NBA

The NBA’s Five Contextualized Nuances Part 2

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As we discussed last time, there are so many nuances of basketball. 

From game planning to the 3-point barrage, there is so much basketball discourse to discuss.

And we couldn’t fit it all in just one piece. Let’s look at some more nuances.

1. JUDGING STAR PERFORMANCES

Let’s say Luka Doncic scored 24 points in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, which would be well under his season average (34.5 ppg). 

On the box score, it would appear that he under performed to his standards. But in the game, the Clippers were double-teaming him, ball denying him and putting multiple All-NBA defenders on him.

Doncic would go on to score 24 hard-earned points, which is just as impressive when he scores 40 points against single coverage.

2. POSITIONLESS BASKETBALL

The definition of basketball positions have changed, but the primary matchups remain the same.

The traditional point guards were pass-first. Now there’s Stephen Curry, who is listed as a point guard, but he’s really a shooting guard with the size of a point guard.

Nearly every team will match up their center as the primary defender on Nikola Jokic

Teams will still match up players at the same position initially, but they will switch a majority of the actions.

Let’s say, the small forward, the best defender on the team, won’t guard the opposing team’s small forward. Instead, the best defender on the team match up on the opposing team’s best scorer regardless of position.

Positions are more matched to skill than size.

3. Know your personnel (KYP)

Know your personnel means to understand the tendencies of your opponent and try to take their strengths away.

Sometimes the opponent presents an array of weapons and you can only take away something, but not everything.

Sometimes, you can have a reverse gameplan.

For example, Lauri Markkanen leads the league in catch-and-shoot 3-pointers.

Know your personnel says to stay attached to Markkanen and run him off the 3-point line.

A reverse game plan would be to short closeout on Markkanen and don’t allow him to drive closeouts and collapse the backside defense.

Here is another example:

The Boston Celtics played drop coverage for a good portion of the 2022 finals versus Stephen Curry

The idea is that the on-ball defender, Marcus Smart, and others navigate through screens and stay in front of the basketball. 

By not trapping Curry, they are not compromising the back line of their defense and taking away Draymond Green‘s short roll game. 

They have to take something away (Green) and left vulnerable to something (Curry’s open pull up 3-pointers).

The Celtics’ idea isn’t to let Curry go get his and stop everyone else, but their game plan is opposite of what a typical game plan would be like for Curry (trap, top lock, face guard etc.).

4. Adjustments and no adjustments

A good amount of NBA discourse are fans complaining about their coaches “not making adjustments.”

Sometimes, there’s only so many things a coach can gameplan to neutralize that there are things they have to give up.

For example, in the 2021 playoffs, the Denver Nuggets played drop coverage the entire series and Chris Paul torched that coverage with his elite midrange jumpshots.

The Nuggets did not change their coverage because they did not want to surrender lobs to Deandre Ayton. They did not send a help defender because they wanted to stay home on a 3-point shooter like Mikal Bridges.

They relied on their on-ball defenders to navigate screens and stay in front of Paul. The on-ball defenders could not do that consistently for the series and credit goes to the Suns for executing their gameplan.

Take a look at Damian Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo. A defense may trap Lillard and live with Antetokounmpo rolling to the rim often.

Fans can’t just criticize coaches for Antetokounmpo’s dominance. Coaches are making decisions what they want to give up and what they are willing to live with.

Coaches may or may not make adjustments of when they will sparingly, but timely choose to collapse on Antetokounmpo.

Coaches will figure out when to adjust accordingly and strategically.

Maybe some NBA fans should make adjustments when having discussions about the coaching staff.

5. Jump passes

Having half a second to make the correct read as you jump off the ground is a difficult play to perform.

Paul George and Tyrese Haliburton pointed out that coaches actually want players to land on the ground with the basketball if they can’t find an open teammate.

“You (coaches) don’t want live ball turnovers,” Haliburton said via George’s podcast. “I refuse to just land.”

Players compromise a goofy turnover for a live ball turnover that leaves their transition defense vulnerable.

Perspectives helps tell the story with context.

As much as fans can ponder and complain on Twitter on why their head coach didn’t make an adjustment, there’s a reason why they did not.

There’s a reason why these head coaches are leaders and why Twitter users are on their couch. 

RELATED: Check out the first version of this article below.

The NBA’s Five Contextualized Nuances

About Mac Pham

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