The ability to develop players is one of the best qualities new 76ers head coach Brett Brown brings to the table. Whether or not he can lead men in the NBA is still to be determined.
In July 2002, Brett Brown was hired by R.C Buford to be the head of player development for the Spurs. During this stint, he was widely credited for helping develop Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker into elite NBA players. Now Brown will be assigned the challenge of developing the 76ers young and inexperienced roster.
“I think there are pieces there that we can build around…I really look forward to seeing the young guys that we are going to try and bring along,” Brown said at his introductory press conference.
However the development of the players on the 76ers roster will be much more challenging for Brown then what he experienced in San Antonio. So the question is, “Can he do it again?”
When Brown arrived to San Antonio in the summer of 2002, Parker had just finished his first year with the Spurs and Ginobli was about to make his debut. Parker consequentially improved his his scoring average during that 2nd season from 9.2 ppg. to 15.5 points per night and showed signs of becoming one of the best lead guards in the League. In his debut season Ginobli had an average of 7.6 PPG. That number improved to 12.8 in his second season and 16.0 the following year. Along the way, Manu developed into a feared scoring wing. These are extremely solid results and according to everyone associated with the Spurs, Brown had a large part in the progress of these players.
That evidence would suggest that we have our own “Hoops Doctor” here in the Philadunkia Nation and that Brown could be a perfect fit for developing this roster. Still there is one red flag that should make 76ers fans skeptical as to whether or not Brown can help develop the Sixers’ young kids into players of elite NBA caliber. That red flag comes in the fact that Ginobli and Parker were already very established professional players before they joined the Spurs and began their development under watchful eye of coach Brown.
When you consider the development of Manu and Parker under Brown, you must remember that both players had very successful European careers before joining the NBA. Ginobli averaged 15.5 PPG, 4 RPG and 2.7 SPG during his time in Europe and won the MVP twice in the Italian league. Parker who started playing professionally at the age of 15, was also the point man on the French junior national team (U18 & U20), was named MVP of the European Championship twice and averaged 14.7 points and 5.6 assist per game in his final season for Paris Basket Racing of the French League.
The three Sixers players that Brown will immediately be asked to maximize the potential of are rookies Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams as well as 4th year guard Evan Turner. Not one of these players is as established or skilled as Ginobli and Parker when the two Euro-leaguers began working with Brown. After short stints at the college level, Noel and Carter-Williams are still very raw basketball players. As for Turner, well he remains an enigma. In short, Brown is basically starting from ground zero with these players. So don’t be surprised if it takes longer for these three to blossom under the Sixers new head coach. In some cases (Looking at you Evan Turner.) it may not happen at all.
“We have to be patient, but we can’t misconstrue patience with mediocrity, there still has to be a standard,” Brown commented at his introductory presser.
So what are the key ingredients to developing Noel, Carter-Williams and Turner?
For Noel, it starts in rehabbing his ACL and preventing any future injuries to the big man. If Brown learned anything as an assistant coach for Popovich its how to maintain the health of your players, whether it’s leaving them out for a game here and there or not rushing a player back from injury. Brown also knows the importance of a long fruitful career over a win in the short term (there aren’t many coming). Once he is healthy, Brown will need to add a low post, half-court offensive game to Noel’s skill set.
For Carter-Williams, he is a different athlete from Parker (6’5 versus 6’2), but there are many similarities. Both point men succeed with a slashing game and are very creative in the lane. Brown has one year to basically experiment with Carter-Williams in all game situations to help improve him for the long haul. There’s no reason Brown can not develop the mid range game of MCW this year and improve his jump shot as well over the next two seasons.
Turner’s stigma is that he is an inefficient player who can not carry a scoring load (He may have to next year). He also struggles to control his emotions on the court. Turner has a career 32.9 three point percentage to go along with a 42.8 field goal percentage. The field goal percentage isn’t the worst thing in the world but Turner’s three point shooting is horrendous. If he doesn’t improve his long range shooting soon, crowds could start screaming the same thing they do when Josh Smith winds up too shoot, “NOOO”. However, if Turner buys into Browns system and develops the mental toughness that the NBA and Philadelphia demands, he could be a more efficient player for it and maybe make himself a permanent fixture for the 76ers.
Nothing is guaranteed especially when you are dealing with the development of young NBA players who have “potential”, but Philadunkia nation could start to see drastic improvements in all three players in year two. Brown has the pedigree and the resume coming into his first stint as an NBA head coach to make a it happen. So while skepticism is always available in any situation, now isn’t the time to doubt Brown, it’s time to buy in and trust the plan being implemented by both himself and GM Sam Hinkie. With any luck Brown will squeeze the maximum juice out of Noel, MCW and Turner as well as Andrew Wiggins in 2014 and have this team playing the best it possibly can within three to four years.
Still, given the hand Brown has been dealt, the development process for the Sixers roster could be much longer and more difficult then what occurred in San Antonio, because as the new head coach of the 76ers warned in his press conference, “There is so much work that needs to be done.”