Brett Brown has challenges ahead of him in getting Sixers’ core to mesh

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown knows that it’s his responsibility to figure out how Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick and Ben Simmons will mesh offensively.

The challenge for Brown is to maximize his unique stars’ talents. Each player brings something different to the table and the key will be to get it all to work as a cohesive unit.

Building chemistry and keeping everyone happy has been an especially big challenge since Butler was traded to the team in November.

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid was and still should be the team’s first option in usage rate and possessions finished on offense. He’s playing at an MVP level, averaging 26.9 points and 13.5 rebounds per game. Brown has made it clear he knows Embiid is the top priority.

Jimmy Butler

Last week Butler reportedly expressed frustration with how he’s been used offensively. Per ESPN, Brown has reportedly told people within the Sixers organization that he didn’t take issue with the conversation he had with Butler.

Butler wants to run more pick-and-roll and isolation sets, but the Sixers’ offense has more of a free-flowing nature. It’s more “read-and-react” and the ball is supposed to move fluidly.

Last season, the Sixers were second in the NBA in assists per game — behind only the eventual champions, the Golden State Warriors. This year they average 26.8 assists per game and are fourth overall in that category.

Our own Kirk Bado made the case that Butler has not been utilized enough in pick-and-rolls. Brown may want to listen to his star perimeter player, even if he feels the need to remind everyone to be patient.

JJ Redick

Redick is one of the best players in the league at moving without the ball. He comes off screens aggressively and knows how to get open for the perimeter jump shot.

Redick also benefits from the dribble handoffs the Sixers run. He and Embiid run them especially well. Typically, Embiid hands the ball to Redick who curls into a jumper.

This play type is a large part of why Embiid is 11th overall in both screen assists and screen assist points. If teams overplay Redick, we see this type of assist:

Redick is having his best season so far, scoring a career-high 18.3 points per game. He is averaging a career-high 7.6 three-point attempts per game and he is also shooting 37.8 percent from the 3-point line.

Getting the offense to run on all cylinders without detracting from things that work well will be a key.

Ben Simmons

Before the game against the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, coach Brown hinted that Simmons may not be the top priority in the offense but is “gonna find his way.”

But for someone who isn’t getting as many plays called for him, he has been playing some very good ball lately.

The second-year guard is averaging 21 points, 8.3 assists and 8.7 rebounds over the last 3 games and even beginning to attempt some jumpers:

Bringing it all together

Even if Brown makes changes to the offense, Embiid is still likely going to get most of the touches. As of now, his usage rate (31.5 percent) is second only to James Harden for all players logging over 25 minutes per game.

But how will the rest of the opportunities be created? How will the team get others involved without limiting Embiid’s dominance? Will we see more pick-n-rolls? Will Brown utilize dribble handoffs with Redick but not Butler?

Brown has talked about fostering an ecosystem where the pass, defense, and respect trumps everything else. It will be fascinating to see how he tries to achieve that with his unique stars and their varied skill sets over the second half of the year.

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