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Maurice Cheeks’ coaching style more evident on defense than offense

E. James Beale of Philadelphia City Paper:

Repeatedly this season the coach has been asked if his team needs an identity. “No,” he replies

Is Maurice Cheeks a good offensive coach, a good defensive coach, both or neither? Do his teams play fast or slow?

It’s difficult to answer those basic questions. In eight years as head coach, Cheeks has led teams with varying identities. He’s coached three top-10 offenses and just as many in the bottom-10. He’s coached two top-10 defenses, and again, the same number in the bottom 10. Four of his teams played in the bottom 10 of pace, but another ranked as high as sixth.

Of course, Cheeks has coached two teams and a variety of players, so that certainly plays a large role in these stats. But the numbers can still provide clues.

Here are his ranks in three general categories (using the date of his last game during the years he was fired mid-season):

  • Offensive rating: 6,8,10,24,13,26,20,28
  • Defensive rating: 12,11,21,17,24,15,10,8
  • Pace: 23,23,29,21,6,20,20,17

Now, lets look a little more in depth at each side of the ball.


Cheeks’ teams have placed in both the top 10 and bottom 10 in each of the offensive four factors, so it’s difficult to say with certainty there’s anything distinctive about his offenses.

Anecdotally, the 2007-08 season seems to support the theory Cheeks isn’t tied to a specific offensive style.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

The turnaround can be traced to Dec. 4, when the Sixers hired former Nets G.M. Ed Stefanski to replace the deposed Billy King. One of Stefanski‘s first moves was to meet with coach Maurice Cheeks to discuss the team’s style of play. “I thought we could score some points if we played at a faster pace,” says Stefanski. “Mo was all for it. He was very comfortable with that style.”

Iguodala via Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated:

On the Sixers’ turnaround, from 16–28 to 40–40
One day in practice, Coach [ Maurice Cheeks] was like, we’re going to start running. We did a drill, five-on-five, and just pushed it up the court. That changed things. We found an identity.

A coach with a more defined offense would probably be more dismissive of changing his scheme.

To a degree, I view this as a positive. It indicates a willingness to adjust to his players.

But considering Cheeks’ offenses have mostly struggled – and ultimate got him fired twice – a willingness to adapt means only so much unless he’s capable of implementing varying schemes.


Defensively, Cheeks’ teams are much more distinctive.

All eight have been very good at avoiding fouls, and most have been good with forcing turnovers. That can be a difficult duality to pull off, but perhaps Cheeks, one of the NBA’s all-time steals leaders, can teach how to get steals without fouling.

The downside to the going for so many turnovers is opponents have generally shot well and offensively rebounded against Cheeks’ teams.

Plenty of coaches talk about getting more aggressive defensively, but for better or worse, Cheeks has the track record to back it up.


  • Jun 13, 201311:53 am
    by Count that baby and a foul


    “Is Maurice Cheeks a good offensive coach coach, a good defensive coach, both or neither? Do his teams play fast or slow?”

    So your asking if he is good at coaching offensive coaches? I’d be more worried about if he’s a good offensive coach then if he can coach other offensive coaches, but hey that’s just me.

    I’m sure glad we hate people that make mistakes, and do our best to find every mistake… right? 

  • Jun 13, 201311:58 am
    by Count that baby and a foul


    “All eight have been very good good at avoiding fouls, and most have been good with forcing turnovers. That can be a difficult duality to pull off, but perhaps Cheeks, one of the NBA’s all-time steals leaders, can teach how to get steals without fouling.”

    we also make as many post as we can to find mistakes… wow i guess it’s not that hard to pick people apart if you only look for the bad. 

    • Jun 13, 201312:09 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      Thanks, fixed.

      And I was never looking for specifically good or bad in Cheeks’ past. I happened to find more negatives than positives, but my search for information certainly didn’t start with that goal in mind. 

      • Jun 13, 20131:27 pm
        by Count that baby and a foul


        good answer

        • Jun 13, 20132:02 pm
          by XstreamINsanity


          Agreed.  I just feel as though having read before the hiring that Dan was against it and then after the hire seeing so many negative posts just added to it.

  • Jun 13, 201312:53 pm
    by Russell


    Leave Britney Feldman Alone!

  • Jun 13, 20131:04 pm
    by Edgar


    Man, I’m getting tired of this complaining about too much criticism or negativity or picking apart or whatever.

    First off, Cheeks is a professional and his record as a professional deserves scrutiny. It’s actually disrespectful to his career to not scrutinize it. So, don’t criticize Dan for doing his research and coming up with pertinent/newsworthy information from Cheeks’s last two coaching stints.

    Second, Dumars and Gores performed as much, if not more scrutiny into Cheeks’s record as Dan. Hell, they probably said, “Let’s just tear this guy apart. Let’s try to find every single flaw we can and if we still like him, if the good still outweighs the bad, then let’s hire him.” I’m not saying they did a good job of this, but I sincerely hope this was the mindset going into the process. And if it wasn’t it certainly should have been.

    Is this somehow UNFAIR to Cheeks? Absolutely not. Again, it’s respectful of him as a professional. If he doesn’t want to be picked apart then he shouldn’t put his hat in the ring. The fact that he looked for another job in the league shows that he believes in his record and he’s willing to submit to thorough examination.

    We as fans have the sacred right (and maybe obligation) to armchair the hell out of everything our team does. We might as well try to do it with the same rigor that the front office does.

    • Jun 13, 20131:23 pm
      by Count that baby and a foul


      First off: Dan is a professional and his writing as a professional deserves scrutiny. It’s actually disrespectful to Dans career to not scrutinize it. So don’t criticize me for doing my research and coming up with typos/mistakes from Dans last article.

      Second: Is this UNFAIR to Dan? Absolutley not. Again, it’s respectful of him as a professional.

      :) see what i did there?

      • Jun 13, 20132:32 pm
        by Keith


        Has Dan shied away from criticism or denied you ability to comment when you don’t agree with his writing? No. So why are you taking this fake high road with Cheeks? Dan has already said a number of times now that he’s reporting the facts. There happen to be more negative facts than positive ones, that what happens when researching a bad coach.

        Are you upset with Dan because of his actual writing, or do just not want to hear all the information in Cheeks’ record? If it is the former, feel free not to read it. If it’s the latter, maybe you just need to grow up a little and pull your head out of the sand. Because I’m getting tired of going to the comments for a discussion on valid points, only for people to hijack the conversation and whine about Cheeks getting picked on. Cheeks is NOT getting picked on. He is being evaluated by an interested fanbase, one that has investment in his ability to do a specific job. People who keep coming in and making this about Dan Feldman being negative sound a whole lot like this, “Dan, quit telling the truth about the team we both follow, I only like the truth when it’s happy.”


      • Jun 13, 20133:32 pm
        by tarsier


        but what you are criticizing dan for is criticizing cheeks.

    • Jun 13, 20132:09 pm
      by Crispus


      The articles are similar, but the tone has improved. The first wave of anti-Cheeks posts were kinda mean. Now they let the evidence do most of the talking. Also a number of positive posts helped balance things.

  • Jun 13, 20131:26 pm
    by Count that baby and a foul


    Dan is fine by me for the most part, I will admit to using rose colored glasses on occasion if Dan will admit to using $h!t colored glasses as well.

  • Jun 13, 20132:58 pm
    by frankie d


    cheeks generally did get his teams to play aggressive defense.
    he seemed to basically demand that his guys play tough, aggressive man defense and then he’d let them do almost whatever they wanted to do on offense. 
    the frustration usually arose in late game situations and in tight games when chaos and confusion was not uncommon.
    things just basically…happened, without much control or input from cheeks.
    he always reminded me of bill frieder when frieder was the michigan coach. 

  • Jun 13, 20132:58 pm
    by Jay


    I think Dumars hired Cheeks because of his ability to easily change the game plan. Lawrence Frank’s bigggest downfall was that he always kept the same things going, even when change was desperately needed. He was almost like a computer running a program. Cheeks is obviously going to be more flexible…I just hope he isn’t too flexible. These guys are young..they need some strict guiding, but just not as much Frank. Moreover, I think Cheeks will be their “friend” and that should help with the chemistry. I wouldve loved NAte McMillin, but I think Cheeks might just do alrgiht. 

    • Jun 13, 20133:11 pm
      by G


      Don’t want a coach to be the players’ “friend”. That never ends well. They can have a good relationship, but when a coach gets too friendly, then feelings get hurt & he loses respect in the locker room.

    • Jun 13, 20136:35 pm
      by oats


      Frank never called plays after the team got a stop on defense. That’s actually a pretty large amount of freedom. Frank was not nearly as rigid as you make him sound.

  • Jun 13, 20133:10 pm
    by Derek


    Off topic…

    Would it be at all possible that the Pistons could correct a former Joe D mistake and trade for Afflalo? I’ve heard his name being mentioned in trade rumors to get Bledsoe (and take on Caron Butler’s exp deal with it). Say if Bledsoe stands pat in LA, Orlando still may be looking to move Afflalo (due to his slightly inflated contract, in terms of money and he’s signed on for 2 more years + a 3rd year player option) since they have an abundance of young talent ready to play now on the wings (Tobias Harris & Moe Harkless) plus the #2 pick which is likely to be another SG prospect McLemore or Oladipo (neither of which can be used as a backup PG).

    I know Stuckey doesn’t have much value to Detroit (and maybe the rest of the NBA for that matter) but he is a nice 8.5Mil exp deal (trade chip), prime age of 27, can handle backup PG duties for Orlando, and could be sold as one of those players that maybe just needs a change of scenary to improve.


    Stuckey (27)(exp 8.5M deal) for Afflalo (28)(3 years 22.9M remaining)?

    • Jun 13, 20133:13 pm
      by G


      Orlando trades their starting SG for a backup PG? I don’t see it. Not without getting something else. The money isn’t enough in their favor.

      • Jun 13, 20133:36 pm
        by tarsier


        I could see it. Afflalo borders on overpaid. It would just be a straight contract dump. The money difference is really big. Obviously, they’d shop him first. But who is going to give them something better? So if they do wish to part ways, it’s not a bad offer.

      • Jun 13, 20134:28 pm
        by Derek


        I think the way Harkless finished the year, Orlando may want him to be their starting SG next year or possibly McLemore or Oladipo if they prove worthy enough. Afflalo seems like the overpaid odd man out on the young and talented Magic team, plus they have no answer at the backup PG right now.

  • Jun 13, 20133:23 pm


    @ Dan I know some of my friends here are not a fan of your latest background check on Maruice Cheeks…but thankful for the insight…

    Also, can you do a chart of the players drafted under him, also how have 2nd and 3rd year players done under him… 

    • Jun 13, 20135:32 pm
      by T Casey


      Good way to make a first impression. I hope we hear more good news like this in the future.

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