Why Are Brett Brown’s Lineups So Confusing?


It’s interesting to try and figure out what works and what doesn’t with a 4-25 team. Obviously it’s easy to assume that nothing works with the Sixers, but that’s not the case. There are lineups that Sixers head coach Brett Brown uses that are more successful than others and some that make no sense. I’ll never figure out how and why JaKarr Sampson is starting NBA games, but maybe things are better that way.

I’m always searching for the weirdest statistics to point to some brevity of success for the Sixers. While peeling back the paper on the NBA.com statistics page, I found an extremely successful lineup used by the Sixers. This lineup has an offensive rating of 117.0 coupled with a defensive rating of 73.0. That turns out to be a 44.0 net rating, which is a number that is unheard of on a team this bad. Take a second and try to guess which of Brett Brown’s lineups this is.

The lineup goes as follows: Michael Carter-Williams, K.J. McDaniels, Robert Covington, Luc Mbah a Moute, Nerlens Noel. No surprise that Robert Covington is on the most successful lineup that Brett Brown has thrown out this season. However, if you have watched the Sixers this season, you have noticed that Brett Brown does not go to this lineup frequently. In fact, the lineup has only been used for 27 minutes in eight games, per NBA.com. Now, that small sample size explains some of the mind blowing statistics, but it also brings one to question why Brett Brown has not used this lineup more.

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With the Sixers being an “analytic-driven” team as they are now being coined, one would argue that Brett Brown is quite aware of the success of his lineups. It’s maddening, because it’s something that fans of the team have been clamoring for all season. Enough with JaKarr Sampson and Henry Sims and a bunch of players who will be playing in LA Fitness next season. Play the guys who have a shot of being something in the NBA and play them together. Hell, even I don’t mind have Luc Mbah a Moute on the floor if it means also seeing Noel, McDaniels, Covington and MCW. That “veteran-ness” has to come in hand at some point.

Anyone who has watched the 76ers for more than a game this season might be confused as to why Brown refuses to play his young guys together. A lineup with all of that youth would be exciting to watch, even if it would struggle at times, but isn’t that what this season is about?

As much as Philadelphia would like to applaud Brett Brown for turning this Titanic of a team into a somewhat decent defensive club, there are still many steps to go. His lineups — and obsessions with LMAM and Sampson — are confusing and maddening at points. Then, he’ll do things like play K.J. McDaniels 20 minutes one night and 30 minutes the next. The Hollis Thompson injury has opened minutes up for McDaniels, but Brett Brown was giving Thompson 30+ minutes per game when healthy, leaving 15 minutes or so for McDaniels. Luc Mbah a Moute continues to start game after game, even though the Sixers post their highest offensive rating (95.8) with him on the bench (per NBA.com).

I wish I had an answer to this question, because it’s something that the fans and myself included have wondered this season. No Brett, no one want’s to see 20 minutes of JaKarr Sampson. No one wants 30 minutes of LMAM or Hollis Thompson either. The future is pinned to Nerlens Noel, MCW, and possibly K.J. McDaniels/Robert Covington. Play the kids, play them a lot and live with the results. At 4-25, there’s no dignity left. The best case scenario is to let these young bucks run and run and run until the wheels fall off.