Imitation Is The Sincerest Form Of Flattery

neil olshey

We always consider the NFL to be such a copycat league. When the Wildcat offense came around, teams were doing all that they could to implement their interpretation of the Wildcat. When the Spread offense came around in college football, it spread (pun intended) like wildfire. Now this year the zone read offense has taken over the NFL with the emergence of athletic Quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick.

However the same trend is not always seen in other sports, and even when it is, the adaptation is much slower. Phil Jackson won 11 NBA Finals as a head coach running the Triangle Offense. Can you name one team in the entire Association today that runs the triangle? Instead, coaches in the NBA seem to like to experiment with failed systems; i.e. Mike Brown’s miserably failed attempt at implementing the Princeton offense with the LA Lakers.

We all love to sit back and play armchair GM or head coach. We all have the “perfect” trade or free agent signing that would solve all problems for our team. I hear all kinds of trades that work on the ESPN Trade Machine, I hear different opinions of who should go and who fits on this team but what do any of us really know?

Here is my solution that I will back up with numbers…

The Oklahoma City Thunder has given all NBA teams a template of how to build through the draft and really utilize players by placing them in the correct role.

James Harden is an All-Star this year and was on the US Olympics Men’s Basketball team. Those are titles for superstars in this league. However, Harden was the sixth man for the Thunder until he was traded to the Rockets and took over a starting role this past off-season. So you are telling me that the Thunder had an All-Star and Olympian coming off the bench?

The answer would be yes. Instead of Harden, Thabo Sefolosha started at shooting guard for the Thunder. Sefolosha is known as a defensive specialist that plays consistently. For his career he averages 7.3 point, 1.7 assists and 4 rebounds per game. He shoots an average percentage from the field and is reliable at the line.

What was the benefit of bringing Harden off the bench? Harden not only plays the 2 guard, he can also bring the ball up and run the offense. Harden was the focal point of the second unit and gave a huge boost of energy to the team every time he came into the game. Both Harden and Sefolosha had clearly defined roles that contributed to success of the young team.

How can the Blazers imitate that model?

Defensive shooting guards can be very affordable for a team that is functioning under the cap. The Blazers may even have a guy or two on the roster that can fill the role. My move would be to bring Wesley Matthews off the bench as the 6th man and start rookie Will Barton, or Eliot Williams when healthy.

Barton was known as an extremely gritty, well rounded player coming out of college. As a senior at Memphis, Barton averaged 18 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists per game. All the while he shot above 50% from the field. Throughout his career at Memphis he also averaged 1.5 steals a game. That hustle and energy could help the starting 5 but more importantly, Matthew’s leadership and experience could really solidify the bench threat.

I really don’t expect a move like this happening this season. The more and more that transpires this season, the more I think it will be the status quo for the remaining 38 games. I don’t think there will be changes to the starting lineup and I don’t think J.J. Hickson will be traded. Unless there are injuries somewhere along the way, what you see is what you get.

Not saying that’s the right move, but GM Neil Olshey is in a difficult spot. He doesn’t want to appear to the fans as an executive that doesn’t care about winning now. If he traded Hickson before the trade deadline, I believe a lot of people would see it as a backwards move instead of a value adding move for the future. Same with a move to switch up the starting line up.

After all is said and done, the Blazers are playing some fun basketball and winning some close games. They are also losing some frustratingly close games but it comes with the territory of a young team. Enjoy it while we all sit back and watch what moves Olshey concocts next.  

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