As blasphemous as it may sound, a fellow over at Silver Screen and Roll known only as “Actuarially Sound” thinks it’s time for the Lakers to ditch Tex Winter’s fabled offensive system after they hire their next coach. The article is 3,100 words and includes some nice graphs, so I encourage you to click over instead of expecting me to give it justice here, but here are some of the juicier tidbits:
The Lakers have the personnel to make the Triangle work. However, the Lakers have very intelligent players and they could use almost any offense that did not depend on an athletic point guard to run the show. The offense chosen should be the one that best maximizes the team’s chances of winning a title and not simply the one they are most familiar with. This leads to Mark’s second point. Jackson won 11 titles using the system, so clearly it works and thus should be continued. It is this second point with which I take issue. All due respect to the great Tex Winter, I think the Triangle offense is vastly over-rated…
…The offense under Phil Jackson did not improve in any way. The Lakers had the 2nd best offense in the league under Del Harris but that ranking dropped to 4th when Phil arrived with the Triangle. The defense however went from sub-par to the league’s best. It was the defense that changed and led the Lakers to a title. Phil deserves some credit for this, and while the Triangle offense does encourage good floor spacing which could help improve transition defense, it would be a stretch to attribute a change of this magnitude to the offense.
the offense does not create opportunities to score from the two most efficient places on the floor, at the rim and behind the arc, like other offenses do. Most of the Lakers baskets at the rim come from dribble penetration, one-on-one post-ups, or offensive rebounding. The offense does not use any back picks and the only motion to the rim are when the wings enter the ball into the post and then make a token dive towards the rim which is rarely open. It may be surprising to some but the Lakers, despite their enormous size finished 19th in league in shots at the rim this season and 16th last year.
Similarly the offense does not lend itself to many three point attempts. Even though the Lakers are not the best three point shooting team, the extra value of the shot more than offsets the lower field goal percentage. The Lakers finished 17 in three point attempts per game last year. Basically the Triangle offense produces and “average” number of attempts near the basket and “average” number of three point attempts which results in the offense being “average”.
Again, the article is massive and a must-read, so I encourage you to click over and read the whole thing rather than judge it on the 10% of it I’ve posted here. The Lakers have three of the best post players in the league and have had tremendous success with the triangle (or “triple-post”) offense in the past, and the offense does provide some benefits, such as ball control and pace control, that don’t show up in simple offensive efficiency.
And in the playoffs, drive-and-kick play seems to be slightly less effective than it is in the regular season as teams face more defenses capable of loading up the strong side and rotating back to shooters. Still, this is an article that Laker fans should definitely consider as the team’s coaching search goes on this off-season.