The 76ers replaced Brett Brown on Thursday, signing Doc Rivers to a 5 year deal. Their coaching search included Rivers, Mike D’Antoni, Ty Lue, and Billy Donovan. Was Doc the best option to be the next coach of the 76ers? Let’s take a look.
Doc was far and away the best choice available to fill the coaching void. One of the biggest problems with Brown was that he failed to hold players accountable, and this is a strength for Doc. He can do this while still being able to have a good relationship with players. He has coached many NBA legends including Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul, and many more, and he played in the NBA from 1984 to 1996. Rivers also has championship experience, as he coached the 2008 Celtics team that made 2 Finals appearances. The problem with Doc is that he isn’t necessarily good at making adjustments in game and in the playoffs. He deserves some blame for the Clippers’ recent choke, but certainly not all of it, as the Clips could not buy a bucket in game 7. I don’t think this will be a problem though, as the main issue with the Sixers is how their roster is constructed, which I’ll be getting to later. As I said previously, Doc was the best coach available. It was worth hiring him without making any front office changes (getting rid of Colangelo’s staff), and he is a massive upgrade even with his drawbacks.
Press Conference Takeaways
The Sixers introduced Doc on Monday to the media, and he answered a lot of questions regarding the team. First off it is safe to say that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are untouchable this offseason. Although Doc revealed that he has a say in roster construction, he had nothing but great things to say about the two, and he mentioned them as an enticing reason to sign right away, as he was prepared to take a break from coaching. When talking about Ben and Joel, Doc said, “They’ve won 65 percent of the games that they’ve played in. It clearly works when they play together. If you’ve watched my teams, I rarely say that a guy is a 1, a 2 — I don’t get lost in the minutiae. I don’t get lost in what position guys play. I look at how many points we score as a team. I don’t care how we score. My teams have always been very good offensively, in the top five overall. And we score points, and we score points in a lot of different ways.” What’s worrisome is that Doc praised how the roster is currently constructed. If he is able to use guys like Al Horford or Tobias Harris correctly then that is fine, but I doubt Al ever fits. We’ll talk Tobias in a bit. I wouldn’t rule out any trades though, as Doc was quick to dodge questions about playing Horford and Embiid together. Second off, Doc isn’t going to force Ben to shoot, but he said that he will get guys to do what it takes to win. He definitely is going to command more respect than Brett, so I can see Simmons finally taking more jumpers, but not a large amount. A final takeaway is something I already touched on, but Doc is going to improve this offense no matter the roster changes. He mentioned wanting to increase the pace, which I am happy about considering the Sixers offense was extremely stagnant last season. He can also unlock Harris if he isn’t traded. In 87 regular season games in LA with the Clippers, Harris averaged 34.6 MPG, 20.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.5 BPG on 59.1 TS% and 42.6% from deep. This is significantly better than his 99 regular season games since with Philly, where he averaged 34.5 MPG, 19.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.1 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG on 55.8 TS% and 35.6% from 3. This drop off was mainly due to Tobias being less of a ball handler in Philly. He isn’t great off the ball, and is much more valuable with the ball in his hands, where he’s a better shooter, can get to the rim, and as Doc said, is great in the pick and roll.
Doc Rivers was certainly the best option out there to be the next coach in Philly. He will hold guys accountable for mistakes, he’s great in the locker room, and he will improve the offense, specifically Tobias if he isn’t traded. He is also very excited to be coaching Joel, Ben, Tobias, and he even had high praise for guys like Matisse Thybulle, Shake Milton, and Josh Richardson. However, he isn’t going to magically fix the problems with the Sixers, as trades that I’ve previously written about need to be made, Embiid needs to get in shape, and Ben needs to be more comfortable with taking jumpers. Doc Rivers is certainly something to be excited about, but the Sixers still have a lot of work to do.