Analyzing How Lakers Will Use Princeton Offense with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant
Hamstrung by a complete coaching staff overhaul and an offseason debilitated by a lengthy lockout, the Los Angeles Lakers' offensive strategy this past season amounted to little more than: "I don't know, give the ball to Kobe. He'll figure it out."
That should all change next season. Speaking with Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, Bryant revealed that the Lakers will shift to the hallowed Princeton offense next season at the guard's behest:
It's a great offense. It's exactly what we need. It takes us back to being able to play by making reads and reacting to defenses. It takes a great deal of communication, but that's where we're at our best: Reading and reacting as opposed to just coming down and calling sets. Calling sets make you vulnerable.
The switch to the Princeton offense won't be too much of a stretch for Bryant, as some of the basic principles relate to Phil Jackson's vaunted triangle.
But for new Lakers point guard Steve Nash, his move will mark a massive change in philosophy. Nash spent the last eight seasons as the Peyton Manning of the Phoenix Suns offense, and running a high-tempo attack will need to adjust to a far more structured flow.
How will the Lakers new offense look with Nash and Bryant at the helm? Here's a breakdown of the new-look L.A. offense.
An Emphasis on Fluidity
At almost no point while running the Princeton offense should any of the Lakers be at a standstill.
From the moment Nash dribbles the ball up the court, everyone has a cutting, screening or ball-handling responsibility.
As you can see in the accompanying breakdown video, the Princeton is a complicated offense where everyone must know their responsibilities for it to work. Without correct timing from cuts and flashing big men, the ball handlers will lack the necessary space to operate.
Installing this offense requires a roster of players with high basketball IQs. Luckily for L.A., they have a roster full of intelligent basketball minds with experience playing in an offense built on fluidity.
Tons of Two-Guard Fronts, Very Little Traditional Point Guard Play
One of the key components to the Princeton offense is that whoever has the ball in his hands becomes the point guard.
The offense is predicated on screens and off-ball movement. Each member of the offense, especially at positions one through four, are expected to be able to dribble, pass or shoot from wherever they catch the ball.
Therefore, the traditional point guard has little purpose other than bringing the ball up the floor.
Lakers fans know this as the "Derek Fisher role."
For Nash, a player who thrives by being ball dominant, this will be the biggest adjustment. In Phoenix, Nash was the vital cog which made everything tick. In the Princeton, he's just a part of the larger whole.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Massive Responsibility Increase for Pau Gasol; Massive Decrease for Andrew Bynum
Power forward Pau Gasol has been known as one of the NBA's most versatile big men for his entire career, and the Princeton offense will give him the opportunity to show why.
Continuing in his previously mentioned interview with Wojnarowski, Bryant could hardly contain his excitement for the 32-year-old Spaniard's role increase:
Steve is going to make it easier for Pau, because he's an incredible distributor, but the system is perfect for [Gasol]. His ability to pass the ball, to make plays from the high post – to shoot – is the perfect system for him. I'm excited for Pau because this is right in his wheelhouse.
While the switch to the Princeton is Gasol's opportunity to feast, it's going to look a lot like famine for center Andrew Bynum.
The 24-year-old thrived in his first season away from an overly structured offensive set in 2011-12, averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
A return to the structure likely means a return to Bynum being the team's offensive third wheel (at best).
Will the Princeton offense work for the Lakers?
Considering Bynum is in a contract year and has been the subject of trade rumors this entire offseason, the Lakers will need to make a concerted effort to get the center low-post isolation sets.
If Bynum becomes a forgotten man, the switch to the Princeton will prove ill-fated as it renders their second-best player useless and likely creates a disgruntled star.
But if coach Mike Brown can correctly mix the new with the old, the Lakers have a versatile enough cast to become one of the NBA's top offensive teams.
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