For the most part, basketball skill exists in a vacuum. If you're good on one team, in one situation, chances are you'll be good in another. Rare are the times when someone so perfectly fits the schematics of one particular coach or roster.
But it does happen every now and again. Ever since zone defense was introduced, a panoply of strategic adjustments came with it. The same could be said for Mike D'Antoni's revolutionary pick-and-roll spread offense. With these strategic quirks come players best suited to implement them.
When this happens, the noted players are probably lesser talents outside of the system.
Geez, I hope this isn't true. I'm the guy who called his recent contract a "bargain" among other, more exclamatory descriptors.
But given Lawson's early-season statistical nose dive, I'm beginning to have my fears. He's great at driving and shooting open three-pointers, two skills that go a long way to making someone a productive NBA player. The issue is that he seems far more at ease in Denver's fast-paced attack.
In the half-court, Lawson can struggle. Apart from a nifty shot fake, there isn't much nuance to his game yet. I hope that the still-young PG progresses, because I love his talent. But for now, he appears to have benefited from George Karl's style of play.
Monta Ellis is the "product" of two systems, really. Back in the old Golden State days, he benefited from playing alongside Baron Davis. Davis could guard off-guards, and the slight-of-frame Ellis could guard PGs. Ellis himself is a 2-guard in a point guard's body, so he needs to play alongside a large PG.
Then, later, after Baron left, Ellis benefited from the juiced stats that result from a fast pace and a lot of shots. The trend persists with the Milwaukee Bucks—albeit at a slower pace. Ellis is shooting nearly 20 field goals per game, without being entirely efficient.
Monta's best suited to play off the ball, next to a large, slashing point guard, like he once did with Golden State. The problem is that so few large, slashing point guards exist.
Shawn Marion is a useful player and a deserved champion. After he left Phoenix, Marion played for the Dallas Mavericks and provided crucial, dogged defense against LeBron James in the Mavs' NBA Finals win over the Miami Heat in 2011. He isn't half bad on offense either.
It's just that Marion isn't what he once was in Phoenix. Back in the Mike D'Antoni "Seven Seconds or Less" era, Marion's versatile game flourished. Never the half-court bruiser, this undersized power forward reaped the rewards of an up-and-down style.
He was never able to box out other lumbering bigs, but Marion could certainly out-speed them. The problem is that elsewhere other coaches might not be so keen on such a style. With the Suns, Marion found the perfect system for his talents.
He was nicknamed "Iso-Joe" for a reason. When with the Atlanta Hawks, Joe Johnson was the focal point of everything. Based on how he plays, he might only know how to exist as the focal point of everything.
Johnson's inclined to hold the ball and stare at the hoop. Thanks to his size, this style isn't much of a hindrance to his individual production. But in his reduced role with the Brooklyn Nets, Johnson appears at sea.
He's shooting near 40 percent from the field and has 3.6 assists per game. You would figure that a lesser role would make Johnson more efficient. Not so for Iso-Joe.
Steve Nash is a Hall of Famer, and I will be quite incensed if anyone suggests otherwise. Still, much of what I said regarding Shawn Marion applies to the point guard. Nash found the perfect coach and system back in Phoenix.
As a master of pick-and-roll pocket passes, Nash was well suited to Mike D'Antoni's spread style. It didn't hurt that he could space the floor better than perhaps any point guard in history.
Again, Nash has special talents, and he could have been an excellent point guard anywhere. It's just that he saw his prime years after age 30 for a reason: He had finally found his ideal system.