Grading Brett Brown's Season for the Philadelphia 76ers so Far
In fact, it's been a downright brutal season.
Everything from some of the team's best players getting traded to management wanting the club to lose definitely made Brown's challenge an uphill one. The good news for him is that none of the franchise's troubles have truly been a result of his efforts. All he's done is given the team his all, and that is promising when looking at the future.
Unfortunately, he still has to get through this year first.
Here's a look at some grades for Brown's 2013-14 season so far.
All statistics in this article are accurate as of games played through March 16 and are taken from Team Rankings.
One of Brown's first moves when coming to Philly was to revamp the Sixers offense and turn it into something that fit with the roster's athleticism.
He's done that and more so far.
Philadelphia has taken the "run-and-gun" mentality to the extreme by consistently looking to get out and go, and almost completely forgetting about defense. Obviously this means that there will be loads of problems on the defensive end—and we'll get to those later—but this approach has done some very positive things from an offensive standpoint.
The Sixers average a league-leading 104.5 possessions per game. That's 2.9 more than the second-place Los Angeles Lakers. That number is fantastic in the sense that Philly is getting more opportunities with the basketball.
The next step is to now do something with those extra possessions.
Philadelphia is currently averaging 17.4 turnovers per game, which is last in the league. On top of that, the Sixers' 43.1 field-goal percentage is second-to-last in the NBA.
The point here is the extra possessions would be even more valuable if the team actually converted them into points.
It's hard to ask for too much when you have a roster like Philadelphia's, though, so Brown can't be fully criticized for the offensive troubles. Overhauling the offense in the first place was more than welcomed and a very good move.
This is where things get really, really bad.
Remember how we were talking about the 76ers' new, fast-paced style of play, where they were almost entirely offensive-minded? Well, giving up 110.8 points per game on the defensive end of the floor is the result of that.
There's no other way to describe Philadelphia's defense besides terrible.
Being last in the NBA in opponent field-goal percentage, at 47.2, is a result of people being able to score at will. They also give up a league-worst 27.6 points from three-pointers per game. That number comes as a result of not rotating properly and having poor perimeter defenders.
If there's one bright spot from a defensive standpoint, it's that the Sixers are No. 1 in steals per game with 9.4. The only issue with that number is that it's probably a little inflated because of all the extra possessions other teams get while playing against Philadelphia.
One of Brown's priorities moving forward has to be getting his team to play better defense. It's the only way it'll succeed and get the chance at postseason runs in the coming years.
Brett Brown hasn't gotten the opportunity to work with too much talent, but he's certainly made the most out of what he has.
There was a reason Michael Carter-Williams fell to the Sixers with the No. 11 pick in the 2013 NBA draft. It was because he didn't do the best job of showing how versatile and talented he truly was while playing at Syracuse University. Now, some of that could have been on both him and the team's system, but he didn't display talent worthy of being a top-three draft pick.
That No. 11 pick has now gone on to lead all rookies in points, assists, rebounds and steals.
Leading a statistical category doesn't mean Carter-Williams is done growing as player, though, and nobody knows it better than Brown. Here's what he told Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com in regard to Carter-Williams and his defense:
The deal is you are going to guard. And you are going to keep the game in front of you, and if you don’t then we don’t have much.
There has to be an accountability and a direct approach with all our players. I’m coaching them. I love coaching them and we will bounce back and do it again in the morning.
Brown understands how successful Carter-Williams' rookie campaign has been, but he's challenging him to do more—more of what will be important when the time comes for the Sixers to have a good team.
His development of Carter-Williams is only one example. There are a number of Philadelphia players who wouldn't even have spots on other NBA teams. Still, though, Brown is working with them and doing his best to get the most out of them.
That has to be applauded.
Any coach who has his team’s core traded away and is almost forced into a losing streak longer than 20 games deserves quite a bit of credit. The fact that he hasn’t complained about it once is even more impressive.
Brown isn’t blind to what the Sixers are trying to do in terms of losing now to win in the future. Still, though, to think he’s “OK” with losing is ridiculous. There are high school coaches in charge of running freshmen teams who know their combined record for the past 10 years.
They take what they do very seriously, so imagine a job where millions of dollars are on the line.
Who knows if he's interested in building a legacy or anything along those lines, but it's not like he's going to look back at the current 2013-14 season with the Sixers and say it was a successful one. He might say that certain players made positive strides, and other small talk like that, but losing almost four times as many games as you win would never justify a coach to say he had a successful season.
A desire and drive to win is in a coach's blood, and Brown's ability to remain both honest and positive has given the word "patience" a whole new meaning.
Grade: A+. There's got to be a grade bigger than this, right?
Understanding of This Season's Real Goal
It all comes down to this: What is Philadelphia really trying to do moving forward?
Brown gave the media a great quote that proves he knows what the team's goal is moving forward. Here's what Lynam heard from Philly's coach:
This is not slit-your-wrist time. This is not even close to that. This is about building a program and understanding the short-term pain for a lot of long-term gain.
To truly rebuild and grow something is going to take three to five years. That is just the way it goes. It is too talented a league and too well-coached. The experiences we are going through now will be distant memories when these guys start getting older. They will find positives in this season and Michael Carter-Williams will be better for it.
Most Sixers fans won't be happy to hear Brown say that rebuilding something is going to take three to five years, but it shouldn't be a cringe-worthy statement. He's talking about rebuilding a team and getting it to its full potential. Philadelphia won't be great next year, but it definitely looks like it'll be moving in the right direction.
As painful as this season has been for Brett Brown, it still seems like he's comforted in knowing there's a plan.
If the plan truly works out, then he could be coaching an exceptional team in a matter of years.