Tag: small ball

The Los Angeles Lakers join this decade and will finally play small ball

Last season, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott said he doesn’t believe that 3-point shooting can win a title.

I don’t even have to go in any detail about how off that statement was over the last few years and especially last season.

The Lakers shot a lot of long 2-pointers last season. Not just Kobe Bryant, but Jordan Hill, Wayne Ellington, and, well, it was basically the whole team. 3-pointers and lay-ups are the most efficient shots and long 2-pointers are some of the least efficient.

This offseason, the vibe is completely different in Los Angeles. Drafting D’angolo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick over Jahlil Okafor was the first sign they changed their overall approach. Drafting a score-first point guard who they think will be one of the leagues best for years to come over the polished offensive big man in Okafor is something they wouldn’t have done in the past.

via lakersnation.com

via lakersnation.com

Throw in the fact that last season Jordan Clarkson started at point guard as a rookie and made the second team All-Rookie team, averaging over 15 points per game after the All-Star break and you’ve got the best-looking Lakers point guard in a long, long time. Naturally, pundits assumed that Los Angeles would take Okafor because their point guard position was already figured out. But this seems like a modernized team all of the sudden, with the plan looking like Clarkson at shooting guard now with Russell next to him in the backcourt.

via variety.com

via variety.com

This all means that Kobe Bryant is slated to start at small forward. Over the last few seasons he’s played more point guard then small forward, and Byron Scott recently came out and said Kobe will see some time at the power forward and even that D’angolo Russell will get some run at the 3. The Lakers are embracing small ball and going all the way with it. Julius Randle spent time playing center during summer league and so did rookie power forward Larry Nance, Jr.

The Lakers may be able to afford to go that small in certain situations. Most teams do it. This isn’t all that different than Paul Pierce playing the 4 in the playoffs. The offseason trade for Roy Hibbert gives them even more flexibility with small lineups, as he’s one of the best rim protectors in the league and playing Kobe at power forward with him down low doesn’t seem all that crazy in today’s game.

Lou Williams, another veteran added this offseason, will likely play down the stretch of games for his shooting and scoring. Last year’s Sixth Man Of The Year winner will likely guard the other teams point guard and this is where you will see Clarkson, Russell, and Bryant — at the 2, 3, and 4, respectively.

This is no different than what almost every other team does. During crunch time, put your best scorers and shooters on the floor, and sub out for defense if you can. We still don’t know if Byron Scott has any new feelings regarding 3-point shooting, but the Lakers seem to be taking a step in the right direction.

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Are the Golden State Warriors the new NBA template?

The Golden State Warriors just won the title starting a 6′ 7″ center. They also had a crazy amount of depth and just the right number of veterans off the bench, but they’re playing small ball… and it worked.

Yes, a lot of the NBA is going small, but with the Warriors winning a title in six games, does that make them a template for success?

The San Antonio Spurs were that template for the last few years — slash-and-kick with constant passing to create open looks. The Atlanta Hawks followed that and won 60 games this year. Even the Miami Heat title teams were based upon slash-and-drive. Now with the Warriors and their amazing year, will post play be undervalued in following years?

Draymond Green was great, notching a triple double in the game-clinching win, but he’s not a back-to-the-basket player.

draymondgreen

David Lee, arguably their second best player prior to this year, was benched for Green and it worked out amazing for Golden State. Players like Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala defend multiple positions and can knock down open shots. That was more important that a traditional post game like Lee had. They were right and Green and Iguodala made all the difference down the stretch against Cleveland.

Iggy-Warriors

What if Memphis had held their 2-1 lead against the Warriors in the second round? Would anyone be asking if post play might be a thing of the past? What if the Cavs had Irving and Mozgov along with Thompson rebounded how they did leading to a Cavs win?

True centers and power forwards are not going away. Teams will model themselves after Golden State, but it’ll be insanely hard to have the personnel to do what they did. You aren’t going to win a championship starting five guys under 6′ 9″ unless you have two of the league’s best shooters, and three or four crazy versatile players to go with that.

There are just to many centers and post players around the league for this to happen. Lamarcus Aldridge, both Gasols and Griffen, the list can go on. This doesn’t mean that teams aren’t going to go small down the stretch of games, but it’ll be hard to go as small as the Golden State Warriors have gone.

The three-point shot has already taken over the NBA and if teams are going to copy the Warrior’s success formula, that’s going to be the way it happens. But the post game isn’t going away. Golden State got through the Pelicans, Grizzlies and Rockets, all who had formidable centers and post play. Just because it was the Warriors year and they joined the long list of teams who’s luck (mostly injuries) broke their way, doesn’t mean it’s going to win like they did.

The Warriors are one of a kind.

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