NBA, The Whiteboard

The Whiteboard: Is transition offense becoming ordinary offense?

The NBA is rapidly changing before our eyes. The knock-em-down, drag-em-out days of the 1980s and 1990s look like fossils compared to the action we see on the floor now.

We’ve heard ad nauseam about the 3-point revolution that the league is currently undergoing. In the blink of an eye, Brook Lopez has gone from offensive lynchpin in the post to a floor-spacing perimeter shooter. Under Mike D’Antoni, the Houston Rockets have continued to push the idea of 3-pointers are better than 2-pointers to its breaking point season after season.

However, shooting from deeper (and more often) isn’t the only change that the NBA has seen in the past few decades. Honestly, you don’t even need to go back that far in time to trace this change.

During the 2008-09 season, Don Nelson’s “Nellie Ball” was turning the game on its head as his Golden State Warriors we’re averaging a blistering 102.6 possessions per game to lead the league in pace. Fast forward to today, and that 102.6 would tie with the Dallas Mavericks — who rank seventh in the league. The fastest team in the NBA is the upstart Atlanta Hawks and the Sacramento Kings who each have a pace of 104.4 possessions per game.

In a matter of months, the Kings have turned themselves from the laughing stock of the league into an exciting young team by adopting more of an uptempo style of play this season.

What if the next change that the NBA bears fruit is the total eradication of half court offense.

The purpose of the sport is to put the ball in the basket more often than your opponent. Speeding up play helps this as it often results in more possessions (the more times you have the ball the more chances to score more points) but what if we shorten the length of those increased possessions and got even more?

The famed “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns — orchestrated by D’Antoni and Steve Nash — are probably the closest team to making transition offense their only offense, but even they stopped just short of this.

A defense is at its weakest when they are retreating, and therein lies the benefit of always attacking. Instead of players having to worry about what spot of the floor they have to start at or what action comes before which, take the thinking out of it and have them play only in the open court.

In college, the North Carolina Tar Heels holds true to this mantra best. They push the ball down their opponent’s throat regardless of a make or a miss. If the ball handler is cut off on his way to the rim they have secondary actions (conveniently referred to as their “Secondary Break”) that they hope will exploit a defense that isn’t yet set.

As the NBA increases its speed, it is only a matter of time before someone tries their hand at going full throttle all the time. The Kings and Hawks are like Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner speeding down Los Angeles side streets and highways. Soon enough the entire NBA could be fast and furious.

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