The Former Mike D'Antoni-Coached Player Each LA Laker Should Emulate
Mike D'Antoni is about to bring a fast-paced, team-oriented offense to the Lakers, and it's going to shake things up. Here is a team that has been used to Kobe Bryant shouldering the load for years, but that philosophy is out of the window now.
That said, some Lakers players are going to be in for a rude awakening once D'Antoni instills his system.
However, this potential disaster is one that can be avoided completely if the players D'Antoni plans to use the most simply watch some tape. There is surely seven-plus years' worth of footage available for players to watch just so that they can familiarize themselves with how their position works. This way, they don't have to make so many sudden adjustments and have a better idea going in of what they should and shouldn't do.
By each man looking at just one particular player D'Antoni once coached and doing their best to play like them, the Lakers could easily turn into the beasts of the Western Conference.
Steve Nash: Himself
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Steve Nash was the face of D'Antoni's offense for years and never really stopped playing in it, as current Suns coach Alvin Gentry employed a similar system upon becoming the Suns head coach after D'Antoni left for the Knicks.
The veteran point guard cemented his status as a future Hall of Famer playing for D'Antoni, winning two MVP trophies and establishing himself as a pass-first point guard who could also provide some clutch scoring.
That said, all that Nash has to do once D'Antoni starts manning the sidelines is just play the game the way he does best.
Kobe Bryant: Joe Johnson
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As the shooting guard, Bryant's job in this system is just to score a ton of points and play defense as necessary. He doesn't need to be a flashy scorer and rebounder like Shawn Marion, nor a solely athletic 2-guard in the same mold as Landry Fields. He just needs to get himself open and find a shot for himself.
That said, though he's a far better player than this man will ever be, he needs to be Joe Johnson. Johnson came into his own as a guard with Phoenix and his averaging 17.1 points per game in D'Antoni's first full season with the team played a key role in the Suns reaching the Conference Finals that same year.
All Johnson did during that phenomenal season was score points and grab the occasional rebound. Likewise, Bryant need not do anything more. Sure, any and all tough defensive efforts from him will surely be appreciated.
However, in the end, all he needs to do is consistently put points on the board, preferably in high numbers.
Metta World Peace: Raja Bell
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Metta World Peace is definitely the weakest link in D'Antoni's system, especially amongst the starters. Since joining the Lakers, his offensive game has practically disappeared and the only shot he tends to make consistently is either the wide-open or corner three.
That said, since his work from long range has spoken for itself the past few years, he needs to emulate former D'Antoni guard Raja Bell.
Bell wasn't as strong a defender as World Peace nor was he overly talented, but there was one thing he could do, and that was shoot threes. In three-plus years in a Suns uniform, he shot 40 percent from long range and was practically deadly from the corner.
So long as World Peace can stay on the wing and/or get himself open for those kinds of shots, then he'll finally be more than just dead weight.
Pau Gasol: Shawn Marion
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Pau Gasol has played in D'Antoni's type of offense before, having spent three years playing in Spain before coming to the NBA in 2001. On the Lakers, he has been a reliable power forward, providing solid scoring and decent rebounding in any and all situations.
However, one mark against Gasol is that he clearly prefers to be an offensive player. Instead of using his 7'0", 250 pound frame in the paint, he would rather use his jump shot. Though a fine rebounder, he tends to be a bit hesitant on defense, resisting getting his hands dirty under the basket.
That said, he needs to watch some tape of Shawn Marion. Marion isn't as tall as Gasol, but he was and still is absolutely fearless on both sides of the court. He shows no mercy and constantly put his body on the line for the good of his team.
Yes, it may be a bit late for Gasol to make such an adjustment, but he's going to have to find a way to keep up with the rest of his teammates in D'Antoni's system. As much as he may not want to, this means exhibiting a tougher effort on defense.
Dwight Howard: David Lee
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Under D'Antoni, Dwight Howard is going to be expected to be a more explosive Amar'e Stoudemire. This means he must score a lot of points, but also play a better defense than the current New York Knicks power forward.
By combining those two skills, the best result is current Golden State Warriors forward and former New York Knick David Lee, who was a double-double machine playing for D'Antoni.
What was great about Lee is that even though he is on the smaller side at 6'9", 249 pounds, he played with the tenacity of a seven-footer. He went after every rebound and wasn't afraid to take a few lumps under the basket.
Howard has tremendous size for his position at 6'11", 265 pounds, but needs to be just as tough as Lee on both ends of the floor. If he sees a rebounding opportunity, take it. When he has the ball on offense, make sure that it goes in the hoop.
By playing this simple, yet powerful game, Howard is going to become an even bigger star playing for D'Antoni.
Antawn Jamison: Tim Thomas
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As the Lakers' sixth man, Antawn Jamison's job is to come off of the bench and provide some starter-quality minutes and production. Regarding who he should watch from past D'Antoni teams, he has a very small sample with which to work.
You see, Jamison is very much like forward Tim Thomas, who played 26 games for D'Antoni's Suns in 2005-06. However, in those 26 games, Thomas averaged 11 points per game and shot 43 percent from long range.
The two also have similar builds, as Thomas was 6'10", 230 pounds and Jamison is just an inch shorter.
By watching how Thomas figured into D'Antoni's system off the bench, Jamison can become all the more productive as he looks to win that ever-elusive championship ring with the Lakers.
Steve Blake: Leandro Barbosa
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Though he is the Lakers' backup point guard, Steve Blake's greatest strength is his long-range shooting. Ever since being drafted out of Maryland in 2003, he has shot 39 percent from long range and provided some occasional pesky defense.
This type of play is very similar to Leandro Barbosa, who served as D'Antoni's sixth man with the Phoenix Suns.
Barbosa absolutely flourished in D'Antoni's system, even though he only came off of the bench and very rarely started. In 2007, he averaged 18.1 points and started just 18 of 80 games played. From three-point land, he shot a deadly 43 percent.
That said, Blake doesn't really need to change his game much now that D'Antoni is his coach. He just needs to be ready to run more and take more shots as needed.
Jordan Hill: Landry Fields
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Jordan Hill's primary purpose on the Lakers is to be a big man off of the bench, but he is too talented and tough to be compared to former D'Antoni big guy Boris Diaw. That said, with his athleticism, he should be watching as much tape on Fields as possible.
Hill is much bigger than Fields at 6'10", 235 pounds, but he needs to watch tape of the former Stanford Cardinal and think one word: rebound.
Fields is only 6'7", 210 pounds, but during his days with the New York Knicks, he did a fine job of crashing the boards and going after every loose ball he could. In his two years with the team, he averaged 6.5 boards per game.
Hill needs to take this same approach, and very seriously. The key to D'Antoni's system succeeding is some tough defense to balance out the offense, and the former Arizona Wildcat can provide plenty of that so long as he doesn't get sluggish under the basket.
Jodie Meeks: Bill Walker
As a guard off the bench, Jodie Meeks' greatest skill is his ability to shoot from long range. Though not as deadly as Barbosa, he can still make enough consistent shots to be compared to another D'Antoni offense alum, Bill Walker.
Like Walker, Meeks is not overly athletic and tends to rely on his offensive output for most of his production. On top of that, both are fine shooters from long range. For an offensive wizard like D'Antoni, this could prove to be quite a blessing.
Simply put, all that Meeks needs to do is try and get open behind the three-point line. At that point, all he has to do is wait for the ball and take his shot.
Considering he has shot 37 percent from downtown for his career, Lakers fans could be in for a treat.