The Philadelphia 76ers offered a warning shot to the rest of the NBA in 2017. After minimal success over the last few seasons, the Sixers, led by Brett Brown ushered in a new era in Philly basketball. With young talents such as Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Daric, and Robert Covington leading the charge, the Sixers went from 28 to 52 wins in a single season. But it wasn’t enough.
Sure, a leap that big should have garnered Brown COY but he was passed over for Dwyane Casey of the Toronto Raptors who was later fired after leading his team to the best record in the Eastern Conference. However, what Brown was able to do with the young Sixers’ squad was nothing short of a miracle.
When the season started, many figured the Philadelphia 76ers would contend for the eighth seed at best. Little did the league know that Brett Brown would have his team not only in contention for a playoff berth, but had their eyes set on something bigger. With the team healthy, minus Markelle Fultz, the Sixers, at one point, would reel off 16 straight wins and earn the third seed in the East. But this is where their weakness would be exposed.
Where Did It Go Wrong For Brett Brown?
During their series against the Miami Heat, the Sixers won with pure athleticism against a Heat team trying to win off individual achievements and the resume of Dwyane Wade. The youth of the Sixers was just too much for the Heat to overcome and the team advanced to the second round to take on their Atlantic Division rivals, the Boston Celtics.
Despite the regular season success of Brown, it was against Brad Stevens where his coaching proved to be fatal. Throughout the series, the Philadelphia 76ers never stood a chance. It’s not that the Celtics had superior talent, it was just that Stevens controlled the game from the sidelines while Brown stood there in awe. It must be noted that while Brown led his Celtics team to the ECF the prior season. While some of the faces are new, the same coach has barked orders.
It was clear from the opening tip that Stevens gave his Celtics two goals– attack the basket and knock down their perimeter shots. The Celtics, not as tall as the Sixers in the paint, elected to bomb away from three-point territory with 161 attempted shots compared to 130 from the Sixers.
With the Sixers obviously struggling with their perimeter defense, Brown didn’t make the necessary adjustments to counter the Celtics’ attack. With Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Smart letting them fly, there was no one on the roster to make them pay on the other end. This is the main area of concern for Brown and the Sixers heading into the 2018-19 NBA season. Who will attack the rim?
Someone Must Create Shots For The Philadelphia 76ers
With Simmons leading the point of attack, he must either develop a perimeter shot or the team must find someone willing to create off the dribble. There were too many instances during the Celtics series where the Sixers became stagnant on the offense end looking for an open shot. Where Brown faltered was by electing not to play Fultz when it was clear the Celtics series is where they needed him most.
During the Heat series, Brown played Fultz a total of 23 minutes. In that short time, fans got a chance to see what he could do if given the chance. But for some reason, Brown ignored the young flashy guard and his absence may have been the reason the Sixers never had a chance.
As the team moves into a new season, the spotlight is now shining brightly on Brown. While fans are still on the fence, Brown must understand that he’s in a tough spot. The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the top teams in the NBA and with their young core, there are talks of a dynasty.
In order for the team to take that next step, Brown has to do better. Just knowing that your team is as talented as any in the league is not enough. Brad Stevens understood that, as did Gregg Popovich, Casey, and others. Despite having a top-three center in Embiid and a top-10 point guard in Simmons, Brown has to learn to make adjustments on the fly. It’s a learning curve and truth be told, Brown may not have that much time to get the hang of it. The East is wide open after LeBron James’ departure, which puts the Sixers in a great position to represent the East in the 2019 NBA Finals.
The Philadelphia 76ers Are Banking On Brown Improving
In order for that to happen, Brett Brown has to realize he doesn’t have it all figured out yet. Brown must find a way to get his team in a better position to be successful. He has the players to hit big shots, but the majority of that will come from the perimeter. Simmons can attack the basket but his free throw shooting is so awful that one has to wonder if he’s doing more damage than good. Embiid loves to back a player down, but his dribbling is just as suspect as Simmons’ free throw shooting. Something has to change.
With Brown serving as the interim GM this offseason, he’s now constructing a team in his own vision. His moves have been focused on finding and drafting players with the ability to create their own shots and that means, he admits where he went wrong against Boston.
But only time will tell if the moves he’s making this offseason will translate into better decision-making while patrolling the sidelines. If Brown learns from his mistake, the Philadelphia 76ers could be the next NBA champions.