The NBA offensive explosion is unstoppable

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The NBA offensive explosion is unstoppable

Post by dboss on Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:20 pm

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25194341/nba-offensive-explosion

Brian Windhorst
ESPN Senior Writer

THESE ARE SAVAGE TIMES for NBA defenses.

The league is in the midst of a glorious offensive revolution, with a legion of shooters with the added gasoline of small ball and nurturing rule changes that prevent old-school defensive tactics. The result: Scoring has gone nuclear.

Consider that between 2014 and 2016, teams crested the 140-point barrier in regulation a total of three times. In the past two NBA seasons, as the frenzy started ramping up, teams reached 140 points eight times each year. In the first month of this season, it has happened six times, and there's no end in sight.

Frankly, it's fantastic for the entertainment value of the game. There aren't a lot of complaints from the fans. The phrase "defense wins championships" has never been so out of style. Last summer, moments after signing a $20 million-per-year contract, Jabari Parker declared "they don't pay players to play defense" without the slightest hint of shame.

This revolution has left the NBA's defensive intelligencia to retreat to icy caves, like the rebels in Star Wars, to ponder just what the hell they can do about it. The team that figures out how to defend modern offenses could own the future. But the volume of shooting plus the freedom of movement rules referees have been instructed to enforce this season have created a perfect storm.

It's a full-blown defensive coaching crisis.

"It's a lot more difficult to play and pioneer defense right now," said San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who has been at the forefront of strategy changes for two decades. "Switching seems to be everybody's answer. But that is really player-dependent."

Let's review a brief history of the past 15 years in the offense-defense war.

In the post Michael Jordan era between 2003 and 2005, multiple Finals games saw teams fail to break 70 points as TV ratings plunged. The elders responded by outlawing hand-checking -- the Spurs and Detroit Pistons made the lane look like a football line of scrimmage at times -- and the game opened up for drivers. In the first year of the rule changes, Allen Iverson led the NBA in free throws made and won the scoring title. The next year, Kobe Bryant went to the foul line 819 times and averaged 35.4 points a game, which still stands as the modern record.

To combat this rule change that made on-ball defense much harder, defenses started employing a tactic called "shrink the floor," which called for defenders to collapse into the lane to offer help and try to force drivers into the helpers. It turned out the Spurs were the best at that, too.

And here's where we had the pivot point. First with Mike D'Antoni running his "seven seconds or less" attack, then with coaches such as Erik Spoelstra studying Chip Kelly's spread offense at the University of Oregon and developing a "pace and space" system, and finally with coaches such as Mike Budenholzer installing high-volume passing offenses that disorganized defensive movement. "Shrink the floor" had been defeated by "stretch the floor," as first we heard of "stretch 4s" and -- cue the ominous music -- "stretch 5s."

It has been all downhill for the defenses since. The antidote, as Popovich said, is for teams to encourage their defenders to switch on screens in an often fruitless attempt to save time under the relentless speed. It has driven many big men right off the floor and even out of the league. Scouts have been hunting for "switchy" big men in college and Europe. Wings are massively in demand.

"Here's the problem: Most of these guys don't really know how to play a switching defense," said one NBA assistant coach who specializes in defense. "They weren't raised playing this way. It sounds simple, just switch everything, but actually it's hard, and not that many guys do it well. Not that many units do it well."

The more coaches you talk to in the league, the more they echo this feeling. It's not that the concept is new. It's just new to play it all game every night. It was an end-of-game strategy for decades. And in playoff series, when teams could really game plan for each other, sometimes you'd see it used in special schemes in specific situations.

Use it as a core defensive principle for 48 minutes for 82 games, and, well, teams that aren't good at it often get embarrassed. These days, that's a lot of teams.

For the past few years, former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Ty Lue barely had his team switch during the regular season. Then in the playoffs, they switched nonstop. Lue said he was "saving" the strategy, which led some to label it a "secret defense." Really, he was trying to manage his team's limitations during the long regular season.

"To be honest, to be really good at defense right now, you have to have players who are smart and who talk all the time to work with each other," one NBA coach said. "There just aren't many guys who do it. These guys are like church mice on D. They never talk."

The Golden State Warriors, naturally, are ahead of the curve here. They switch everything -- it was one of the reasons they stopped playing and then said goodbye to big men such as JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia and put guys such as Damian Jones in their places -- and they're smart about it.

For example, they know that teams will hunt down Stephen Curry on switches. So they will routinely double-switch to protect Curry. This concept, known in parlance as "switch the switcher," is extremely difficult to manage in the heat of a game. The Warriors can do it often because they have sharp, loud defenders such as Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala out there as leaders. But those players, obviously, are hard to find and sometimes impossible to develop.

Bottom line: The defenses are a generation behind the offenses. The coach or team that finds the next edge in this endless game could be handsomely rewarded.

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dboss

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Re: The NBA offensive explosion is unstoppable

Post by dboss on Wed Nov 07, 2018 3:31 pm

The article mentions Golden state as a team the switches everything and also does some double switches.

I have seen a few instances where Boston will do a double switch but I think they need to get better at it.

Through 10 games Boston remains a top defensive team in a league gone wild on offense.  Now if Boston can go on the wild side on offense too we will have a formula that works.
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