Much of the Sixers success this season should be attributed to Coach Collins. He is directly responsible for the team unity and mental toughness that the squad displayed throughout much of the regular season and post season. Collins guided a team with extremely low preseason expectations to within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals; a place the Sixers haven’t even sniffed since the 2001 season.
This feat is especially impressive considering the team’s collective age, playoff experience, and lack of a true superstar and / or scorer, a usual prerequisite to playoff success. However with that being said, after seeing flashes of the team’s potential throughout the playoffs, one can’t help but wonder if Coach Collins could have done more with his team.
While NOT having a true shooter / scorer hurt the team throughout the season and was a big factor in their eventual playoff downfall (We have chronicled this here at Philadunkia extensively.), as the team struggled through one poor shooting performance after another, Collins’ coaching may have had an impact on their exit as well.
It is no secret that this Sixers squad performs best when on the move. They were not one of the League’s better half court teams for several reasons, including the lack of a true post threat or dominant perimeter scorer. Thus their success stemmed from the defensive end and their ability to run the basketball. Knowing this, one would think Coach Collins would encourage the team to break at any given opportunity. However he all too often relied upon a slow-tempo, perimeter oriented half-court style, that didn’t play to the Sixers’ strengths, and put them at a strong disadvantage against teams with more talented post and perimeter players. Very often this style resulted in missed jump shots and poor possessions. In short while the Sixers defensive strategy was sound (Thank you Michael curry.), the offense was too conservative, especially at times in the playoffs and Collins should have done a better job been opening it up.
Collins stubbornness with roster decisions played a role in some of the issues that plagued the Sixers this season as well. He stuck with underperforming Jodie Meeks for entirely too long, all the way into the playoffs, damaging Evan Turner’s development along the way. Aside from a brief stint during the regular season, it took Collins a game into the Chicago series to finally commit to the obviously superior Turner as a starter. It was frustrating to watch Turner’s minutes fluctuate throughout the season, especially considering those minutes could have been dedicated to his development and were instead given to a one-dimensional streaky shooter who is a borderline NBA player and is not tied to the future of the franchise. Who knows, if Turner had been given consistent tick (read: starter’s minutes) throughout the season he might have gained confidence in his skills or added some elements to his game which in turn could have served as a catalyst to help the Sixers past the Celtics. The mishandling of the Meeks-Turner situation by Collins was just one example of his poor roster management this season. Similar situations occurred with Lavoy and “Big Nik” and the inconsistencies in their playing time throughout the season. Also there is that issue where the Sixers traded for Sam Young and then did not play him at all.
Lastly, as the team’s de facto GM, Collins also had a let this team down in 2012-13. The Sixers have had a glaring need for a shooter-scorer for two seasons now. Collins and Rod Thorn failed to address that issue during the lockout shortened off-season last year. Then at the 2012 trade deadline, they again were unable to get a trade done to improve the team in this area. It was clear that the team needed a shorter-scorer as well as a post presence on both ends of the floor, and had an abundance of guards. One would think that maybe a deal could have been made at this season’s deadline to address at least one of these warts.
This season will be considered an overwhelming success for both Collins and the Sixers, and the coach is well deserving of the credit he is receiving. But, it would have been unfair to turn a blind eye to some of the mistakes Collins made this year. It would have been interesting to see how well the team would have done had Doug been able to adapt or make a move or change his ways in the areas mentioned above. Who knows, maybe they Sixers would be headed to Miami for Game 7 right now.