Game Preview | Defense Key Part of Redick's Offerings
PHILADELPHIA, PA - When it comes to making threes, only seven players have been more potent than JJ Redick since he broke into the league in 2006. In terms of perimeter accuracy during this same time period, there have been only three people better.
With that context serving as the backdrop, it’s easy to understand why Redick, first and foremost, is so readily associated with 3-point shooting.
But, as his first two months with the 76ers has revealed, the guard offers an array of abilities beyond an elite outside touch.
His 2-point marksmanship is similarly lethal, as he ranks fifth among all players in mid-range field goal percentage (47.8%; min. 100+ attempts). He’s constantly active off the ball as well, and has proven to be a relentless, effective cutter.
There’s also Redick’s passing. Not only does he keep the ball moving, he’s shown himself to be a highly capable set-up man, too, with his 3.5 assists per game third on the Sixers’ roster.
From Tuesday’s win at Minnesota...
...and from Sunday’s game at New Orleans.
Among all the things that Redick does well offensively, his efforts on the opposite end of court appear to have impressed his head coach just as much. On multiple occasions this fall while talking about Redick, Brett Brown has routinely suggested that the 33-year old’s defensive value has flown under the radar.
Brown has routinely found Redick to be positionally correct, well-versed in opponent tendencies, capable of adjusting on the fly, and competitive, all reflections, Brown says, of Redick being a “student of the game.”
“Not many people would say, ‘Oh, JJ Redick, what a great defensive player,’” Brett Brown said earlier this week. “We all think he’s a shooter. But it’s so not true, it’s so not true. He’s very prideful, and a way above-average defensive player as we’ve learned, and the analytics bear it out.”
Indeed they do.
So far this season, there have been 20 different five-man line-ups across the league that have played more than 180 minutes together. Out of that bunch, Redick, along with regular Sixers starters Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Joel Embiid, have combined to generate the second-best defensive rating, at 96.0 points allowed per 100 possessions.
[As timing would have it, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s quintet of Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, and Steven Adams is the only five-man group with a better defensive rating, at 94.8 in 319 minutes. The Sixers face OKC Friday at The Center (7:00 PM EST; ESPN, Sixers Radio Network / 97.5 FM The Fanatic)]
Look at some of the Sixers’ most heavily used top-performing defensive line-ups this season, and Redick’s name appears regularly.
“I feel like every guy has a job to do on the defensive end, and that job can change night to night,” said Redick. ”My biggest thing is, I try to do my job, and compete.”
And so he has, even while being tasked with the challenge of covering point guards more frequently than any other stage of his 13-year NBA career. This dynamic has stemmed from how the Sixers have gone about deploying dynamic 6-10 point man Ben Simmons.
Having watched Redick from opposite sidelines extensively over the last decade-plus, as both an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, and recently with the Sixers, Brown feels Redick’s defensive game has grown steadily. But, Brown also has a hunch that if you were to go back and scrutinize Redick’s early years, you’d also see a solid defender then.
Redick said his mindset changed in his third season while in Orlando, which drafted him 11th overall in 2006.
“Stan [Van Gundy, the Magic’s coach] told me I wasn’t going to play unless I guarded,” Redick said Thursday.
So, the Duke product started guarding, relying on the tool between his ears to help his efforts. To this day, he still watches tons of games, and, as he did with the LA Clippers, studies personnel tape the Sixers have prepared for him.
As a result, Redick has gotten to a point where he can recognize ATO (after time-out) patterns, and pick up on play calls. The goal, Redick says, is to gain whatever competitive advantage might be out there.
“Anything I can use on the court to help me is good,” he said.
Redick’s relatively new teammates have given his defense glowing reviews, especially on the heels of a road trip during which there were stretches that Redick had to go toe-to-toe with the likes of LeBron James, and Jimmy Butler.
“He helps guys correct mistakes,” said Robert Covington, highlighting Redick’s veteran savvy.
“I’ve been kind of surprised,” Joel Embiid of Redicks’ defensive play. “He’s been doing a great job.”
Between Redick’s high-impact offensive prowess, and his steady defensive contributions, the Sixers have seemed thrilled with their coveted addition.
“It’s a hell of a package,” Brown said.
Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder (13-14) added a pair of Olympians and All-Stars this off-season in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George. But, even amidst OKC’s up-and-down play through the first two months of the 2017-2018 campaign, Russell Westbrook remains the head of the snake. Sor far, the 2017 MVP is averaging 22.6 points (down significantly from his league-leading 32.16 points last season), 7.8 rebounds, and 9.4 assists per game.
Brett Brown’s admiration for Westbrook runs deep, and said Thursday that guarding the 29-year old creates a tremendous challenge.
“My selling point, and it’s true, Russell Westbrook demands a team to guard him. You better have the fear of whomever you believe in in your heart and soul, because here he comes, and he comes at you with such cocky aggression. How about the athlete that we’re seeing, and the mentality of that athlete. It is bizarre to me. That is a fierce competitive person that just doesn’t seem to get tired.”
• Video: ESPN
• Audio: 97.5 FM The Fanatic / Sixers Radio Network