Mike D'Antoni's Offense Neutralizes LA's Greatest Strengths

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Mike D'Antoni's Offense Neutralizes LA's Greatest Strengths
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When the Los Angeles Lakers concluded their search for a head coach by hiring Mike D'Antoni, the isolated belief was that the offense would reach Showtime proportions. The issue with that theory, however, is that D'Antoni's offense and the Lakers' personnel are not meant to mesh in that manner.

In fact, D'Antoni's offense neutralizes L.A.'s greatest strengths.

This is not the young, athletic and sharpshooting team that D'Antoni had in Phoenix. Steve Nash will not be able to run the floor with elite athletes such as Shawn Marion and Joe Johnson, but instead dictate the pace of the offense for 30-plus-year-olds.

Aging superstars who can't shoot the three-ball like the Suns of old. Aging stars that can't run the floor as Shawn Marion, Amar'e Stoudemire or Joe Johnson could in their youth.

The Lakers are a team that was built for success. As we've learned with three head coaches in under one month, however, it's all about matching the perfect concept with the personnel present.

As for why D'Antoni is not the man for the job, let's open some minds.

 

Not the Same Sharpshooters

From 2005 to 2008, the Phoenix Suns were the top three-point shooting team in the NBA. That's not a statement about their overall percentage, but a note on their consistent brilliance.

In 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, they led the NBA in three-point field-goal percentage. They ranked first in three-point field goals made in each season from 2005 to 2007.

With all due respect to the skill on the Lakers' roster, they simply are not built to shoot that way. They aren't even built to be viewed as a top-15 three-point shooting team.

In 2012, the Lakers ranked 25th in three-point field-goal percentage and 21st in three-point field goals made. The only additions they've made in the three-point department are Jodie Meeks and two point guards.

Steve Nash and Chris Duhon. The players who will handle the ball, not have it worked into their hands off of screens.

Although the Lakers could improve, they are not a team that is built to live and die by the three-ball. It's a team that is built to work the ball inside and establish the perimeter game based off of what the bigs do on the interior.

If Meeks is able to step up as a Joe Johnson-type of player, the Lakers could prove me wrong. If he lacks the support necessary, however, this team will discover just how detrimental it can be to rely on a weakness.

Steve Nash is absolutely dominant in the half-court. Why feel the need to push it up-tempo?

 

Elite Frontcourt Offense

Fans will rave and rant about the pairing of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant on the perimeter. With the generation's greatest scorer and facilitator on the same team, why wouldn't you?

The fact of the matter is, the Lakers' greatest strength of all is with their frontcourt. Again.

Dwight Howard is one of the greatest pick-and-roll finishers we've ever seen. Pau Gasol is a legend in terms of his post-up versatility as a passer and scorer.

Unfortunately, only one of those strengths will be utilized.

In D'Antoni's system, Gasol will be delegated to the pocket in order to spread the floor for a Nash-to-Howard screen-and-roll. Although that play should breed outstanding results, the design neutralizes the play of Gasol.

The Lakers eliminate his value by placing Gasol in the corner. You want Gasol at the high post to enable Nash to dictate the double-screens.

D'Antoni can clearly make the adjustments necessary if he's willing to do so. As history tells us, however, Coach D will continue to shove this offensive style down his players' throats.

Thus neutralizing the most dominant on-paper frontcourt in the NBA.

 

Smothering Half-Court Defense, Part I

When your perimeter is run by Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace, chances are you'll be a solid defensive team. With three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard on the interior, however, you have the potential to be the top defense in the league.

Yet another strength neutralized by the up-tempo D'Antoni style.

In order to set their half-court defense in place, the Lakers must be able to control the pace of the game. Although many will point to Steve Nash as an elite pacemaker, we cannot ignore the fact that the Phoenix Suns allowed at least 105.0 points per game from 2008 to 2011.

D'Antoni's Knicks allowed at least 105.0 points per game in every season, as well.

The reason that the D'Antoni and Nash-led teams have not been able to perform adequately on defense is not due to talent. Instead, it is an inability to overcome such an up-tempo on offense.

When forced to run the floor at such high speeds, a team is often unable to get back and set up their half-court defense. In turn, interior defenders are out of position and perimeter players are forced to rotate rapidly.

In turn, lanes are created for three-point shooters and dives to the interior.

Keep in mind, pushing the pace on offense almost always entices an opponent to do the same. With the Lakers lacking the athleticism to keep up with opponents, the defensive results underwhelm.

Dwight Howard can alter the outcome of a game in a half-court defensive set.

 

Smothering Half-Court Defense, Part II

The key to the Lakers being able to set up their half-court defense is having a slower pace to their offense. Although a team such as the Miami Heat may offer a contradiction to this opinion, they are far superior in terms of athleticism.

A proper comparison would be to the 2011-12 Memphis Grizzlies.

Although the Grizzlies were led by athletic perimeter players such as Rudy Gay, Mike Conley Jr. and O.J. Mayo, their greatest strength was their frontcourt. While Zach Randolph was injured early, the emergence of potential All-Star Marc Gasol negated the damage.

So how did it get done?

Memphis set up a half-court offense which included the proper motion of Rudy Gay and Tony Allen to the top of the perimeter as Conley ran the screen-and-roll. This enabled the two to fall back in transition defense in the event of a miss.

The key to this approach was not just their rotations, but the Grizzlies' ability to control the pace. Such allowed their bigs to pace their return to the defensive end of the floor as Allen, Gay and Conley kept their assignments in check.

A formula that led the Grizzlies to allowing just 93.0 points per game. A formula that the Lakers must follow.

Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard have the upside to outperform any frontcourt in the NBA. Should the Lakers pace the game to allow their bigs the proper time to set up shop on either end of the floor, that ability will be maximized.

As long as the Lakers attempt to push the pace, however, they will lose the defensive value of D-12's world-class defensive abilities. They will allow teams to make it a transition battle instead of a half-court war.

A war that the Lakers would win. A war that has been decided by Coach D'Antoni neutralizing their interior defense.

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