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(RealGM) MDA Remains The NBA's Best Hope Against Predictability

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by xiki, Jul 16, 2018.

  1. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

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    https://basketball.realgm.com/analy...ins-The-NBAs-Best-Hope-Against-Predictability

    BY JONNY AUPING

    JUL 15, 2018 3:33 PM

    [​IMG]
    Talking about NBA coaching is a game of knowing very little bits of truth that inform the confidence to sound like you know quite a bit more.

    Gregg Popovich is a good NBA coach. Kurt Rambis was not a very successful NBA coach. Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson have exclusively coached a handful of the most talented basketball players of all time, and while Kerr seems like a genuinely great guy and Jackson seems kind of like an asshole, both have to be pretty good at coaching because they’ve succeeded so frequently that there’s virtually no evidence of the contrary.

    We basically know those things and then get greedy proposing real-time coaching theories that we don’t have enough evidence to support. We pretend to know whether there was a coach—dead or alive—who could have done more with the Toronto Raptors than Dwane Casey. Brad Stevens has a track record of being good at his job so we call him a “genius” when Terry Rozier hits a contested fade away that he was already planning on taking from the moment he was born. We don’t actually know who is the best coach among Rick Carlisle, Doc Rivers, and Erik Spoelstra. The very real—but very boring—answer is that they have different styles, different strengths, and would have entirely different unknown career trajectories if they’d coached different players. We call coaches chess masters, but wooden pawns and knights and queens don’t have agency. In basketball, players have the largest outcome in a game’s result, making conversations surrounding coaching superlatives relatively empty.

    And yet Mike D’Antoni has made these discussions so easy and uncluttered for us. We know why he’s important. We know—in the broad sense—what he’s good at. And we know, even if we’ve taken it for granted, that he’s been trying to save us from predictability for over a decade.

    I once heard D’Antoni sum up some version of his coaching style in a way I’ll never forget. I unfortunately can’t find a recording of that conversation so take my paraphrasing with a giant grain of salt or disregard it completely if you so choose. But I remember him expressing the general notion of If a player made it all the way to me then he made it to the NBA, and at some point in his basketball career he was wearing some opponents’ asses out. So I want him to do that for me.

    The loosest translation of that is “Go get buckets.” It’s all any basketball player has ever wanted to hear. But his success goes further than a basketball version of The Secret. It’s empowerment meets precision. It’s “Shoot your shot…but do it from exactly this point on the court.”

    Sports as entertainment relies on us embracing that anything can happen while ignoring that—like most of life—the most predictable thing will always have the best track record of actually happening. D’Antoni came to the NBA and combined underdog allure with functional aesthetics. People rooted for the 2004 Detroit Pistons for what they represented. People rooted for the 2007 Suns for what they represented and because without any context they were objectively fun to watch play basketball.

    D’Antoni was a disrupter who should be in the Hall of Fame for the way he revolutionized the sport, but you never got the sense that he was hung up on being “light years” ahead of anyone. The guy has coached some really good teams, and he’s just been trying to win a championship. The status quo he’s been trying to take down hasn’t been antiquated basketball; it’s been the reigning champions.

    At a time when not having Shaq, Duncan or Kobe on your team made you an underdog, D’Antoni threw out a game plan for Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion and pressed fast forward, and he was a few travesty-level suspensions away from pulling it off. Now, he’s staring down the barrel at what is probably the best team in NBA history, and once again the conversation around D’Antoni—or at least his narrative—is stark: He is the only one who can do anything to stop the Warriors from winning the championship. The upcoming season will be the Warriors versus the field, and D’Antoni is coaching the field.

    The Rockets don’t have the talent that the Warriors have, but they’re the only ones remotely within striking distance. Just like D’Antoni’s Suns in a previous decade, an unavailable star likely prevented them from taking down the eventual champs last season. And now the Warriors have gotten stronger. And the Rockets, by losing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, have gotten weaker.

    It’s on D’Antoni to make up the difference. Sure, Mbah a Moute and Ariza are good players—and in an arms race against a team already carrying an ungodly amount of firepower every little bit matters—but in the grand scheme of things, there are a lot of NBA players better than them. It’s not unfair to say they fall into the category that’s been home to Raja Bell, late-stage Grant Hill, Quentin Richardson, Tim Thomas, Gerald Green, P.J. Tucker and others who have been maximized by playing under D’Antoni. To put it more harshly, it’s very unlikely we’ll spend a lot of time talking about Ariza and Mbah a Moute this upcoming season, but the players occupying their old minutes in Houston will know exactly what their jobs are. Houston rookie DeAnthony Melton, made his way to D’Antoni for a reason: There’s plenty of footage of him wearing opponents out.

    Houston will miss the defense of those two players in some sense. Who will guard Kevin Durant. But the Rockets came within a Chris Paul hamstring of beating the Warriors last May, and Mbah a Moute played a combined 54 minutes in seven games Durant scored 30 points a game with Ariza guarding him.

    D’Antoni can lose rotation players because his coaching style is to find equalizers. He might start a player that’s 55 percent as talented as the guy he’s matched up against, but he’ll figure out a way for him to score 80 percent as many points as that guy. Once you narrow the margins of a difficult math problem, you give yourself a better chance of guessing the right answer. The Rockets missed 27 threes in Game 7, and they were still close. Next season’s strategy isn’t rocket science: Make them.

    But more importantly, they can maximize role players because D’Antoni unleashes the full extent of his superstars. No one would credit the MVPs of LeBron, Duncan, Kobe, Shaq, Nowitzki, Durant, or Curry with the men holding the clipboards on their sideline. But Nash and Harden’s MVPs are tied up in D’Antoni’s philosophy that the most efficient use of a franchise player is to take advantage of his skillset on every single possession. The advantage he likely feels he has over the Warriors is simple: We have James Harden and Chris Paul and you don’t.

    The lesson here isn’t that D’Antoni will successfully do the unthinkable. The reality is that he’s come up short every time he’s tried. But if you want believe that the season’s outcome hasn’t already been written, you need to convince yourself that D’Antoni has mastered the art of high variance. And then you need to embrace the idea that while most of the NBA was shell shocked the day DeMarcus Cousins signed with the Warriors, D’Antoni may well have been sitting in his office chuckling to himself like a mad scientist at the thought of Cousins trying to play defense against his team.
     
  2. MystikArkitect

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    Good read. Pringles/Beard/CP are the only thing protecting the NBA from genuine inevitability.

    Mike doesn’t get near enough credit for what he’s done.
     
    glynch, bmd, Remlap and 11 others like this.
  3. heypartner

    heypartner Contributing Member

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    Fun article.

    I thought he tried to say Durant wasn't stopped or slowed by Ariza. I disagree with that. Look at the efficiency, not just the ppg....especially the 4th Q numbers where Durant shrank as Ariza denied him the ball. The game-plan was to allow Durant ISOs, but to take GSW out of the rest of their game. You can't prevent Durant from ISOing. But you can lower his efficiency, and Ariza can ramp-up ball-denial in the 4th.

    all that worked well...and it was because of Ariza's defensive skill and elite smarts. I also believe it wore out Ariza on the offensive side. He's no spring chicken anymore.

    Although it pains me to correct this, I don't want history to forget:

    We didn't miss 27 threes in Game 7; we missed 27 in a row. We missed 37 total => 7-44 16%
     
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  4. hajkov

    hajkov Consummate Member
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    Pringles approves this thread

    [​IMG]
     
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  5. hakeem94

    hakeem94 Member

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    there wasnt 27 3s in a row missed..harden hit a shot during the streak but the refs have voided it...

    this only goes to prove how much nba is rigged as well as perception of quality of the players

    Durant is mvp because the refs gave him calls and harden is not reliable star because the refs wouldnt give him consistent calls
     
  6. hajkov

    hajkov Consummate Member
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  7. Ziggy

    Ziggy Tastemaker
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    Game 1 aside, Ariza on KD was the best you could hope for. A few times we'd switch and Paul would have KD in the paint or Capela would have KD on the perimeter (matchups you would think you would hate), both those guys held up very nicely as well. It was a thing of beauty to watch.
     
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  8. Nook

    Nook Member

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    Ariza doesn't get enough credit for his defense on Durant.

    People can rip Durant all they want, but he is an all time great offensive player and the best player on possibly the best team of all time. There were times where it looked like Durant was about to take over, and Ariza stopped him.

    That doesn't mean that Ariza is the greatest defender ever or even on the team last year. However his combination of intelligence, effort, length and strength made him very good for what his job was.
     
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  9. RocketsFan247

    RocketsFan247 Member

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    Good point. I think our switching gave Ariza some time off on defense but it also affords us to not rely on one sole defender to limit KD.

    Btw, does this author have a CF account? Swear he hit almost every one of our top talking points. Who writes an article defending the Rockets' relevancy in the middle of the offseason? While I'm with everyone on how the loss of Ariza is a big blow to our defense, I'm looking at it and excited to plug in a starter who can dribble-penetrate without any cringeworthy attempts. I'm also hoping that that starter will be able to adopt Ariza's fake/side-step-3. I'm optimistic about his and Luc's replacement. Losing them, to me, affects more of the regular season grind.
     
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  10. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

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    Agree w/your post; will add TA has long been streaky, defines streaky. Yet, w/the D-effort he put forth having no legs for 0 was a trade-off (alas, if he had just passed the ball, passed on shooting the ball w/those well-earned heavy legs underneath him).
     
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  11. saleem

    saleem Contributing Member

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    I agree Durant is dangerous, but I think Curry is still more dangerous than him. He wasn't able to hurt us much, because of Chris. Great comments about Ariza. He will be missed.
     
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  12. Deckard

    Deckard Blade Runner
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    I really liked the find by xiki, and feel the same way about heypartner's response. They're the kind of discoveries and responses that make the GARM fun, in my opinion, particularly when I can agree with both. Nice job!
     
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  13. topfive

    topfive CF OG
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    But... but... but 80% of ClutchFans said he was a washed-up/has-been/never-was who failed in NY and LA and even worse, he was the owner's coach choice, so he was absolutely a terrible hire as head coach for the Rockets.

    And ClutchFans is never wrong!
     
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  14. wesbound

    wesbound Member

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    Yep... the sad part is most ppl will still say Durand still score X amount on Ariza instead of seeing how Ariza help prevent Durand from really blowing up. Great players will score no matter who you put on them... It's a matter of making it harder for them to score. There is no defender that can completely shut a great offensive player out.. they may be able to it once in the blue but not something you can do on occasion bases.
     
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  15. napalm06

    napalm06 Favorite Player: Scott Foster
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    I had to pause here and scoff at the blindness.
     
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  16. napalm06

    napalm06 Favorite Player: Scott Foster
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    And how much he kept Durant worn out for 4th quarters in close games, and prevented Durant from getting assists.
     
  17. Os Trigonum

    Os Trigonum It. Deserves. Its. Own. Thread.
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    great article. Thanks OP
     
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  18. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

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    A bit'o crow I have eaten. Hey, MDA, I was wrong. (But, right about KMc.)
     
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  19. napalm06

    napalm06 Favorite Player: Scott Foster
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    I was really wrong about MDA. I wanted a more rigorous coach for Harden. Turns out a player's coach and an alpha-dog sidekick were the better route. Anything was an improvement over McHale and Bickerstaff though.
     
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  20. don grahamleone

    don grahamleone Contributing Member

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    Trevor Ariza has played 12662 minutes for us over the last 4 seasons and he's going to be 33 next season. I don't get the feeling that 15 million per year was a good buy. When you put a heavy load on a guy, then fresh legs might be better than running it back yet again with him. I think Ennis will be a good deal for us. I don't buy the health of Luc's shoulder based on our treatment of Luc in the offseason.

    This offseason on paper looks bad, but I'd forecast it as an improvement. Our youth is better than last year's youth and fresh legs will help. James Ennis has recorded 4644 minutes over the last 4 seasons and he's got a little bit of playoff experience. I think this was a reasonable bet to go with fresh legs over experience. He won't have Trevor's overall impact, but if we get Melo the position and role that A3za filled might get more production overall. Ennis being 5 years younger probably matters.
     
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