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Old 11-19-2007, 10:19 PM   #15
ExpatSunsFan
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Default Re: can someone explain the intricacies of the triangle offense to me?

From what I remember, the point to the triangle is that you can run a motion offense without disrupting your spacing, because (for the most part) the players all stay 10-15 feet away from each other. Ideally, everybody moves and reacts off each other along pre-set patterns, everybody touches the ball, and the offense capitalizes on easy opportunities early, then sets up a favorable matchup in isolation (at the low block or the opposite elbow) as the clock runs down. The big advantage is that you don't need a true PG to run the offense--your best player(s) can focus on scoring while the other guys chip in with a bit of everything else.

The first problem is, you need five guys who know each other and the offense better than the defenders do. Even the dynasty Bulls and Lakers had a lot of sequences where the offensive players ran around in circles with their heads down while the defense jammed all the cuts, followed by a quick iso play by MJ or Kobe that wound up with a 'bad shot' as the shot clock ran out (which still had a decent chance of going in, because of the player involved). Obviously, the offense isn't nearly as effective if your bail-out guy is Jim Jackson or Jamal Mashburn, and the Mavericks and Jim Cleamons found that out first-hand.

Second problem is, you need role players who can run a motion offense, read and react off the ball, and spread the floor with their shooting. This is actually less demanding than most offenses for a PG, and Phil Jackson has never had much of a problem filling that spot, but it's a tall order for front-line players (much more rare because of their size), and as a result Triangle teams have often tried to 'make do' with big-man role players who lack size and/or athleticism and are mediocre defenders as a result.

Because the simple pick & roll is so powerful nowadays, I doubt you'll see anybody run the Triangle after Phil Jax retires; the offense's focus was always isolations, not picks, so you don't gain much from being allowed to move on screens. The offense is suited more to an environment where you can be very physical away from the ball--you don't need to run 15 seconds of motion to set up an isolation at the elbow nowadays, for one thing, and the offense's cherished 'triangle players' are sitting ducks on defense, since they're less able to compensate for lack of athleticism by bashing their men away from scoring position.


For the Cavs specifically, I don't think they could run the Triangle with Drew Gooden on the floor. Also, even if they brought in Phil Jax and handed the PF spot over to Varejao and Donyell Marshall, they'd probably still wind up with a ton of LeBron isos; they'd just be 20 feet from the basket instead of 30 feet.

IMO it would be easier for the Cavs to simply acquire a decent PG and run a conventional offense. Not that they're necessarily capable of doing that, but they won't be learning the Tri either, so it's kind of an academic question, right?
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