Thankfully, the dominoes of the summer of 2014 have begun to fall into place for next season (and beyond).
And even though it’s the middle of July, it’s never too early to think about the possibilities that lie ahead on the hardwood. Here are three offensive certainties that will make waves during the 2014-15 NBA season.
LBJ to Kyrie… For Three
There’s no questioning the fact that, for stretches during their four-year stint in Miami, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade made the game of basketball look extremely easy and fun against the best talent in the world.
It took James and Wade time to figure out how to best utilize their talents on a nightly basis, but once they figured it out it was very tough to stop them from getting the best of opponents.
In Cleveland, James and Irving will likely become a powerful force together (Note: This isn’t breaking news).
As with James and Wade, it will take time for James and Irving to figure out the best scenarios to be in possession of the ball or moving off the ball.
The distinct advantage that Irving has over Wade offensively, especially when pairing him with James, is his ability to shoot from the perimeter with range.
As our own A.J. Mitnick detailed during the New York Knicks coaching search, David Blatt has always figured out how to get the most out of his players on the offensive end of the floor:
While many viewed Maccabi’s lack of a power forward as a disadvantage, Coach Blatt implemented a system that resembles that of the current Miami Heat, and the Brooklyn Nets since New Year’s Eve. Playing with four men out, and one man in, they have found a way to use the added spacing to their advantage, and have found a balance that empowers their personnel.
However Blatt decides to use his players, one thing is for sure: LBJ will be coming off of screens driving the paint time and again, and he’ll always know where Irving is spotting up.
Think about how bad the Cavaliers were for the past three years. Now think about the fact that Kyrie Irving still shot 37.8% from behind the 3-point line.
With James passing his way, he’ll be getting easier looks from deep, and that will open up other opportunities for the Cavs as a whole.
Pau Gasol / Joakim Noah / Taj Gibson high-low combinations
Remember when the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, paired him with Andrew Bynum and ended up with a duo that was enough of a force to help the Lakers win two championships?
Even though it feels like forever ago, this did happen and you can bet the Chicago Bulls management and coach Tom Thibodeau remember Gasol feeding Bynum high-low passes that were converted into easy buckets within five feet of the hoop.
“As we met going into this offseason, we just felt that his game was a real fit for where we are right now,” said Bulls GM Gar Forman. “We think his ability, the versatility to play inside and out, his ability to pass the basketball, the leadership qualities that he has, the type of teammate that he is were all things that were exciting to us as we try to make this next step. As we met with Pau in L.A., it was exciting to hear that he was excited to be a part of something like this, and to be invested in trying to make the next step and have a championship-caliber team.”
It’s not a secret that Gasol is near the end of a Hall of Fame career, that he’s looking to play for a winner and have fun playing basketball again.
So why not sign with Chicago?
“It should be a lot of fun,” Gasol said at his introductory news conference in Chicago. “I think we have a really deep front line. Those two guys [Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson} are talented players. I think I fit well with them. I bring maybe a different profile, but I’m also ready to compete with them. We’re going to make each other better during the season, during practices and complement each other, find the best formula out there to work things out to help the team win.”
Gasol, Noah and Gibson should all complement each other well offensively. Gasol and Noah (career best 5.4 assists per game in ’13-’14) are exceptional passers for their size. Gasol is more skilled around the hoop than Noah and will likely be the recipient of many high-low passes from Noah, though they will certainly be interchangeable. Gasol is the most consistent mid-range shooter of the three, but Gibson is reliable as a short corner option and will feast off of high-low passes from Noah and Gasol.
Dirk Nowitzki and Chandler Parsons spacing the floor for one another
At 36 years old, Dirk (shot chart to the left) still has touch from virtually everywhere on the floor (save for the corner 3-pointer, probably because he doesn’t fit there too well).
Parsons has put up some gaudy numbers around the 3-point perimeter during his three seasons and is a good finisher at the rim, though he has to improve his mid-range game to become an even more consistent scorer (see chart to the right).
Combine both of their perimeter shooting abilities and you’ve got a pretty dangerous attack from the outside. Add Monta Ellis’ ability to knife through the defense and Rick Carlisle’s knack for putting shooters in position to be successful, and Nowitzki/Parsons could become one of the most unique perimeter shooting duos in the game today. One caveat, however, is the consistency of Raymond Felton, Gal Mekel and Devin Harris in working together to run the point guard position.
I’ll close with this statement: Chandler Parsons should take this opportunity to learn all he can about scoring from the 7-foot German legend while he’s around, because as the shot charts above indicate, Parsons has lots of room for growth on his in-between game.
Jeremy Bauman is a shooting coach and aspiring front office professional who writes columns for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter @JB_For_3_.