A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Philadelphia vs Kentucky

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Predictably the Philadelphia 76ers all time roster is compared to the top ranked college team Kentucky. For once it appears people are taking the question seriously whether Kentucky would win since Philadelphia is rolling out so many players who shouldn’t be in the NBA.

So let’s take a closer look:

Frontcourt offense

This is where Kentucky is closest to Philadelphia. Philadelphia’s roster of Nerlens Noel, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Brandon Davies, Henry Sims are not scary compared to Kentucky bigs like Karl Anthony-Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein or Dakari Johnson. A case can be made for Karl Anthony-Towns as already the most most dynamic offensively, though in college Brandon Davies was a solid 18/7 big offensively his last year at BYU and has developed since. Offensively, rookie bigs can regularly outperform unskilled veteran bigs, thus Kentucky’s bigs performing as well as this year’s Sixers bigs next year in the NBA would not be a major surprise.

Perimeter offense

The Sixers get a major leg up on Kentucky here. Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison may end up as NBA talents, but outside shot happy guards that tend to be dime a dozen in the NBA. Alex Poythress has poor offensive skill by NBA standards. The other Kentucky perimeter players appear to be far away from ready for NBA production.

Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten were both college standouts and that was before NBA experience and physical maturation. Their ability to penetrate to the basket stands out at an NBA level and would likely dominant at a college level. Wroten would physically punish smaller college players with his size. The 3rd guard in the rotation Alexey Shved likewise has an off the dribble-centric game that would be difficult for college defenses to handle. K.J. McDaniels was an offensive standout in college and his 3pt shooting has improved in the NBA. Hollis Thompson  shot over 43% all 3 of his seasons at Georgetown which would provide the Sixers with a dangerous catch and shoot and spacing threat against college players.

Compared to college competition, the Sixers perimeter would have dynamic ability to penetrate, outside shooting and a huge strength advantage. They would likely dominate on offense.

Frontcourt defense

For college competition the massive Kentucky front court including Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Karl-Anthony Towns is considering a potentially dominant advantage over their peers. But the 76ers still have the edge. Nerlens Noel is one of the most prolific defensive college players in recent memory due to his blocks and steal totals, whereas Luc Richard Mbah a Moute has been a defensive standout in the NBA for years, which would make him better than any college player on that end currently. Henry Sims also provides size and physical maturity which becomes a bigger advantage against college.

The Sixers frontcourt combination of Noel’s shot blocking, Mbah a Moute’s intelligence and mobility and Sims size, would make them near perfect defensively for the college level.

Perimeter defense

Like the frontcourt, Kentucky’s defensive strengths on this end are just amplified by Philadelphia. Andrew and Aaron Harrison are 6’6, but so are Michael Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten and Alexey Shved while having more athleticism. Alex Poythress is an impressive athlete defensively, but K.J. McDaniels stood out more as a defensive playmaker last year. The Carter-Williams, Wroten and McDaniels combination provides a level of speed, strength and anticipation that the Kentucky perimeter does not match on this level.

When adding these perimeter players to bigs like Noel, Mbah a Moute and Sims, the Sixers defense as a whole is light years ahead of college competition. They would have an entire roster of over 6’6 players who are faster, stronger and more experience defensively than their peers. The Sixers currently rank 20th in DRTG in the NBA indicating this is a competent and professional quality defense.

Offensively the Sixers may be horrible for NBA standards but putting Carter-Williams, Wroten and Shved against college players would still lead to non stop penetration. Options like Brandon Davies and K.J. McDaniels or Hollis Thompson shooting 3s, would still be quality looks. It’s likely this is still better than any college team offensively thanks to the penetration of those guards. Kentucky’s defense is inexperienced and for mental and physical reasons would be at a disadvantage trying to keep up with these options. The Sixers defensive advantage over college competition is as big as usual for NBA teams, whereas for their weakness offensively, they would still rate easily ahead of a team like UK on that end. Not only would the Sixers have strong half court skills like penetration, shooting or post ability, but their elite defensive ability to generate steals and blocks combined with superior athleticism would likely make them an unstoppable fast break engine going the other way.

Ultimately another way to argue against this, is if one watches a Philadelphia NBA game and watches a Kentucky game, the level of play is higher in the former for reasons outside of talent level. Philadelphia has to operate at a physical intensity and attention to detail, they have to play with a longer 3pt line and shorter shot clock. The team carries themselves like professionals and not college students. It still isn’t close.

Written by jr.

November 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

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