These are the two most common complaints I see on social media regarding the Sixers’ offense:
- “dribble hand-offs suck”
- “why isn’t Joel Embiid getting his ass in the post?”
I think a third would be “Ben Simmons can’t shoot,” which I wrote about a few hours ago. A fourth complaint would be that the “Sixers’ offensive schemes suck” and maybe a fifth would be that Brett Brown doesn’t dial up quality half court plays in late game situations. That would probably be a Twitter top-five, those things I mentioned.
Regarding the first two, I asked Brett about that straight-up today, about the idea that his detractors seem to complain about those ideas more than anything. That was the first part of the question, and the second part was about bringing in Jimmy Butler, adding more pick and roll, then tweaking things to fit Tobias Harris.
As a result, has Brett’s offensive philosophy changed at all?
It seemingly has not, and he gave a lengthy response that essentially doubled down on why he believe what he believes. I’ll break it into four parts, beginning with this:
I have given this explanation before and I’m proud to give it again. We led most of the previous years the NBA in passing. That is a fact. I believe we had a team that was better moving a lot, freeing each other a lot, Dario (Saric) and Cov (Robert Covington) weren’t going to break people down off an isolation or a pick-and-roll. And so we led the NBA in passing. Connected to that, we led the NBA in assist percentage or were always in the top two. I’m proud of sharing the ball. Since we all met six years ago, I told you the pass is king. The pass is king, it’s everything, because it connects the dots to chemistry. You share.
This is something Brett has reiterated a million times before, one, that they weren’t a pick and roll team because they simply did not have great pick and roll players, and two, that he philosophically believes in movement, pace, and space. He runs a motion offense, he encourages sharing of the ball, and he’s willing to live with the resulting turnovers.
The Sixers finished 4th this season with 26.9 assists per game. Assist percentage was 61.9, also fourth. 317 passes per game was third in the league. The Sixers have consistently ranked in the top five in these types of passing and assist categories.
More Brett, after the jump:
And then we get a team that has the ability like Jimmy does to be put in an isolation and go to work, (like) Kawhi (Leonard). Put him in a middle pick and roll, go to work. (Like) Kawhi. So then it becomes a little more static and where do you space and place? So I take Ben, and I put him where I would do it 100 times out of 100 times. So the evolution of our offense grows based on who do you coach?
They added pick and roll when they added a top-20 player, and because Ben Simmons’ skill set is not ideal for pick and roll plays (beyond screening and rolling), he gets put in the dunker spot instead:
With Ben as a non-shooter, he is placed in that spot on pick and roll plays.
Your question about Joel Embiid is directly connected to his health. 82 games – and I started with Tim Duncan, you guys saw it, we’ve seen it with Shaq – 82 games rim to rim is unrealistic. It’s hard to do. And then you drip feed on, well, pick a (percentage), whatever his health was, do you feel like we got a chance of beating Toronto if he’s healthy? You all will answer that question. I have my answer. And full credit to Toronto, Nick Nurse, Kawhi Leonard, that program, much respect, a hard fist fight it was.
Brett is saying that a healthy Joel Embiid gets them past Toronto, and I agree. You probably agree as well.
He’s also saying that 82 games of rim-running is not feasible for NBA big men. Nobody can do that. Nikola Jokic and Steven Adams cannot do it. Can Joel Embiid “get his ass in the post” more? If he’s in better shape, of course. But you’re talking about an elite rim protector who offensively plays with a non-shooting 6’10” point guard, leading to the final portion of Brett’s quote:
And so Joel ‘get to the block because you’re 7’2”,’ there is some truth to that, but he also happens to be skilled enough where at times he can also make a trailing three. Somewhere in the middle, the answer will be his health. The ability to go deeper, roll more, and he understands that. And so when you talk about pick and rolls quantity vs. the pass, I hope I answered it, when you talk about Joel Embiid, I hope I answered it, and offensively that’s how I see the world in any connection. The pass is everything.
That’s a Brett Brown primer right there. He believes in his motion offense and he wants his team to share the ball. He is okay with Joel Embiid using his non-post skills. He’ll play pick and roll where necessary, and did more of it this year.
You don’t have to agree with any of this, not at all, but here are Brett’s offensive philosophies, written out and elaborated on for the umpteenth time.
Save this article and refer to these quotes next year and every year that Brett Brown coaches the Sixers.