The lost art of the post up
One of the more frustrating things to come out of the analytics era has been the degradation of the post up game in the NBA. Not because analytics don't value the post game, but because it values pace and space more. At least at this time. One of the biggest notions to come out of the modern NBA is that the post game clogs the lane and therefore isn't useful in a league that values penetrating guards who break down defenses. Simply put, big men are "lane cloggers" and therefore not useful in the modern NBA.
This is only partially true.
Watching the Spurs/Warriors game last night I couldn't help but notice how many times the Spurs posted up the Dubs. Be it from LaMarcus Aldridge, to Boris Diaw, to even the aged Tim Duncan (who didn't start and only played 8 minutes). While the Spurs shot 21 threes, they also posted up a ton. Aldridge had 26 points (and he doesn't shoot threes) and the Spurs slowed down the pace of the Warriors to such an extent that the Dubs famous "chaos" element was rarely in play. In essence, the Spurs channeled their inner 1997-2003 David Robinsion/Tim Duncan Spurs without the twin towers element. It was fascinating. They posted up big (Aldridge) and small (Diaw)... they went into the post frequently and eliminated much of the Dubs ability to create chaos (despite turning the ball over 17 times
That's not to say that it would work over a 7 game series. The Warriors have far too much talent and they were missing Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala and Festus Ezeli. Much like the Spurs were "missing" Tim Duncan in their first match. Although it must be said that many of the Dubs best lineups are without Bogut, and Iggy doesn't really help them with Aldridge posting up as much as he did. It is interesting for me to watch the chess match between Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr. Too bad bad both teams are in the West.
Another "throwback" element to the Spurs game last night was they really did "beat up" Stephan Curry by constantly hounding him. Switching on back screens and generally making his life miserable ... to the point where he had scratches according to USA Today's Sam Amick. This would probably qualify as the first time Curry was subjected to that kind of beating since the Finals last season. Is it sustainable? Probably not.
Back to the post game. I will make no excuses for myself, I really miss the dominant, back to the basket big man in the NBA. However, I just don't see it's re-emergence in the modern NBA. Pace and space is far too valued. The NBA has turned a page on that kind of big man. Yet, as the Spurs showed last night, even in an era where threes rain down like dunks did in the 1990's the value of good, quality post game can be useful even today. The key to beating the Dubs may not be trying to mimic them ... maybe it's in doing the exact opposite?
In the grand scheme of things, when you look at the Denver Nuggets and Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic ... maybe the future is a bit brighter than even Denver Nuggets fans care to admit.
This week's Twitter questions
This week we have a variety. Thanks as always for asking questions, participation has been amazing.
@jmorton78 Brandon Ingram or Ben Simmons?— Trey Mitchell (@TheTreyinator) March 18, 2016
Thanks for the question Trey! This is the biggest debate going on right now in NBA circles. While I'm far from a draft expert, I do have a bit of a question to pose to draft experts. If Ben Simmons went to say, Kentucky or Duke, where would his perception be? Is Simmons being penalized by a lax culture, bad coach, and poor teammates? Or is he being penalized for not making his teammates better? If you subtract Simmons from that LSU team what would their record be?
At the same token, is Brandon Ingram being lauded because he's at Duke with far superior teammates (including another first round pick Grayson Allen) and therefore doesn't have the same level of "carry by yourself" that Simmons does?
Doubtless Simmons has contributed to his own issues, and they are definitely a concern ... but I can't help but wonder, if the situation was reversed, how Ingram would look to top scouts? That being said, for the Nuggets, it seems that Ingram's particular skill set would be more valuable than Simmons. So I'd go with Ingram.
@jmorton78 Defenses are now understanding how to defend Barton and Jokic. How should those 2 approach the offseason to be better next year?— Daniel Rundle (@BlueFrogJam) March 18, 2016
Will Barton has tailed off quite dramatically since about January. He still shows flashes but, as you point out Daniel, since defenses figured him out and keyed on him it's been a small struggle. In that light, however, I think Barton will be fine next season. He is the perfect sixth man, and he provides what you need. Only adjustment I see coming from him is trying to be a bit less ball dominant when he is in there. If he looks for others slightly more his playmaking ability will make his scoring more lethal.
As for Nikola Jokic, he simply needs to be less timid. He has shown that he can single handedly dominate the game offensively when all aspects of his game are opened up. He's got a great mid range. Can shoot the three and he has a developing Dirk-esque turnaround/fade with one hand that we've seen a few times. We all see the monster than Jokic can become, now we have to have that eureka moment occur from the still-very-young Jokic where he understands that for himself.
The response to the twitter question of the week has been amazing. Keep em coming folks!
Song of the week
Sometimes we forget our pioneers. Bone Thugs N' Harmony were creators of a new sound in the mid 1990's in Cleveland, Ohio. A talk-singing form of rap that no one had heard before. Yes, their speed had been seen and heard before from the likes of Leaders of the New School featuring the one and only Busta Rhymes. Yet, the melodic way Bone Thugs delivered their verses was downright revolutionary at the time and helped change the way Rap and hip hop were perceived in the 1990's. Their debut was an EP called "Creepin' on ah Come Up" and featured the classic Thuggish Ruggish Bone. I always preferred the title track. Here it is .... Creepin on ah Come Up