Howard Beck had an interesting article today on Bleacher Report, basically suggesting that the NBA finals, in particular, the current style of play embodied by The Golden State Warriors is somehow a vindication of D’Antoni’s basketball philosophies: “Shoot a lot of threes”, “Shoot in 7 seconds or less”, “Play small lineups”, etc…
While the Warriors have certainly embodied some of these philosophies, my personal opinion is that D’Antoni’s style of play can only be vindicated if there is a clear trend in championship teams that reflect these philosophies. As I show below, this is simply not the case.
I looked at the last 15 NBA Champions (from 2000-2014), and tried to see if there were any clear patterns in common between the teams. This is essentially what I found:
Two things that are immediately clear are:
1. There is very little that championship teams have in common!
2. The overwhelming thing that they do have in common is that 14 of the last 15 NBA champions have all been ranked in the Top 10 for Defensive Rating, something that Mike D’Antoni’s coaching philosophy has never really included throughout his years in Phoenix, New York, and Los Angeles.
This, I believe is the grand point that no one seems to be interested in making, perhaps, because according to the “mainstream”, defensive-oriented basketball, which, by definition is “less-flashy” still is the overwhelming common characteristic amongst championship-winning teams.
Perhaps, the Warriors will win this year, but as I said above, I do not believe that one year is anywhere near enough to establish a trend and a vindication of D’Antoni’s basketball philosophies.
Further, there were some other things in Beck’s article that I found to be a bit concerning:
He claimed “Today, coaches speak enthusiastically about “positionless” basketball—whereas 10 years ago, D’Antoni had to sell Marion and Stoudemire on the concept.”
This is not actually true. The triangle offense is the de facto example of “positionless” basketball, and has been around since the 1940s when Sam Barry introduced it at USC. Phil Jackson and Tex Winter’s Bulls and Lakers teams embodied the concept of positionless basketball. In fact, as can be seen from the diagram below (taken from http://khamel83.tripod.com/intro.htm), players don’t have set positions in the triangle offense. Rather, there are regions based on optimality and spacing:
Many examples can be found from teams playing in the triangle offense system of guards posting up, big men coming out to shoot threes, etc…