Remember when Jackie Moon and Clarence teamed up for the first ever alley-oop in the popular, yet underrated, film Semi-Pro? It was a thing of beauty that revolutionized the game of basketball. If you don't believe it happened for the first time in a movie, then how do you explain this?
Alright, so maybe that was just a movie and the alley-oop has been around since before the 2008 Will Ferrell flick, but still the game of basketball is always coming up with new terminology. And the latest phrase is in the early stages of becoming the next big thing - so let's learn it now.
Guys like Ryan Anderson, Ersan Ilyasova, and Channing Frye are more multidimensional, but they aren't as lethal as they were two or three years ago, and they can only thrive in specific environments. If they had better post games, they could beat up smaller defenders and force opponents into uncomfortable readjustments. But they can't - at least not consistently.
A few executives have dumped the term "stretch 4" altogether and replaced it with "playmaking 4" - a term I'm officially stealing right now. Shooting is nice, but it's not enough anymore as defenses get smarter, faster, and more flexible working within the loosened rules. Spot-up guys have to be able to catch the ball, pump-fake a defender rushing out at them, drive into the lane, and make some sort of play. If they can't manage that, a possession dies with them.
"In a playoff series, you can figure out shooting," Karl says. "You just cover Kyle Korver. All that cute stuff they ran for him all year long - they only get that once in a while now. The shooters who have playmaking ability - those are the guys that are really kicking ass."
That's right, the playmaking four is the next big thing, according to a few league executives and Zach Lowe's tremendous piece on the post-game in the NBA. When you look around these playoffs, you see what Lowe is referring to. LeBron James is essentially the ultimate playmaking four. He's a guy who can kill you in the catch-and-shoot, but also (super obviously) destroys his opponents by driving the ball and passing. Draymond Green is also a playmaking four that can do more than just be a "stretch four" from the outside. Josh Smith serves this role, in a flawed way, for the Houston Rockets, and Paul Millsap was the Atlanta Hawks' weapon with the ball on the perimeter.
The Nuggets, under George Karl, were on the right path with some lineups that Furious George used to roll out for Denver. Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Kenneth Faried were a deadly unit, and a unit that Karl used to love closing games with.
Brian Shaw experimented with using Gallo as the team's shooting guard, but he should have followed Karl's lead and used Gallo the way interim head coach Melvin Hunt used Gallo: as Denver's playmaking four.
If the Nuggets are to find success next season, it should be with what would be considered a conventional lineup in today's game. Pair Gallo with Jusuf Nurkic as Denver's front-court and see what happens. We know that Gallo can shoot the long-ball as a career 36.7% three-point shooter. But he also thrives when he attacks the basket - by either creating an easy opportunity for a teammate, like this dish to J.J. Hickson:
Or by getting to the rim, like this play from 2013 against the Houston Rockets:
And when Gallo drives, he also draws plenty of fouls - which is good for a career 85.1% free throw shooter. Gallo's 3.2 free throw attempts per game last season were disappointing from an outsiders perspective, but as Gallo got healthier so did his free throw attempts. In February he got to the line 3.7 times per game, in March it rose to 4.4 attempts, and in April he averaged 4.7 attempts.
And as Lowe pointed out in his piece, as the league is going to more-and-more switches off pick-and-rolls, it will be even more important for bigger guys to take advantage of smaller guys ... in the post!
"Teams are switching more," says Danny Ainge, the Celtics GM. "And that means the post-up is still relevant." Brutalize the switch, and a team may ditch the idea - unshackling the pick-and-roll again.
Posting up against mismatches isn't just for big guys, either. The Rockets know Terry can't stick with Curry, but they can't slide him over to Thompson or Harrison Barnes, either. Those guys aren't high-volume post-up killers, but they've shown they're just polished enough to do back-to-the-basket damage against shrimps. You don't have to be great. You just have to be competent. That competence has been a crucial ingredient for Golden State in this series against Terry, and in past playoff series against Tony Parker and Ty Lawson.
We saw firsthand how Thompson posted up Lawson in the 2013 playoffs, and the Nuggets also had an ace guard who could post up in Andre Miller. Gallo has shown some ability in the post with the Knicks and the Nuggets, and he should continue to work on that aspect of his game.
Danilo Gallinari is a very intriguing option for the Nuggets as their power forward. Gallo definitely enjoys the playmaking aspect that George Karl allowed him to find when he came to the Nuggets, and the next coach should also take advantage of Gallo's skill-set as a playmaking four.