooting – one of the main reasons he was brought in initially.  Canaan buried 59 triples in his quarter-season stint with the Sixers, and provided the team with a legitimate long-range option.  He shot a pedestrian 36% from beyond the arc during his stint with the Sixers, but his presence at the point was a stark contrast to the previous play of Michael Carter-Williams, who converted only 32 three’s in 41 games with the Sixers this season.  Canaan’s ability to shoot the ball helped to space the floor and open up the rest of the offense.

Unfortunately for Isaiah however, outside of his shooting ability, he did not bring much else to the Sixers in the form of a potentially elite skill set, and as he enters the offseason without a guaranteed contract, you have to wonder if we have seen the last of Isiah Canaan as a Sixer.

As a point guard Canaan struggled at times to initiate the offense, and would often settle for a perimeter swing pass rather than trying to create open looks through paint penetration; a method that worked well in the Sixers system for both Michael Carter-Williams before him, and Ish Smith.  As a result, Canaan’s 3.1-assist per game average is noticeably low for someone charged with running an offense.  As a comparison point, Ish Smith, who was brought in right around the same time as Canaan was acquired, has averaged 6.1 assists per game while seeing similar court time (27 mpg for Smith, 26 for Canaan).

During his time with the Sixers this season, Smith has posted an assist percentage of 44. Canaan’s? 22%. Smith’s ability to break down a defense through paint penetration and then find an open guy as a result of his action allowed him to have more success running the offense.

In reality, with his style of play, Canaan might be better suited as an off guard. (Or if he and Ish could be combined into a single point guard with both of their skill sets that could work too).  However, his size – he is generously listed at six feet, but he’s probably closer to 5’10’’ (he is shorter than I am, confirmed in an interview) – and the difficulty he sometimes experiences in taking the ball to the basket, may make such a shift in position difficult.  It is safe to say that he is not Allen Iverson in his ability to take the rock to the rack. Not to mention that for a shooter, Canaan doesn’t convert at the highest clip: 37% from the field with the Sixers, only 40% on two-point attempts.

Once Joel Embiid hits the hardwood and is paired with a rapidly-developing Nerlens Noel in the paint, floor spacing and the ability to shoot from distance will become increasingly important for the Sixers, and providing a long-range threat is certainly one thing that Canaan can do.  At this point however, you have to wonder if Canaan displayed enough of an all-around skill set for the Sixers to consider bringing him back for the future.

 

 

Michael Kaskey-Blomain is a scribe for Philadunkia.  You can follow him on Twitter @therealmikeKB.

You can follow us on Twitter @philadunkia.

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