I should preface this post by first saying that I've been a long-time fan of Nate and that I'm not advocating his immediate removal. However, I used to think that Nate was our Jerry Sloan - the guy that was going to be there for us for the next 10 years and (unlike Sloan) win us a few titles. But even though it's early in the season, the total lack of improvement (or in some cases, regression) since last season makes me think that Nate's ceiling may be much, much lower.
Pick and Roll Defense - Obviously, this has been discussed ad nauseum around here, but it bears repeating. Our P&R defense is atrocious. It was terrible last year, and it's no better this year. I know that it's only 5 games in, but we had all last season and this offseason to see that it needs improvement. At what point does Nate stop with this "switch on every pick" idea and start getting our big men to jump out on the ballhandler? If you watch top defensive teams against the P&R, you rarely if ever see them switch the big man onto a small guard like we do. And we do it almost EVERY TIME. How often do we need to see Greg Oden guarding Mike Bibby at the 3 point line before Nate realizes this doesn't work?
Playing Rotation - I'm willing to cut Nate a little more slack on this one, simply because it's still so early in the season and he's adjusting to having Miller and Webster in, with Batum out. Obviously, there is some room for experimentation at this point. But still, the set rotation with Oden regardless of how well he's playing just doesn't make sense. It keeps him from staying in a rhythm and God-forbid - actually rolling on offense. We've all seen Oden get yanked the moment he gets that second foul, but he will have to learn to play with fouls at some point. And then to watch Miller, Roy and Blake out there for minutes on end, with Josh Smith and Al Horford killing us in the paint? Painful. Yes we have a lot of talent, but Nate should take a page out of other top coaches' playbooks and ride his horses. He is so committed to bringing in his line changes that he doesn't seem to notice when it kills our flow of play.
Offensive Play Sets - While some might point at specific players for this next part, I put the blame squarely on the coaching staff. First of all, Brandon Roy is a great offensive player. But him scoring 25 - 30 points a night is not the best way for this team to win consistently. If he's not willing to take a step back offensively (at least in the short-term) so that other players can get some touches, Nate should step in and coach. As much as I love watching Roy, it is really frustrating to watch him ignore the screener on every pick & roll, only for him to either 1) back up with the double team in his face, only to swing it around the arc to someone 30 feet from the hoop or 2) to put his head down and drive without ever looking for a pass inside. And as many on here have noted, he and the rest of the team are apparently incapable of feeding the post when the big man is in a good position. Tonight was slightly better, but Oden and Aldridge are still getting the ball when they are 10-12 feet from the hoop. Hit them when they have gained position 5-6 feet from the hoop and watch the difference.
Also, our movement off the ball has really regressed this season. I thought that Rudy might rub off on some of our guys and start coming off screens more often, but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be happening that much. Instead, I see Outlaw, Webster, Blake, Roy, all swinging the ball around the perimeter predictably, leading to easy tips for the opposing defense. The fact that guys like Rudy, Roy and Outlaw make some really tough shots doesn't only disguises the fact that they are routinely taking contested mid-range jumpers. Those shots dry up in the playoffs.
Obviously, we don't know what Nate is telling these guys every day in practice. Maybe he is constantly on them to look for the cutter off the screen and maybe he tells them to feed the post. But all I see is that we are what Sir Charles thought we are - a jump shooting team. We're the same team now as we were last season, so it's not like these issues are new.
It's still early, so I hope Nate can correct some of these issues. But given the lack of improvement over the past season and change in all three areas, I'm starting to doubt whether Nate is our guy long-term. We may have seen his ceiling at this point, and this season will tell us quite a bit about whether we need someone new to take us to the next level.