Is the small ball lineup a blessing for positionless hybrids?
The small ball lineup is becoming more and more popular in the league. The thunder, knicks and the heat are at the head of what we could call the new revolution.
Already the miami heat have completely revolutionized the nba by employing very efficiently the positionless lineup with lebron playing the center position.
Carmelo anthony and kevin durant do the same but filling in at the powerforward role rather than the center role. Their physical gifts and playing ability alows them to thrive at multiple positions and gives their teams a much more volatile half court offense, a more dangerous fastbreak and a much quicker and effective defensive responsiveness. Team usa is a good example of this.
For this system to work u need versatile players and the most versatile players are the hybrids. Although we might not see another lebron like versatility for a century, we are experiencing a dramatic influx of nba talent that is hybrid. Players like anthony davis and perry jones that have small forward to center ability as well as donatas motiejunas, jan vesely, jonas valanciunas of europe who have center bodies with forward skill. The guards like austin rivers and tyreke evans are others that come to mind. Their lack of definite position was their curse but i believe it will become their blessing because of how to a certain extent their team will be their position.
Although small ball seems to be the most effective coaching strategy the most important value a player can have is lenght and height. The players like pj3 and anthony davis are like giant small forwards who's athletic and physical gifts will make them excel at the things that make a small ball team so great.
Your thoughts on this matter?
Versitility has always been an asset on the basketball court. Being able to score, play defense, distribute and rebound make you more valuable to a team and make it possible to play the bulk of a game without being benched due to a glaring weakness. I don't think you can call those teams small though...
People get so wrapped up on "prototypical size" and forget every starting PF in the leauge isn't built like Blake Griffin.
New York Starting 5,
C - Chandler - 7'1''
PF - Melo - 6'8''
SF - Brewer - 6'7''
G- Felton -6'1''
G - Kidd - 6'4''
Their first 3 guys off the bench are 6'6'', 6'10'' and 6'10''
OKC Starting 5, ( one of the biggest teams in the league)
C- Perkins - 6'10''
PF- Ibaka - 6'10''
SF - Durant - 6'9''
SG - Thabo - 6'5''
PG- Westbrook - 6'3''
First 3 off the bench 6'7'' SG, 6'9'', 6'3'', Backup C is 7'3''
i've always said that positions are about defense. can you guard the guys in front of you? and if not, what can you guard?
case in point- as the NBA gets more and more athletic, the traditional '3' and '4' spots are where we're finding the most superstar scorers, when 10-20 years ago, the game was dominated by shooting guards and centres. Now, with the athletes that exist at the forward spots, all but the best shooting guards can be neutralised by cross-guarding an athletic small forward onto them, one that has the length to contest the jumper and the speed to defend the drive. Similarly, inside guys like Ibaka, Chandler, Bosh etc have to be strong enough to defend the post and quick enough to defend cuts, drives, and to contest jump shooters stepping out.
I don't think Miami are 'positionless' if I'm honest- I just think that LBJ makes them appear so. He allows them to play so many different combinations of lineups it gives them a lot of flexibility. And no-one, not even Durant or Anthony, has this ability to play positions 1 through 5- Anthony lacks James' quickness, Durant lacks his strength. Their ability to move to the 4 spot successfully depends more on matchups than anything else- even this early in the season, despite the well-deserved plaudits Anthony is getting for his play at the 4, we have seen times where he can't cope with a bigger 4 man and gets into foul trouble. James can guard practically anyone at the 4 spot.
A good friend of mine, and an excellent coach, has a simple philosophy- 'give me a point guard and four guys that can play basketball'. As long as you've got someone to control the ball and the tempo of the game, guys all over the floor now have too many ways to score to fix things past that.
I wouldnt say its a blessing. It depends on personnel and coaching style. It also depends on the time. I remember growing up, Denny Crum used to just put 5 athletes on the floor and they would all be within the 6'4"- 6'8" range. Growing up, one of the best teams I remember was the 89 Illini. They couldve won it all but competition was so fierce and they ended up losing to eventual champs Michigan.
PG - Kendall Gill (6'5")
SG/SF/PG - Stephen Bardo (6'5")
SF - Nick Anderson (6'5")
PF- Kenny Battle (6'6")
C - Lowell Hamilton (6'7")
and the 6th man was Marcus Liberty (6'8")
they beat a very talented team in Syracuse who had two NBA big men in Derrick Coleman and Rony Seikaly.
they were all super athletic and could defend like hell.
cant do that today though because big men are so athletic and mobile.
Mike D'Antoni ran the smallball line up in Phoenix where he made Diaw who was listed as a guard his C when STAT was injured for most of 2005-06 and also to less success at NY when Jared Jeffries an SF was often used at C. The line up classed as small ball does in a lot of cases still have a defensive anchor like Chandler mentioned above and then teams employ a stretch 4 or an undersized PF alongside them.
Anthony Davis played C in college and may find that as his natural NBA position in due course but has a smaller man's skillset as well as his own game due to him being a guard originally.
I associate smallball with a fast moving passing game maybe not quite the D'Antoni 8 second offence whether the ball handing be done by a PG like Nash or an SF like LeBron but to work it needs all the team to be good ball handlers even if the defensive anchor only has to get the rebound to initiate the offence. Also I think the system tends to maybe be associated with a more finesse frontcourt where one guy has genuine 3 point range.
If run well then it can be great on offence but always raises a few questions on defence unless the guys really know how to hustle. The key to any successful coaching strategy is to play the game at your pace and smallball can sometimes make the opposition speed up or even better almost run the opposition ragged when they need to stick to say their proper half court settings.
I'm a smallball fan when it is used properly and it is a great weapon to be used when you are chasing a game.
I recall a few years back when the Pacers were playing a smallball team, I think it may have been GSW and they basically sat Roy Hibbert all game as the speed the opposition played at did not fit his style of play, hence an immediate moral victory to the opposition. Roy has of course developed hugely since then and has become an All Star and could work well on a smallball team given his passing ability.
Remember the showtime Lakers with Magic, they played at a fast pace but Kareem was still very effective as the defensive anchor and attack launcher even if he did not cross halfway on a lot of offensive plays.
The guys that you initially mention, Lebron, Durant and Melo are first of all, not small. I know Lebron at a ripped 260 outweighs almost every other PF in the league and is almost certainly stronger than all of them as well. And I suspect that Melo weighs more than the average PF. Are the Heat going small when they play the 6' 8" 260 pounds Lebron against the 6' 9" 235 pounds K. Love? I don't think so. And Durant, while not heavy is a legit 6' 9" with long arms. These teams aren't going small when they play these guys. And both Lebron and Melo are actually better at PF than they are SF. I kind of feel they have actually been playing out of position at SF all these years. Certainly Lebron should have developed a post up game long ago, and that is more of a PF thing than a SF move. The Nets actually play some small ball when they put the 6' 7" 225 pound Wallace at PF. But they started doing that more and more in December and it has hardly worked out for them. It actually kind of infuriates me when they do that instead of using their big guys.
So actually I don't think we have had that big a change. It is like Wolf said, teams don't really all play prototype players at every position. A few examples jump out to us. But there are plenty of other examples in the other direction. Dirk is still a PF, so is Duncan. Gasol still starts for the Lakers. With 250 pound 6' 8" Meta World Peace playing the "small" forward position. And Anthony Davis is not a SF and he does not have SF skills despite this discussion about how at one point before growing he was a guard. Exactly when he was 6' 2" he was a guard that was going to have a nice Division III career as a defensive specialist. He's a dunking blocking machine and that means Center or PF to me.