Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brand get hurs. Sixers get better.

Well, I know that first part happened. The verdict on the second part of that title is still up for debate. But the results since he was hurt have been somewhat positive. Checking the schedule...the Sixers are 6-6 since Brand got hurt (including the game against the Bucks in which he got hurt) and just 10-14 before the injury.

Hmm.... Not a huge difference, but certainly everyone's view of how they're doing seems to have changed. I guess expectations will do that to you-- going sub-.500 with Brand was considered a let-down, but going .500 without him is considered playing well.

In all fairness to Brand, this "hot streak" is probably less impressive than it seems. After all, the Sixers have simply beaten the sub-.500 teams and lost to the above-.500 teams during this stretch. They did beat the Rockets, but they also lost to the Pacers to balance it out.

Still, it does appear that the Sixers are playing a little bit better. Much of the talk of the Sixers' "improvement" over the last couple of weeks has centered on their return to a running style of play that wasn't possible with Brand.

Maybe that's the answer, but the answer might actually be a bit simpler-- Brand simply wasn't playing that well, so having someone else take his playing time has made the Sixers better. It was a change in players, not a change in style that has been making the difference.

After Mo Cheeks was fired, Professor Berri took a look at the Sixers over at the Wages of Wins. Back in 2006-07 (pre-injury), Brand had a WP48 of .213. But before his injury this season, Brand only had a WP48 of .075. Remember-- .100 is an average player (and average starters are even higher), so Brand was playing worse than an average NBA player. And he was playing 35 minutes per game.

Samuel Dalembert (.138), Marreese Speights (.127), and Reggie Evans (.121) all had higher WP48 than Brand, but none of them were playing nearly the minutes he had played. So when you take Brand out of the rotation, all of a sudden the Sixers improve.

Now, Brand isn't alone in playing below expectations. From our core contributors, WP48 shows Dalembert, Thaddeus Young, Evans, and Louis Williams all playing worse than last year. (Igoudala has actually been playing better this year according to WP48, despite his scoring woes.) Still, Brand was playing worse than the other bigs. Not exactly what we were hoping for out of our big off-season acquisition.

Here's hoping that Brand's performance is just the result of him still not being 100% healthy after his major injury from before, and that he'll get better once he returns from his curent injury.