Saturday, May 24, 2008

Good to great: Finding the right fit for a player and a team

With the draft about a month away, I'm thinking about how more NBA clubs can replicate what Utah, the Lakers, and the Spurs do in terms of drafting players, signing free agents, and trading for guys who fit their system.  

The Jazz are arguably the best at getting players who fit with Coach Sloan's system and style of play.  They look for and sign hard-working, tough players.  Playing hard, by the way, is a skill.  So is setting a screen properly.  

These are things the Jazz value and really look for.   A player like Deron Williams -- a physical point guard -- fits Coach Sloan's scheme perfectly.  And he's succeeded in that system.  That's not a coincidence.  It's carefully planned and perfectly executed.

Phil Jackson has done this in LA.  Coach Jackson loves long players who can play multiple positions in his Triangle offense.  So LA goes out and gets length, e.g., Pau Gasol (and Trevor Ariza).  Alongside Gasol, Odom is flourishing.  Again, it's not an accident. 

The Spurs are another team that have done this over a long period of time.  They've built around Duncan -- fitting the right pieces around him, their cornerstone -- with Pop blending them together.  It's satisfying to watch a team agree on a strategy for building a team, then create a plan for executing that strategy.

When evaluating players, it's more than simply looking at his speed, size, shooting ability, defensive prowess, passing skills, etc.  A player's overall effectiveness depends -- in great part -- on the system he's drafted into (or playing in) -- the team's identity, style of play, offensive and defensive schemes, etc.

You've got to take all of this into consideration when not only drafting players, but signing FA's and trading for players.  [Of course, this requires consistency in terms of coaching (Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson, and Pop have been with their teams for many seasons) and GM/player personnel.]