Dec 23, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers head coach Mike D

Mike D'Antoni's Small Ball The Way To Go?

Kobe Bryant has been sitting on the sidelines, nursing his injuries and watching the games.  He left an observation about the NBA for Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.

Championship teams of the past have centered around strong big man play.  Wilt, Russell, Kareem, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tim Duncan, are just few of the names that have not only created a winning championship year, but a championship window for multiple titles.

Apr 2, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Phil Jackson (left) and Jeannie Buss stand with Los Angeles Lakers former player Shaquille O

The Chicago Bulls circumnavigated that traditional thought.  They used the triangle offense to maximize post play through their wing players.  The flexibility of the offense, having five moving players that are interchangeable, allowed the flexibility to give Michael Jordan higher percentage looks at the basket.  Instead of dribbling in from the 3-point line for dribble penetration, he would face up in triple threat position from 20′ and in, or receive the ball in the post and drive for a higher percentage shot.  The offense worked well for them, but it still required two elite NBA caliber defenders in Pippen and Jordan, and an elite defensive “big-man” in Dennis Rodman for the 2nd set of championships.

Pau Gasol helped get Bryant get over the hump into his 2nd set of championships as well.  He was the hub of the triangle offense, and created easier isolation looks and higher percentage shots off of curls, screens, backdoors, and lob plays.

Bryant basically states that the NBA is getting soft.  It is, in a sense that, perimeter defense seems a lot stronger at the NCAA level than the NBA level.  Most guards with any amount of skill are able to attack the basket from the 3-point line and put defenders at their mercy.  Centers and power forwards are doing the same.  The new crop of NBA players,  such as DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Chris Bosh, all have the ability to attack from the high-post with straight line drives and get to the basket.

But there is something to be said of the traditional center.  Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan are still traditional post players that carry championship teams.  Duncan’s window may be coming to an end, but his abilities still allow him to play well beside Tony Parker.  Roy Hibbert plays solely with his back to basket on offense and protects the paint.  Watching the Indiana Pacers is like watching a 1980′s team, full of discipline, and executing at a high level.  Those guys play for elite teams.

Still, I can’t help but think that the new NBA is composed of so many elite level point guards and wing players, that small ball works because of it.  There’s so much speed, quickness, and activity on the floor, that transition play looks reminiscent of the 90′s Sonic teams, constantly scrambling and forcing turnovers.  Kobe Bryant may not care much for it, but he still has the old school tricks in the post that keep Hibbert and Duncan successful to this day.  His play with the back to the basket from multiple angles creates easier isolation shots than all the high-stepping, multi-crossover, pull-up fadeaway shots that Nick Young takes.  Granted, Nick Young is playing very well, but even he’s learning from the master, Kobe Bryant.

Just because small ball works now, doesn’t mean it’ll last forever.  Elite teams have always had at least a dominant guard and a dominant bigman.  That is the Laker way, and that’s how it has always been.

It’ll be strange to see if Mike D’Antoni can fit into that idea, not the other way around.

Tags: Kobe Bryant Mike D'antoni Triangle Offense

  • Rigged4fun

    There’s a vast amount of difference between Jackson’s triangle and D’Antoni’s system beyond the personnel aspect. My major concern with the D’Antoni system is that it simply spreads the floor without motion. Wings and guards are distributed around the 3pt line and the center is at the top of the key. The action presents a singular movement of an entry into the center and one player cutting to create a virtual 2-man give and go. Players on the perimeter tend to stand and watch without much in the way of rotational movement. At least in the triangle there’s cutters and backfill rebounding. If D’Antoni’s shooters on the perimeter aren’t hitting their 3′s then it’s a long night for the team.

    • Daryl Peek

      MDA system is way more than just spreading the floor. That is a huge pat of making it work though. PNR is a big part of the motion in it and looking at how Gasol plays in it, it’s clear he’s learning to adapts to players post up skill sets. Pau and Kelly are looking very comfortable playing off each other with each game they get under their belts together. KM5 has a bond going on with Pau and Nick Young is continuing to feed off Gasol like Kobe would. Gasol is no longer complaining about low post touches as He has as many as he wants in MDA’s system this season. He just needed to take advantage of them.

      • Rigged4fun

        For the most part the offense is stagnant. Otherwise it’s counter productive to rebounding and transitional defense. Who cares who’s comfortable, they are not winning, nor are they an offensive force. Your assessment is meaningless from a practical standpoint because there’s no weakside help nor rotational passing. In other words if the ball is passed to the left side, it dies on that side unless they throw a pass cross court…which leads to turn overs.

        • Mike Garcia

          It matters who is comfortable. If players aren’t comfortable, then their trade value drops and the morale of the team drops even lower.

          This is a team that is overachieving on a nightly basis that doesn’t really have balanced talent, just loaded with talented wings.

        • Daryl Peek

          So now you’re gonna switch it up by arguing win loss results? How many of the ball handling starters are playing? My assessment is based on how the guys a meshing. You’re crossing into different arguments? The high turnovers are a direct byproduct of said ball handlers being injured. Blake was doing very well keeping the turnovers down and as we all know, once he went down all the chemistry we to hell.

          And I made no mention of defense as an arguing point. I just said it’s likely the coaching staff is drilling it into their heads about getting back to protect against fast breaks.

          The offense would get stagnant in the triangle also. Kobe watching was always a problem. And to be honest, Phil preferred small ball so to speak. The triangle was at it’s best under Phil with a stretch 4… see Horry next to Shaq or LO next to Gasol.

  • hookedonnews

    Time to move out of the past, and stop talking about what won championships decades ago. I don’t think Tim Duncan is a traditional center and neither is Roy Hibbert. These guys are good outside shooters and can move down the court. Even the Spurs push the pace, and there’s very little traditional center play. The best two teams in the last few years (Heat & Thunder) don’t rely on post-up big men. Small ball is the future of the league. And whether you believe it’s the way to go or not, that’s the way the Lakers are going to go as long as MDA is the coach. No offense to Pau, but he’s not Russell or Chamberlin or Shaq.

    • Daryl Peek

      Let me add a glaring point most completely over look. D’Antoni’s system is used in the college ranks, and uptempo PNR offense is what most AAU and high school programs teach. Guess what kind of players are coming to the NBA? Jabari Parker, Andrew Wigging, ETC… these are not post up triangle players coming to change the face of the NBA. They are D’Antoni types.

      Living in the past indeed.