CAMDEN, N.J. — JJ Redick said exactly what you’d want any good teammate to say about moving from the starting lineup to the bench.
“I just look at it as whatever’s best for the team, I’m on board with it, I’m a fan of,” Redick said Sunday. “(Head coach) Brett (Brown) asked me 10 minutes before the first practice if we could explore this. I told him, ‘whatever the team needs.’”
But for Redick, it’s so much deeper than simply supporting his coach in blind faith. He understands why Brown is testing out a lineup with Markelle Fultz in his place, and he’s actually had a hand in tweaking the Sixers’ substitution patterns.
Brown noted last Monday that last season, “Our most efficient five wasn’t the starting five. … It was our lineup with Dario (Saric) and (Marco) Belinelli and those guys.”
Brown was referring to the five-man group of Belinelli, Robert Covington, Amir Johnson, Saric and Simmons, who had an NBA-best 32.9 net rating in 104 minutes together. While the Sixers’ starting lineup last year was also excellent with a much larger sample size (21.4 net rating in 600 minutes together), the idea is having Redick replace Belinelli on that other highly efficient unit makes the most sense for the team. As for the starting lineup, the Sixers are optimistic about the idea of playing a rejuvenated Fultz alongside Simmons (see story).
Belinelli and Redick did run many of the same actions last season, running around (and setting) tons of screens, giving the Sixers long-range shooting and plenty of off-ball movement. They’re both “high gravity” players, guys that attract the defense’s attention and open up space for their teammates.
“I don’t know that it’s me for Marco. I don’t look at it that way,” Redick said. “But there’s a three-minute stretch in the first and second quarter where they had some great success with a specific lineup, and I would sort of be taking those minutes from that group last year.
“It’s all about the algorithm and the spreadsheets,” Redick said with a wry laugh. “Just *pop* plug one guy in.”
For what it’s worth, the five-man unit of Redick, Covington, Johnson, Saric and Simmons (Redick in Belinelli’s place) was very effective last season, albeit not to the same degree as that same group with Belinelli in Redick’s spot. They had a 10.2 net rating in 108 minutes together.
For Redick, one benefit of the bench role it appears he might fill could be longer stints on the floor. Brown remembers having success with the Spurs using Manu Ginobili in the last seven minutes of every quarter. That’s exactly how he used Redick in the Sixers’ preseason opener (with the exception of the fourth period, when the Sixers didn’t play their regular rotation).
“In terms of the substitution patterns, as far as I know, it’s going to be longer stretches this year for me,” Redick said. “That’s sort of what I was used to prior to last year. Brett and I and the analytics guys had so many conversations about it, we worked it out toward the end. A lot of the guys had input and feedback with regard to that.”
For Redick, ego has zero part in how he thinks about his role. It’s all about the right basketball decision, and he understands the numbers that suggest it may be worth trying this new rotation. And he certainly doesn’t mind that it’s Fultz taking his place.
Fultz described Redick as “like a big brother to me.”
“I’m one of Markelle’s biggest fans,” Redick said. “Maybe not like his mother, some other people in his life. But I’m one of his biggest fans. I want to see him succeed. I want this lineup to succeed.
“To me, the way I look at it is the ultimate goal is to be able to play for a championship. And our (starting) lineup last year was one of the best in the league, if not the best in the league by a few measurements. If (this) lineup is as good or better, then we’re going to be in a position to play for a championship. I think it can be a great thing.”