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Dec 11 2013

Fast Do Lie: Philly’s Fun Offense Isn’t Working

(NBA.com)

(NBA.com)

At this point in the season, the tenets of Brett Brown’s offense have been well-established, and by all accounts, the Sixers have been executing fairly well given the team’s underwhelming personnel groupings.

Thus far, the rookie coach has installed a system that’s fueled the league’s fastest-paced offense (99.1 possessions per 48 minutes), produced a league-leading number of field goal attempts and the 10th-most 3-point attempts to date.

One year removed from jacking up the league’s most 16-23 footers—24 per game, according to HoopData—the Sixers’ simple, reformed and seemingly efficient offense has been a breath of fresh air.

But just how efficient has the new offense been?

Interestingly enough, the Sixers currently rank 26th in offensive rating, producing an even 100 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference. The team’s mark last season under Doug Collins? That’d be 102 points per 100 possessions, which also ranked 26th overall.

And while the Sixers are scoring nearly 10 more points per game than the plodding ’12-13 squad, there’s still plenty of work that needs to be done in the efficiency department.

The Sixers are facing an uphill climb when it comes to improving in a number of areas on the offensive end. For instance, while they are running the floor as often as offensive powerhouses like the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder, they aren’t finishing in transition the way you’d expect. The team currently ranks second-to-last in terms of efficiency in transition, mustering a shade under one point per possession in those situations, according to Synergy (subscription required). While that low number may be due in part to an increase in transition opportunities (18.3 percent of the team’s offense comes in transition, the most of any one play-type), it’s worth noting that last year’s Sixers scored 1.08 points per possession in transition. This year they’re managing just 0.99 points per possession in similar situations.

There are other areas in need of improvement as well.

According to Synergy, the Sixers rank 22nd in terms of points per possession produced in isolation situations (thanks, Evan Turner), and 24th in terms of ball-handler scoring in the pick-and-roll.

While some of these inefficiencies can be chalked up to a lack of talent across the board, proper execution still eludes Brown’s bunch 22 games into his inaugural campaign.

The Sixers’ offense is still very much a work in progress and for a team whose aspirations are being framed in the long-term as opposed to the short-term, that’s perfectly fine. But let’s not pretend that right now, this fun, fast-paced attack is actually running efficiently.

  • Ricki Ptakowski

    I don’t think Brown expects this team to be efficient. I think he plays this style of offense to create easier scoring opportunities. Obviously a transition offense creates more lay-ups and open looks because the defense can’t set up. This team lacks shot creators, and guys who can get to the basket in the half-court. So they have to play up-tempo and more play-ground style basketball otherwise they would be scoring in 80’s. I think once they get more talent, we will see Brown’s offense evolve.
    So while not efficient, it is still working for this group of players.

    • egoldwein

      Slab, Ricki:
      Both of these are fair points — ones that I think, you, the author and I can mostly agree on. The main point of the post is that in spite of the Sixers’ high PPG, the offense isn’t efficient and it isn’t helping them win games. Not that winning games is the goal. And not that any offensive style could help this personnel win games.

      Personally, I’d be interested to see if they’d gain any efficiency by slowing it down and maintaining the 3-point heavy attack. Doubt they would.

    • egoldwein

      Also, Ricki: the transition efficiency numbers suggest that it’s not necessarily working for this group of players. Again, not that this isn’t the best option, given everything (inflating trade value, improving condition, the Goliath strategy http://hoop76.com/sixers-surprising-goliath-strategy/ ) But we don’t know if they’d be any less/more efficient with a slower offense. They can’t get much worse as is.

  • Slab

    This offense is also providing a way to showcase the talent for trades- producing numbers for Turner, Hawes, and Young, as well as lots of film for coaches to look at. Lots of possessions to coach so the young guys get more coaching than if the offense stood around in half court until the shot clock wound down. In addition, it should lend itself to improved player conditioning.