Author: Matt Moore

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

Why are the Lakers taking the ball out of Steve Nash’s hands?


When the Lakers landed Steve Nash, even before Dwight Howard, there was exultation across Lakers Land. The team would no longer need to run everything through Kobe Bryant, wouldn’t struggle getting the ball to the bigs, would have someone to quarterback, coordinate, and execute the offense. Yes, it was going to be a great new time in Hollywood. Then they added Dwight Howard! The best pick and roll point guard in the league according to Synergy Sports last year with the best pick and roll finisher last year according to the same! Genius!

And Mike Brown’s going to pretty much jack that up entirely.

In a wide-ranging piece on the Princeton offense from’s Ken Berger, Steve Nash talked about the changes that he’ll have to make in his game in the Princeton offense Mike Brown is running. Nash is more than happy to do so and supportive, even excited, but things will be different.

It was more than notable that Nash used the term “completely opposite” to describe how the Princeton offense differs from the system he’s thrived in for years.

“We have multiple post players, which I’ve never really played with,” Nash said. “You have the ability to go in a number of different directions, whereas before we really relied on pick-and-rolls. We have pick-and-roll players here, but we also have the ability to go inside or go to Kobe and other guys to score the ball.”

Even in his 17th season, Bryant, 34, remains a scoring beast who needs to be fed in isolation, especially late in the shot clock when all else has failed. And despite all their talent, the Lakers are an older team. The seven-seconds-or-less approach, whereby Nash has spent the bulk of his career wearing down opponents with the dizzying force of numerous possessions, might have tired out the Lakers first. The downside? Nash, who has thrived with the ball in his hands the vast majority of the time, will no longer be the perpetual trigger man.

“I won’t have to make all the decisions,” Nash said. “We can go inside to our big guys and allow them to make a lot of the decisions, and obviously Kobe is still going to be our go-to-guy. In some ways, I won’t have the ball in my hands all the time and I’ll be spotting up and getting open shots, so it’s going to be a little bit different.”

via Lakers’ championship hopes depend on how well things mesh – NBA – News, Scores, Stats, Fantasy Advice.

Setting aside the fact that the ball is now going into Dwight Howard who will be tasked with passing to backdoor cutters and players swinging for jumpers, which inherently means that the great passer Pau Gasol is now cutting while the great-cutting Dwight Howard is passing, am I the only one that’s wondering why in God’s name you would decide to move to a system where Steve Nash doesn’t have the ball?

This isn’t about scoring. Nash on this team could score less than ten points a game and still have the highest offensive rating and points per possession off his shots and assists in the league. It’s about the fact that for the past seven years, when Steve Nash has the ball, good things happen for your offense. Amazing things. This isn’t rocket science. Steve Nash + Ball = Good. But for some reason, the Lakers are moving in the opposite direction of that. Even with the idea that Nash is getting up there in age, offensively, he’s the least of the defense’s worries, and so he’s not going to be taking a beating. But to make the offense work, he has to have the ball.

Nash with Gasol in the pick-and-pop is such an amazing idea on its own that it’s going to get overlooked. Bryant cutting off screens for catch-and-shoot curl jumpers  could increase his field goal percentage by 5% or more. Howard and Nash on the pick and roll is a literally, and I mean literally literally, unstoppable combination without sacrificing all of your help defense, leaving Bryant or Gasol open to arguably the best passer in the game.

Why on Earth would you want to move away from that?

It’s not even about pace, it’s just about effectiveness.

The Lakers are still going to be incredible. They could run a Hawks-style isolation offense and still beat the crap out of teams. But the Princeton offense is going to leave a lot to be desired in terms of maximizing their assets. At some point you have to wonder if Mike Brown overthought how to get this super team on the road to a title. But of course, we have to wait and see. Howard’s an underrated passer, and Gasol’s versatile enough to do anything, and Nash is an incredible spot-up shooter. Maybe this works out. But conceptually, it just seems counterintuitive.

A year later, the Wolves drafting Williams still doesn’t make sense for anyone

Derrick Williams

From Canis

At some point, I think this team is just going to have to face the facts: Williams is a guy who could potentially be a pretty good power forward, on a team that has absolutely no minutes available at power forward.

It’s not like the Wolves are oblivious to this sort of thing. The reason we got Cunningham in the first place is because the team saw it had a need for a hustler/defender in the post and no minutes available for Wayne Ellington on the wings.

I like Williams, and I think he’ll have a good career as a valuable player, but I don’t see how it will happen here. He’s a stretch 4, on a team that already has one of the best, if not the best, stretch 4s in the league. With Kirilenko and Cunningham filling in the gaps around Love, how is Williams going to find space?

via What to do with Williams – Canis Hoopus.

When the Wolves landed the No.2 pick in the lottery for 2011, it was manna from heaven. Another star young player to add to their core. They were already going to be better with Ricky Rubio joining Kevin Love and later, Rick Adelman. But the problem was that the draft was considered a particularly weak one, and big-heavy at the top outside of Kyrie Irving. Picks 2-7 were all bigs, it would turn out, if you consider Williams a big.

We’re not playing revisionist history, here. This is not some “it didn’t make sense in retrospect.” At the time, everyone said ‘They have to trade the pick, right? Right?” There was rampant speculation they would move out of the lottery, and the Wolves were involved in talks repeatedly for Williams, included a speculated trade with the Lakers. But in the end, nothing developed, and the Wolves simply took the No.2 guy, Derrick Williams.

Here’s the crazy part. They drafted a good player who wound up having a decent rookie season. He didn’t blow anyone away, he didn’t establish himself outright, but then again, he was playing out of position on a team that was gunning for a playoff spot until Rubio’s injury. In maybe the most Timberwolves thing ever, they drafted a good player and still wound up making a mistake. Do you know how hard that is?

So now Williams continues to drift between two worlds, trying to establish himself, playing out of position, and not even filling the needs of the position in terms of who the Wolves are.

The Timberwolves have made a ton of good moves over the past two years, and David Kahn deserves a lot of credit for that. The Wolves are not only respectable but could be a playoff team for the first time since KG left, and that takes some doing. They’ve managed the cap and their roster well. But Williams remains the oddest situation where they drafted the best player in his range (consider that Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard weren’t even top ten), and isn’t a bust, and yet it was a poor pick. Here’s hoping the Wolves can move him for an upgrade at a position of need and that he gets a chance to develop in a more natural setting. It’s not that he’s not good and not developing. It’s that things could be so much better for him elsewhere.

5 Preseason Observations

2011 NBA Draft

1. The disconnect isn’t necessarily obvious. If you watch preseason, on the surface, there’s not much outside of the number of minutes for starters between regular season and this. I mean, the game is fundamentally the same. But the speed and intensity differential is startling, and you’ll see the shift for small moments with the key players putting themselves in a higher gear. It essentially means that most of the time, even when you see something that is fundamentally good or bad, you have to understand that there’s just very little connection between this and what we’ll see starting October 30th.

2. So in that vein, very little should be made of the Hornets, on either side. A 3-1 record would indicate that they’re actually putting some things together, but if you watch the games or look at the box you can tell that they are severely struggling. But on the flip side, Eric Gordon hasn’t played, and Anthony Davis sat out their Friday night loss for rest.

But the concerns are mostly in that the offense looks like quite the mess. Yes, Gordon is going to help, but there are concerns about Greivis Vasquez who has been charged with running point guard, and the small forward position is still a huge question mark. The results with the big lineup featuring Roben Lopez, Anderson, and Davis have not been good. In large part, the Hornets just don’t seem to have a whole lot of talent offensively.

But again, it’s preseason.

3. Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors had an awful opening stat line but made a jump in his second game. The off-the-box stuff though, stands out nicely. He’s a quality rotation defender and aggressive at blocking shots. He’s got both good instincts under the basket and a little bit of savvy. He’s going to have growing pains, but you don’t get a sense watching him that he’s just completely lost, like some other top-five-pick big men of the last few years did, even in preseason.

4. The Lakers bench had better be saving itself.

5. Teams who appear sharp: Miami, Denver, San Antonio, Golden State.
Teams who do not appear sharp: Washington, Charlotte, Portland, the Clippers, and OKC’s bench.

But again, as always, it’s preseason.