Sixers' basic need: Offense

YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Starter Evan Turner's shortcomings have been a headache. Maybe it's time for him to come off the bench.
YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Starter Evan Turner's shortcomings have been a headache. Maybe it's time for him to come off the bench.
Posted: January 25, 2013

THEY DO NOT defend with focus.

They do not rebound with zeal.

So, they must score.

To salvage any sort of success from this dying season, the 76ers must abandon all else, save scoring.

It is their only hope.

They are 17-25, eight games below .500, the mark usually needed to earn a playoff spot in the perpetually overmatched Eastern Conference.

After a 12-9 start they are 5-16 since entering a telling stretch in which they faced 16 opponents, 10 of them playoff teams.

And they lost six times to non-playoff teams.

Lavoy Allen is not stoic; he is heartless.

Evan Turner is not a shooting guard.

Jason Richardson is old.

They should not crack the starting lineup again.

They should not be buried.

Just reassigned.

The Sixers' hope lies in Dorell Wright, Nick Young and Spencer Hawes.

These choices have their limitations, and they might not make the best basketball sense every night against every team, but the Sixers are past the stage of making sense.

They need to make baskets.

Yes, Richardson is hurt, but he will not be losing his spot to injury.

In his last 16 games he is shooting 39.2 percent from the field and has made just 27.1 percent of his three-pointers.

Richardson has carried teams in his 11 previous seasons, but they were hard seasons. He turned 32 earlier this week but his knees and his back are a decade older.

The best birthday present the Sixers could give him is a spot on the bench.

They need Nick Young's scoring more.

A defensive abomination and an offensive wild card, Young is a larger, hairier version of Lou Williams, last season's only halfcourt option who was allowed to walk via free agency.

Like Williams, Young can create his own shot; because, like Williams, Young believes he can make any shot.

Like Young, Hawes exists in an optimistic universe in which he can actually compete with superior athletes. Hawes, a movable 245-pound 7-footer, is, at least, much more enthusiastic than Allen, a second-year player who is turning into legendarily leaden teammate Kwame Brown.

Osmosis?

Hawes, perhaps vengeful of Mitt Romney's failed candidacy, has played like every double-double will drop him a full tax bracket. A proud neocon, Hawes is the 1 percent . . . and he's giving 101 percent.

Yes, Hawes sometimes fouls like Shawn Bradley. Yes, Hawes sometimes gets played like Milton Bradley. But he can score.

Hawes has scored at least 15 points nine times this season. He has not started once. Allen has not scored more than 14 in any game.

The case against Turner is more difficult to make. In his third season, the Sixers remain reluctant to abandon Turner, whose improved jump shot and defense have made him much closer to average than he once was.

The problem is, Turner might never make it to average. At 6-7, with marginal quickness and modest ballhandling skills, Turner's offensive game is predicated on hesitation and deception. The league now understands that; as such, defenders often just wait for him to stop. Because he will.

And then, he will turn the ball over.

He had a pair of just such turnovers late in each of the Sixers' last two games, crucial, killer giveaways in must-win games. He has become a fourth-quarter burden.

Still, how do you bench 14 points and nearly seven rebounds per game? How do you limit the minutes of a 24-year-old player with so much potential?

Simple.

You admit the potential is overestimated.

Because the object is to score more points than the opponent.

In absence of a strong presence on the offensive boards, the object also should be to shoot a higher percentage from the field than the opponent.

The challenge for Sixers coach Doug Collins is, while the game progresses, to figure out which combination of players most often achieves the desired results.

Into this fluid field of evaluation Collins must incorporate the opposition's strengths.

He must gauge his team's variables: fatigue, health, emotional status.

Regardless, when it is finished, Collins must determine which five players most likely will play best together.

For most of the season, in Collins' mind, that meant putting point guard Jrue Holiday on the floor with power forward Thaddeus Young, Allen at center, Turner at small forward and Richardson at shooting guard.

That combination, in general, has failed.

Of the best three lineups that include Holiday - that is, lineups that mainly face the opposition's top players - none includes the both Turner and Richardson. Swingman Dorell Wright plays in their place. This much has become clear, at least: Turner and Richardson cannot play together.

The best lineup that includes Holiday includes neither Turner nor Richardson. Instead, Hawes plays alongside Allen, Nick Young plays in place of Turner and Thaddeus Young plays small forward.

The other two top lineups that include Holiday also exclude Allen in favor of Hawes.

The regular starting lineup is only marginally better than a lineup that excludes Allen, and Richardson and Turner and includes Young, Hawes and Wright.

Logically, Collins has used the regular lineup at least four times as much as any of the more productive lineups.

Logically, at 17-25, that has to change.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

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