Either out of curiosity or genuine preparation, NBA teams are thinking about how to defend the scheme.
“This is something that someone – I think he may be here – told me. He works for a team that’s very good right now,” Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren said at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. “He said, ‘Alright, if that team wants to take their four best players and put them up against our best four players, we’ll just leave one guy down there with their one guy. And since we’ve got the best players, that’s even better for us.’”
I initially thought teams would try to exploit their 5-on-4 advantage and then just sprint back to defend the cherry-picker. It takes time to grab a rebound or take the ball out of bounds and throw a pass the length of the court. NBA athletes can cover much more ground than fourth-grade girls.
But defending the cherry-picker might work better.
Spacing is so important to NBA offenses. It’s easier to score playing four-on-four than five-of-five simply because there’s more space for the four to operate. Plus, going four-on-four would eliminate the Kings’ advantage.
Ranadivé can still have his team try the plan, but it seems this one might have run its course before even getting off the drawing board.