With analytics, Sam Hinkie tries to remake Sixers offense

Sam Hinkie relied on analytics to help overhaul the Rockets. YONG KIM / Staff
Sam Hinkie relied on analytics to help overhaul the Rockets. YONG KIM / Staff
Posted: May 26, 2013

All it takes to diagnose the 76ers' myriad ailments is to look at the four teams still playing meaningful NBA basketball.

It's no secret that Doug Collins' bunch couldn't score this season. They shot just 44.4 percent from the field, better than just seven teams in the league. Refusing to help themselves by taking good shots, the Sixers scored a paltry average of 99.5 points per 100 possessions, good for 26th in the league.

With their reliance on formal analytics, all four remaining playoff teams - the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, and San Antonio Spurs - all share tendencies toward shooting from the three most prosperous spots on the floor: the three-point line, at the rim, and the free-throw line.

The 2012-13 Sixers finished 20th in the league in both shot attempts at the rim and from three to nine feet out. They launched an average of 32 jumpers per game from 10 to 23 feet, leading the NBA in attempts from inefficient areas for the third year in a row.

By not getting to the basket, the team also denied itself the ability to use the foul line as a weapon. The Sixers came 16 free throws away from setting the all-time record low for free throws taken.

Good teams shoot three-pointers, knowing that the reward of an extra point more than makes up for the small dip in conversion rate. Of the 13 teams that attempted more than 20 three-pointers a game, 10 made the postseason. The only conference finalist to average fewer long-range tries than the Sixers' average of 17.5 per game was Memphis.

New general manager Sam Hinkie, as an executive in Houston last summer, helped craft an offseason overhaul that vaulted the Rockets from a lottery-bound also-ran into a 45-win offensive juggernaut that became one of the league's must-watch teams.

In came Omer Asik, a massive screener and interior mauler. In his first year as a starter, he attempted nearly three-quarters of his field goals within three feet of the basket. In came Jeremy Lin, a scoring point guard who could knife to the rim and draw fouls in his sleep. And in the biggest acquisition of the season, the team brought in James Harden, who was freed from third-option purgatory in Oklahoma City to become the league's best triple threat from the court's sweet spots.

Hinkie must similarly remake the Sixers' stagnant offense. They would have scored an average of three more points per game had they taken the league average number of shots from each distance. If management and the future coaching staff can encourage Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner to ditch many of the long jumpers they took per game, this team has the backcourt foundation in place for a successful attack.

Turner, a playmaker but tentative finisher in traffic, converted less than 60 percent of his shots at the rim but made himself into an above-average marksman from the right corner, where he hit 40 percent of his three-point shots.

As lions turned to lambs and the season rolled on, Holiday wore down, and his finishing became shaky, shying him away from the paint and curtailing the aggressiveness that got him to the free-throw line and opened up scoring lanes for his teammates. Even during slumps, Holiday will need to keep shooting and play like Harden. His new GM will demand nothing less.

In his first week on the job, Hinkie has preached endlessly about the process being more important than isolated results. It's a long season, and teams with a data-driven, long-term vision give themselves the best chance to shower in confetti when the final buzzer sounds.

The Sixers have the ingredients for an antidote to their recent offensive ills, and fans should feel confident that a real plan is in place to make that confetti rain on them.


Contact Ben Goldberg-Morse at bgoldbergmorse@philly.com. Follow @bgoldbergmorse on Twitter.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|