INB4 following excuses:
- We've only had 2 preseason games it's too early to make judgements
- This team is revamped with several new players. It takes time for them to gel and understand each others tendencies. We will hit our stride by mid-season
- Lonzo Ball is injured. He's a major piece of the puzzle as far as playmaking is concerned.
Facts: If you understand how NBA offenses work, then you will be familiar with the idea that no matter the composition of the roster, how much time the players have to gel, etc... The offensive system of a team is always a constraint on their ability to be effective. Golden State from Mark Jackson to Steve Kerr is a great example of this fact. Even in the preseason, it is NEVER too early to judge a team if you understand the offense they are trying to run. And here I am going to explain why what Luke and his staff are doing is not at all optimal for the make up of our roster.
Now I know what you are thinking. "It's the preseason. They're just trying things out. We probably haven't even figured out what our offense is going to be yet." This is a valid concern on the surface, but two points pretty much make that argument moot.
- NBA teams rarely change their primary offense after the preseason. Significant overhauls to the system are tough to do outside of training camp, and while of course tweaks and different sets are experimented with during the preseason and even the regular season, it is very uncommon to see a team run a completely different offensive system than the one they started the preseason with. Some counterexamples do exist, most notably Miami in 2010, but this took the cognizance of an underrated coach in Spolestra, as well as organizational pressure from Riley.
- What we are doing on the offensive end so far is very similar to what we ran last year. This tells me Luke isn't making any major changes to our system and relying on the same general blueprint. I've written extensively in the past about why that system was outdated, ineffective, and ultimately showed us how inexperienced Walton is as a coach. I will summarize those concerns in this post.
Now for the meat of the post: what we are running and why it is suboptimal for this roster. I haven't had time to clip plays for this, but I am sure someone on YouTube will beat me to it.
During the offseason, we clamored about how we were going to be different from Cleveland, and how LeBron James was going to play more offball. That this teams lack of shooters did not matter, and that in order to beat the Warriors we cannot play the same style of offense they did. These assertions are absolutely valid, but unfortunately it seems that the coaching staff has done little to implement any of this.
Our offense nearly always starts with the team pushing the ball in transition whenever it gets the opportunity. This choice makes perfect sense for having a roster full of young, athletic players as well as multiple playmakers, and is probably the only part of the offense that I agree with. However, when the game slows down, especially in the playoffs or against smarter teams, you need to have some semblance of a strategy in the half court, and that is where this team comes up short.
The half court offense tends to start a high PnR, or occasionally an "angled" PnR (made famous by D'Antoni in his time with Phoenix). And quite frankly, there's little else that we do after this, other than sprinkle in some Ingram ISOs (which you already know how I feel about). Now, there are a number of problems with this system, and I will list them below:
- The high PnR is the number one play teams are most practiced for defensively. Because of this, teams will often run a prelude to the high PnR to disguise it, much like most offenses do when running Horns nowadays. The issue is, I have seen very little of this, both last season and this preseason. We are still relying on the outdated dribble weave as our primary "mixup" here, and I did see one Spain PnR run late in the 3rd quarter of the 2nd game by the bench, but that was pretty much it. While this is a deadly weapon, you need to add a lot more to actually have an offense. Even Cleveland, who we criticized so much last year for having a one-dimensional offense and playing "LeBron-ball" even ran some interesting things regularly like a high post split. Also, this strategy does very little to get LeBron off ball, which I will talk about more later.
- Good defensive teams will take advantage of our lack of shooting here. Even a very competent PnR team like the Rockets knows that you have to have good 3 point shooting if you are going to run the PnR very heavily. Any good defensive team will just clog the paint and force guys like KCP to shoot 10 3s a game, and live with the results. The Nuggets started to do this more in the 3rd quarter and it led to a lot of turnovers on our part. Now, we don't need good shooting if we run an offense that has people setting screens, moving off ball, cutting, etc. But if we are going to just abuse the high PnR, then yes, we need 4 guys on the court to be able to shoot effectively from 3 to ensure proper spacing.
- Having 3 guys stand around every possession is bad. A high PnR centric offense can actually work if you actually do something off the ball. When we mentioned we were going to move LeBron off ball this summer, we didn't mean just having him stand around and watch a Rondo-McGee PnR. First of all, since we don't have many high caliber shooters, our guys should be doing something else other than waiting on the perimeter. A common strategy is to do run some weakside action to distract the help defense and allow the high PnR on the strong side to work better... but again I saw little to none of this. Furthermore, Phil Jackson and Steve Kerr have both echoed the sentiment that having guys stand around on the court reduced their "juice" and takes them out of the game, meaning they play less hard on defense and their morale reduces significantly. When you saw the Rockets miss 27 straight 3s in the WCF game 7 last year, this was part of the cause, Their shooters all went cold because they weren't involved in the offense at all. In fact, this is why the Warriors run some of the least amount of PnR in the entire league. Kerr has stated that he opts for this because the Warriors have so many great playmakers they want to utilize them to the fullest. Well we have LeBron, Lonzo, and Rondo who are all above average in that department, so why aren't we doing more here? This video explains it in more detail (start at 5:30):
The fact of the matter is, with a roster devoid of a high number of accurate 3 point shooters, and filled with more playmakers, as well as an aging LeBron, we need to stay away from repeatedly running high PnR and had having 3 guys stand around doing nothing, and instead run more off ball action, cuts, weakside screens, and make more use out of our biggest strengths: playmaking and toughness. While the first 2 preseason games left us a lot to be optimistic about, regarding what will happen when the team gels and hits its stride, our offensive system may prove to be our bottleneck in making a deep run into the playoffs, especially if Walton does not wise up and start making some major changes.
Again, please go back and read the post fully before commenting "It's only 2 preseason games", "The team hasn't had time to gel yet" or "Injuries"
Edited by bfc1125roy, October 03, 2018 - 02:03 AM.