76ers

Why ball screens should become a bigger part of Sixers’ offense

Why ball screens should become a bigger part of Sixers’ offense

Updated: 7:36 p.m. 

Brett Brown has never been a big fan of pick-and-rolls. Since taking charge of the Sixers, he’s preferred a motion-heavy, free-flowing offense. 

Yet since the arrivals of Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, the Sixers have used ball screens more frequently and had success using them in a variety of ways. As their recent struggles with late-game execution indicate, it might be smart to turn to them even more often down the stretch of games.

In this film review, we’ll look at the role ball screens play in the Sixers’ offense.

Credit to Jackson Frank for touching on some of these same concepts and plays in this piece for Liberty Ballers. 

Switches 

As opposed to a traditional pick-and-roll, the Sixers like to set ball screens for the purpose of forcing a desirable switch.

Notice how T.J. McConnell catches Russell Westbrook off guard on the play below, securing a favorable matchup for Jimmy Butler against Raymond Felton. 

Drawing attention 

The threat of a ball screen tends to attract attention from the defense, as illustrated by Mike Scott’s dagger three-pointer vs. Orlando.

Scott comes up to set a screen for Butler at the top of the key, but Butler calls him off and waves him over to the left wing. Ben Simmons instead moves in Butler’s direction as if he’s going to give him a screen, which distracts Aaron Gordon and leaves Scott open. 

Spain pick-and-rolls 

We mentioned “Spain pick-and-rolls” as a new element of Brown’s offense a few weeks ago

It’s a popular action across the NBA involving three men — a ball handler, an initial screener, and a third guy, typically a shooter, who sets a back screen and then darts up. 

Here’s what it looks like, with Butler the ball handler, Joel Embiid the first screener and JJ Redick the second screener. 

And here’s an effective example from Saturday involving Simmons, Tobias Harris and Scott. Unlike the version above with Embiid, Harris doesn't roll to the rim — he pops behind the arc on the right wing instead. Kevin Durant has to respect Harris, while Jordan Bell stays attached to Simmons on his drive. When DeMarcus Cousins moves over to help on Simmons, Scott is free for a three. 

The Sixers set up like they were going to run a Spain pick-and-roll against the Thunder but simply eliminated the initial screen. 

With Oklahoma City anticipating a Butler screen for Simmons first, Redick’s hard back screen for Butler arrived earlier than expected — and it would have gotten the Sixers a basket if Butler had converted an easy one at the rim.

Redick DHOs

Despite Embiid being sidelined, the Sixers haven’t abandoned a central piece of their offense — dribble handoffs with Redick.

Simmons and Redick have thrived when Simmons is able to push the ball up the court, hand it to Redick and shield off his man.

Since defenses load up for that action, the Sixers have several counters. Redick is excellent at screening for Simmons instead, which often creates confusion among the defense.

On the play below vs. the Magic, Butler sneaks up to set a back screen for Redick on the wing, prior to when a Simmons handoff would usually occur. Redick is actually open off Butler's initial screen, but Simmons gives it to Amir Johnson at the foul line. Redick keeps running, all the way to the unoccupied right corner for a wide-open three.

Given Simmons' size and how difficult he is to guard when he builds up a head of steam, you’d like him to be used more as a roller in the offense, either after setting screens or handing it off to Redick. 

Here, as the Sixers swing the ball to Butler in the post following Simmons’ DHO with Redick, Simmons seals off the smaller Westbrook and gets deep position in the post. 

The Sixers have the players now to incorporate ball screens in both simple ways, like forcing the defense to switch, and nuanced ways, like variations of Spain pick-and-rolls. As he learns more about this new version of his team and studies their success in these situations, Brown should continue to make ball screens a more prominent part of his offense.

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Actual NBA players hilariously voted for these 6 Sixers to make All-Star Game — which is a problem

Actual NBA players hilariously voted for these 6 Sixers to make All-Star Game — which is a problem

The NBA released the All-Star Game voting results on Thursday and as expected, some of the results are quite curious.

The voting process currently takes into account voting by the fans, players, and media, with the fan vote being counted as double. There are clearly flaws to this method.

Fan favorites like Tacko Fall can garner close to a million votes while his play on the court clearly doesn't reflect any All-Star bona fides. But there are some checks to a fan-only system. Player and media votes count for a significant portion of the voting. But there are flaws to that portion of the voting as well.

Some players clearly don't take the voting process very seriously.

Just look at some of the Sixers' bench players who received votes from fellow NBA players — to be an All-Star!

Marial Shayok - 1 player vote
Shake Milton - 1 player vote
Trey  Burke - 1 player vote
Matisse Thybulle - 1 player vote
Furkan Korkmaz - 1 player vote
Norvel Pelle - 1 player vote

Raul Neto, sadly, did not get any love from his fellow NBA players, nor did Mike Scott. Then there are the starters who received significant player votes: Tobias Harris (19), Al Horford (16), Josh Richardson (13). Those make some sense.

Joel Embiid was voted a starter by receiving a hefty portion of all three segments of the voting audience. The only other Sixer with a legit chance to make the team as a reserve appears to be Ben Simmons.

Simmons received the third most votes among guards in the East from the media, fourth most from the players, but a curious eighth most by the fans. More fans voted for Jaylen Brown than Simmons. OK, sure.

You can see a list of all players who received votes here. The reserves for the 2020 All-Star squad will be announces on Thursday night on TNT. The reserves are chosen by head coaches.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the coaches around the league aren't going to give Pelle the nod for all of those sweet blocks.



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Sixers' Joel Embiid named All-Star starter for third consecutive season

Sixers' Joel Embiid named All-Star starter for third consecutive season

Joel Embiid is again one of the 10 best players in the NBA, according to fans, a panel of media members and his fellow players.

The Sixers’ center was named an All-Star starter on Thursday for the third consecutive season.

Starters were determined by the votes of fans (50 percent weight), media members (25 percent) and players (25 percent). 

Embiid has averaged 23.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the 29-17 Sixers. He’s been sidelined for the past eight games with a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand. If Embiid is unable to play in the All-Star Game, which will take place on Feb. 16 in Chicago, then Commissioner Adam Silver will select an injury replacement. 

Though his scoring is down from last season, the Sixers have still been a much better team with Embiid on the floor than with him off it.

He’s second in the NBA in defensive win shares per game and fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (minimum 20 games played, 15 minutes per game). Lineups with Embiid have a 99.5 defensive rating, while lineups without him are at 106.9. 

It’s been an eventful year so far for Embiid, who’s been suspended for a fight and subsequent social media barbs, called load management “BS,” publicly grappled with questions about how to balance maturity and dominance, and sustained a nauseating injury.

Though the Cameroonian big man has said he cares most about being healthy and at his best for the playoffs, he now has another personal accolade.

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