Brett Brown playing big lineups, slows down Sixers’ pace

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Brett Brown has pushed the pace in Philly since he got there to coach the team through its rebuild — they were seventh fastest in the NBA last season, the fastest two seasons ago.

But this season, playing an old-school big front line with Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel, things have slowed down. Okafor likes to work in the post, something that is a half-court offense set, and that’s become the primary weapon for Philadelphia. The Sixers are averaging 98.3 possessions a game to start this season, 20th in the NBA. While Brown has preached tempo, the roster doesn’t lend itself to speed, Brown told Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I have to coach a program based on what I’m given,” Brown said Friday. “You hear me beating my chest all the time about pace, and it’s true. I’m not back-peddling. But there’s a realization where you have to use what you have….

“We could all talk next year and say, you know what, we are just a really big team,” Brown said. “And we need to walk it up and pound it inside and sprinkle shooters around and play in the 80s [points-per-game range]. It doesn’t sound good coming off my tongue. But you are always coaching to what you have, so that’s the challenge.”

He’s right, you can’t fit square pegs into round holes. (Remember the start of the Mike D’Antoni era with the Lakers? He eventually made some adjustments, but that start was a mess as he tried to push his system on a roster it did not fit). It may be bucking the NBA’s small ball trend, but this is the right thing to do. Play to the strengths of your stars.

Sixers’ fans living in the Philadelphia area, if you are a Comcast subscriber, you can catch a live stream of tonight’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, just follow this link and you can watch it anywhere.

Okafor looks like a franchise cornerstone, leading all rookies in scoring at 20.6 points per game. Noel is adding 12.2 points a contest. And don’t forget, next season they will (hopefully) add Joel Embiid to the mix, plus whatever high draft pick they land (or potentially picks, they get the Lakers’ pick if it is fourth or later).

If Brown had quality NBA level guards to run the show and get some buckets in transition, maybe this would be different. They could pick their spots. But right now the Sixers’ guard rotation is not up to the task. Slow it is, but that means Sam Hinkie ultimately needs to add a lot more shooting to the roster to make the spacing work.