In one of the bigger days in recent Sixers history, the franchise made several key additions to the front office and coaching staff. In addition to the signing of Dave Joerger and Sam Cassell, the Sixers have now added another defensive-minded assistant coach to the staff in Dan Burke.
After having been with the Pacers organization for 19 years, Burke has drawn great praise for his impact on the defensive end. He was considered the key to Indiana’s greatly improved defense especially after taking on a bigger role under coach Nate McMillan. Burke appeared to be shown the door in Indiana after the hire of new head coach Nate Bjorkgren as the team looked to go in another direction. Regardless, he will be welcomed to Philadelphia as this addition continues the emphasis on defensive prowess that the Sixers continue to build.
Under Burke, the Pacers evolved from a sub-par defensive team to finishing 3rd and 6th in defensive rating over the past 2 seasons. Overall, the Pacers finished top 10 in defensive efficiency in 7 of the last 10 seasons. The Sixers have far better defensive pieces and are at a much better starting place than the Pacers were when Burke took over, which is extremely encouraging.
One of the calling cards of Dan Burke is being able to get the most out of the wings on the defensive end. This has been seen in guys like Victor Oladipo and TJ Warren, and is especially exciting considering the defensive versatility of guys like Matisse Thybulle and Ben Simmons.
Burke also played a major role in the development of Roy Hibbert as the anchor in the Indiana defense on the Pacers team that threatened the LeBron-led Heat in the 2013 playoffs. This speaks volumes for what could be done with Embiid as Joel is much more complete than Hibbert ever proved to be. In his time in Indiana, Burke has impressed with his ability to form a great defense out of guys not known for their work on the defensive end. The Sixers provide a legitimate core of guys that flash all-defensive potential and it is exciting to see what Burke and the rest of the staff can do to mold them and get the most out of them.
Part of the reason with his departure for Indiana is the growing belief that the style of defense that Burke preaches is beginning to be outdated. He is a firm believer in man-to-man defense and does not like for there to be switching. After watching the small-ball Rockets and even the Eastern Conference Champion Heat switch on nearly every play throughout their respective playoff runs, it is clear the tides are changing on this defensive school of thought.
Burke also puts an emphasis on drop coverage, which should trigger groans from Sixers fans. Over the past few seasons the Sixers have failed to learn how to correctly rotate on pick-and-roll coverage and have been repeatedly exposed for this same mistake. The team seemingly would get caught between dropping or fighting through screens which resulted in open jump shots at a much higher rate than a defense of their caliber should allow. While the execution of the defense is certainly the main factor in this, the tendency to drift off men during a pick is something that most would like to be changed.
Doc Rivers also emphasized against drop coverage in his time with the Clippers and played a much different style than what Burke is known for. At 61 years old it is also fair to question how open to change Burke will be at this point in his career.
While Dan Burke is by no means the first guy for this to happen to, some critical remarks he made about the Sixers and Joel Embiid have resurfaced after the hire:
As expected Joel Embiid was quick to make light of the situation by jumping on twitter:
Along with the additions of Sam Cassel, Dave Joerger, and of course Doc Rivers, the Sixers appear to be putting together a superstar coaching staff heading into next season. Burke and Joerger are expected to put together a monstrous defense led by Embiid, Simmons, and the other key pieces that the Sixers have in place. There are still many questions to be answered this offseason, but the Sixers have put together the best coaching staff in many years and Burke is a large reason for this.
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