Inside the Sixers: Sixers Doug Collins wants frontcourt versatility

Spencer Hawes will likely shift from center to power forward. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Spencer Hawes will likely shift from center to power forward. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: September 23, 2012

When the Sixers gather for the opening of training camp in nine days, coach Doug Collins will face the daunting task of making the pieces - there are far more here than at any other time in the previous two seasons - work together.

Despite all the brand-new pieces that everyone is so excited about, the new faces in new roles - and some old ones in some new roles as well - will have to work hard to make necessary adjustments.

This is especially true of the frontcourt, particularly at power forward, where playing time will be contested fiercely.

Collins has already said - loosely - that the preliminary plan is to move center Spencer Hawes over to power forward, teaming him early on the floor with Andrew Bynum, who will get the majority of the minutes at center and will be spelled by Kwame Brown.

Collins likes the idea of having Hawes at power forward alongside Bynum, because Hawes is skilled at manning the high post offensively and should let the Sixers take advantage of his ability to hit the elbow jumper (which will give Bynum infinitely more room to operate in the post) and use his ball skills to create more opportunities for players cutting off of him.

Hawes, who has never played power forward for extensive minutes, gave two reasons in a phone conversation earlier this week for why he expects the transition to be relatively seamless.

"I don't think it's a huge challenge," Hawes said. "I've guarded the four a lot. Offensively, the way we've done it, the four and the five are pretty interchangeable. I don't think the transition will be overwhelming.

"And," Hawes continued, "playing alongside a 7-footer is going to make things easier on myself and everyone else."

While he didn't mention it publicly early on, Collins started talking to Hawes, who signed a two-year, $13 million extension in the offseason, as soon as the 2011-12 season ended about playing more power forward. Shortly after the Sixers signed Brown, though, Collins started talking publicly about the move.

In his two seasons as coach, Collins has demanded that his players be versatile and not locked into the five traditional positions. It's why he splits Evan Turner among point forward and both guard spots. It's why last season he often put departed guard Lou Williams at the point while moving Jrue Holiday off the ball.

But this season the Sixers will require more versatility from their bigger forwards, and if they expect to be in the rotation they will have no choice but to expand their games. Lavoy Allen, whom the Sixers signed to a two-year, $6.12 million deal, has demonstrated that he can play the four and the five. So if Brown isn't getting it done in his backup role, the Sixers will have no problem giving his minutes to Allen.

After speaking with the Sixers brass, I will tell you that there is no returning player they seem to expect to make a bigger contribution from the role he played last season.

Collins also likes to get the undersized Thad Young time at the four, especially when he can "protect" him by playing him alongside a bulkier guy, something that won't be a problem with the additions of Bynum and Brown to go along with Allen.

But the Sixers are also going to give Young, who, according to some reports, has added about 10 pounds in the offseason, significantly more opportunities to play small forward this season.

"The bottom line is we're all going to have to show more versatility, and that's a good thing," Hawes said. "In the course of a long season it's good to have guys that can play different positions and fill different needs.

"Of course, you don't really know how it's all going to work out until you get on the floor. But the main thing is that the guys we brought in are unselfish. That's something that bodes well when you are introducing so many different pieces."


Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer. Read his blog, "Deep Sixer," at www.philly.com/deepsixer

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