The Golden State Warriors and the Best Transition Teams in the League
The outlet pass that leads to an easy bucket is always an exciting part of basketball. Leading to the Point Guard running the break as the wings fill the lanes. Chris Paul and Deron Williams are great conductors of this element as are Steve Nash and Rajon Rondo.
This is a subjective list since there's no single best way of deciding a list here. I am going by a basis of record and points scored as most of the criteria along with the style of players on a given team to separate the choices up to this date. There are a couple teams that would be on this list a couple weeks from now, that are still getting their feet under them.
10. Houston Rockets
I wasn't fully supportive of putting them on the list given that they had Yao Ming slowing them down and that they are only 1-5. What brought me around to giving them the last spot is that they are leading the league in scoring per game and they have Aaron Brooks fluidly running the break. Kyle Lowry is also hanging around to give backup help to Brooks. Chase Budinger, Shane Battier and Kevin Martin are doing what they can to fill the lanes.
As a team they are shooting 44% from the field which isn't too shabby in its own right. They are only shooting 32% on threes so far this year, so there should be an impetus on working the ball down low or taking a step inside the lane when on the break. A solid 15-foot jumper or forcing the other team to foul on the fast break could be another addition to this high strung offense.
9. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls get the benefit of the doubt with greyhounds in Derrick Rose and Luol Deng. There is also the the big men duo of Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah that run the floor endlessly. With Carlos Boozer out to start the season, it might have been a blessing in disguise as it allowed the Bulls to get off and running through their big men.
With Joakim Noah leading the league in rebounds, Derek Rose has been able to use the fast break lanes often and turned those opportunities into chances at jumpers. I can only wish he was slightly more successful at hitting them. Even with Rose's lower jumper success, Deng has hit plenty including a 40 point outburst he had this year. Taj Gibson has been hitting clutch shots off Rose's passes and I'm interested to see if that changes with his reduced minutes after Boozer comes back.
8. San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have a point duo of Tony Parker and George Hill that can carve the defense up and set up Tim Duncan for easy finishes in their half court set. They also have the ability to run through you on the break for easy finishes at the rim. Tony Parker continues to be a solid to great player by taking it to the rack. His close basket finishes have allowed him to have one of the highest field goal percentages since he joined the league.
Manu Ginobili also is great at taking it to the rack on the fast break, but he can also be a deadly shot from three point land. He showed his craftiness while playing for titles in the past and still shows great open floor capabilities today. The Spurs are scoring at high rate which should put some fear in opposing teams seeing that the Spurs can play at multiple speeds and styles.
7. Orlando Magic
The Magic had one ugly loss against the Heat where the offense for them was looking off as the Heat offense has looked at times early this season. They were struggling to hit the open man on breaks, Jameer Nelson looked slightly bothered and the flow was just off.
In the other five games however, the Magic has been there for Orlando. Their passing has been crisp to run the break and it has led to open jumper bonanzas for the Magic. The fact that Vince Carter is actually using these opportunities to drive the ball to the hoop is a welcome sight to those of us that tire of his jumper attack on the offensive side.
6. New Orleans Hornets
Chris Paul is a scary opponent to stop in transition. With the ability to beat you to the rack for a bucket, pull up for a jumper or set up a teammate for an easy basket, he seems to literally have the ball in his court right now. Making Emeka Okafor look good can be a hard task for as much as Okafor makes in his contract. Paul is doing what he can in trying to make Okafor resemble and do many of the things Tyson Chandler use to do with the Hornets.
David West is a two-time All-Star and that shouldn't be forgotten and isn't by Paul when West runs the lanes giving him open jump shots and chances to attack the rim. A healthy Paul just can't be overstated in value. His 18 points and 10 assists a night are largely gained through his fast break skills and it will be worth noting if Trevor Ariza ever decides to get in on the mix.
5. Boston Celtics
Rajon Rondo is currently leading the league in assists at a staggering 15 per game. He's had plenty of assists occur during the Celtics half court sets. Where he has been a pain in the butt for defenses is when he gets to run the court. Ray Allen has been able to just lounge out while receiving passes from Rondo. Paul Pierce has caught many of his long throws and turned them into three pointers connecting on 14-30 from behind the line.
It might be hard to envision Rondo keeping this pace up; but a rejuvenated Kevin Garnett is helping the cause. His knee looks like it might finally be back to full strength from before his knee injury. Garnett has been running the floor well and Rondo has been finding him for flushes and open baseline and free throw line jumpers. The Celtics outside of Rondo still have 96 assists, while if you add in Rondo's 118 it can contribute to many easy buckets including transition ones.
4. Atlanta Hawks
Al Horford has started this year as a beast shooting at a fiery rate of 65% from the field. Some of these baskets have come via transition conversions. The Hawks are playing at a relatively high level leading to their fast start before stumbling the last two games.Winning their first six games was strongly dependent on their ability to get out and run the floor.
There is always the freak of nature Josh Smith hanging around who can throw it down mean like if you get the ball to him with the lanes open. Jamal Crawford will create his own shot coming down on the break which is a great luxury to have on your side. The Hawks starters have been sharing the ball as the assists have been piling up and there knack for running the floor has to be the main component to this assist distribution.
3. Golden State Warriors
Right now Monta Ellis is leading the league in scoring at a clip of 27.9 points per game. Many of these scores can be attributed to his transition prowess on the court. Working in hand with Stephen Curry, Ellis has put himself in position to an early lead on the scoring title. The Warriors in turn are off to their best start in years.
This is the same Warriors team that has only made the Playoffs once since 1994 and the outpacing of other teams should continue to be exciting. We'll have to see if Dorell Wright can continue his hot shooting of 23-45 (.511) from downtown. This team in transition and overall can still be better if David Lee can get on track. If he can, that might lead to so more wins in the Warriors future and a possible return to the Playoffs.
2. Phoenix Suns
The Suns as a team are struggling to win games as their defense is giving up an average of 109.6 points per game. So its no surprise that their defense should be called into question. I can't argue that point since I believe in defense to being a major need for the Suns. In this article though, we are only speaking of offense. Therefore, the Suns have to be among the highest.
With Steve Nash leading your team, he is going to make players look good. This is common knowledge especially when on the fast break. I mean, if Jared Dudley can look like a stud thanks to Nash, the Suns offense has to be doing something right. The loss of Amar'e Stoudemire should be felt on the defensive end as their record shows. Fortunately for them, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill among others have picked up offensively for Stoudemire's output.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are off to a great start undefeated which might come as to little surprise to many and I concur. The Lake show has looked good and are playing what seems effortless ball. What I and many others probably didn't expect was that L.A. would be putting up 114 points per game while giving up just below 100 points per game (99.6) . That's impressive on its own right for one game, let alone all seven you've played.
There fast start in records and fast break opportunities can always be contributed to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol as they are constants in Laker success. Lamar Odom is the wild card in the Lakers' deck and he has come up a winner so far. He's shooting 62% from the field currently and making those transition opportunities count. Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes are also hitting clutch shots off of open shots while Kobe is being picked up on the break. The Lakers fast break and team overall are definitely looking like the best in the league right now.