One of the big questions surrounding this year's team will be the type of offense they will run. The personnel--or at least the responsibility of the personnel--have changed as radically this year as in any time since the acquisition of Rasheed Wallace back in the mid-90's and it's logical to assume that the offense will see a similar overhaul. And in my view it's not only logical...it's necessary.
Despite the popularity of the Phoenix style and the natural tendency of most fans towards an exciting running game this has not been my leaning in the past couple of years. I have not been the biggest proponent of having Zach on the team but my argument always was if you do have a player the caliber of Zach Randolph on offense you have to run the style that suits him. You can't just let him rot. And we didn't, so we played a halfcourt, ball-control game. Zach is gone now, of course, so my argument no longer holds true. In fact with these young players it's exactly reversed. You cannot play a plodding, ball-control game with this group.
The first argument for running is that it suits many of our players' strengths. As I've mentioned numerous times Greg Oden and Lamarcus Aldridge are going to be quicker than most any of their counterparts. That should allow both to be down the floor before most interior defenses set up. To take advantage the ball has to be there too. Two of our prime small-forward candidates--Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster--also benefit from the running game. Travis' skills are obvious. We generally think of Martell more as a weak-side, stand-still shooter but that's more because of how he's been used than because of his natural abilities. Other than the shooting Martell is pretty much dead in the water in a slow offensive game. His brightest moments come when he has a semi-clear path to the hoop from the wing and can swoop in and jam. Brandon Roy played very well in the halfcourt last year but his slashing style won't be hurt with more movement, a quicker attack, and fewer people packing the middle. Sergio Rodriguez, of course, will benefit most of all. Though there are a couple of people who have yet to prove themselves in this style I think opening up the game is clearly better for the majority of our potential scorers.
The second argument is the converse: many of our players are going to get frustrated trying to score in last year's offense. Eventually these guys are going to be great players but right now they're very young. There's not a single full-flowered Zach Randolph-type talent among them. Count the number of people on our team who have faced consistent NBA double-teams and know how to score or pass out of them. The answer? Zeeeee-ro. That's not something that comes easily. And all of our big potential interior scorers are going to face doubles regularly if we try to force-feed them the ball like we did with Zach. Sure they'll score some but they'll also shoot low percentages and get down on themselves very quickly. What's more, barely anybody on this team has had practice moving without the ball. If you run the halfcourt you're likely to see a repeat of the disastrous stand-still performances of years past. It's not that the big guys won't want to pass...there simply won't be passes to be made with the defense set and barely anybody moving effectively. It's a recipe for turnovers, which drive everybody up the wall and allow the other team to score quickly and often on us.
Our young guys need reinforcement, which includes a fair amount of making the game easy...or at least as easy as possible. A running offense is the simplest way to do that in the short term. Eventually we'll also pick up a bit of passing, motion offense in the halfcourt but that's unlikely to look polished anytime soon. My guess is you'll see us score nicely when we're moving fast and look completely lost and dead in the water when the tempo slows this year. I'm not following the Phoenix trend, nor looking for entertainment at the cost of wins and production. It just makes more sense to run now than it has in recent memory. My bet is the coaching staff will agree.