NBA

The Doug Collins Affect

As is typical, the origin of this post comes from a stupid argument between my friend and I.

Upon finding out about the Minnesota Timberwolves signing Mo Williams, the aging point guard to fill their back up spot behind Ricky Rubio.  At the current moment, the T-Wolves have Rubio, Williams, Alexey Shved, JJ Barrea, Kevin Martin, Glenn Robinson III, and Zach LaVine filling the guard spots.  That is quite a glut at the guard position for a team that wants to win now.

“[The Timberwolves] want to win now,” a league source told Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe. “They want to be competitive now, with or without Kevin. … So if they’re going to move Kevin, they’re going to get two or three guys that can help them win now.” [Zach Buckley, BleacherReport]

Then, take a look at what they want compared to what they have.  The Wolves have been on the record as wanting Thaddeus Young to replace Kevin Love.  However, in order to get Young, one would assume Sam Hinkie is asking for draft picks or young talent.  The Wolves have already traded away next year’s first round draft pick, and so they can’t offer up much in the way of draft picks.  However, they do have young talent.  Alexey Shved is an interesting, young (relatively, but at 25, he would be one of the oldest players on the Sixers) point guard.  He had a rough season last year, in which he averaged 4 points per game, and had about a 1 to 1 assist to turnover ratio, while shooting 29% from three.

I would go further into the Wolves prospects, but I don’t want to get off track.

The main concept, was that there are only a few options for the Wolves to trade.  One of the most appealing options is Zach LaVine, who is a super athletic guard who has the potential to turn into one of the best players to come out of this past draft.  While he has phenomenal upside, he has possibly the lowest floor out of anyone in this draft and isn’t a very refined basketball player at this point.  He won’t be able to really help a team win now.  Naturally, I am excited by this option, but my friend thinks it is basically impossible for the Sixers to pick him up, and so he proceeded to burst my bubble and dash all my hopes and dreams, no matter how unrealistic they may actually be.

So, in our hypothetical discussion, my friend mentioned how, if he were the Wolves, he wouldn’t get strong armed by the Sixers.  He mentioned that, instead of Thad Young, he would just go to the Celtics and trade for Jeff Green since they are basically equal talents.  I mentioned that Young is the better athlete, he is younger, a better rebounder, better defender, and has more scoring options as he can score in the post more efficiently.  This inevitably brought about the issue with Young that I have heard hundreds of times before, which is that Thad Young will never be able to maximize his potential due to the fact that he can’t shoot from the outside.

However, looking at the numbers from when he started his NBA career, Thad Young was a good shooter from the outside.  For his first three years in the NBA, Thad Young’s three point shooting percentages were as follows: 31.6%, 34.1%, and 34.8%.  The one thing to take away from those numbers is that they are consistently increasing.  Just so we are perfectly clear, this means that Thad Young came into the league as a fairly good outside shooter, and he improved this skill every year.

Then, Young’s fourth through sixth years in the league showed marked regression in his outside shooting ability.  Years 4-6 showed his three point shooting percentages as follows: 27.3%, 25%, and 12.5%.  Now, please pay attention to one key fact with these numbers, they are all trending down.  Upon viewing these stats, I truly believe that there is only one question to ask, what changed? Why did his shooting percentages suddenly stop improving and delve into the depths of the NBA statistics?  The answer, is simple.

Doug Collins.

Thad Young’s fourth year in the league was the 2010/11 NBA season.  This also happens to be Doug Collins’ first year coaching the Sixers.  If we all think back, there was a philosophy that Doug Collins brought in when finding the proper role for Thad Young to play, which was that Young should not be shooting three pointers.  He was too skilled inside at scoring garbage points, which just means that Young could still put up 14 points a game without having any plays run for him.

So, without going in too much depth as to why Doug Collins would take a player showing marked improvements in shooting the three pointer in the evolving game, which would allow the team to space the floor more easily and score more frequently, I want to review the idea that there is a fine line coaches walk when bringing in their system to a new team.  This is most easily seen in basketball.  Doug Collins came in and immediately tried placing the players on the team into the predefined roles that he wanted to fill his system.  It did not matter that Thad was a capable and improving outside shooter.  Collins didn’t even care that having a small ball four who could stretch the floor by shooting the three would greatly improve his team’s overall play.  He ignored it since he had predefined roles for everyone.

This happens in other sports, it just isn’t nearly as obvious of a transgression.

Chip Kelly is deemed an offensive savant due to his ability to see a player’s strength’s, talents, and flaws, and implement roles within his offense that cater to them.  This is how truly talented coaches utilize their players.  This is the way talent is exposed.

So, this article has been all over the place.  Such is the price of writing a post when you are sick and on a rant over a silly argument.  So, let me try and reel this back in with a nice closing statement.

Statistics are phenomenal tools, especially for the fans of teams.  They make sports quantifiable.  They make the players comparable across generations and they inspire arguments that feed friendships for years.  However, statistics do not take into account everything about a player.  One of the most important things statistics do not take into account is for terrible coaches.  Coaches who view their own prestige and fame as more important than the players and the team tend to harm the production of their players.

Thad Young deserves to be traded to a winning organization for all that he has done for the Sixers.  He has suffered through many tough years.  However, he is far too talented, no matter what the numbers may say during the Collins’ era, for the Sixers not to receive a fine return package for him.

[All statistics acquired from basketball-reference.com]**

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