Mike D'Antoni-Steve Nash Reunion Would Bring Desperately Needed Spark Back to LA
Mike D'Antoni is getting mentioned as a potential name to replace the recently fired Mike Brown (per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com) as the head coach of the Lakers. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweets,
As Lakers ownership has been considering firing of Brown, Mike D'Antoni has been a prominent name discussed as replacement, sources tell Y!— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) November 9, 2012
There are a lot of good reasons to think that the Lakers would be smart to make that move, but primarily there are two. Pick-and-roll. Well, maybe that's one.
Mike D'Antoni and Steve Nash famously paired together to make the Phoenix Suns the highest-scoring team in the NBA from 2003 to 2008. While that was partly an aspect of running a fast-paced style of play, they were still the second-most efficient team over that span as well.
There's no arguing with the notion that when they were paired together, they were exceptional, and the Suns were one of the most exciting teams in the NBA to watch. There's also little question that the duo could make things work for the Lakers as well.
While Nash had some pretty good talent around him in Phoenix, it's nothing compared to the talent that he has in Los Angeles. With all apologies to Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire, they just aren't on the same level as Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
The Lakers are absolutely ideal for the pick-and-roll with Nash at the helm. Howard, according to Synergy, scored on average 1.36 points per play on the pick-and-roll last year. Yet Synergy also reveals that through the first five games of the season, the Lakers have gone to Howard as the roll man just twice all year, and he has only one field goal on those two plays.
Your exact sentiment upon reading that should be some form of, "And that's why Mike Brown deserves to be fired."
Why would you have one of the best players in the league who performs a certain function better than anyone and then not have him perform that function? You might as well trade for Kevin Durant and ask him to not shoot, tell LeBron James to no longer put the ball on the floor or ask Kobe Bryant to abandon the step-back.
The real beauty of the pick-and-roll with D'Antoni, though, is when you add in the effect of Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant. Not only would the pick-and-roll be such a danger, the pick-and-pop would be used with equal effectiveness.
To a lesser degree, even Metta World Peace could become more dangerous, too, especially behind the arc.
Certainly, the Lakers' offense would be far more explosive with a Mike D'Antoni offense. However, there are a couple of questions to consider before rushing out and hiring him—namely, pace and defense.
The Suns of old weren't so old as the Lakers of now, and they ran like the young pups they were, keeping up the second-fastest pace in the league while D'Antoni was there.
The average of the Lakers' starting lineup is almost 34 years old. Howard is the only player under the age of 30. The rest are all at least 32 years old, and Nash is 38. How much can this team run with the break-neck abandon of those Suns teams, and how much does the offense rely on pace?
The other issue is that as great as those offensive teams were, the defenses were not very good, ranking 16th, in the bottom half of the NBA over that span.
How far would the Lakers go with D'Antoni as the head coach?
Granted, there are some great defensive players on this team; on those Phoenix teams, the only good defensive player they had was Shawn Marion. On the other hand, it was overlooked how good of a defensive player Marion was due to the horridness of the Suns' defense in general.
And we've seen that just slapping a bunch of good defensive players together does't guarantee a good defensive team. After all, it could be argued that the defense was even worse than the offense under Brown.
The Lakers' problems are on both ends of the court.
D'Antoni's offense would be able to solve the problems on one end for as long as the starting five can stay healthy. However, injuries, especially to the already injured Nash, could limit its effectiveness. A certain skill set is required to run the D'Antoni system, and Steve Blake doesn't have it.
Specifically, he doesn't have the ability to penetrate. According to Synergy, he averaged just .70 points per play last season as the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll. That's compared to .92 points by Steve Nash. Blake could improve on his numbers if the system masked his weaknesses, but that's not the case with D'Antonio's system.
The Lakers would be a much more exciting team, and at their best, a ridiculous proposition to defend. However, they would still fall short of being a true title contender without a strong defensive presence. Unless D'Antoni brought a good defensive assistant along with him, it might be a risky move.
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