Having a good coaching staff is one of the principal components to any prosper franchise. For the Sixers, this has been an inexhaustible source of debates for years. To say the least, Doc Rivers and the staff have failed to convince everyone that their legitimacy shouldn’t be doubted after two years in command. But besides the fact that it is maybe the most promising year of the entire Embiid-era, what will make this upcoming season another indicator of how good the coaching minds of this franchise actually are?
1# Next year’s regular season will feature the most back-to-back confrontations
As seen in the schedule released two weeks ago, the Sixers will play the same opponents two-times in a row eight-times next year, while it only happened twice this past season. It was already the case two seasons ago, and the Sixers handled it well (12-4), but in far different conditions than now. Doc Rivers and his staff will inevitably have to make adjustments between the games and if taken seriously, this new format could be nifty to put the Sixers in some playoffs-like situations. However, if Doc Rivers came to be out-coached adjustments-wise during those match-ups, it will surely reflect in some losses. In a year where the race for the East’s top-seeds promises to be ruthless, loosing winnable games because of some coaching malpractice or complacency will be extremely costly and infuriating.
2# The young players’ development
Next year will be a major one for many of the young Sixers’ careers and this time, Doc must be ready to let them shine, or fall, earlier in the season.
Winning on the margins matters. Since the contracts reform in 2012, rookie deals are the most valuable assets as they’re cheap and extremely productive in the end. It’s possible that there’s a more structural problem besides Doc’s reluctance to play young players, but it’s clear that the Sixers have a real problem at developing and integrating young players that aren’t excellent by nature.
In back-to-back seasons, Doc privileged playing washed more experienced players over younger ones, and two years in-a-row has he ended up regretting it come playoffs time.
It’s time for Doc and the staff to focus on developing and playing young players more next year. Because, by rarely even giving them a shot, you take away an extremely promising opportunity to improve your flexibility and upside, an opportunity that opposing teams have always found success in.
3# The new rule changes
I said in a previous article that the Sixers were repeatedly amongst the worst teams in transition defense. Next year, the league will incorporate a new rule which will make intentional fouling to stop the progression of a fast-break punished by a free throw and the ball for the opponents. It will force teams to start taking transition defense more seriously, as pushing the ball in transition could be a new global habit amongst the league now that it can be even more effective. The Sixers absolutely have to be better there, and it’s up to the coaches to make sure they quickly are.
Doc and his staff are in front of a challenging year and hopefully, one that will last until June. To live until there and to become the fourth coach to win a title with multiples franchises, Doc Rivers will have to use all his experience to guide the Sixers through, but he will also need to redefine a consequent part of his approach.
Can he actually do that at this stage of his coaching career? It’s unlikely, but if he doesn’t, the partnership between him and the Sixers shouldn’t last any longer.
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