Brown on back-and-forth offense: 'It's fools gold'
The Sixers' up-tempo pace is great for soon-to-be free agents like Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, but its also causing Brett Brown's team a lot of issues on defense. (USA Today Images)
Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thad Young are having career seasons across the stat sheet. For Turner and Hawes, who will likely be free agents next summer, the elevated stats have come at the perfect time in their careers.
But those three aren't the only Sixers posting big-time numbers.
Rookie Michael Carter-Williams leads the NBA in steals per game with 3.13 and could become just the second player in league history to average at least 17 points, 7.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game, along with Magic Johnson (in 37 games) in 1980-81.
Tony Wroten, a 20-year old cast-off from Memphis, is averaging 18.9 points in 10 games as a starter and a solid 10 points in 20 minutes in 13 games off the bench.
James Anderson, a player waived by three teams since last October, is averaging 30 minutes per game and scored a team-high 36 points in the Nov. 13 victory over Houston.
Needless to say, the Sixers’ pace is clearly the reason for those enhanced numbers. Brett Brown's team gets nearly 100 possessions per game, a rate surpassed just once (Golden State in 2009-10) since the 1993-94 season. That means the Sixers are getting many more chances to make the stats on the back of those basketball cards look nice.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt for guys like Hawes and Turner to have those numbers when contract time comes around.
“The biggest thing is minutes. That’s what people always say,” Hawes said. “Having the continued opportunity and the trust of the coaching staff and the players pays dividends.”
There’s plenty of risk, too. The Sixers have learned that the hard way. The quick pace has helped the opposition to score 110.4 points per game, which is the highest rate in the NBA since the 2009-10 season and the fourth-most in the league since 1992-93.
The Sixers also have allowed 15 three-pointers in a game five times this season, which is tied for the NBA record. According to Brown, the three-pointers are a result of the Sixers’ pace, since so many of them have come in transition.
So while the Sixers’ offense looks good on paper, it’s been tough on the defense. Could it be that the Sixers’ style is hurting more than it’s helping?
“That’s definitely a question that has been asked a bunch of times, and it definitely can hurt us sometimes,” Young said. “By pushing the ball up and down the court, we get teams in one of those matches where we’re just going back and forth and back and forth. It can work against us and hurt us some because when we’re pushing the ball down their throat, [but] they can do the same thing to us, and sometimes it gets us out of defensive position and it’s just a rat race going up and down.”
Meanwhile, there is another piece of the puzzle that seems to work against the Sixers' up-tempo style. That’s their youth. With no active players over the age of 25, the Sixers are the youngest team in the NBA by a lot, and there seems to be a link between youth and turnovers.
The Sixers lead the NBA in giveaways with 17.9 per game. From those turnovers, the opposition gets 19.3 points per game.
Regardless, don’t expect the Sixers to slow things down. The way Brown sees it, the Sixers have to keep running in order to have a chance.
“It has to be the way that we play at times,” Brown said. “It scares the heck out of you because you turn it over a lot. We’ve said it and it’s going to happen and I am prepared to live with some of that now. Hopefully, we can get a little smarter on kick-aheads and some of those passes that we are throwing long. But pace has to be our identity.”