Playing small ball and the pick-n-roll in today's NBA
There is one thing we do know is that the NBA is a copycat league. When the Boston Celtics revived the 'Big Three' theory, Pat Riley decided that he wanted his own with a slight twist. As a result he got the 'super-brats' together in South Beach and won the 2011-12 NBA title. This year, for some reason, the NBA is not only obsessed with small-ball but the pick-n-roll offense.
The reason for this race of the swiftest is that there are very little big-men that a team can build around. Most of the bigs that come to the NBA do not have a back to the basket game. Or,they fancy themselves being the next George 'iceman' Gervin. They fancy themselves finger-rolling or jump-shooting there way to an NBA championship. Many view this as the KG effect; since he came into the league he revolutionized the concept of a big playing away from the basket.
Another factor is many of them come into the league without having the body to do the dirty-work required to play in the paint. The most obvious being the best players play the wing-position today. Therefore NBA coaches and their staff had to adjust to the skill-level and roster they have.
This is not a new phenomena. Don Nelson did it when his hand was forced as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Kareem Abdul Jabbar had broken his hand during the 1977-78 season. Nelson had no other big to take his place, so he decided to play uptempo and fielded a small lineup.
He continued to do so, throughout his coaching career, only it took the perfect player, in LeBron James to show how well it can work. Boston did it when they won banner 17, but other teams have gotten better and more athletic and are having success with it.
The pick-n-roll offense is the best way to utilize a small-ball team. The Houston Rockets a team many prognosticators predicted would be a glorified AAU team with Jeremy Lin running the show use it. However, the addition of James Harden has balanced the attack and allowed them to play in that manner.
Yahoo Sports-Ball Don't Lie states:
"Granted, two games is not exactly a representative sample size. But in their first 96 minutes together, Harden and Lin have exceeded every expectation, forming a no-look, pick-and-rolling machine that's accounting for the overwhelming majority of Houston's points. They've got youth and an array of skills, facets that other top duos (Kobe/Nash in L.A., Manu/Parker in San Antonio, Deron/Joe Johnson in Brooklyn) just can't match. Not yet, anyway."
The Milwaukee Bucks and the Heat have exploited the Celtics to no end with this type of attack. And Boston has yet to find the happy-feet defense to put a dent in it or even stop it.
Doc Rivers is right to fret because this is the way of the NBA today, until his team stops it in the regular season the playoffs will not be in their future. Game three against the Wizards is the C's opportunity to take that first step.