Does Brett Brown need to call out his superstars more?

The writers here at The Painted Lines do not always agree. Brock Landes and Adam Schorr found themselves embroiled in a debate regarding the Sixers’ turnover issues. The following is a lightly edited transcript of this debate. All numbers through games played Nov. 12, 2019.

Brock Landes: 

https://twitter.com/landesbrock/status/1194640296262266880?s=21

Horrible reflection on Brown. The Sixers for three seasons before Brown turned the ball over at a top 3 lowest rate for three straight seasons. Not ironic they’ve been 24th or league worst for all of Brown’s seasons. That’s a reflection of the system not the players because the problem never got fixed. Even before their ridiculous pace, which isn’t even that ridiculous, they turned the ball over a ton due to this system.

Adam Schorr: 

13-14: Led by MCW (TO% didn’t appreciably drop until multiple years/teams later) and a guy literally nicknamed Evan Turnover (his TO% increased after leaving Philly)

14-15: MCW, Wroten, McDaniels, Covington – McDaniels is the only one with an appreciable TO% drop and that’s because he was asked to do nothing before washing out entirely

15-16: No one culprit. Biggest may have been rookie TJ, who has lowered his TO% slightly every year but his TO% in IND this year is nearly identical to his TO% here last year. Marshall was a TO machine everywhere. Noel has always been a TO guy. 

16-17: TJ again and Sergio Rodriguez, who had a lower TO% here than he did his first stint in the league. Rookie Embiid, who has lowered his TO% from here. Stauskas had slightly elevated TOs. Rookie Dario as well, who also lowered his TO% to a point where it stayed consistent in MIN and PHO.

I can’t find any evidence that this is a Brett Brown issue. During the process years, Brown was given nothing but rookies and known turnover guys who turned the ball over significantly outside of Brown’s system. Simmons and Embiid are turnover machines, but I don’t think it’s a Brett Brown thing. Embiid still is extremely slow processing double teams and passing out of them and Ben Simmons commits a bunch of dumb offensive fouls and tries passes he shouldn’t. If you want Brett Brown to cut the turnovers, have him trade Ben Simmons. That’s really the only answer, and obviously that’s not an answer.

Landes:

Compelling argument. I don’t wholeheartedly agree, but I understand. The Sixers’ turnover percentage exceed 16.0% three times from 2003 to 2013. 10-11,11-12,12-13 their percentage was 13.9 (1st), 12.4 (1st), and 14.3 (2nd). Then for Brown’s entire tenure, his average is over 16.0%. I get that he was dealt a bad hand, but consistently placing atop the league in highest turnover percentage is inexcusable. Even Houston, a team that was among some of the most turnover happy for years, has escaped bottom 10, but for some reason Brown has not, and the blame falls on his players? I could agree with you, but when players depart from Philadelphia, their individual turnover percentages decrease. Saric, Okafor, Covington, McConnell, and more. It’s more the system, than the players. Brown has faulty rotations, doesn’t know what combination of players to use, struggles to put his players in places to succeed.

The Sixers have been atop the most passes made per game for the previous six years, but then Brown has to adjust and refine his offense. He can’t just allow his offense to surrender the basketball to the other team consistently at the worst rate in the NBA and ignore that. This offense is just not as dangerous as it should be with Brown in my opinion, but coaches are near impossible to find this time of year. He’s almost fully locked into that role.

Schorr:

Hold up. McConnell went from 22.5% as a rookie to 17.3% in his 4th year and is at 17.1% this year. That’s technically a decrease after he left, but not statistically significant, and more importantly, if you’re going to give credit or blame to a coach, give credit for helping him drop it 5%. Okafor has his highest TO% of his career by far this season. Covington has his second highest TO% of his career this year, ahead of only 15-16. Saric has his highest TO% since his rookie year this year.

Literally the only player I can find who had a significant TO% decrease is MCW, whose TO% decreased l2 years after he left and did not reach a decent level until 4 years and 4 teams later. The Sixers’ problem under Brett Brown has been having turnover-prone players. That’s all.

Landes:

I find it near impossible that a team that’s never had a turnover problem in the previous 10+ years, is now leading the league in turnover percentage for six straight seasons. I don’t think there is a chance in hell that for all six seasons, the fault is the players he was dealt and not his offense.

Schorr:

What does a team with 15 different players and a different head coach have anything to do with this one?

Landes:

Because again, the team led the league for three consecutive seasons essentially, in avoiding turnovers. From 2003-13, the team rarely spiked over 16.0%, which is Brown’s career average basically. For six straight seasons, never once done before in Sixers’ history (as far as the data is recorded) did they lead the league in TOV% for that duration of time.

Which is a reflection on the coach and his system and not the players, that with five different combinations of teams, he couldn’t get one to escape bottom 10 in TOV %. And I agree, their team passes a lot and turnovers are inevitable, but he has ignored that for six seasons and just now emphasizes the importance of changing that.

Schorr:

Okay, so this is moving away from who is responsible for turnovers and into whether turnovers are a particularly bad thing, but their offenses ranked 26th, 20th, and 17th in ORtg those years. They were 12th and 8th the past two years. I know which offense I would run.

Landes:

There is no excuse for turning her basketball over more than any team in the league for six straight seasons essentially with different personnel year in and year out. That’s his offense.

Schorr:

I believe that if you brought Doug Collins back, you would have less turnovers and we would probably be 30th in the league in ORtg or close to. Many of Brown’s teams weren’t even NBA teams, and now he has a team built around two turnover-prone stars. I don’t think any coach can magically make Ben Simmons less turnover prone.

If the offense wasn’t scoring, I’d blame the coach. But it is, despite everybody talking about how the pieces don’t fit together at all and how this will be a bad offensive team. We’re somehow 19th in ORtg this year despite Richardson and Harris shooting a combined 23-95 from 3.

Landes:

Okay so is that the excuse we will give Brown for 6 more years?

To conclude my turnover argument, half court turnovers indicate to me that their offensive sets are wrong and players are in the wrong place, consistently. Transition turnovers happen. If Embiid, Richardson, or Simmons turned the ball over one fewer time a game perhaps, they would hover around league average. But none of Brown’s teams have been near league average because of Brown. And it starts with putting players in the right places. Not letting them randomly operate.

Schorr:

I don’t think Brown needs any excuses. I don’t believe he’s doing anything wrong.

To conclude my turnover argument, half court turnovers indicate to me that you have players who are turnover-prone or you have a system that is willing to cough up the ball on a few extra possessions to get better results on significantly more possessions. None of Brown’s teams have been near league average because of their personnel, and no coach would do any better without killing the offense.

Do you agree with Brock Landes? Adam Schorr? Or do you have your own take? Continue the debate on Twitter with @LandesBrock, @AdamSchports, and @ThePaintedLines!