On draft night back in 2010, the Wizards and the Sixers were two bad teams who felt like they had received significant upgrades with the additions of John Wall and Evan Turner respectively. Turner still comes off the bench, but the addition of Doug Collins along the maturation of Jrue Holiday, helped the Sixers reach the playoffs last year, along with a strong 7-3 start this year. The Wizards were back in the lottery last year, and are far and away the worst team in the NBA this season. To put it mildly, the Sixers have passed the Wizards by. These two polar opposites will clash in Philadelphia tonight, but before that Truth About It writers Kyle Weidie and Rashad Mobley, along with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sixers beat writer (and former Wizards beat writer for the Washington Times) John Mitchell answer three questions…
#1) In Kate Fagan’s well-written blog entry on Monday, she broke down the reasons why Philadelphia is playing so well offensively this year. One of the main reasons for the offensive efficiency, is that Doug Collins and his coaching staff realized that his personnel excelled at running the pick-and-roll, and he needed to customize his offense to match their strengths. Given that the John Wall is struggling offensively, and the Wizards as a whole are struggling on offense—they scored just 64 points in a loss to Chicago—should Flip Saunders look to make adjustments to the offense? Or are the Wizards just in a bad shooting slump?
MITCHELL: I honestly don’t know what Flip can do to ignite the offense. John Wall is an electric talent, but he probably played with better talent at the collegiate level than he has in Washington. Nick Young, allegedly and offensive player, was reportedly seeking $9 million annually yet he’s back in Washington hitting just 38 percent of his shots. With the Wizards, the ball too often sticks. That’s not a good thing.
MOBLEY: The Wizards are in a bad slump but it has nothing to do with shooting, and everything to do with where they are mentally. John Wall and Andray Blatche are missing baskets at point blank range. Nick Young, as many times as he keeps the Wizards in the game with his scoring, is still forcing shots. There have been very few possessions for the Wizards this season, where precise passing and patience led to any easy score. If Flip can somehow get this team to do that, the offense would be more efficient.
WEIDIE: Washington’s best bet, in the midst of offensive ineptness, is for John Wall to get paint penetration and for him and his team to earn trips to the foul line. Problem is, in the Wizards’ one win, they got 12 assisted FGs at the rim, John Wall was responsible for five of those. In all other games, losses, the Wizards average 6.3 assisted FGs at the rim, and overall, Wall’s assists leading to FGs at the rim is down to 2.9 this season from 3.2 last season. Wall is also struggling to finish, shooting 50.8-percent on attempts at the rim this season compared to 59.9-percent last season. Add in the fact that Washington’s team FT-percentage is at .716 this season from .745 last season, and I think the cause is less of a slump and more of a general inability. [Stats via HoopData.com]
#2) If Doug Collins and Flip Saunders were to switch jobs, would the Sixers still be 7-3, and would the Wizards be 1-9?
MITCHELL: Every year, it seems, there’s a team that is so pitiably atrocious that you wonder if it belongs in the NBA. The 76ers (9-73) were that team in 1972-73. In 2000-01 it was the Chicago Bulls (15-67). This season that team is the Wizards. Last year, they didn’t win a road game until Valentine’s Day and the personnel aren’t appreciably better this season. Doug is a better coach than Flip is but there is very little that can be coaxed out of this Washington roster.
MOBLEY: Flip Saunders strengths and talents are better served on a more mature team, and the current Sixers team seems to fit that description. Doug Collins is the equivalent of Tequila: If he’s taken in the right doses, he can absolutely be effective, But too much of him can equal disaster. That being said, if this were Doug Collins’ first season as Wizards coach, he’d find a way to have them playing .500 ball. The Sixers would be. 500 too.
WEIDIE: Collins is certainly the more forceful personality, but yelling, ‘Where’s my dinner?!?’ as if you were Don Draper in the late 50s only works if you actually have a wife. The Wizards play a bunch of single bachelors looking for scraps at last call… Meaning: they are all in it for themselves and the Collins effect wouldn’t be much with Washington’s current team (give Collins more than a year, however, and things might be different). Philly has guards in Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday who can be just as undisciplined Nick Young and Jordan Crawford, but it’s clear that the former two listen better. The ultimate concluion is if these teams switched coaches, their winning percentage might be closer to each other, but not by much.
#3) Spencer Hawes (11.1 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game) and JaVale McGee (11.6 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game) are both having the best season of their brief careers. They’ve gone head-to-head seven times dating back to 2009, and although McGee has the better won-loss record, their stats are relatively even in those matchups (Hawes has averaged 8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks and McGee has averaged 6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks). Assuming Hawes can fight through his lower back issues and play, who do you give the advantage to tonight?
MITCHELL: JaVale is clearly working on his game and improving. I believe that he has a higher upside than Spencer. Couple that with back problems for Hawes and this could be a very good night for JaVale. He’ll likely get a heavy dose of Tony Battie and rookie Nic Vucevic, a war horse and a young guy that he should be able to take advantage of. Hawes’ back has been pretty bothersome lately.
MOBLEY: If Hawes plays, he’ll still be a bit slowed by his sore back, so he figures to lose the statistical matchup to the active, more athletic McGee. But part of the Sixers offense is predicated upon the adept passing of Hawes, so if he’s able to that, the Sixers figure to be more efficient and come out victorious.
WEIDIE: Latest word is that Hawes won’t play and that Tony Battie, who will turn 36 in February, will be starting in his place. Other reports say that Hawes plans to play, or could be a game-time decision. And while the old veteran Battie might have some physicality and veteran tricks up whatever type of protective sleeve(s) he will be wearing, I fear for him against McGee. JaVale has been playing with much more discipline lately, and although that could come crumbling like an old cookie in Andray Blatche’s sweatpants pockets at any moment, I’m a believer (believe it or not) in the confidence McGee has been building, even if it’s fueled by his nonsensical and ill-advised self-promotion for All-Star Game votes. If Hawes plays, McGee will have the advantage, but only if he doesn’t jump at every pump fake, which he’s been doing less of lately as well.