I have received numerous calls and emails from college and high school coaches over the last few years regarding "The System". It seems more and more that coaches are seeing the System (or a version of...) as a way to combat many things including a lack of talent, a lack of depth, a lack of size, and/or a lack of experience. The System can obviously cover up a lot of blemishes your team might be facing, but the question I always have for these coaches is "If you think you can run this without talent, why would you not want to use it when you do have talent?"
If you have spent any time watching the NBA this season, you see how important the 3-point shot is to the game. Teams like the Rockets, Cavs, Hawks and Warriors have become forces in the league after very disappointing seasons last year because of the addition and development of the 3-point shooters on their respective rosters. These teams have now become the best of the best because of the superior outside threats throughout their respective rosters. Even the Cavs have been carried this post season with injuries to Love and Irving and a worn-down Lebron James (at times), by exceptional outside shooting off the bench (it just wasn't enough to finish the series). Steve Kerr embraced The System principles by going small, accelerating shooters to the deep corners and putting a shooter in the outlet/trail position.
People often misconceive the System to embrace the run and chuck it mentality. It is far from it. Will most System teams average closer to 50-60 3-pointers per game? Yes. But the idea of creating conscience-free shooters can be extremely liberating and efficient. Because of this, I am going to be writing a series of System-related philosophy blogs to get your minds working on how you can better utilize the talent you have throughout your roster and the space in your offense while maximizing the strength of your best players.
In Part I, I'll focus on the trail or outlet. As you will see in most NCAA programs and NBA teams, the trail is often the power forward or the big on the floor. Coaches predominantly want to get their shooters and athletes up the floor quickly to flatten the defense to the baseline (the other reason Tom Thibodeau is out of a job - the Bulls offense never did this; and therefore, stifling Derrick Rose's talent of getting to the rim), so it makes complete sense to use your bigs to take the ball out.
For years now, I have tweaked that philosophy and have been using my best or second best shooter to be my trail. I have done this for a number of reasons:
1. More Space for PG Attack: I was finding more and more that teams were face-guarding my best shooters on the wings, and we simply were not getting them enough touches in the first pass or two of the break; and therefore, my point guard was slowing down because he/she did not have that quick pass up the floor. The two defensive bigs would sprint back and sit in the paint making driving the lane impossible. If defenses continued to face-guard that shooter who was now trailing in the back-court, it now opened up the floor for us to play 4 v 4 basketball on the break, and my point guard now had that much more room to attack and create. It also encouraged that lead guard to be more aggressive knowing they had shooters in each corner and behind them if they got into trouble. Our motto for our PGs is to "get as deep into the paint as you can every possession...draw multiple defenders...create lay-ups and wide-open 3s."
2. Eliminating the Double-team: With only 1 big on the floor (See GS Warriors), that big can now run parallel with the PG down the floor eliminating any opportunity to double the PG and slow him/her down. With two shooters running the opposite corners and the big running parallel (or a step or two ahead) of the PG (think running both lanes of the free lanes), it is near impossible to run a second defender at our PG. If the defensive big leaves to help, the PG has an easy dump for a lay-up.
3. Playing 2 v 2: You saw the Warriors really blow the Cavs out of the series because they turned it into a 2 v 2 contest instead of 5 v 5. If you are not going to leave the 3 shooters on the floor, you are leaving your best ball-handler/passer and your best big/finisher to play 2 v 2 down the middle of the court with no help coming from the wings or the trail. If you have a good PG and a good finisher, you will score a lot of points if your opponent fears leaving your shooters. The combination of Curry/Green and Curry/Iguodala was simply too much for the Cavs to match. Throw in the speed of their pick and roll in the secondary and the patience to find the open man when the Cavs did leave a shooter, and you have an unstoppable offense. Basketball in it's simplest form! Although Klay Thompson did not have a great series, he was extremely pivotable in the deciding victories because he kept the defense from ever being able to help from his side of the floor. He didn't score his usual 20 ppg, but he now has a NBA Championship, and as he said after the game, a great story to tell his grandchildren.
4. Trail Multi-Functional/Dominant: Now, when the Cavs decided to leave that trail shooter to help eliminate that 2 v 2 game, the trail was smart enough to float to space or "safety valve" for Curry, and therefore, creating space for multiple shots and easy scoring opportunities for himself. In the end, Andre Iguodala became the Finals MVP because he was often wide-open to shoot and drive and had clear lanes to dominate the offensive glass. A Triple Double in the Finals for a guy who did not start one-game in the regular season.
Steve Kerr did not re-invent the game this season. He did not make complicated changes or create master-mind offensive sets. He gave his players space and put his best players in a position to maximize that space. For anyone who has ever coached "The System", Steve Kerr won the NBA Championship straight out of your playbook.
Contact me directly if you have additional questions or would like to discuss the specifics today's blog.
Coach Matt RogersTwitter: @madcoachdiary
Matt Rogers is an 18-year high school and college coach veteran. He has led two teams to the NCAA National Tournament and one team to a High School State Championship. His teams hold numerous school and one NCAA record. He has mentored and coached players at every level while serving as an athletics administrator at the high school and NCAA levels for 9 years. He has helped numerous players continue their careers at the professional level. He currently is the Head National Scout for NCSA Athletic Recruiting where he has helped hundreds of young men and women from around the world achieve their dreams of playing at the college level. Coach presently lives in the Denver, CO area with his wife of 17 years and his two children.
To request Coach Rogers to speak at your school or event, you can reach him through any of his contact information above.