For starters, yes some more losses would be nice to aid the Sixers hopes in the Wiggins/Parker/Randle sweepstakes, because an overtime win against the Bucks is meaningless this season. But like everyone has said this team is just so much fun to watch. They put in max effort every night and credit for that has to go to coach Brett Brown and GM Sam Hinkie who found players that are hungry to stay in the NBA. But I am still under the assumption that this team will lose plenty of games especially once some combination of Hawes, Turner, and Young are traded away for more future assets. Maybe if they have 25 wins at the half way mark I’ll begin to worry a bit. Until then though I’m not going concern myself with wins. This team is thin, like wimpy Michael Cera thin. Just last week they picked up two players of the street (Elliot Williams & Lorenzo Brown) and a few hours later had them in that night’s game against the Raptors. Credit Hinkie though for being relentless in his pursuit of unearthing talent, whether it’s buried on an NBA depth chart or playing in a YMCA rec league in Des Moines, Iowa.
Beyond The Arc
The Sixers defense against the 3 point shot this season has been horrific. To use a terrible metaphor the Sixers are all the people that told Noah to fuck off, and the rest of the league is all of the animals that gravitated to Noah’s arc. Rich Hoffman commented on the 3 point defense after the loss to the Raptors here, which I encourage you to read. Exacerbating the issue for the Sixers is their inability to knock down three point shots with any consistency. As of writing this the Sixers second best 3 point shooter this season is Darius Morris, who is no longer on the team. Hawes of course has been great, making an unheard of 49% of his threes. The rest of the regulars though are lagging behind. MCW is just below the league average at 36%, James Anderson is at a “meh” 34.7%, Thad is converting exactly one third of the time, Tony Wroten continues to heave despite hitting only 20%, and The Villian is shooting a ghastly 15.7% behind the three point line. Couple that with the poor rotation the Sixers display on defense and it has led to the Sixers having a league worst -65 3 point differential. That’s 195 points right there. The difference between the Sixers and the team (the Grizzlies) with the second worst 3 point differential is 26. That margin is equal to the one between the Grizzlies and the team with the 11th worst 3 point differential, the Bushwick Nets of the NBDL. When the Sixers play the Trailblazers, who have the league’s best differential at +72, in 3 weeks holy shit that could be the equivalent of the Red Wedding for the 76ers. Part of the reason for the Sixers deficiency is by design. As bad as they have been defending the three they’ve been good at denying points in the paint. They currently allow the 11th fewest points per game in the paint, but when you account for the number of possessions in a typical Sixers game by looking at the league per 100 possessions the Sixers jump to 4th behind defense juggernauts Indiana and Chicago. The 3rd team to my surprise is the Charlotte Bobcats. So while some of the blame can be put on the players for being caught flat-footed in rotation, Brett Brown has decided he can live with teams attempting more outside shots, while packing the paint defensively.
A big part of the reason the Sixers have been so much fun to watch is newcomer Tony Wroten. He can’t shoot at all right now. He makes a healthy number of mistakes for a young player, but there are two things you can’t question with regard to Mr. Wroten. First is his effort. When a truly incredible athlete puts in max effort it can be breathtaking to watch at times. Tony’s other strong trait is his story telling. The Team W.H.O.P. (We Handle Our Problems) videos are great. Sadly two members of the rap team, Vander Blue and Khalif Wyatt, are gone leaving only Wroten and MCW to carry the load. Please watch the videos here. Another part of Tony Wroten’s game worth mentioning is that he’s clearly listening to the coaching staff and playing his game within the offense. Yes he does shoot a good amount of 3 pointers for not being a very good shooter, but you only get better with practice and in game practice is even better. To better illustrate what I mean about Tony clearly listening to coach Brown take a look at his shot chart. It’s well known the the Sixers under Hinkie are following a similar game plan to the Rockets in that they want to minimize the number of long two point shots taken. As you can see from Wroten’s shot chart he’s adhered to this rule as much as anyone on the team. He’s taken only two shots from the 16-24 foot range all season. It sounds like a minor detail, but having everyone on the same page from ownership, to the GM, to the coach, to the players is big when trying to develop a winning culture.
If he can develop a corner 3 Wroten could be a big part of the Sixers reclamation project. The effort on the defensive end and his ability to beat his man to the rim are already there. Tony Wroten shirsey is on the Xmas list. Before moving on please enjoy these Tony Wroten effort plays.
Keeping pace with and blocking Derrick Rose
Steal and dunk against the Cavs
MCW Doesn’t Go Right
I sent this graph of MCW’s shot chart to my buddy Tanner asking what he thought of it. Whether MCW’s continually goes left because of that is his comfort zone of if it is because that is what he is supposed to do within the offense. Tanner’s conclusion that I agree with is that it’s probably a bit of both along with being a bit of a statistical anomaly at this point because of the small sample size. For whatever reason though MCW has had a strong aversion to going right like Johnny Drama. It could very well be nothing, but with 11 games now under his belt it’s at least worth monitoring going forward.
E.T. Go Home?
With the recent injury to Derrick Rose the Turner to Bulls trade talks ramped up within hours of the Bulls announcing Rose had torn his meniscus. The Turner trade talk is nothing new though if you follow the Sixers. So far rumors have him being lusted over by the Bulls, Cavs, Mavericks, Thunder, and Wolves. Turner has certainly played well this season since being out from under the rule of previous head coach Doug Collins. From reading the blogs and the reader posts the decision looks like a 55/45 split in favor of trading Turner.
First lets look at the positives Turner brings the Sixers. As whiney and sometimes odd Turner can be with his comments to the media and social media decisions you can’t argue that he doesn’t care what happens on the court. Turner stomps his feet at the refs and likes to give them the palms up after each time his shot is blocked, but a lot of that is a result of him giving a fuck. The rest can be attributed to immaturity. Cynics will say Turner is playing hard because it is a contract year, but I don’t buy that at all. He does act like a character from Arrested Development, but on the court Turner is all business.
Under new coach Brett Brown Turner has shown that he has bought into the new coaches scheme. As I mentioned before with regard to Wroten this is a big deal to have players that listen to the coach and don’t do their own thing when they have the ball in their hands. Turner has settled for far fewer mid-range shots this season and made a concerted effort to get to the basket. That has led to Turner currently scoring a career high 21.7 points per game this season to go along with a 45.6% field goal percentage which is also a career high. I discussed the differences in Turner’s shooting decisions earlier in the week here. Because he is driving more Turner is also getting to the line 5.7 times per game this season way up from his previous career high of 2.5. He has also taken advantage of his increased time spent at the free throw line hitting 83.5% of his FT currently which is better than all-stars Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love.
Driving to the basket has also been the strongest part of Turner’s game this season. According the the SportsVu data Turner has more points that any other player in the league on drives to the basket this season. He’s ranked 17th in number of drives to the basket per game at 7.1 (Monta Ellis drives the most with a 10.9 per game average). And of the 37 players that drive to the rim at least 5 times per game Turner ranks 5th in field goal percentage at 60%, putting him behind only Harden, Lin Parker, and James who leads everyone with an absurd 68.8%. Although we don’t have the SportsVu data for last season we can still determine that Turner is a different player finishing this season. Last year he shot 47.6% on shots within 5 feet. This year Turner is at 60.6%. That’s an Extreme Makeover size improvement. The teams spacing, actual offense, and threat of a 3 ball from center Spencer Hawes helps open driving lanes up for Turner, but he is still the one finishing around the rim. Liberty Ballers Derek Bodner did a great job breaking that down.
Rebounding has always been an area of strength for Turner. The last two season he’s averaged around 6 boards a game, which is well above average for a player from the small forward/wing position. This season though Turner is setting a new career high in rebounds per game with 6.9. That is good enough for 5th amongst NBA small forwards. This of course is somewhat added by the faster pacer the Sixers play which leads to more shots and therefore more rebounding opportunities. The aid of more opportunities aside, Turner is still an excellent rebounder. Again referring to the SportsVu data Turner grabs 59.5% of the rebounds he has a chance at. To give some more perspective Garnett leads all players averaging at least 5 rebounds per game hauling in boards 74.8% of the time he has an opportunity. That might make Turner’s percentage seem unimpressive, but he is actually doing a better job than some players known league wide for their rebounding such as Derrick Favors, Zach Randolph, and Kenneth Faried. Turner is actually tied with Indiana big man a DPOY front runnter Roy Hibbert at 59.5%. So if you are looking for a tangible way to know Turner is putting in great effort on the floor look to his rebounding.
Now for the much less fun part of this conversation, picking Turner’s game apart in order to argue why the Sixers wouldn’t want to keep him. Turner is averaging 21.7 points per game this season, good enough for the 11th best mark in the league. On the surface that looks great. Turner’s points per game average are up 8.4 for from last season, his field goal percentage is at a career high as well, and the Sixers are playing better than expected with Turner being one of the reasons why. Dig a little deeper into Evan’s numbers though and things aren’t as promising. Of the 10 players ahead of Turner in scoring only two of them are taking more shots than Turner’s 18.1 per game. Those two are LaMarcus Aldridge (20.4) and Carmelo Anthony (22.0). What this illustrates is that Turner has still not become a terribly efficient scorer despite the improvements.
Another part of Turner’s game that I mentioned before was his ability to get to the line more this season. But even with Turner aware he needs to get to the line more his his 5.7 FTA per game are still only good for 20th in the NBA as of Monday. Again 8 of the 10 players ahead of him get to the line more often, this time though the exceptions are Aldridge and Kevin Martin.
While Turner’s drives to the basket are certainly encouraged, unfortunately once he makes the decision to go the rim he’s almost assuredly looking for his own shot, and not thinking about kicking the ball out to his teammates as the defense collapses. This has led to Turner currently holding the dubious achievement of leading the league in number of attempted shots blocked per game at 2.2 again negatively effecting Turner’s efficiency as a scorer. His charging head down style doesn’t help Evan out in the assists department either, as he is averaging just 3.5 per game. Turner has never been an elite passer, making him a player who rarely has the effect of making those around him better. This is further evidenced by the Sixers offensive rating when Turner is on the floor as opposed to off it. First of the Sixers starting five (Hawes, Young, Turner, Anderson, MCW) the team’s offensive ratting is lowest with Turner on the floor at 99.3. Second, of the same five Sixers starters Turner’s absence from the lineup has the least effect on the offense. With Turner on the floor the team has a rating of 99.3 meaning the team scores scores 99.3 points per 100 possessions that Turner is on the floor. When Turner is off the floor the team averages 96.9 points per 100 possessions. To compare, the Sixers’ rating with Spencer Hawes on the floor is 103.4 while off it the team has an offensive rating of 90.6, translating to a 12.8 point differential compared to the tiny 2.4 point differential Turner’s presence or absence causes.
Most importantly though Turner’s shooting percentages get dramatically worse and worse the further away he gets from the basket. Below is a graphic of Turner’s shooting broken down by distance from the basket.
Turner likes to make his home around the basket as much as Charlie Sheen likes to make his home around brothels. The further Turner gets away from the basket the worse things get for the guy, to the point of shooting 15.7% from 3 point range, which is on par with my numbers during my 8th grade rec league season.
As for the other half of his game Turner is never going be mistaken for a defensive stalwart. Turner is limited athletically so he’s always going struggle guarding a number of the other wing players in the league. Turner also has trouble rotating to the open shooters in time and also can lose track of his man more often than Brett Brown would like. I could spend another few hundred words on his defense, but I don’t want to cut down the guy too much.
So acknowledging Turner’s below average defense, it’s fair to say that a majority of Turner’s contribution to the team is going to come in the form of scoring. Unfortunately though as I’ve illustrated to a degree above Turner is not the type of offensive threat that can beat you in a variety of ways. Beyond getting to the rim for his own shot there just isn’t a whole lot Turner does well on offense, unlike elite scorers such as Anthony, James, Love, George and Durant who can all score in a variety of ways whether it being driving to the basket, shooting from the outside, or posting up down low. If Turner was able to get his teammates more involved or score in a greater number of ways the decision to move on from Turner would be much more difficult.
As it stands right now I’m still firmly on the side of trading him during the season or at the very least letting him walk during the off season as a restricted free agent. Away from the court there are issues as well. From reading things on the internet it sounds like Turner will be seeking a contract next year that will be around 10 million per year for four years, probably similar to the one Tyreke Evans received this past offseason. A contract of that size means he’d be counted on as a second option, and personally I don’t see him as being the second best player on a championship team. As many have said Turner’s ideal spot is as a 6th man, who can be the scoring focal point of a second unit. Trouble is Turner certainly doesn’t view himself that way, which is completely fair cause what 25 year old wants to be told his best spot is coming off the bench. So the best option I think for bother Turner and the Sixers is trading him. Turner will play off the motivation of proving the Sixers wrong and the Sixers could get back more young assets that might fit better with what the team is trying to do long term.