On the Beat: Pressey Providing the Sixers with Speed
One of the primary focal points for the 76ers during the Brett Brown era has been pace, and the importance of playing with it. To review, the Sixers topped the NBA with a pace of 99.1 possessions per 48 minutes during the 2013-2014 season, Brown’s first with the organization. Last year, the team’s pace figure of 95.7 ranked sixth in the league.
Seventeen games into the new season, Brown and the Sixers have been striving to establish an effective balance of pace and post. Over the past nine games in particular, the Sixers’ tempo has picked up, as the club has become the NBA’s 10th-fastest team, playing at a pace of 97.4. One person who has helped the Sixers in their quest to get faster is Phil Pressey, acquired as a free agent on November 4th.
“He has an NBA gift in that he has speed,” Brown said during the Sixers’ stop in Houston on Friday. “And there’s a physicality to his speed that lets him play in traffic and take hits and bumps. He’s got a motor. He’s got a pace. We know ending and closing out games has been a problem for us, primarily because we get stood up. It’s no secret we’re trying to go to Jahlil [Okafor], but you can’t make the defense promise they’re going to let it get in there. And so when they all of a sudden deny the obvious, now what do you do? And that’s where we struggled. And so he has that gift.”
Brown cited that skill as the reason why Pressey, the son of former NBA player Paul Pressey, found himself in position to take a game-tying field goal attempt in the final seconds of Wednesday’s 84-80 loss to the Boston Celtics.
Several statistics can help quantify the impact that Pressey’s had on the Sixers’ speed. First and probably most telling, when the third-year pro is on the court, the Sixers’ pace, 104.3, is at its fastest compared to any player currently in the club’s rotation. Conversely, the Sixers’ pace drops by roughly 5.5 possessions when Pressey is off the court. Furthermore, Pressey’s overall average game speed of 4.68 miles per hour ranks first among his Sixer peers, as does his 5.26 miles per hour offensive speed. He and T.J. McConnell are tied for the fastest average defensive speed, at 4.15 miles per hour.
“Coach Brown really allows point guards to get out in transition, so that’s a great way for my speed to help our team and getting our guys shots,” said Pressey following Sunday’s shoot-around at FedEx Forum. “My speed on offense, and defensively, I try to create havoc and create a pace that’s hard to play against.”
Pressey, averaging a career-best 12.8 points and 10.4 assists per 36 minutes (4.5 points and 3.6 assists in 12.5 minutes per game), takes pride in other traits he brings to his position as well.
“Getting our guys shots,” Pressey said. “We’ve got a lot of good shooters. For a point guard, if you can get your guys the right shots at the right time, that’s only going to help them out, and help the team out. For a point guard, creating, and getting our post-men the ball, because that’s one of our strengths, with Jahlil [Okafor] playing very well at an extremely high level. Just trying to get the guys the right shots at the right time and get our offense flowing in the right way.”
For the first time this season, Pressey has logged at least 15 minutes in consecutive games. He’s slated to remain in a reserve role against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“We’ll start out playing with Isaiah [Canaan], and sort of go from there,” said Brown about which member of the point guard rotation will start. “This group is so at times...challenging, because you’re just feeling it by the seat of your pants. This group presents that every single night. You don’t have your favorite play, you don’t have your favorite five players to just walk down a game. And so you have to feel it.”
Brown indicated it’s doubtful that Nerlens Noel will be available Sunday. In addition to still dealing with soreness in his right knee, Noel hasn’t been feeling well since the team arrived in Memphis.