It’s easy. Both Tyrese Maxey and De’Anthony Melton should start.

Harden, Maxey, Melton target practice training camp 2022 day 1; photo by Austin Krell/TPL

If the Sixers could soar even higher before a hiccup in the nation’s capital sparked an eight-game winning streak, their wings would be scorched to nothing by the scorching sun.

Still, something is missing from their strong rebound after a 1-4 start.

They are 5th in defense after what frankly felt like an arrogant start to the season, the team operating on the belief that they could win games simply by stepping onto the pitch rather than putting in professional effort every night. .

But according to Philadelphia, Philadelphia ranks 14th Cleaning the glass.

History says that champions usually have to be in the top 10 in both offense and defense.

Therefore, the Sixers should add some creativity to the mix. Even if they start to come to life after a forgettable start.

Tyrese Maxey’s return is imminent after suffering a minor fracture in his left foot on November 18. Some think the emergence of off-season trade takeover De’Anthony Melton means Maxey should be thrown to the bench to serve as an elite sixth man. Others believe the young guard have built up enough assets to guarantee a starting spot and Melton should be relegated to the reserves.

I say the answer is simple. Start with both.

That’s right, forget the traditional size and positions. Three guards in the starting lineup.

“But what about the defense?” you might ask.

Throw away the comatose first two weeks of the season. The overall defensive standing of the Sixers has always been excellent. Before Maxey went down, Philadelphia was in third place on that score. They have fallen to 5th in the league in defense in his absence.

Most importantly, the Sixers only gave up 109.7 points per 100 possessions when Maxey was on the field before the injury, according to NBA. com. Depending on the website you refer to, that team’s defensive rating ranks somewhere between 3rd and 5th in the NBA.

The conclusion is not that Maxey is subtly positive about defense. Rather, it’s that the other four players on the court, coupled with Maxey’s competitive desire not to just roll over and give up on defense, did more than enough to hide his shortcomings on that side of the floor.

As it turns out, the offensive side of the ball wasn’t as friendly to the Sixers, even with Maxey available. They were 20th on offense before the young guard went down. The team has improved to 14th since he suffered the broken foot.

More surprising than that, Philadelphia scored 114.02 points per 100 possessions in 136 minutes with the trio of Joel Embiid, James Harden and Maxey playing together this season, according to PBP statistics. That output would accelerate the league’s 14th bout.

The numbers weren’t great with the team’s top three offensive players on the field. But ask yourself: Does it make sense for a team with the NBA’s leading scorer, leading assister, and multi-level scorekeeper with an effective field goal percentage of 72.7 on catch-and-shoots to have such a pedestrian offensive record? Or is it more likely that number will rise to the top third of the league over the course of the season?

The three core players of the team do not fit together perfectly. But they make more sense together than a sustained attack from the middle of the pack.

That leaves us with two obvious questions. First, which player currently in base five will be moved to the bench?

I don’t see how anyone other than PJ Tucker can provide the answer.

Tucker has played 380 more minutes than Maxey this season. But the Sixers’ defense has been slightly better with Maxey on the field than with Tucker on. I don’t believe that holds up with a more comparable sample size. I don’t think logic buys it either.

More surprisingly, the Sixers score 115.5 points per 100 possessions with Tucker on the field. That’s good for the 10th best offense in the NBA. When the 37-year-old forward is off the field, Philadelphia scores 111.3 points per 100 possessions. That ranks 7th worst in the NBA, according to Cleaning The Glass.

That’s hard to believe until you consider that less than 20 percent of Tucker’s minutes have come with Embiid and Harden off the field. So he’s backed almost exclusively by the team’s offensive hubs when those players are available.

Still, basic stats for box scores – 3.4 points on 3 field goal attempts in 28.1 minutes per game this season – telling you that Tucker isn’t the one holding up the team’s attack.

That leaves us with another obvious question to answer. Who’s to say that a three-guard lineup would bolster the Sixers’ offense?

Nobody knows for sure. But you won’t know until you try. Three-guard lineups have been a monster for Philadelphia this season, albeit in a minuscule sample size.

The Sixers score 20.4 points per 100 possessions in the 35 minutes Harden, Melton and Shake Milton played together this season PBP. That net output is great. But the offensive output behind it, 111.54 points scored per 100 possessions, is not. I would believe that trio can be better offensively. But I believe those positions would normalize defensively to the point where the net rating is also fairly pedestrian.

On the other hand, the Sixers score 16.59 points per 100 possessions better than the enemies if you replace Maxey with Milton. Philadelphia scores 129.09 points per 100 possessions in the 56 minutes these three have played together this season, according to PBP. That is probably too robust to be sustainable. But I can buy that lineup that allows 112.5 points per 100 possessions – the 9th ranked defense in the NBA – is sustainable. Perhaps the three guards combined don’t top the other 29 fouls in the league. But I subscribe to the idea that they would be near the top and definitely in the top 10.

In the end, this all comes back to the aforementioned creativity. Philadelphia could afford to be more imaginative on attacks, using non-traditional primary moves or even some secondary moves to add depth to what it puts out each night. Starting or giving starter minutes to three guards would encourage reverse actions, challenging defenses to think more than they’ve become used to against the Philadelphia offense.

On this reverse pick-and-pop against the Knicks on Christmas, Quentin Grimes doesn’t see Jericho Sims playing Embiid off-screen, so he frantically slides forward to put the brakes on the Sixers’ big man. However, both he and Sims end up on Embiid, leaving Harden open for a catch-and-shoot three.

Not only would three guards allow for more reverse actions, but the Sixers would also have to perform more small-small (or non-traditional) actions. This concept is particularly beneficial for this group. Small-small plays force defenses to switch, creating potential mismatches for both offensive players. They also cause defensive scrambling because the opposition has to think and decide much faster than normal actions.

Here, Tucker and Maxey provide staggered screens for Harden. Tucker rolls out of his screen and drags Gary Trent Jr. away from the action. Scottie Barnes opts to trap Harden with OG Anunoby, leaving Maxey – who had already hit eight threes in this game – unattended to slide off the screen and pop out for a catch-and-shoot look.

There will be warts, as with all adaptations. But one of the first cards Doc Rivers should play upon Maxey’s return is rolling out a starting lineup of three guards from Harden, Maxey, Melton, Tobias Harris, and Embiid.

It’s reasonable to have some concerns about Tucker’s ability to be effective as part of the reserve units. He can still play most of his time alongside the core. But this is also a chance to cut his regular-season minutes a bit. That seems especially valuable given Cassidy Hubbarth’s report on the Christmas broadcast that Tucker plays through a pinched nerve. Tucker himself described it as a “dead hand”.

Based on the check-ins I’ve done, it doesn’t sound like it’s in the cards right now to shut down Tucker for a while to recover. Either way, it may be time to keep him for the games that matter, a philosophy that becomes most important when you sign a striker in his 30s on a three-year contract.

Relegating Tucker to the bench, at least until there is a ruling on the three-guard concept, will also allow Philadelphia to experiment with the addition of free agents as a backup center for small balls. The Sixers are scoring an elite 124.3 points per 100 possessions this season with Tucker at center, according to Cleaning the glass. They also give up 124.6 points per 100 possessions with Tucker in the middle. Neither that defensive rating nor the resulting net rating is good, but the Sixers haven’t exactly had inspiring returns from one of the key staffers behind Embiid.

But that’s an experiment for another day.

For now, the goal should be to push the offense into the top 10 in the NBA. The Sixers have some work to do to get it there, but help is on the way.

#easy #Tyrese #Maxey #DeAnthony #Melton #start

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