LeBron James has already mastered it.
Mike Miller called it “borderline genius.”
Now Brendan Haywood has called it “Spurs-esque.”
It’s Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt’s offense, and those three are not alone. All the Cavaliers players are raving about it. The offense is based on Princeton principles (that’s where he played in college) and honed over decades in Europe where you can’t just throw the ball to LeBron and clear out a side. Blatt said this summer the goal is a read-and-react offense — read the defense then make your cut/pass/move based on how to unbalance the defense, in concert with your teammates. The ball constantly moves and so do the players. It’s a direction the NBA is trending — no just raising two fingers and getting “horns” or “floppy” or some other play where the defense knows what is coming (likely because they run it). Too much good scouting to get away with that now.
Blatt was brought over after winning 19 trophies in 21 years of coaching in Europe because he was seen as an offensive genius. As the Cavaliers players are getting a good look at his offense, they are agreeing. Look what some Cavs players told Brendan Bowers of SLAM.
Brendan Haywood: “I like his offense a lot. There’s great ball movement, which is very key in the game of basketball. There isn’t as much of one-on-one. There’s a lot of the ball being kicked from one side of the court to another, which is important. But I said ‘Spurs-esque’ because it’s really all about ball movement—like how the Spurs create those mismatches with defenses by moving the ball so precisely. It doesn’t let the defense lock in on one guy.”
Shawn Marion: “But it’s really free-flowing, like I said. The ball really moves. By moving the ball like that, we should be able to keep some offensive pressure up on teams. Spacing is really important too. Both forward positions are interchangeable and it’s important for guys to get to their spots.”
Joe Harris: “I really enjoy the offense overall. It’s great for guys like myself and James and Mike Miller because it gives you spacing to knock down shots. Then that opens things up for our playmakers, LeBron, Kyrie, Dion, those guys can really attack the basket and create off the bounce with that spacing.”
Two quick thoughts:
First, the idea of LeBron, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving all working in unison in a Spursian offense is downright frightening. That’s a boatload of talent that, if it buys in and executes the system, will be fearsome on offense and challenge the Clippers (and a few others) for best offense in the NBA. In a couple years it may not be that close.
Second, it could take time. When you talk to the Spurs about the transition to their current offense they say it really took two seasons to get it — Patty Mills told PBT he sat on the bench for a couple seasons just absorbing before he could step into his current backup role. The Cavaliers will still be a very good offensive team this season but it may be next season or the one after that before their offense really starts to pay huge dividends (the Kincks will go through the same trials with the triangle).