My Contribution to the Elton Brand Appreciation Thread
Elton Brand pays premium prices because he is successfully acquiring players who fit precisely inbetween and around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Tobias Harris was signed to replace JJ Redick. Follow me on this. He is our best shooter and weakest defender. But think about it, Harris is actually just as quick and agile (neither slower nor slewfooted) as JJ Redick. Harris isn’t a great defender, but he’s better than JJ. I also think Tobias Harris’ scoring average is going to go up significantly. Many of the plays we designed for Redick will now feature Tobias Harris. And just like with Redick, Harris will flourish because of the attention the other plays draw and because he will be featured--especially so considering Jimmy Butler’s one on one game is gone. Consider also that Tobias Harris creates for himself and rebounds better than JJ Redick, while also able to finish above the rim on the break. Yes, JJ could hit wild shots. But he has to, in order to be effective. Harris is perfectly adequate as snipers go, while also contributing in other ways.
Al Horford was signed to replace Tobias Harris. Harris has the shot and is enough of a rebounder to be a good stretch four. But he was not a plus defensively there. Harris could not guard Kawhi or Siakam or Giannis… Al Horford can. Word is he left Boston because he’s never wanted to be a straight up five. Just because he’s good at it doesn’t mean he wants to be overmatched physically night after night. He’s a big four who can also play the five. And that’s how we’ll use him. I don’t know what’s going to happen three years down the road. But I know right now that Horford is one fantastic defender who can guard people up and down the line.
I don’t care what nobody says, the Sixers’ biggest flaw, the reason why the Raptors series was even close, was because Boban and Monroe and Bolden got destroyed by pick and rolls, something like -90 for the series. -90! I was hoping we’d find a five who can at least defend pnrs well enough to keep us even. Kyle O’Quinn is that guy, I believe. But check this out--according to the numbers, freaking Al Horford is even better at it than Joel Embiid!
“[Horford] was 2nd among among the 15 bigs that defended 2,000+ pick and rolls. Opponents scored only 0.93 points per direct pick. For comparison sake, Embiid allowed 0.94 points.”
With Al Horford, the Sixers have a great chance to get the #1 seed because we can limit Joel Embiid’s minutes during the regular season, we have a former all-star as a spot starter and Kyle Oquinn as his backup when Joel rests for load management, and a bit of an insurance policy in case the unmentionable happens. Remember, the Raptors still have Marc Gasol (25m) and Serge Ibaka (21m). Combined, Joel and Horford are younger, better, and cheaper. Oh, and as far as Jimmy Butler as veteran presence, I’m sure Brett Brown prefers having by all reports the classiest dude in the NBA. Al Horford even enhances Joel Embiid’s development, being one of the few people in the league who can actually guard him successfully--there practice battles should be legendary and Joel should learn a lot (hopefully incorporating a deadly yet simple right hand jump hook, if i had anything to say about it).
Bbbbut wait, there’s more. The Sixers were wildly deficient as a pick and roll offense, primarily because we don’t have the players to run it effectively. Now? Just as Al Horford fixes the second string defense, staggering him and Joel drastically improves the second string offense, because Tobias Harris and Al Horford together can be a tremendous pick and roll, pick and pop combination. Both broad shouldered, each can shoot, dribble and pass. Al Horford averaged over 4 asts/gm. Jimmy Butler could shake and bake, he could also initiate the pick and roll somewhat. But in the guts of game 7, Toronto double teamed him, which unfortunately resulted in catastrophe--three straight turnovers. Given a full year to practice and play together, given his greater role in the offense, I expect Tobias to extend the same giving relationship he has with Boban to Joel Embiid and Al Horford.
Speaking of Jimmy, who I adored, who brought the dog out of everyone, Josh Richardson is simply not a downgrade as far as fitting in and around Ben and Joel. Offensively, he assumes the role Jimmy had, as our best one on one scorer and also potential backup point guard--which a lot of folks do not know about Josh Richardson. Richardson also averaged over 4 assists a game. Let’s concede however that Jimmy Butler is better at those things than Josh Richardson. I counter that Richardson’s advantage over Butler as a shooter off the catch exceeds Butler’s advantage over Butler. Jimmy refused to take shots off the catch more times than most fans care to remember. With Josh, Ben and Joel will rack up even more assists. And with regard to Jimmy being a closer, the Sixers now have a team where all five guys can beat their man off the dribble to the cup if that guy is weak. We also have five guys who pass well enough to abuse double teams. Against this multi-skilled team, there’s absolutely nowhere to hide a bull defender.
Even if you think Josh’s shooting advantage does not exceed Jimmy’s advantage as a scorer, I argue next that Josh is a much better defender for what the Sixers need than Jimmy was. I expected to Jimmy to guard the point. But that didn’t happen. Regardless whether it was age, knees, capacity or willingness, point guards torched us mercilessly after we traded Robert Covington--who assassinated point guards all the way to a 1st team defense award. Check Kemba Walker’s stats in games Robert Covington played in for the last couple years. It’s not pretty for KW, one of the best ballhandlers in the league. We now have Josh Richardson for that. In Miami, not only did the Heat try to run its offense through Josh, he was also assigned to either the other team’s point guard or their best scorer. At 6’6, we have a point guard defender who can also guard up. We can either fight through picks or keep on switching. Some people might be afraid of point guards getting switched onto our bigs jacking up wild-ass three point attempts over Al Horford or Joel Embiid’s outstretched hands. But I’m not.
Remember when we lost to the Celtics in the playoffs back in 2018, and we bemoaned their having a #1 defense along with a squad of guys with complete skills. In 2019, we take a backseat to no one in terms of skills. Ben can’t shoot and Tobias isnt a great wing defender. But, fingers crossed, we might have some young players who can do both. If we get just one legit or even surprisingly good player out of Zhaire, Thybulle, Bolden, Shake or Shayock, the Sixers season will be phenomenal. I for one am not upset at having a thin bench, because the center/defensive anchor spot is well staffed while we give our kids enough minutes to be prepared for the playoffs.
If after this you are still infuriated by the cost of acquiring Tobias in trade or free agency, Al Horford’s age, or choosing to go with minimum salaried veterans on the bench instead of 2nd round draft picks, you have every right. I think Tobias’ numbers will improve significantly (22-23pts/gm), Al Horford would’ve cost 35m instead of 20m if he were younger, and this draft was so weak that some guys like Terence Davis or Dedric Lawson or Shamorie Ponds who went undrafted were rated by some draftniks as mid first or early second round picks. The Sixers could’ve gotten any one of those guys without a 2nd round pick at all. So I think it’s clear that Elton Brand felt we had enough rookies, and that we should only take the two players I argue have better chance than anyone taken in the 30s or 40s to actually contribute this year because they’re each four year guys. [Well, besides Daniel Gafford, but we got Kyle Oquinn, anyway.]
Bottom line is, I’m not letting Negadelphians steal my joy. I am super-excited about these Sixers. Without caveats! 2020 NBA Champions.