Last year’s Philadelphia 76ers squad was damn near impossible to score on. They put up a defensive rating of 99.2 and held opponents to a 46.0 effective field goal percentage, both third in the league. This year, they’ve seen a big drop in defensive efficiency without stalwarts Andre Iguodala and Elton Brand. They’re allowing 105.7 points per 100 possessions, with their opponents netting a 49.4 eFG%. What has gone wrong for the Sixers?
Subtraction by Subtraction
The losses of Iguodala and Brand, as necessary as they were, have wounded the Sixers’ defensively. Per 82games.com, Philadelphia’s top seven units in terms of court time last season featured both Brand and Iguodala; only two of those units gave up more than one point per possession. By contrast, only one of the Sixers’ top seven five-man units gives up less than a point per possession this year, and that unit’s figure is 0.99.
Not surprisingly, guarding opposing centers and small forwards - the positions Brand and Iguodala generally checked while in Philly - has been an issue for the Sixers this year. Those two positions are where the Sixers are registering their worst net-PERs, at -4.6 and -2.1, respectively.
Protecting the Rim
The Sixers actually don’t allow a ton of shots at the rim - only 25.2 per game, according to hoopdata.com. However, playing one of the slowest paces in the league, that does account for 31.4 percent of their opponents shots. Once they get to the rim, the Sixers’ foes are hitting 65.1 percent of their shots there, about a full percent above the league average.
The Sixers lack of success is not due to a total lack shot blockers; they’re 13th overall in block rate. Spencer Hawes’ 4.2 percent block percentage sits just outside of the top 25 in that category, while Lavoy Allen also rejects shots at a respectable rate (3.2 block percentage). Instead, it’s often the result of poor help defense and rotations, as the Brooklyn Nets exposed in their 109-89 romp on Tuesday.
It’s tough to win when you’re giving your opponents extra points, and that rings true for the Sixers. They have one of the worst free throw disparities in the league - they’ve attempted just 630 while putting their opponents on the line for 809 attempts. The .214 free throws per field goal attempt they give up, 21st in the league, is another big step in the wrong direction from last season, when they ranked eighth in the category.
Hawes and Allen, the aforementioned “rim protectors” are two of the biggest culprits - both average over four fouls per 36 minutes.