The Philadelphia 76ers are inching closer to playoff time and they are not playing extremely well. Their starting lineup is still trying to build cohesion and the bench is inconsistent at best. One of the regular trends during this seasonis criticism over head coach Brett Brown. He’s been here since the beginning of the The Process and now that the team boasts four All-Star caliber players, the pressure is on more than ever.
All that being said, there likely is not a playoff scenario where Brown loses his job. It’s just the reality. Here are a few things to think about:
Poor Roster Construction
Elton Brand took over the role of general manager and made two gigantic trades during the season. Adding Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris has made the starting five one of the NBA’s best.
In doing so, though, the team’s depth has taken a hit. The team is very top-heavy and the Sixers go into the postseason with one of the weakest benches in the league.
Fans are claiming that if Brett cannot make this work, he won’t be able to. It’s a flawed argument, though, because the back-ups just aren’t good enough. Starters cannot do it all.
- Overall this season, the Sixers bench averages 30.9 points per game, 27th in the league.
- Since the Tobias Harris trade, the Sixers bench production has dropped to 25.8 points per game, last in the NBA.
- Because of the lack of good options off the bench, the Sixers reserves this season average just 16.5 minutes per game, 28th in the NBA.
- Since the Tobias Harris trade, the bench minutes have gone down to 15 per game. NBA rank: 29th.
In the trade for Butler, the Sixers dealt two starters in Dario and RoCo. Covington was a defensive staple for the Sixers and Philadelphia’s defense has been one of their glaring weaknesses.
In the trade for Harris, Wilson Chandler and Landry Shamet were sent to Los Angeles. Shamet was one of the lone bright spots off the bench for the Sixers. Since he’s left, the bench scoring has taken a pretty significant blow. In Chandler, you lose an oft-injured starter and gain Harris. That’s fine.
Throughout all of this, you have inconsistent bench personnel with no one that can take scoring responsibility. Mike Scott has had a couple of good games and TJ McConnell is hit or miss. James Ennis III looked to be getting comfortable, but he’s out for two weeks at least.
The starting lineup is among the best in the NBA, but keeping the momentum going once they go to the bench is an issue. One that isn’t a Brett Brown problem, it’s an overall team problem.
Big Offseason Ahead
In making these big trades during the season, the Sixers acquired two players eligible for free agency. Philadelphia has bird rights for both of these guys. They can pay them more than they will get on the open market. Elton Brand was given assurances from ownership that they would be able to bring both Butler and Harris back, which is the ideal scenario.
Brett Brown has his flaws, but being a player’s coach is not one of them. He has a great relationship with the players and is widely respected across the league for what he’s done in Philadelphia. This is only his second playoff appearance as a head coach.
All that being said, it would not be wise for Elton Brand and the Sixers to part ways with Brown after the playoffs. The offseason ahead is just too important. Offseason goals:
- Re-sign Butler and Harris
- Add bench depth
- Draft players that can contribute
- Develop roster consistency
Some of these go hand-in-hand, but adding a head coach search to this offseason? Yikes.
This argument of keeping him just because of the offseason important obviously has it’s holes. If the team gets outplayed in a first round exit, there could be a chance Brown gets cut loose. Anything other than that would just be adding more uncertainty to an offseason that is of the most importance to this team’s contention in the coming years.
Who Replaces Him?
This is a question that has to be asked. If you are getting rid of Brett Brown, who takes his place? While 75% of Philadelphia will answer with “Jay Wright”, he’s not coming to the NBA yet. So who else is out there, exactly? Here are a few options…
- Monty Williams – Sixers assistant
- Jim O’Brien – Sixers assistant (no, let’s not do this)
- David Adelman – Nuggets assistant
- Background in player development
- Chris Finch – Pelicans assistant
- Toronto was denied permission to interview Finch to replace Dwayne Casey. Finch’s experience is valuable, having experience working Nikola Jokic in Denver and Anthony Davis in New Orleans.
- Phil Jackson
- Stan Van Gundy
- Tyronne Lue
- David Blatt
You can look at college coaches as well, but the fact of the matter is that there isn’t a great other option out there. It’s tough to bank on finding another Steve Kerr in a pool of former players as well. Not to mention, Kerr had Steph Curry and Klay Thompson already when he took over the Warriors.
Players Deserve Blame Too
This is one that is often overlooked. Brett Brown draws up some plays, lays out the concepts and game plan each night. He is to blame for some of the issues. Players deserve blame too.
- Brett Brown is not out there missing free throws late in the fourth quarter
- Brett Brown is not making careless passes into traffic resulting in turnovers
Sure, Brown needs to instill discipline and preach communication, but these are professional NBA players we’re talking about here.
Ben Simmons, who claims he wants to be one of the best players in the league, limits himself exponentially. He is better when he’s aggressive, but that aggression isn’t seen nearly enough. His lack of jump shot allows other teams to sag off of him and contest/double team other guys.
Jimmy Butler is a gritty, defensive player but also needs to turn it on earlier in the game. His comments of not needing to be aggressive much outside of the fourth quarter are somewhat concerning. Jimmy has shown great ability to close, but in order for the team to be even more dangerous in the postseason, he needs to contribute earlier. If he remains passive through the earlier quarters, it’s easier for the other team to focus more on Embiid and Redick’s two-man action.
That’s just two examples, but the players need to be held accountable as well.
Erase The Early Process Years
Brett Brown is in his sixth season coaching the Sixers. To be fair to the guy, though, you have to erase at least the first three process years. Those meant nothing and were strictly something to get through. If you count the 28-54 year, Brett has a 129-114 record. When given the right talent, there has been success.
As far as the playoffs go, last season was an eye-opener in round two. Ben Simmons was ineffective and Brett Brown was badly out-coached. This will be Brett’s second season in the playoffs, so making adjustments from last year’s issues is very important.
These playoffs will play a huge part as to whether Brown has a future with this team. If they exit early, his seat will be hotter than ever next season. If the Sixers make some noise, though, don’t rule out Brown being here for a few more years.