Perhaps there really is a thin line between love and hate? With new head coach Nate Bjorkgren working closely with team management to assemble a staff of multi-taskers, ESPN’s Tim Bontempts reports that long-time Pacers defensive coordinator Dan Burke is headed further East to join the Philadelphia 76ers, also known as the team he once said he hated.
Burke, as Bontemps notes, is well regarded for his defensive acumen and has been a major asset for the Pacers in terms of developing wings defenders, including both Bojan Bogdanovic and T.J. Warren. That said, he was also by and large a stickler for drop coverage and defending straight-up without switching, which doesn’t exactly jibe with the emphasis Bjorkgren placed on “changing defenses and changing defenses frequently” at his introductory press conference.
Granted, last season, under Nate McMillan, the Pacers broke from tradition and mixed in some different looks with 3-2 zone, squaring up side pick-and-rolls, and switching occasionally with liked-size defenders, but it was more so done to protect against weaknesses rather than as an attack mechanism. Still, in spite of Malcolm Brogdon’s shaky defensive positioning at the point of attack, Jeremy Lamb’s leaky closeouts, and starting two bigs, Indiana scrapped together a top-10 defensive rating, even while being without Victor Oladipo for 63 games.
In the post-season, however, there were very few attempts to show Miami different looks or scram out mismatches with a smaller lineup, and the decision to gas Oladipo on the defensive end against Duncan Robinson for the first-half of the series was, to say the least, highly questionable.
“This team was a good defensive team last year,” Bjorkgren said on the The Dan Dakich Show. “But I think in order to advance in the playoffs and to continue to be solid during the regular season, you have to go through those things. The players are so good, and if you continue to play them one way, they’re going to find a way to beat you. I think you have to try to keep them on their heals and we stay the aggressor during the course of the game and during the course of the season. We can play a team one way one game and play them totally different another.”
With the Sixers, Burke will join former Senior Vice President of Basketball Operations Peter Dinwiddie, who now ranks third in the pecking order behind Daryl Morey and Elton Brand in the front office, while also gaining an All-NBA defender in Ben Simmons as well as former Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Joel Embiid.