Sixers should thrive from beyond the arc
Clearly, the 76ers' Achilles heel last season was their outside -- and specifically three-point -- shooting.
The Sixers ranked 24th in the NBA in three-pointers made and 25th in attempts.
It goes deeper than that, too.
The Sixers were last in the league in free-throw attempts. Although they were fifth in the league in field-goal attempts, they were 15th overall in field-goal percentage and 22nd in scoring.
Indeed, putting the ball in the hoop was a problem.
Last season Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala were the team’s top three-point shooters. What’s more, the foursome were the only players on the team to attempt more than 50 three-pointers during the season.
Though Meeks made at least one three-pointer in 25 straight games last season -- the third-longest streak in team history -- coach Doug Collins was limited in what he could do with his perimeter game. The Sixers rarely got transition three-pointers and could not run a perimeter pick-and-roll with Meeks or Williams in order to get them a wide-open shot.
That shouldn’t be an issue this year.
With Meeks, Iguodala and Williams gone, Collins can lean on three of the most prolific three-point shooters in the NBA with Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright and Nick Young. Add those three with the deep frontcourt, and Collins expects the transition three-pointer to be a big part of the offense this season
If there is one strength that has been on display throughout the early training sessions at Saint Joseph’s University and the Philadelphia College for Osteopathic Medicine, it’s that the Sixers like to shoot the ball.
More importantly, they can
shoot the ball.
“I was taught as a young coach that you can never get enough shooting in your practice,” Collins said. “If you want to be a good shooting team, you better shoot.”
The three-pointer has become one of the biggest weapons in the league in which a few teams have built their offense around. But Richardson last season played for one of them. Thirty-five percent of the Magic's field-goal attempts were threes. The Knicks and Nets were second and third, respectively, in the league in three-point attempts; 28 percent of their field-goal attempts were three-pointers.
With Richardson, Wight and Young added to the mix, the Sixers could be hoisting them up at a greater rate.
“Doug wants us to do that more,” Richardson said about the long ball. “The transition three puts the defense on their heels and opens it up more for the inside players like Andrew, Spencer and Thad. It’s part of my game and I’m glad Doug likes it.”
The linchpin to this new-look offense is Richardson. Though he is probably best known for winning the dunk contest for two years in a row during All-Star weekend, Richardson also led the league in three-pointers made and attempted with Charlotte in 2007-08. He also ranks 15th in NBA history in three-pointers made and has experience running all sorts of offensive sets.
For instance, Richardson in Orlando played with center Dwight Howard, who was the focal point of the offense even though the team relied heavily on the three-pointer. He also played in Phoenix with Steve Nash and Grant Hill and was instrumental in running a pick-and-roll heavy offense as well as an offense scheme Collins runs with the Sixers called “Pistol.”
Wright and Young have been around, too, and Collins knows that he can run different types of plays to get those guys open for a three-pointer. However, Collins says most of the three-point attempts will come within the flow of the fast break or half-court offense. That means Holiday will be instrumental in facilitating.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of spacing where we’re not going to have a lot of pick-and-roll, but a lot of drive-and-kick where we look to break down guys off the dribble,” Collins said.
But more than anything, Collins and Richardson say the Sixers will make the most of their three-point looks with basic fundamentals. Specifically that means getting the shooter a good pass in the right spot of the floor.
“Even in a shooting drill we’re talking about giving a good pass to a shooter,” Collins said. “That becomes a habit with us.
“When I wanted to shoot the ball I wanted a good pass.”
Richardson says the players talk among themselves about where they will be on the floor. Sometimes it may be streaking to the wing; other times it might be as a trailer on the play.
And no matter what, Richardson says he encourages Wright and Young to take the shot if they have it. Then again, no one will have to worry about any one of those three players squeezing off a shot. After all, Richardson, Wright and Young all ranked in the top 20 in three-point attempts last season while Wright led the league in makes two years ago. E-mail John R. Finger at firstname.lastname@example.org