The Philadelphia 76ers were the pioneers of practicing with a 4 point line. The Atlanta Hawks followed their lead and on media day surprised everyone and showed off their own 4 point line.
Recently on Zach Lowe’s podcast The Lowe Post, JJ Reddick, Sixers shooting guard, was asked about the reasons and benefits of practicing with a 4 point line. JJ told Zach that they’re not actually using it to shoot from 4 point land but as a reference for spacing.
“It’s not a shoot-behind.” Reddick told on the podcast about the 4 point line. “It’s a space-behind and then step into your shot.”
Sixers head coach Brett Brown uses the 4 point line for spacing with zero intention to use it as shot that will count as a 4 pointer. “I think it’s more as a spacing thing.” JJ added. “I did it naturally in LA (Clippers). I stay in the halfcourt, if my guy comes with me, I kind of did my job.”
The Philadelphia 76ers haven’t won a NBA title since 1983 led by Hall of Famer Julius Erving, who also won All-Star MVP that season, and co-star Moses Malone, who won the MVP of the league the very same season. Long gone are the days of Championship Sixers, however, and bringing the conversation back to the XXI century, the Sixers could be winning the title of Team of the Decade without even winning a ring.
How come? You ask.
It all kind of started when the Philadelphia 76ers, and General Manager at the time Sam Hinkie, went all in with their tanking strategy. Tanking is a strategy designed to take a team out of a pattern of mediocrity by having it perform so poorly over a series of years that it sets up the ability to choose players at the top of the draft who are difference makers and can become the core of a successful franchise.
The Sixers have been innovative and risk takers ever since Sam Hinkie took charge of the team in 2012. He knew the Sixers were irrelevant since the Allen Iverson days. Hinkie realized the Sixers weren’t a top notch teams for a long time and so he had the courage no one in the league ever had before and embraced tanking.
It did cost his job as a Sixers GM but he planted the seed for success if we analyze it deeply. The man who selected through the draft Joel Embiid and rookie of the year Michael Carter Williams, who hired the still head coach of the Sixers Brett Brown, who found Robert Covington in the D-League, and the guy who swapped picks with the Sacramento Kings that later allowed his team to acquire the 1st overall pick of 2017 Markelle Fullz was fired one month before the Sixers selected, again as 1st pick, Ben Simmons (!!!).
On last season’s playoffs the 76ers finally had glimpses of how dangerous they can be. On Game 1 of their series against the Miami Heat, the Sixers scored 130 points in the win. The team shot 18-for-28 from downtown with J.J. Redick (28 points, 4-for-6 from three), Marco Belinelli (25 points, 4-for-7 from three), and Dario Saric (20 points, 4-for-6 from three) serving as Philly’s three leading scorers. And the 4 point line may have been in the mixed for the success.
As the risks started to pay its dividends and their young core of players started to blossom into fine young stars the Sixers front office started to feel more confident and willing to take even more risks. Hiring former player Elton Brand as a General Manager is a great example of Sixers level of confidence at the moment.
The league has been all eyes on Sixers for a while and as the process started to look like it was functioning well, some other teams started to fall into the temptation of emulating Sixers formula. I fine example of it was Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks owner, being fined 600.000 dollars for saying that his team was planning to tank.
This season the Atlanta Hawks hired Lloyd Pierce as their new head coach. Lloyd was an assistant coach of the Philadelphia 76ers (2013-2018). One of his first demands as Hawks head coach was to add the 4 point line in the practice facility court.
Pierce implemented the 4 point line not only because he trusted what Brett Brown had been doing about spacing in Philadelphia but also because of the personnel he has now dealing with in Atlanta, more precisely, rookie Steph-Curry-look-alike Trae Young.
Young is a sharp shooter. A specialist from long distance. By adding the 4 point line to their court and teaching the whole team how to play with better spacing sounds like a good approach by the Hawks.
“If I go out to mark (4 point line) someone will gravitate towards me.” Sixers guard, JJ Reddick, said about spacing and opening the middle as a consequence. “If a non-shooter goes out to the mark it doesn’t really do anything. You actually… it’s better for the defense.”
Pierce has high expectations for rookie Trae Young obviously. He expects Young to suffer the same kind of gravitational defense attention that Reddicks gets, or even Curry gets. For Pierce, emulating Sixers offense, it’s the smarter way to success.
Guys around the league used the pre-season to perfect their long distance shooting. “I think it’s gonna be a thing this year.” ESPN journalist Zach Lowe said on his pod. “I think more teams will use it. Anthony Tolliver (Minnesota Timberwolves) told me he’s working on it this summer. He’s been shooting 28 footers. I think we are gonna se more of it.”
The Sixers have been certainly impacting the league without winning titles during the XXI.
This is the beginning of the 4 point shot conversation era, because we can’t predict yet if the league will ever implement it. Regardless, some teams have it on their practices facilities courts already, just in case, and for now, they’re using it for spacing considerations… at least that’s what they say.