Looking to the Future: Learning From the Playoffs

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Published: May 23, 2012

What can we learn from the teams still left standing when it comes to building our roster?

Playoffs!? Playoffs!? You’re talking about playoffs? You kiddin’ me? We’re comin’ off a 21 win season and you’re talking about playoffs!?

PLAYOFFS?!

Yeah, that’s right, I am talking about playoffs because the regular season is a totally different game, one that an organization should never use to measure what works or does not work in the NBA. In the regular season Pau Gasol is a top 15 player in the league, DeAndre Jordan is a quality starter, and the Pacers depth actually matters. But in the playoffs, none of those things are true, and it is because it is just a totally different game. You aren’t catching a team playing their third game in four nights that hasn’t had a chance to go in depth on the scouting report.

In the playoffs, good teams take away the things you want to do and make you play left handed, and as we have seen, sometimes guys can’t play left-handed; literally or figuratively. You like to catch the ball on the left block? Okay, then we will front you every time you go down there. Hey Chris Paul, you like playing pick and roll with a PF who can’t pop? Okay, we’ll just hedge hard and rotate underneath. Now what? And so it goes.

The final four in the playoffs are set (I am assuming Boston wins), and there is a lot to learn from the teams that made it this far, as the Hornets try to put together a team that can compete at this level in the next 3-4 years. Obviously you want talent, and the Hornets won’t get to the top of the mountain without it, but there is more to the blueprint- such as:

1. Force Turnovers

A cliche from the NFL also holds true in the NBA. People say that the playoffs are a half court game, which is true, but that only makes getting out into transition more important in the playoffs. Look at the OKC/LAL series- one that was much closer than it appears on the surface. OKC outscored the Lakers by 14 points per game in transition and a lot of that had to do with the fact that the Thunder averaged 9 steals a game (compared to just under 5 for the Lakers), and that the Thunder were +20 in the turnover battle over the five game series. And who can forget the turnovers in games two and four that cost the Lakers both of those games, and a chance at winning the series?

The story wasn’t much different in San Antonio where the Spurs forced the normally cautious Chris Paul to turn the ball over 13 times in the first two games alone, taking control of the series from the beginning before eventually getting the sweep. Forcing turnovers comes down to trust in the guys behind you, allowing you to take gambles by jumping passing lanes, trapping ball handlers, or fronting post players. This means that you want to target guys with high basketball IQ’s, exceptional wingspan or athleticism, and an ability to effectively communicate.

Guys who fit:

(Editor’s Note: Anthony Davis does everything well and will be the #1 pick, so no need to waste column space. This is for the other guys.)

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- Could be an Defensive All-NBA guy by year two. MKG has the IQ and the motor needed to be a constant disruption on the defensive end. He can play passing lanes and can cheat off his man to trap because he can close out so quickly.

Perry Jones III- Again, if the comparisons to Paul George are accurate, Jones can become a nightmare for some of the dominant wing scorers in the league. George was incredibly effective the first few games on Wade and averaged nearly 3 steals per game in the postseason. Jones has the same length and athletisicm.

Dion Waiters- A guy who has been considered a late first rounder all season, Waiters is a guy who could sneak into the lottery and his ability to wreck havoc in the backcourt is a big reason for that. He is lightning quick and has great hands and instincts. The worry here is that he played zone primarily at Syracuse and we have seen prospects like Wes Johnson become exposed defensively once they reach the pros. His own coach said he was lazy on defense, but the potential is there.

John Henson- People automatically put him at power forward, but is it possible that he can play some small forward too? I say yes, especially on the defensive end where he could become one of the only players in the league who can cover Durant in 2-3 years.

Bad Fits:

Harrison Barnes- Good size and wingspan leads you to believe that he can cause havoc, but he never really played with the urgency needed on defense. Not to mention his on-ball defensive numbers, which were well below average. Don’t let his semi decent steal numbers fool you, they were mostly a byproduct of the bigs on his team forcing errant plays.

Austin Rivers- Duke had one of their worst defensive seasons and Rivers was a big reason for that. He tends to gamble a lot and loses far more often than he wins.

Kendall Marshall- We all know I love the guy, but his lack of foot speed forces him to play too far off the ball to force his man into turnovers. Again, like Barnes he averaged over a steal per game, but if you watch UNC you quickly realize it is their length down low that forces players to lose the ball and it sometimes ends up in the hands of Marshall or Barnes.

2. Agile Length

We have always been extremely broad when we say that you need ‘size’ to compete in the NBA. Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, and Andrew Bynum all have exceptional size and bulk, but they are all at home watching right now. In the new NBA, teams are built from the outside-in offensively. Back in the 1990’s, the elite teams (except for the Bulls) were built inside-out, with Ewing, Hakeem, Robinson, Shaq, Malone, and Kemp as the focal points that the role guys played around. But now, look at the 4 teams left (I am assuming Boston wins tomorrow) and the 13 elite players  that are divided amongst those teams. Of those 13, only Duncan can be considered a low post scorer. The rest of the guys get their points on the perimeter or by attacking the rim off of picks, and in order to stop that you need agile defenders who can play the pick and roll and guard in space.

As fantastic as Bynum is on the low block, teams took advantage of him in the pick and roll because of his feet. The Lakers used to be able to counter that by pulling Bynum and putting Odom at the four and Gasol at the five, but that obviously wasn’t an option this year. Because of that, we saw an inferior Denver team push them to 7 and the Thunder defeat them in five. The lack of mobility from Hawes and Brand resulted in Brandon Bass going off for 27 in a crucial game 5, sealing Philly’s fate. In the decisive game six, the Pacers pulled Roy Hibbert in the final three minutes because he didn’t have the foot speed to hedge on screens and rotate.

As point guards evolve into scorers and power forwards around the league develop the 17 footer, it is more evident than ever that you need long, agile defenders on your roster to counter this new brand of outside-in basketball.

Guys Who Fit:

John Henson- Momma, there goes that man again. If Henson had another 15-20 pounds and a consistent jumper, he would be a top five pick. But remember what Coach Thorpe said in the podcast when we asked him what two things were easiest for a young player to add? Strength and a jumper.

Andre Drummond- This is where the Hasheem Thabeet comparisons are unwarranted. They might both bust, but it will be for totally different reasons. Thabeet lacked the mobility to play the pick and roll/pop, but that won’t be a problem for Drummond, whose agility is more reminiscent of JaVale McGee.

Tyler Zeller- Those who have’t seen him play will assume he is slow because of a certain physical attribute, but he is actually extremely fast and agile for a seven footer. He should have no problem hedging on screens without picking up fouls and he won’t embarress himself if forced to switch from time to time.

Terrance Jones- I brought up what the Lakers were able to do with Odom earlier, and Jones could fill that same void as a guy who could defend a perimeter four like Dirk or David West. His wingspan is close to 7 foot 3 inches, and that should negate the two or three inches he will be giving up to some of those guys.

Bad Fits:

Jared Sullinger- The comparions between he and David West should not be limited to the offensive end. Sullinger will get eaten alive in the NBA when put into pick and roll/pop situations. He lateral movement is well below average and unless he loses weight like Kevin Love, it will keep him on the bench because it will outweigh his offensive production.

Fab Melo- People love this guy because of his size, but that is the exact reason I want the Hornets to stay away. Guys like this get exposed in today’s NBA, as teams simply pull them out to the perimeter, either by putting his man in a pick and roll/pop or forcing him to cover a guy on the perimeter. Fab Melo has half of Kendrick Perkins talent, and watch what happens to Perkins when San Antonio puts Matt Bonner or Diaw at center.

3. Offense Players that fit the European Style

The NBA has been heading in this direction for the last 5-10 years, and it is more evident this year than ever that Euro ball is a big part of this game. The offensive philosophy in Europe is that you want multi-dimensional guys who can put the ball on the floor, pass, and shoot. It sounds simple, but the NBA was stuck in the philosophy of “positions” for so long, where the point guard was the creator, the two guard shot, the center stayed down low, etc. In Euro ball, all five guys possess these varied skill sets, so the ball moves and there are multiple playmakers on the court.

The Spurs do this the best, but the X-factor for OKC all season (James Harden) is really just the ideal European player in an American’s body- and a pirate’s beard. When the Celtics are at their best, they are playing Euro ball with Rondo and Pierce attacking and creating, while their biggest guy, Kevin Garnett, stretches the defense. Same goes for the Heat. The Hornets have a couple of pieces that fit this model in Gordon (creator), Smith (big man who can shoot), and Ayon (multi-dimensional big who can pass), but they need to find more.

Guys Who Fit:

Bradley Beal- I was talking to a UF grad who is now in the NBA and he told me that, “It was a shame that Beal had to play with Walker and Boyton, because he could have been First Team All-SEC without them and UF could have actually had a better season.” I tend to agree with him and I think Beal had flashes where he showcased his playmaking potential, it was just few and far between because the ball simply wasn’t in his hands enough. That should change in the NBA.

Terrance Jones- A versatile guy who can be a finisher from anywhere on the court, or he can be the guy who sets up one of his teammates. Jones has the potential to be a Swiss Army knife on the offensive end if a coach can just keep him from falling in love with his perimeter shot.

Arnett Moultrie- I am not as in love with Moultrie as some people are, but I do recognize his ability to pull his man away from the bucket with his jumper. If he can become a willing passer as well, the sky is the limit on the offensive end.

Bad Fits:

Harrison Barnes- I have been trying to come up with comparisons all year and have found a couple I kind of like, but I think I have come up with the perfect one for his ceiling- Sean Elliot. And Elliot was a very good player, but he is the old breed in a couple of ways, and I don’t think he would be as successful in today’s NBA. Barnes really can’t create for others and come playoff time, teams will just take away the one or two things he does well, leaving him with….. well, nothing. A semi poor man’s Sean Elliot would be fine at #10, but not with the first pick.

Terrance Ross- Again we have another guy with below average handles that just doesn’t know how to create for others. If he gets hot from the perimeter, he can win you a game or two in the playoffs like Nick Young did for the Clips, but more times than not he will be a no show in big games because teams take away that skill set in the playoffs.

Thomas Robinson- I know there is a video with Robinson swishing a couple of threes in drills, but I only care about what he can do in games, and Robinson has not given us any signs that he can be a consistent threat from the perimeter. He is Blake Griffin when he came out of Oklahoma with slightly less athleticism and a slightly worse jumper.Blake is an All-Star, but that was the regular season. We saw what happened in the playoffs.

McNamara’s Updated Hornets’ Big Board

(Note: This is not the order in which I predict they will be drafted, but how my big board would look if I were the Hornets brass)

1. Anthony Davis

2. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

3. Bradley Beal

4. Thomas Robinson

5. Andre Drummond

6. John Henson

7. Jared Sullinger

8. Austin Rivers

9. Harrison Barnes

10. Kendall Marshall

11. Tyler Zeller

12. Jeremy Lamb

13. Terrance Jones

14. Perry Jones III

15. Marquis Teague

16. Damian Lillard

17. Dion Waiters

18. Arnett Moultrie

19. Royce White

20. Scott Machado

Draft Lottery

– Ryan and I will be doing a “What if…” podcast this weekend centered around all of the scenarios that could play out Wednesday night. Feel free to throw up any What if questions below and we will try to answer as many as possible.

– Speaking of next Wednesday, we will be doing a Live Video Chat that will start 30-45 minutes before the lottery and go until we have exhausted ourselves after the lottery. Although, if we do get the first pick, I might pass out from excitement and that will leave Jason Calmes as your host.

Looking to the Future is a weekly column that you can find only on Hornets247.com. For past articles, click here.

 

26 comments
NOLA_Fredo
NOLA_Fredo

One question and a couple of "What Ifs?": - Some of the talk regarding prospects is always about how a player will work if they're drafted by the right team that has a system that fits them. Can we say with any certainty that the Hornets have a set system that makes any specific player a better fit or not? - What If...the Hornets land #1 overall and Portland is sitting at #2 and they call saying "Swap places with us and we'll give you LaMarcus Aldridge?" Would you? - What If...the Hornets land #2 and #4 overall? Would you call up Washington or Charlotte or whoever lands #1 overall and see if you can trade those 2 picks for #1 overall? Or take your chances with 2 of the best 4 prospects?

504ever
504ever

To Hornets 24/7: The news that the Hornets's Lance Thomas was named to the USA Select Team, with Kyrie Irving among others, is a big deal. And something I believe deserves a short article mentioning. Basketball minds don't invest that kind of training in someone who will just wash out of thy NBA. It means Lance could be a "glue" guy for a team that represents the USA internationally. I hope the Hornets find a way to keep Lance, and his currently discounted salary.

504ever
504ever

Found this quote on ESPN: " Getting named to the US Select Team is often considered the first step to eventual consideration for the Olympic team."

ssdfg
ssdfg

Are you saying Lance Thomas is a future Olympian? LOL

trigga
trigga

I would be pumped with a 4th 10th pick Robinson Barnes draft. Best case 1st pick-6th pick Davis Drummond draft. Before ppl go mental with Davis Drummond, it means u can slowly bring drummond along. dragic gordon barnes robinson Kaman starting 5, gravy henry aminu ayon smithy bench 5, CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT YEAR GUYS. lol just kidding i would rap with playoffs

Mike P
Mike P

Question for a podcast: is Monty gone once his contract expires? It seems like the league has taken notice of his talent, and the Clippers are rumored to be interested in him. I know we are allowed to say he can't speak with the Clips right now. Will his relationship with Demps play a part in keeping him here?

Goerge
Goerge

I want to know, what is the worst possible thing that can happen on draft night? and what to we do with the picks in that circumstance?

DownUnder
DownUnder

Good article some points i personally agree with and some that i dont, and i too appreciate the effort to keep us fans interested during the offseason. The "What If" question i'd like to request is, "If Brad Beal is the highest ranked player talent wise left on your draft board when our first pick roles around, would you pass on him for a better fit? Do you draft him and try to make him work with Eric Gordon to shape a future backcourt? Or do you draft Brad Beal having future plans without Gordon? which I guess you covered pretty well in the last podcast what would happen then.

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

^Due to his coaches illness^

BIGBREED
BIGBREED

-Drummond never had good coaching in college due to his illness, and to say that he can be dominate is just foolish. He's a poorman DeAndra Jordan w/ a lower IQ -Harrison Barnes reminds me of Jamal Mashburn -Perry Jones will be a bust like Jared Jeffries! Yes I said it ;)

504ever
504ever

This is a great article and list. They only change I would make is to drop Rivers and Barnes below the Joneses. Rivers (driving) and Barnes (perimenter shooting) are so solely one dimensional that it is hard for me to justify higher placement for either player. Plus, I am not sure either's skill is an NBA level skill.

Chuck
Chuck

"The final four in the playoffs are set" Wait, what? Do you know something I don't know? Can you give me gambling advice before the Celts-Sixers game tonight?

NoJoke
NoJoke

The Sixers end up losing and Rondo has a triple-double.

Thomas
Thomas

Noticed this as well. Good article but one small mistake.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

I put in the article that I expect Boston to win on Saturday. I think that is pretty much a given, but we'll see.

Mike P
Mike P

I think Drummond has been so heavily scrutinized that he may actually be underrated right now. People keep comparing him to DeAndre Jordan. Physically, yeah, there are a lot of similarities, and they are both atrocious at the line. But Drummond has a far better touch than Jordan had, has, or ever will have. Not saying much, but still. I also believe Drummond is a much more fluid athlete than Jordan Drummond did just average 10 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks as the second youngest college player in the country. He could've done more, but those numbers aren't a far cry from what Greg Monroe did his freshman year, when he posted 12.6 and 6.5. They are completely different players, but the point remains the same: Drummond did fine this year. Monroe was also thought to be lacking intensity when he entered the draft, and he's doing a-okay. If lackadaisical Drummond can bring those numbers, I'd love to see what he can do when his guards aren't treating him like he has the plague. Drummond will, at the least, bring athleticism, strength, rebounding, and defense to whichever NBA team grabs him

Hollis21
Hollis21

First off. Thank you for the fact you keep writing. This goes to everyone on the site. Since the Hornets are not a playoff team or one of the NBA's darlings, it much more difficult to find articles. I love being able to read about the team during the stages of the team's offseason and have some good conversation on the team. I have a question for Michael, or whoever would like to offer their opinion. Say the Hornets have picks 2 and 6 (Minny pick is two. Hornets pick gets knocked back two spots.) Would you consider trading pick 6 to move back and get another asset? Say, trade back a handful of spots and draft Marshall and have something else. Or would you stay at 2 and 6? Who would you pick (out of people that could logically be there) If you traded back, what kind of deal are you looking for? In terms of trading in the NFL Draft, I have a pretty solid opinion and understanding of what someone should be asking for to move up/move down at different points in the draft. However, I'm not quite as certain what the Hornets would be wanting/asking for in a trade back since the economics of the two sports differ. Thanks again to everyone at the website for their great work!

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

2 and 6 would be MKG and Sullinger (or Henson) for me personally. But yes, I would also look to trade either pick if the right deal came along. Trade back? Maybe if I could move Ariza for a better piece, but not to pick up extra picks in this years draft. We can only have so many Young Pups on this roster. But if I was offered Steph Curry for Ariza, Vasquez and #6, then I draft MKG at 2 and enter July with a big smile on my face. As far as economics, that doesn't become a huge factor because guys are slotted, and the new CBA actually positions the slots in later years based on how well (or poorly) the pick has played. If a guy is drafted 20th, but becomes a starter, theoretically he could be paid more in years 3 and 4 than a guy drafted at 5 who sits on the bench for his first two years because he needs to develop. Thanks for bringing that up. Prior to the draft I will write a post around the economics of the draft where the new CBA is concerned.

mojart
mojart

i think the drummond/davis combination will be a nightmare to other teams...play dem along wid ariza and we could easily have the best frontcourt in the nba...C's dont grow on trees so i wil also take a gamble in drummond...if his potential is really superman and we land the #1 pick and get davis....we easily have a DH12 and Tim duncan on r roster and sir EG...dats dynasty.....^^,

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I disagree with the premise that you need to win a with a certain play style. You win with star players and right now there are just a shortage of bigs good enough to have that type of impact in the paint. So if we were to draft Drummond and he became a more skilled Dwight Howard we could most certainly win playing inside-out ball. If you look the teams with the really good bigs they had a distinct advantage in the playoffs. The teams just didn't go down low enough. Bynum should have touched the ball pretty much every position for the Lakers. However Kobe's ego isn't ready for that. He thinks just because he can get 30 a night he should.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Mike Brown himself said that, "Everybody knows that the easiest kind of player to slow down on the offensive end is a low post big. Kids learn how to double the post in middle school." If you have a Shaq in his prime, then okay, but even Dwight and Bynum are relatively easy to take out of games in the playoffs and nobody in this draft projects to being anywhere near those guys level.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I think you have to have a willing passer out of the post. Hence the term inside-out(I kid I know you get the concept). I get it's easy to double team. With that said it was still effective for both the Lakers and the Pacers yet both team got away from it at times without forcing teams to double. However I agree Drummond is the closest thing to a dominate center in this draft and that's anything but a sure bet.

David
David

Man you are obsessed w Drummond. Watch the guy play, he has shown zero signs of being a "more skilled" anybody.

da ThRONe
da ThRONe

I'm not obsessed. I was giving an example. I would disagree with the fact that he can't be more skilled than Howard. Howard isn't really all that skilled. He's just a physical freak. Drummond has a lot of work to do and is very much the project everyone is projecting him to be. However when I look at his base to play the position he'll be asked to play it's a raw, but very solid pallet. I see the samething with DeAndre Jordan so take it for what it worth. For the record. I'm not in love with anybody in this draft. I'm on record as saying I only see a franchise's 2nd, 3rd, or 4th best player this year. The strength isn't a clear cut superstar a la Rose, LeBron, or Duncan. It's with the depth. I believe there will be a lot of teams getting quality late.

mojart
mojart

gud article....wana know if der is a team in the nba that gets both the 1st and 2nd pick overall?hoping the bees is the 1st one...davis and who do u think should be next?

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Easiest question I will ever get. Davis and MKG I understand the Davis/Drummond philosophy. Safe pick allows you to gamble, but I dont buy it. Give me the home run and the triple and I can start the dynasty as soon as 2013