Tuesday, December 16, 2014

BBall 101: Understanding The Eagles Positions in a "Position-less Game"

Picture from Wikipedia.org
Bonsor, Kevin.  How Basketball Works: Who's Who. HowStuffWorks.Retrieved on January 11, 2006
I caught an interesting article today while scrolling through my twitter feed and it prompted some thoughts regarding the basics of basketball in the modern age.  Famed Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski is among the head men interviewed for the article.

"Our game doesn't have a position," Krzyzewski said. "You have five guys working together trying to stop the other five guys from creating a shot. The fact that a big guy is going to play closer — what if you didn't have a big guy?" 

Stick with me after the break to read my thoughts on how the Eagles break down on offense.

I've often struggled to fully grasp the Eagles offense because I've been guilty of trying to cram them into the box of the basic 1-2-3-4-5 spots on the court.

First off let's take a quick look at the positions and their job on the offense.

The Point Guard or 1
This is generally the player who leads the team down the court and sets the court.  Their primary role is to distribute the ball to the other players on the court.  The PG typically can shoot, but the best tend to spend more energy setting up other players than looking for their own shots.  They will lead their team in assists.  John Stockton is an example of a great point guard.  He scored over 19,000 points in his NBA career, but had nearly 16,000 assists.  Those assists represent a minimum of 32,000 points for his teams.  Put another way, Stockton attempted 13,658 shots in his career and had 15,806 assists.  His job was not to take the shot, but rather to get the ball into the hands of another player with an open look.

The Shooting Guard or 2
This player is a perimeter shooting specialist, traditionally they receive a pass and either immediately shoot or pass the ball off.  Ray Allen is a good example of a more traditional 2.  Over his career he took 18,955 shots including 7,429 from beyond the 3 point line.  He hit on 40% of those 3pt attempts.

The Small Forward or 3
This position is usually filled by a versatile player with the height to play inside near the key, the ball skills to attack the basket.  These players are often valued as much for their defense as they are for offense.  They will typically be positioned outside the key but inside the 3 point line on offense. Scottie Pippen is a good example of a small forward, in his career he scored 18,940 points and added 6,135 assists and 2,307 steals.

The Power Forward or 4
This player is typically a low post player and is responsible for rebounding, scoring points in the paint and is usually able to shoot mid-range shots as well.  The PF is typically less athletic than the SF, but not quite as big as the center.  Karl Malone is a great example of a power forward.  During his career he amassed 36,928 points with just 310 attempts from beyond the arc.  He also pulled in 14,968 rebounds.

The Center or 5
Is differentiated from the power forward primarily by their size, typically over 6'9", and their job of defending the paint on defense.  The center is not expected to shoot much outside the paint, their job is to force defenses to guard the basket and to pull down rebounds.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an example of a true center.  He is the career points leader in the NBA with 38,387 points, he attempted just 18 three point shots in his 20 year career.  He also pulled in 17,440 rebounds and added 3,189 blocked shots despite the stat not being tracked until his 5th season.

With that understanding, we can very loosely define Eastern's starting line up as follows:

1: Drew Brandon
2: Tyler Harvey
3: Parker Kelly
4: Ognjen Miljkovic
5: Venky Jois

Here's where the standard definitions break down, spots 2-5.  Drew Brandon is very much a pure point guard and plays very well at the position.  Outside of that, Coach Hayford is not even looking to get traditional with his players.  By definition, Tyler Harvey and Parker Kelly are both play the 2 spot, principally perimeter players who are devastating shooters from long range and are athletic enough to slash and attack the basket.  OG and Venky are 6'7" and 6'8" respectively.  They are both athletic and strong but neither has the size typical of a 5, however Jois does play somewhat chained to the post like a typical center would.  "OG" plays farther out than a typical 4 and could easily be considered a 3 due to his outside shooting.

Based on these things and how Eastern tries to attack either the rim or the 3-point line, the Eagles real starting line up looks like this:

1: Drew Brandon
2: Tyler Harvey
2a: Parker Kelly
3: Ognjen Miljkovic
4-5: Venky Jois

We're just a couple hours from tip-off at Sam Houston State, so I've got to run, but please let me know if you have any thoughts about this.

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