SportsRaid
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SportsRaid

Open Season

Being able to shoot at all five positions is a must in today’s NBA. For some teams, having a stretch big and being able to go small if needed is pivotal so they can compete consistently.

Header made by Mars Robinson

If you watched the Clippers-Jazz series then you were just as surprised and impressed as me. Coach Tyronn Lue and the Clippers found themselves in another 2-0 deficit — this time to the #1 seed Utah Jazz. But instead of panicking, they adjusted, and we saw the Clippers light up the Jazz from games 3-6.

During the regular season, the LA Clippers had eight players shooting 40% or higher from distance — this would be what would propel them to win four straight games, and advance to their franchise’s first-ever WCFs.

From games 3-6. the Clippers shot an insane 45% from three, on a combined 152 three-pointers. they used 3x DPOY Rudy Gobert against Utah as they would leave five perimeter players on the court at all times, setting up wide-open threes off screen and rolls as Rudy would not be quick enough to get there and contest.

Credit to Justin Russo

That series is what propelled me to write this article. In today’s NBA, most teams that see the playoffs year after year are either equipped with a stretch big or can go small and have five perimeter players on the floor, which allows them to exploit matchups to their heart is content. We saw the Golden State Warriors of old use this tactic through their years of utter domination with Draymond Green as their center, which allowed them to stay aggressive on the defensive end.

But what makes it so hard to deal with on a regular basis? When you have as many high-powered shooters as the Clippers have — or the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history in the “Splash Bros”, or centers like Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic who are surrounded by shooters, it becomes a challenge that is set to the hardest difficulty possible.

Now playing small doesn't guarantee wins and we saw it last year in the bubble when the LA Lakers destroyed the Houston Rockets in five games. The Rockets ran with a very small lineup that saw Robert Covington guarding JaVale McGee, and PJ Tucker guarding Anthony Davis. The rockets won the first game of the series — utilizing its three-point shooting — especially from Covington who made it hard for McGee to keep up with him throughout the game.

But from games 2-5, Lakers coach Frank Vogel would let it be known that both JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard would not be playable if the Lakers wanted to limit the Rocket's three-point onslaught. We saw Anthony Davis — a stretch big at the center position, with Markieff Morris taking on the role of Power Forward. Not only did this limit the Rocket’s offense, but it opened up the floor for LeBron James who thrives in open court settings.

Guys like Davis, Embiid and even Jokic are dangerous because not only can they dominate inside, but they can stretch the floor, which opens up so many options for their team's offenses and defenses. Not to mention that in every draft, we have 6'8+ guys with guard skills coming out of machines not stationed on earth that make for great positionless basketball if the team that drafts them is built correctly.

I mean Zion Williamson averaged 27.0 PPG on 61% shooting from the field in only his second season with Steven Adams as his center. Imagine how much he could potentially average if New Orleans pairs him with a stretch five that’ll allow him to roam in the paint freely.

This is where we currently are in regards to basketball, its beautiful ball movement and simple but deadly three-point shooting is nothing short of fun to watch. We saw the Clippers go down 25 in game six against Utah, just to see them shoot themselves back in it rather quickly. It’ll be interesting to see where this new era of basketball takes us, and how it continues to expand.

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