5 Adjustments Philadelphia 76ers Must Make in Post-Andre Iguodala Era
For the past six seasons, Andre Iguodala was the face of the Philadelphia 76ers. That all changed on August 10 when he was sent to the Denver Nuggets in a four-team deal that led to Andrew Bynum's arrival in Philadelphia.
Iguodala may not have met the standard criteria that most have for a so-called "franchise player", but his unique skill set gave the Sixers much-needed versatility on both sides of the ball. The 6'6" swingman was capable of playing three positions on offense, and on the defensive end of the court, Iguodala has few peers in the NBA.
The Andrew Bynum honeymoon may still be in full swing as far as the fans are concerned, but the 76ers' coaching staff is hard at work trying to figure out how the team's new pieces will best fit together. So, as the new-look Sixers prepare for training camp, here's a look at five adjustments that the team must make in the post-Andre Iguodala era.
Increase Focus on Team Defense
Defense will continue to be Philadelphia's hallmark, and without a sustained commitment in that area, the Sixers will fail to establish themselves as a true contender in the Eastern Conference.
With Andre Iguodala—Philadelphia's best defender from a year ago—now wearing powder blue, 76ers' head coach Doug Collins will be sure to stress the principles of team defense this season.
With Eddie Jordan at the helm in 2009-10, the 76ers' defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) that season was an embarrassing 110.3. Last year, the Sixers' defensive rating was an outstanding 99.2, and the team held opponents to a mere 89.4 points per game.
As you can see in the clip from last season's playoff series against the Bulls, the 76ers are one of the better teams in the league when it comes to double-teaming the ball-handler as well as knowing when to switch effectively. When Philadelphia is fully engaged on the defensive end of the court, they can frustrate virtually every team in the NBA.
Use Evan Turner as the Team's Primary Wing Defender
Even with an improved focus on team defense, it will be imperative for Evan Turner to assume Andre Iguodala's role as the 76ers' primary wing defender next season.
Of course, it will take some time for the 23-year-old Turner to completely fill the void that Iguodala left behind. In this clip from Game 2 of the Sixers-Celtics playoff series, Iguodala locks down Paul Pierce to the point where Boston can't even get the ball to their star forward.
"One of the things that Andre did, against the top twos and threes, was that he allowed us to play a lot of the game without having to double-team," said Sixers' assistant coach Michael Curry in a recent interview with the Philadelphia Daily News. "Hopefully, if our wings can continue to improve defensively, then we still should be very good defensively."
Turner was adequate on defense last season: According to 82games.com, the 6'7" swingman held opponents to Trevor Ariza-level production. That said, he'll have to turn his game up a few notches since he'll likely guard the opponents' best wing player every time he steps onto the court. Ideally, his increased effort on defense won't have any ill effects on his still-developing offensive game.
Make Transition Game a Priority
While Elton Brand was a fine defensive player (and superb in his role at team captain), he was completely at odds with the team's desire to get out in transition.
The Sixers struggled mightily in the half court last season (as evidenced in both of their playoff series), and unless they use their youth and speed to their advantage, Philadelphia will have problems keeping pace with teams like Miami and Denver.
The 76ers averaged 15.2 fast-break points per game in 2011-12, and that number is sure to go up with the addition of several wing players who excel at getting up and down the court. Iguodala, Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks are gone, but Philadelphia's offseason acquisitions give the team a new dimension going forward.
"I think you're going to see us shoot a lot of threes in transition," said Collins. "For us, we're going to want to push the ball as much as we can, get the ball ahead and Nick [Young] and Dorell [Wright] and Jrue [Holiday] and Jason [Richardson]."
Get Spencer Hawes Engaged Offensively
Spencer Hawes is a terrible defender (341st in points allowed in 2011-12 per Synergy Sports), but is gifted enough on the other end of the court that the Sixers have to keep him engaged offensively.
Collins has Hawes penciled in at the starting power forward position despite the fact that the seven-footer has never played the 4 spot in his entire NBA career. The primary reason behind the decision is that Hawes is an excellent passer in the high post, and his ability to knock down the mid-range jump shot is a fine complement to Andrew Bynum, who will do most of his work on the low block.
Even with Bynum as a help defender, Hawes will still get lit up by opposing forwards next season. But as long as he contributes on the offensive end for Philadelphia (as he does in the accompanying clip), he may be able to negate his defensive shortcomings.
Run Offense Through Andrew Bynum
For the first time in nearly 30 years, the Sixers have a low-post player whom they can run the offense through. And after several seasons of inefficiency in their half-court sets, Philadelphia should look like a markedly different team whenever they have the ball next year.
Andrew Bynum isn't quite on the level of former 76ers' legend Moses Malone, but the seven-foot, 285-pound big man is the premier center in the Eastern Conference. Not only will Bynum be able to dominate down low, but his mere presence will result in more open looks for the Sixers' shooters.
Furthermore, once Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner each develop a two-man game with Bynum, expect Philadelphia to use the pick-and-roll a lot more effectively than they did last season.
Over the past few seasons, the 76ers' offense has been painful to watch at times. Many of their perimeter players weren't able to break their man down off of the dribble, and their bigs lacked the skill/size to score in the paint.
That all changed with the arrival of Bynum; it won't take long to notice the effect that he'll have on the rest of the team.