It was clear this offseason that GM Elton Brand built the Sixers with a specific idea in mind.
He wanted his team to be a gargantuan defensive bully. The Sixers have bought into it, with just about every player stating the team’s goal of wanting to be the No. 1 defensive outfit in the NBA.
The biggest concern seemed to be their lack of three-point shooting with the departure of JJ Redick. Unfortunately for Brett Brown, his team did little to quell those concerns.
A rough shooting preseason was capped by a 7-for-27 performance in a listless 112-93 loss to the Wizards Friday night (see observations).
When asked about it before the game, Brown thought the storyline was overblown.
“I think it's not as big of a problem as maybe the marketplace does,” Brown said pregame. “I think that we have shooters here. Are they at the standard of JJ Redick? No. But if that's the bar, well, it's pretty high. And so I think as you go through the list of players, although you're not seeing like a high volume, low 40 percent … type of high-volume threes at such a pretty high percentage … you're not seeing that on the roster. But I still have confidence that we have a team that can shoot. Will that be our identity? No. Will it be needed? Yep. But I think that we're a better shooting team than what I sense the marketplace thinks.”
The numbers don’t help Brown here.
Al Horford and Mike Scott both shot over 40 percent from three. None of the other main rotation players even shot league average — not including Ben Simmons’ immaculate 1 for 1.
Josh Richardson (33.3), Tobias Harris (25), Joel Embiid (22.2), Matisse Thybulle (26.7) and James Ennis (12.5) contributed to the Sixers shooting a paltry 31.7 percent from three this preseason.
Even given those numbers and the especially poor performance Friday, Brown is still standing by his claim.
“I stand by my comment,” Brown said postgame. “I think that we have better shooters than the marketplace believes. Those comments, my comments, aren't well supported when you look at the statistics in the preseason, but I do think that. I still think that and it's stuff that we need to believe in that and not shy away from it. I don't want to at all and we won't shy away from it. I think that the attention that we have given to offensive rebounding may help ease some of those misses if we can do what we hope to do from that perspective. But I think that we have better shooters then we have shown in the preseason.”
Brown does have a point in that aforementioned players have shot much better throughout their NBA careers than they’ve shown through five preseason games.
But it has to be considered a legitimate concern. The Sixers are sort of bucking trends by trotting out their huge, defensive-oriented roster, but they recognize that shooting is still a must.
In the second quarter Friday, the Wizards went to a zone defense. It’s not the first time the Sixers have seen that this preseason and, after how poorly they managed it Friday, it likely won’t be the last. The obvious caveat is that it was a flat performance by the Sixers in general. They definitely had the feel of a team just going through the motions as a date with Boston on opening night looms.
The ball movement at times has been excellent and it’s led to some great looks. To a certain extent, the shots just didn’t fall in the preseason.
“I think the looks have been good,” Harris said. “I think we'll just continue to find each other's own games and where we want those looks from beyond the arc. It's obviously early too in preseason of games where we've been able to get some good looks. Some of them haven't fallen, but they'll continue to come with time and just us figuring out where each other needs the ball, wants the ball with threes we want to take, and I think the more we hunt the threes, the better off we are to be able to shoot it at a higher percentage.”
The Sixers are going to hang their hats on the defensive end, but they’ll need to shoot at least a little to get where they want to go.
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