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  • NBA evolution

    Interesting read at SI this morning. Posted some key sections below. Raptors got mentioned, not in a good way.

    http://www.si.com/nba/2016/04/19/nba...marcus-cousins

    The NBA has evolved, but most of the teams that embraced the evolution did so because they had no other choice. Meanwhile, teams with real superstars have been stuck in the past. The Warriors and Spurs are the only two teams who saw where basketball was going and had real superstars to execute the vision. And so, the Warriors and Spurs went out and wrecked the whole league.

    ~

    Every time anyone wonders why the beginning of the playoffs has felt a little bit anti-climactic in 2016, they should think about some of the superstar talent that isn’t here this year: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, etc.

    ~

    At first, it seemed like teams were struggling because 60% of the league was clumsily trying to play small ball. Then, it seemed like parity was at work. Now … I’m pretty sure this season is a byproduct of a stylistic evolution in basketball that has hit the league like an earthquake.

    You can see the aftershock in the playoff seeding itself. The Hornets are a higher seed than the Rockets? The Mavs and Grizzlies made the playoffs? Paul George’s team is five spots below DeMar Derozan’s team? The Blazers lost Lamarcus Aldridge, replaced him with Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, and still finished fifth?

    Ball movement matters more now. Defense is crucial. The right (or wrong) lineups can swing games.

    Plenty of people could look at the state of the NBA and conclude that superstars don’t matter as much anymore, but that’s not quite right, either. Superstars are why the Cavs were able to have a phenomenally disjointed season and still win 57 games and finish in first place. Superstars are why the Thunder won 55 games, and superstars are why the Hawks, Raptors, and Celtics aren’t winning the title. This NBA’s not changing that much.

    ~

    The face of “smart” teams in 2016 aren’t the great GMs, but the best coaches and killer systems. Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, Brad Stevens in Boston, Steve Clifford in Charlotte, Rick Carlise in Dallas, Terry Stotts in Portland. “Culture” is real a thing, and it’s shaping the league now more than ever. In fact, the smartest move the Warriors ever made was not chasing a superstar (Kevin Love) and betting on Steve Kerr instead.

    These teams have a few more tangible things in common beyond culture. They all move the ball incredibly well, they all play excellent defense, and they all play creative lineups that get the most out of everything they have. Also, most of them play this way because they don’t have a choice. If the Hawks didn't mimic the Spurs, they'd be a 10th seed.

    It leaves the rest of the NBA in a tricky spot. I'm pretty sure teams like the Thunder and Cavs have been slow to evolve because their stars are so good they don't have to. The Wizards tried to evolve, but they applied the wrong lessons, with the wrong coach. The Pelicans had the wrong personnel. Sacramento had the wrong everything. The skeptic's response to all this might be that having true superstars precludes the kind of evolved ball-movement styles we see in Atlanta and Boston, or Charlotte and Dallas, or even Detroit. I don’t know know if I buy it.

    ~

    I’m pretty sure that's what's coming. Eventually, the rest of the league will look at the Warriors and realize that it’s not just Steph Curry or Draymond Green small ball that sets them apart. From the scouting to the lineups to the ball movement, the entire system is a better way to play basketball. Curry and Green just happen to make it unstoppable, but the same principles are working in Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, and Boston.
    Heir, Prince of Cambridge

    If you see KeonClark in the wasteland, please share your food and water with him.

  • #2
    Thanks for pointing out the article. Interesting read.

    Comment


    • #3
      Axel wrote: View Post
      Interesting read at SI this morning. Posted some key sections below. Raptors got mentioned, not in a good way.

      http://www.si.com/nba/2016/04/19/nba...marcus-cousins

      The NBA has evolved, but most of the teams that embraced the evolution did so because they had no other choice. Meanwhile, teams with real superstars have been stuck in the past. The Warriors and Spurs are the only two teams who saw where basketball was going and had real superstars to execute the vision. And so, the Warriors and Spurs went out and wrecked the whole league.

      ~

      Every time anyone wonders why the beginning of the playoffs has felt a little bit anti-climactic in 2016, they should think about some of the superstar talent that isn’t here this year: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmy Butler, John Wall, Carmelo Anthony, etc.

      ~

      At first, it seemed like teams were struggling because 60% of the league was clumsily trying to play small ball. Then, it seemed like parity was at work. Now … I’m pretty sure this season is a byproduct of a stylistic evolution in basketball that has hit the league like an earthquake.

      You can see the aftershock in the playoff seeding itself. The Hornets are a higher seed than the Rockets? The Mavs and Grizzlies made the playoffs? Paul George’s team is five spots below DeMar Derozan’s team? The Blazers lost Lamarcus Aldridge, replaced him with Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, and still finished fifth?

      Ball movement matters more now. Defense is crucial. The right (or wrong) lineups can swing games.

      Plenty of people could look at the state of the NBA and conclude that superstars don’t matter as much anymore, but that’s not quite right, either. Superstars are why the Cavs were able to have a phenomenally disjointed season and still win 57 games and finish in first place. Superstars are why the Thunder won 55 games, and superstars are why the Hawks, Raptors, and Celtics aren’t winning the title. This NBA’s not changing that much.

      ~

      The face of “smart” teams in 2016 aren’t the great GMs, but the best coaches and killer systems. Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta, Brad Stevens in Boston, Steve Clifford in Charlotte, Rick Carlise in Dallas, Terry Stotts in Portland. “Culture” is real a thing, and it’s shaping the league now more than ever. In fact, the smartest move the Warriors ever made was not chasing a superstar (Kevin Love) and betting on Steve Kerr instead.

      These teams have a few more tangible things in common beyond culture. They all move the ball incredibly well, they all play excellent defense, and they all play creative lineups that get the most out of everything they have. Also, most of them play this way because they don’t have a choice. If the Hawks didn't mimic the Spurs, they'd be a 10th seed.

      It leaves the rest of the NBA in a tricky spot. I'm pretty sure teams like the Thunder and Cavs have been slow to evolve because their stars are so good they don't have to. The Wizards tried to evolve, but they applied the wrong lessons, with the wrong coach. The Pelicans had the wrong personnel. Sacramento had the wrong everything. The skeptic's response to all this might be that having true superstars precludes the kind of evolved ball-movement styles we see in Atlanta and Boston, or Charlotte and Dallas, or even Detroit. I don’t know know if I buy it.

      ~

      I’m pretty sure that's what's coming. Eventually, the rest of the league will look at the Warriors and realize that it’s not just Steph Curry or Draymond Green small ball that sets them apart. From the scouting to the lineups to the ball movement, the entire system is a better way to play basketball. Curry and Green just happen to make it unstoppable, but the same principles are working in Charlotte, Atlanta, Dallas, and Boston.
      You know, Casey is really countercultural this way with his systems, isn't he? Just look at this article - the Raptors aren't winning the title because they're a superstar-less team, like the Celtics and Hawks. But the Celtics and Hawks are having success with no superstar because their coaches are geniuses and they're playing this evolved style of basketball? So why did the Raptors grab 56 wins and the 2nd seed? They also have no superstar. But Casey's not one of the evolved genius coaches because the Raptors play slow, don't move the ball, and feature a 7 foot post-up centre as one of their key pieces of the future. Doesn't fit the narrative, does it? Is having just as much success as some of the superstar-less new wave teams, isn't it? Would be a finals contender with the exact same roster, system, and coach if you just added a Durant, LBJ, or Paul George, wouldn't it?

      Not being facetious, honest questions. The Raptors are breaking narratives. Now, they really haven't achieved much of anything yet - but then again neither has any "pace and space" team other than the Warriors and to a lesser extent the Spurs.

      The Spurs to a lesser extent because they went away from some of the clear pace and space system they used last season so they could feature LMA taking a ton of long twos. Those shots no one is supposed to take.

      GSW have struck gold, but Pops is still my gold standard, and that guy's team evolves every year based on the talent he has, not based on new trends. Spurs are taking fewer threes this year because they don't have the personnel and they have LMA - but they still shoot it well and they defend it really well because they knew they would have to.

      This whole GSW pace and space trend is getting overblown, imho, in the same way Jordan's impact reverberated through the league for a decade. Kobe, Vince, T-Mac, AI - everyone was trying to be the next Jordan, and it took several years for the NBA to realize no one would be the next Jordan and they should probably move on from trying to build teams around "next Jordan" players.

      Many of the contributions analytics have made will affect the game permanently, but the pendulum's swinging too far right now, at least in narratives like this that are trying to make sense of the whole thing. Talent still wins championships and teams that maximize their talent most successfully are the most successful teams.
      "We're playing in a building." -- Kawhi Leonard

      Comment


      • #4
        S.R. wrote: View Post
        So why did the Raptors grab 56 wins and the 2nd seed?
        Regular Season / pre-elbow injury Lowry was a superstar player.

        Comment


        • #5
          S.R. wrote: View Post
          You know, Casey is really countercultural this way with his systems, isn't he? Just look at this article - the Raptors aren't winning the title because they're a superstar-less team, like the Celtics and Hawks. But the Celtics and Hawks are having success with no superstar because their coaches are geniuses and they're playing this evolved style of basketball? So why did the Raptors grab 56 wins and the 2nd seed? They also have no superstar. But Casey's not one of the evolved genius coaches because the Raptors play slow, don't move the ball, and feature a 7 foot post-up centre as one of their key pieces of the future. Doesn't fit the narrative, does it? Is having just as much success as some of the superstar-less new wave teams, isn't it? Would be a finals contender with the exact same roster, system, and coach if you just added a Durant, LBJ, or Paul George, wouldn't it?
          Going to highlight this part. Kyle Lowry was a top-ten player in the NBA pre-elbow injury. He was a superstar this season.
          twitter.com/anthonysmdoyle

          Comment


          • #6
            S.R. wrote: View Post
            GSW have struck gold, but Pops is still my gold standard, and that guy's team evolves every year based on the talent he has, not based on new trends. Spurs are taking fewer threes this year because they don't have the personnel and they have LMA - but they still shoot it well and they defend it really well because they knew they would have to.
            Yeah, I agree with a lot of what you said. The Raps don't seem to fit any particular mold just now, but we are having success. Perhaps it's a circumstantial thing where we are in the right place at the right time to slip into the gaps.

            Really agree with the quoted part. That's why Pop is great because he switches things up based on his personnel, while adhering to general principles. Regardless of whether your offence is perimeter based, your defence needs to be.
            Heir, Prince of Cambridge

            If you see KeonClark in the wasteland, please share your food and water with him.

            Comment


            • #7
              KHD wrote: View Post
              Regular Season / pre-elbow injury Lowry was a superstar player.
              Barolt wrote: View Post
              Going to highlight this part. Kyle Lowry was a top-ten player in the NBA pre-elbow injury. He was a superstar this season.
              Just to be clear, I agree with you - Lowry's a top 10 player for driving wins, whether or not he's top 10 in jersey sales or name recognition, but the original article doesn't include him in the superstar category. It lumps the Raptors into the "superstar-less teams" category and then doesn't lump them into "great coaches with killer systems" category with the Hawks and Celtics to explain their superstar-less success. So maybe part of it is overlooking Lowry, but if one guy is driving wins to that degree, that's also a counterpoint to the article which is arguing your star doesn't drive wins like that anymore. Systems, spacing, ball movement, etc. are supposed to be driving the wins now.

              One thing that's important is that you can create great looks off much less ball movement - a post-up big can open up the perimeter if he demands double teams and moves the ball, and the drive and kick game can create perimeter shots when the defence collapses. Both of those can be 1 pass plays (I guess 2 going through the post) rather than the multi-pass ball movement ideal where the ball's swinging side to side trying to find an opening.

              BTW I mentioned the Spurs - who are supposed to be in the same category as the Warriors - actually averaged just as many 3PA per game this season as the old school grit'n'grind Memphis Grizzlies, those dinosaurs of the NBA past. The Spurs were 25th in the league for 3PA, but they were second for 3P% and first for 3P% defence. They could have shot a lot more 3's but intentionally did not.

              All this points to - I don't think we have Casey and/or Masai's ideal roster or system yet. So many adjustments from last season to this season impressed me. Both guys tend to defend whatever the team is doing right now and you only see what they really think via changes made over the long term. I'd really like to know what their vision is for the ideal roster & system. With some GMs or a coach like Hoiberg it's clear - they come in and say right away and start forcing guys into roles. You know who's expendable, who's on the way out, who's part of the core. Masai's never done that, or at least not since putting Lowry on the block a couple years ago. It's been "evaluation mode" and general support for everything in-house ever since that trade didn't happen.
              Last edited by S.R.; Wed Apr 20, 2016, 11:31 AM.
              "We're playing in a building." -- Kawhi Leonard

              Comment


              • #8
                The article is only partially correct. Yeah, it's coaches who install the killer systems, but it's the GM's who get the players who can properly function in those systems.

                Let's look at the Nuggets. Last year, they were a much higher than average pace, below average assist team. This year, a below average pace, higher than average assist team. Same coach and only 2 key changes.

                One was replacing Lawson with Mudiay. Except that in itself should have taken the team in the opposite direction - Lawson distributed the ball far better than the rookie.

                It's the other change that drove the half court ball movement - replacing traditional low post centre Nurkic with Jokic who can play in the high post whipping passes around and keying a ball movement offence. Congrats to Malone for recognizing Jokic's skill, but it was the GM who got the player with that skillset.
                If we knew half as much about coaching an NBA team as we think, we"d know twice as much as we do.

                Comment


                • #9
                  3inthekeon wrote: View Post
                  The article is only partially correct. Yeah, it's coaches who install the killer systems, but it's the GM's who get the players who can properly function in those systems.

                  Let's look at the Nuggets. Last year, they were a much higher than average pace, below average assist team. This year, a below average pace, higher than average assist team. Same coach and only 2 key changes.

                  One was replacing Lawson with Mudiay. Except that in itself should have taken the team in the opposite direction - Lawson distributed the ball far better than the rookie.

                  It's the other change that drove the half court ball movement - replacing traditional low post centre Nurkic with Jokic who can play in the high post whipping passes around and keying a ball movement offence. Congrats to Malone for recognizing Jokic's skill, but it was the GM who got the player with that skillset.
                  But the Celtics, for example, don't have the right pieces and yet are making things work. So the GM hasn't yet brought the right pieces in and despite that, the coach and system have produced.
                  Heir, Prince of Cambridge

                  If you see KeonClark in the wasteland, please share your food and water with him.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    S.R. wrote: View Post
                    You know, Casey is really countercultural this way with his systems, isn't he? Just look at this article - the Raptors aren't winning the title because they're a superstar-less team, like the Celtics and Hawks. But the Celtics and Hawks are having success with no superstar because their coaches are geniuses and they're playing this evolved style of basketball? So why did the Raptors grab 56 wins and the 2nd seed? They also have no superstar. But Casey's not one of the evolved genius coaches because the Raptors play slow, don't move the ball, and feature a 7 foot post-up centre as one of their key pieces of the future. Doesn't fit the narrative, does it? Is having just as much success as some of the superstar-less new wave teams, isn't it? Would be a finals contender with the exact same roster, system, and coach if you just added a Durant, LBJ, or Paul George, wouldn't it?
                    I actually think the Raptors do fit the narrative, but on a lower tier than the true contenders.

                    They have 2 second-tier stars in Lowry and DeRozan, who get the team wins during the regular season, so the Raptors maintain their status quo (similar to OKC and Cleveland, just with lesser stars).

                    I don't believe that Casey maximizes the talent on the roster, for the fact that he doesn't fix what isn't broken (in the regular season, at least). He has a dominant young big man that could be developed to counter the small-ball approach, yet he gets criminally underutilized. He has several good shooters, who happen to excel on the defensive end as well (ie: Carroll, Ross, Patterson, Powell), yet they're spare parts who play 4th/5th fiddle to the Kobe-era style of play that DeRozan/Lowry employ.

                    A better, more progressive coach, would find ways to get more out of this roster as a whole. Doing so may not even result in more wins in the short-term, but I believe it would eventually make them more of a threat as a title contender, while allowing them to bring in players who fit the "Raptors system/culture". A pass-happy, inside-out game with a dominant two-way C (Valanciunas), 3 interchangeable 2-way 3&D 'wings' (Carroll, Ross, Powell, Patterson), along with a star PG (Lowry), could prove to be lethal (as more/better players are brought in to fit the system, via draft, trades and free agency). It's about developing both the system/culture and the individual players playing in the system.

                    Lowry showed in game #2 that he has a smart BB IQ; his shot wasn't dropping, yet he was incredibly effective in a variety of other ways, to help the team win. DeRozan is the player that seems to stick out as being stuck in the Kobe-era past and, as a focal point of the team/franchise, he is essentially preventing the team from discovering a new, progressive, and unique (and potentially better) identity for the Raptors.
                    Last edited by CalgaryRapsFan; Wed Apr 20, 2016, 12:15 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Axel wrote: View Post
                      But the Celtics, for example, don't have the right pieces and yet are making things work. So the GM hasn't yet brought the right pieces in and despite that, the coach and system have produced.
                      Boston has a lot of right pieces, probably more above average NBA players than any team outside of the Spurs. All Boston lacks is the superstar.
                      If we knew half as much about coaching an NBA team as we think, we"d know twice as much as we do.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The article is fine with a few quibbles...like by what measure did some of the names listed make the "superstar" list. eg, Wall & Carmelo to name a couple.

                        Re the Raptors specifically...is the revelation that certain teams mentioned alongwith the Raptors ever projected themselves seriously to be in the running for the brass ring? That would be a fallacious supposition. The Raptors are still an unfinished build. I dont believe Masai or Casey ever projected anything (for the time being) other than to develop a consistent hardplaying identity and work towards a championship. Some teams with similar standards are just more ahead than others.

                        And then there is "luck". The Spurs are still dining out on the Duncan selection and GSW were blessed with Kahn of the Wolves picking Rubio & Flynn (both PGs) allowing Curry available. The Raptors keep losing fucking coin flips to climb a spot and allow a Ben Uzoh to put a notch in his belt in the last meaningless game of the season. Such events also count towards the ascendancy of a franchise. Hinkie as well may have a few words on this category

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          3inthekeon wrote: View Post
                          Boston has a lot of right pieces, probably more above average NBA players than any team outside of the Spurs. All Boston lacks is the superstar.
                          I don't know about that, they lack a lot of shooting and have some serious overlap issues with their back court and bigs. I very much doubt that the players they have really fit the vision of the system.
                          Heir, Prince of Cambridge

                          If you see KeonClark in the wasteland, please share your food and water with him.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            S.R. wrote: View Post
                            This whole GSW pace and space trend is getting overblown, imho, in the same way Jordan's impact reverberated through the league for a decade. Kobe, Vince, T-Mac, AI - everyone was trying to be the next Jordan, and it took several years for the NBA to realize no one would be the next Jordan and they should probably move on from trying to build teams around "next Jordan" players.

                            Many of the contributions analytics have made will affect the game permanently, but the pendulum's swinging too far right now, at least in narratives like this that are trying to make sense of the whole thing. Talent still wins championships and teams that maximize their talent most successfully are the most successful teams.
                            Trend is nothing. empty words. marketing.

                            Talent still wins regular season. and will forever.

                            The team, that maximizes the output of the roster (WHOLE) not the output of the stars wins titles.
                            that's the reason why Pop is so great - he doesn't care about "trends". He doesn't care about small ball, he doesn't care about stars and superstars. What he cares about - every player on the team must be a threat on offense and not liability on defence. No players you can cheat on and no players that cheat on the team.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Cross wrote: View Post
                              Trend is nothing. empty words. marketing.

                              Talent still wins regular season. and will forever.

                              The team, that maximizes the output of the roster (WHOLE) not the output of the stars wins titles.
                              that's the reason why Pop is so great - he doesn't care about "trends". He doesn't care about small ball, he doesn't care about stars and superstars. What he cares about - every player on the team must be a threat on offense and not liability on defence. No players you can cheat on and no players that cheat on the team.
                              I don't disagree with you, but using San Antonio to support your argument is a slippery slope.

                              It's really easy for Pop to not care about superstars or trends, when his team is built on superstars and dominant wing play.

                              Superstars (or even just stars, at this point in their careers): Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, Aldridge, Leonard

                              Wings: Leonard, Ginobli, Green

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