Thirty-seven years after being drafted first overall by the 76ers, Doug Collins rejoins the team as its head coach, and with him he'll bring his trademark ball-control offense and hard-nosed defense. He will need to implement his strategies right away in order for fans to forget the stench of Philly's 27-55 record last season, its worst in 13 years. One of the main issues that led to last season's poor record was a team (and a coach) without an identity. Former coach Eddie Jordan constantly juggled lineups and never really decided if he wanted to play small or go with a traditional starting five. As expected, this lack of continuity produced a lack of wins and it appeared that Jordan had lost the team after a 12-game losing streak through December.
There are three things you can count on from Doug Collins: 1. Insightful analysis as a commentator; 2. Attention to detail on defense; and 3. A slower-than-slow offensive pace. The first one we're going to have to do without for the time being, but you can definitely expect an improvement on defense and a grind-it-out offensive scheme. That may not sound sexy to 76ers fans, but this type of play has been effective in recent years as five of the last eight NBA champions have played this way (Celtics, Pistons, Spurs). The table below shows how Collins' teams have performed in terms of opposing points per game and offensive pace in his seven full seasons as a head coach. As you can see, Collins preaches defenses wherever he coaches, and even though the Washington defensive rankings may not look as good as compared to his stops in Chicago and Detroit, it's important to know that the year before Collins arrived in D.C., the Wizards gave up the second most points in the league.
|Rankings of Doug Collins' Coached Teams|
|Year||Opp. PPG Ranking||Pace Ranking||# of NBA teams|
As for pace, that can best be described as an estimation of the number of offensive possessions for a team per 48 minutes. Thus, a slower pace and a low pace ranking means that Collins' teams "use the entire shot clock" in order to get a good shot. He does this by putting the ball in his best player's hands and having him create a shot for himself or a teammate. You may be saying, "Well doesn't every coach do that?" and the answer is yes, to an extent. But Collins ALWAYS wants the ball in his best player's hands whether it be at ends of quarters, ends of games, or in situations when the shot clock is running low. It's no coincidence that the two best players Collins has coached, Michael Jordan and Grant Hill, set career highs in minutes played and assists while playing under Collins.
With the Samuel Dalembert-Spencer Hawes trade, it appears that Collins has already begun to replace players that don't fit his system. On the surface it appears that there is a drop off defensively from Dalembert to Hawes (or Elton Brand), but it won't be as dramatic as you might think because Collins has proven that he doesn't need a shot blocker in order to have a great D. All those top-five defensive rankings with Chicago and Detroit were done with the likes of Bill Cartwright, Grant Long, Don Reid, and Mark West starting at center, and none of those players ever averaged one block under Collins. Collins preaches "team defense," while Dalembert attempted to swat everything in his vicinity and was often inattentive to open players around the basket.
But where Hawes will help most is on offense, as he is a clear upgrade over Dalembert, who had a tendency to be a "black hole" in that when the ball was passed to him in the post he usually wasn't looking to kick it back out. In the 2009-2010 season, Dalembert had the third worst assist per 40 minutes ratio among starting centers, while Hawes had the third best assist per 40 ratio among starting centers. Hawes can also shoot the 3 as he attempted more 3-pointers than all but three starting centers last year, and that will open up more driving lanes for whomever Collins bestows the offense to.
So who will that playmaker be for the 76ers next year? We'll find that out at the draft on June 24 which direction the team will go. If the Sixers take Evan Turner with the second overall pick as expected, then look for him to be the focal point as he is very similar to Grant Hill in terms of ball-handling and court awareness. But if they elect for a big instead (Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins), then that role will be given to Andre Iguodala who has the athletic ability of Jordan (even though he's better suited for a Scottie Pippen-like complementary role). Either way, here's hoping that 2010's return of a former No. 1 overall pick back to Philly goes much better than 2009's which gave us a lot of questions, but ultimately missed out on "The Answer."