Some interesting stuff in this article from Neil Paine on fivethirtyeight.com, with a bit of an ode to the Red Holzmann Knicks and team basketball. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/in-a-star-dominated-sport-theres-still-a-place-for-unselfish-basketball/).
He makes the point that the 2014 Spurs were similar in approach, sharing the basketball on their way to an NBA title. We certainly spent enough time in the basketball world celebrating the Spurs for “playing the right way” on their way to a title – and I enjoyed watching the Spurs play as much as anyone this year.
But what’s interesting to note is that the style of play used by the Knicks of the early ’70s or the Spurs of 2014 generally doesn’t result in a championship.
“My research shows that most NBA champs are more like Michael and the Jordanaires than Frazier, Bradley, Earl Monroe, Dave DeBusschere and Willis Reed. Historically, teams with an uneven distribution of the offensive workload — particularly with regard to the difference between their top two scoring options and the rest of the starting five — tend to win championships at a much higher rate than teams that spread their shots around more equally.”
If you click on the link under “My research” in that column (http://www.basketball-reference.com/blog/?p=6013) you’ll find the following:
“So, in the playoffs, teams that win it all tend to have a small (but significant) tendency to allocate more possessions to their top two options — and fewer to their #3 & #4 options — than teams who lose. In other words, the model of a superstar “Alpha Dog” plus another quasi-star and 3 role players seems to be the dominant usage pattern that differentiates NBA champs from teams that fall short.”
It’s very interesting factual data to read, considering the overwhelming narrative last year how the Spurs “Played the right way” and that’s why they won a championship. In no way am I condemning the way the Spurs played – as I said, I loved watching them as much as anyone. But that way of playing in the NBA generally leaves you without any hardware.