Mike D'Antoni's L.A. Lakers Will Be More Gun, Less Run
At first glance, the Lakers' hiring of Mike D'Antoni doesn't necessarily seem like the most natural fit. Yes, they have Steve Nash to orchestrate the show and they even have Dwight Howard to play the role of dominant pick-and-roll big man that can team with Nash to run his system's most popular action.
However, the rest of the roster—even when accounting for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol—doesn't really offer the type of players that D'Antoni has had his most success with.
This Laker group doesn't have the speed players of those old Suns' teams that ran at a breakneck pace and got defenses on their heels simply by attacking in the open court. There is no Shawn Marion or Leandro Barbosa on this team.
But even without those types of players the Lakers can still be a very good match for this system, though it will look a bit different than the prototypical D'Antoni-coached team. The Lakers won't be seven seconds or less, but they'll still be successful.
This will translate to them playing more of a half-court game to try and take advantage of the talent they do have on their roster. With a roster full of aging players, this will be the most common way for them to produce points from night to night.
However, even though they won't run as often it doesn't mean they won't run at all. They'll get out on the break, just not in the way we're accustomed to seeing.
No, we won't see many plays where the Lakers run classic three-on-twos or two-on-ones to get dunks and layups. Instead, we'll see more semi-transition plays where good shots are generated on the delayed break:
On this play, you see Nash advancing the ball quickly, but because the defense has done a good job of getting back, there's not a real fast break chance. So, Nash instead waits for his big man to sprint to the front of the rim and draw the defense with him to paint.
Nash then hits Kobe with a cross-court pass on the wing where he's open for a jumper. Instead of taking the three pointer though, Kobe instead fakes the shot by elevating and then fires a pass into Gasol for the easy dunk.
Plays like this will be more common for the Lakers than ones where players run for layups and dunks on their own. Because the Lakers lack that elite speed to change ends faster than their opponents, they'll need those types of actions to get dunks.
Again, the Lakers simply won't have too many plays where they simply grab a rebound, outrun their opponent and get an easy basket. This isn't to say that type of play isn't possible, but when it does happen it will likely be because of a turnover or when their opponent makes a bad play:
Here, the Lakers force a long jump shot that misses. In the scramble for the ball, it gets tipped around and ultimately a Kings player saves it right into the hands of Kobe. Kobe then attacks on the break and ends up throwing a lob to Metta World Peace, who finishes with a dunk.
I only show this type of play because it shows the types of things that will need to go right for the Lakers to get these types of plays and to reemphasize the point that we simply can't expect them to produce these types of fast break baskets very often.
The Lakers were very fortunate to get this type of play to work for them and while it will be a highlight people will remember, it's not a play that can be duplicated often.
No, instead the Lakers will need to focus on more on the types of plays we saw in the first clip and that's when they get out to run at all.
We should also understand that just because the Lakers hired D'Antoni doesn't mean they're suddenly going to morph in "Showtime II" and be a fast break team like they're the Heat. Yes, they can push the ball and be opportunistic. They can even get shots at the rim in transition every now and again.
But what's more likely is that the team will run in order to set up their half court sets where the increased tempo they play at allows them to run plays against a defense that's not yet set and produce shots against defenders who are scrambling to catch up to the ball and recover.
This isn't what people normally think about when the name Mike D'Antoni is mentioned but this is what the Lakers are much more likely to be.
And, due to their roster, that will suit them just fine.
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