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Princeton Report: How Will Allen Iverson Fit into Philadelphia Sixers' Offense?

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistDecember 3, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 10: Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to make a pass against the New Jersey Nets during their game at Continental Airlines Arena on December 10, 2005 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.The Sixers defeated the Nets 107-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

So, the Sixers finally decided upon bringing back Allen Iverson on Wednesday, ending nearly a week of speculation and impassioned pleas from Philly fans.

Now, with Iverson signed to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, it's time to turn to the most important question facing the Sixers in these upcoming weeks: How does Iverson fit into the Sixers' offense?

To answer the first question that should pop up into everyone's mind immediately: Yes, the Sixers plan on starting Iverson. No worries about discussions about his possible bench role; for the next seven weeks, while Lou Williams recovers from a broken jaw, Iverson has himself a starting role.

"I told him I would like for him to start, and that's where it sort of ended," Sixers coach Eddie Jordan said. "And he was really like a kid at Christmas."

Now, assuming that the "Iverson as starter" plans don't derail any time in the next five days, it's time to figure out how coach Jordan can incorporate Iverson into his Princeton offense.

If you're unfamiliar with the basics of the Princeton offense, check out this article I wrote up a few weeks back about it. Long story short, it's a passing-based, motion-oriented offense, requiring all five players on the floor to be able to aptly handle, pass, and shoot in order to run most effectively.

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Now, if you're like me, at first glance, you may have winced when you read "passing-based" and thought of The Answer.  

But while Georgetown fans may still affectionately refer to Iverson as "'Ole Bubbachuck" due to his propensity for shooting the ball (a career average of 22 shots per game), he also averaged 6.2 assists per game over the course of the career.  

So, while he's a volume shooter, Iverson also gets his teammates involved; with the Sixers' gaping hole at the point guard position, his signing seems to make sense.

Then, breaking down his stats by year, you'd find that for his last three years in Philly, Iverson averaged over seven assists per game (a career-high 7.9 assists/game in 04-05, 7.4 in 05-06, and 7.3 during his 15 games of the '06-'07 season before being traded to Detroit).

He also happens to boast the fifth highest career scoring average per game in NBA history (third highest among active players).  

Needless to say, Iverson provides the Sixers a versatile threat in the backcourt, even at age 34. What Sixers fans might not expect would be an Allen Iverson that can score 20+ points, and still manage to dish out seven assists to his teammates in a game.

If a guy averages 22 shots per game, he clearly demands the ball in his hands most of the time. But with Williams sidelined for the next seven weeks, the Sixers decided they couldn't rely solely on rookie Jrue Holiday at the point, and opted to bring Iverson back, presumably as the primary ball-handler.

That's not to say Holiday is necessarily out of the starting lineup. The Sixers can move Holiday over to the shooting guard position, allowing him to use his size (6'4") on defense, and keep Andre Iguodala on the floor for a three-guard lineup.  

Along with Thaddeus Young and some combination of Marreese Speights (when he returns), Elton Brand, and Samuel Dalembert (assuming God doesn't give Philadelphia another early Christmas present and have a team offer to trade for him first), the Sixers now boast a suddenly potent offense, with legitimate scoring threats at every position. 

Regarding some of Iverson's old offensive tendencies, the Princeton offense typically doesn't involve one-on-one matchups for most of the shot clock, which Iverson has been known to do in the past.  

However, most coaches running the Princeton don't have a guy whose crossover could break Michael Jordan's ankles.  

Coach Jordan must be ready to adapt his offense to Iverson's unique skill set, but this move does not scream "square peg in round hole" basketball-wise, unlike some of Iverson's other destinations in the past few seasons. 

Jordan doesn't sound opposed to making some alterations to his offense for a future Hall of Famer. He sure has an interesting comparison on Iverson's potential for the rest of the season.

"Without really seeing him on the floor, I would like to compare him to Brett Favre, a guy who people think is too old to play and he's almost having an MVP year," Jordan said. "That's off the top of my head. When I woke up this morning, I said, 'Maybe he can be that.' It's not a big maybe. I think he can be that."

If Jordan can plug Iverson into the Sixers' Princeton offense like Brad Childress (a former Eagles offensive coordinator, coincidentally enough) has done with Brett Favre in Minnesota, the Sixers should turn their sinking ship around immediately, and become a semi-potent threat in an Eastern Conference with only five strong teams.

And if Iverson could come back from retirement this season and win the MVP?  What a way to end a storied career for the Sixers' latest legend.

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