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Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emphasis

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Post#1 Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emphasi
Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:15 pm by Dr Positivity

I've always been fascinated by Scott Skiles and Larry Brown's careers. They've almost always coached amazing defense, bad offense teams. While they've usually coached defensive coach friendly rosters, it would appear they have a significant impact boosting team DRTG. But their ORTGs are also equally horrible, which prevents Brown or Skiles from single handidly making teams elite. There are many average teams with average offenses whom if you gave them defenses on the level of last year's Bucks or Bobcats, would become 50 W+ despite talent nowhere near that level. If Skiles and Browns' DRTG boosting was unrelated to offense, they would be commodities as valuable as an MVP player. Which is plain silly.

I'm ruling out Skiles and Brown just having 'amazing defense schemes'. I'm not sure such a thing is possible. Most teams play defense similarly, if Skiles and Brown just had schemes that were out of this world, other teams would catch up and use the same thing. Furthermore if it came down to a superiority on paper, the beforementioned drop in ORTG would not occur as they would be unrelated. Skiles and Brown are not using better defensive technology via Xs and Os.

I don't think it's *too* related to going for less fast break leaks and getting back more, since this would be reflected in Pace and having much better defensive rebounding than offensive, which is not the case for Skiles and Brown teams.

So my premise is it's related to EMPHASIS. Brown and Skiles teams play defense better than offense cause they want them to. That's what they practice. That's what they use their energy for. That's what they're told to hang their hat on. The coach 'system' encompasses not just xs and os, but what the players should do.

And I specifically label this year's Bucks as an extreme example of this. While early in the season, they rank 2nd in DRTG and 30th in ORTG. The early stats say they've gotten worse offensively and better defensively than last year despite adding Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette to the lineup. I expected the Jennings/Salmons/Maggette perimeter to fail because of fit reasons, but I didn't expect a team to be *this* bad (their gap behind 29th is on the verge of looking like the Raptors behind everyone else defensively last year), and I have no idea how they've been playing better defense adding two major squeaky wheels in Maggette and Gooden, Bogut recovering from his injury, and Salmons looking uninvested. This is the ultimate Skiles/Brown emphasis impact example, if it holds up. Doesn't it seem like it'd take far more energy to make a Jennings/Salmons/Maggette/Bogut led offense work because of 3 perimeter creators and Bogut? It's a more talented perimeter but much more complicated, like running a Ferrari car or taking a higher level test in school. It needs far more practice and energy to make it work. And it looks like without that time, they're crashing the car. And if he has to work even harder to get a team with Maggette and Gooden up to speed DRTG wise, maybe that further kills their time for offense

I wonder if you can tie the Heat in here too. Most of us are disappointed with the Heat's offense despite their big ORTG (3rd) based on smashing bad teams. Against good ds they've looked mediocore and lost offensively. But their DRTG (4th) is quite excellent, despite horrible interior defense and rebounding, usually the cornerstones of defense. Then look at last year's Heat. Somehow the Arroyo/Wade/QRich/Beasley/JO team ranked 7th in DRTG, while only 19th in ORTG, low for a superstar led team. Both teams ended up about right for Ws/SRS compared to talent level. I remember stories about how Beasley and Cook weren't even practicing offense on last year's Heat. Beasley's weak play in Miami and breakout this year could be related to actually practicing offense. Is Spo in the Skiles/Brown zone? Very possibly.

I also think back to KG's Wolves peripherals. Usually top 7 offensively, usually 15-18 range defensively. The 50 Ws stretch made sense, but you'd think it'd be the opposite ORTG/DRTG splits for a team consisting of an all-time defender and no supporting talent. Maybe Flip coached all offense knowing KG would prop up his d by himself. Like the inverse of the AI and Brown relationship - AI ran the offense, Brown concentrated everything on the defense.

If the implications of coach emphasis is true, it means ORTG/DRTG splits do not mean as much as judging Ws and SRS. So when you see Wade's team having mediocore offense and great d, and KG's team having great offense and mediocore d, that could have a lot to do with coaching that doesn't alter Ws but alters ORTG/DRTG split (since I think most coaches can't improve Ws by themselves, they can just maximize what's on the table)

Perhaps most importantly, it could mean star offense inadvertently helps their team DRTGs. If an offensive star allows his coach to go full on with defense, then it doesn't matter whether it shows up in ORTG or DRTG, it shows up in the Ws. Again the Wade example sticks out. As does this year's Hornets and Heat being 3rd and 4th in DRTG, last year's Thunder being top 9 in DRTG, the Cavs being great defensively all of Lebron's tenure, the Lakers being a near dominant defensive team since they got Gasol, the Mavs usually playing good defense with Dirk, etc. Last year's top 10 DRTGs were: Charlotte, Milwaukee, Orlando, LA, Boston, Cleveland, Miami, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Utah. So it's Charlotte, Milwaukee, and then a offensive superstar row. Coincidence?
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Post#2 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Mon Nov 22, 2010 6:36 pm by Jimmy76

The Nash Suns are a big exception to your thesis

though I guess you might not be implying the inverse is true

definitely an interesting idea worth considering
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Post#3 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:27 pm by Dr Positivity

Well the D'Antoni teams were usually 1st in offense and 13-18 in defense. Since they had no interior d, you could say Mike didn't swing things particularly towards offense and away from d, despite his reputation. Hard to imagine them being better defensively than that so he didn't do so bad

Porter era was a mess all around, went against their strengths

Gentry is the one who seems to be swinging it in one direction, if anyone has. I remember the Suns were playing at an all-time level in the half season after he got fired with Shaq but still went 18-13 which indicates weak d. Then had 1st ORTG last year and 26th DRTG. This year 5th ORTG and 30th DRTG with by far the least offensive talent they've had around Nash. So it seems like the Suns struggle more and more to put up respectable Ds the more they lose talent. And the result is their record dropoff looking more or less exactly like their talent dropoff going from 60 Ws with Nash/Amare/Marion/Bell/Barbosa/Diaw stacked team to replacing the last 3 with Shaq, JRich, etc. and going to 50-55 level (I'm counting 09 Suns as that level if you took at Porter), to what looks like a .500 team replacing Amare with Hedo and Warrick
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Post#4 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:40 pm by Dr Positivity

Just looked at the Cavs stats and they look like they could be very a strong example for this too. Currently 21st in DRTG compared to 6th last year. Now all these ORTGs and DRTGs shouldn't be completely trusted after a 12 game sample size, but I don't think anybody expected them to get hit as much defensively as offensively this year (where they are 24th). I'm sure a lot of it is having less incentive to try defensively when your team is getting blown out and Lebron IS a league best perimeter defender, but still. No surprise if the vast, vast majority of Mike Brown's coaching emphasis was defense orientated. I'm guessing less was more offensively from a coaching offense standpoint on those teams, something like "You guys shoot, you guys grab offensive rebounds, Lebron... nevermind"
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Post#5 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:54 pm by Jimmy76

Dr Mufasa wrote:Well the D'Antoni teams were usually 1st in offense and 13-18 in defense. Since they had no interior d, you could say Mike didn't swing things particularly towards offense and away from d, despite his reputation. Hard to imagine them being better defensively than that so he didn't do so bad

Porter era was a mess all around, went against their strengths

Gentry is the one who seems to be swinging it in one direction, if anyone has. I remember the Suns were playing at an all-time level in the half season after he got fired with Shaq but still went 18-13 which indicates weak d. Then had 1st ORTG last year and 26th DRTG. This year 5th ORTG and 30th DRTG with by far the least offensive talent they've had around Nash. So it seems like the Suns struggle more and more to put up respectable Ds the more they lose talent. And the result is their record dropoff looking more or less exactly like their talent dropoff going from 60 Ws with Nash/Amare/Marion/Bell/Barbosa/Diaw stacked team to replacing the last 3 with Shaq, JRich, etc. and going to 50-55 level (I'm counting 09 Suns as that level if you took at Porter), to what looks like a .500 team replacing Amare with Hedo and Warrick

I think our defensive struggles are due more to starting Hedo at PF and generally having the worst defensive bigs in the league

But if the defense improves when Nash comes back (heh) then that supports your thesis something I'll hafta remember to keep track of
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Post#6 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Mon Nov 22, 2010 8:16 pm by Dr Positivity

I don't know if an injury like that would make a difference as they're practicing as Nash's team, unless they major upped their defensive energy level like OKC did when Durant went down, which happens a lot but it'd be unrelated to the coaching strategy (IMO)
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Post#7 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Tue Nov 23, 2010 11:25 am by Nivek

You're making a great point -- one that more than a few coaches and executives have made to me over the years (usually executives complaining about the coach). I know that in Washington, Eddie Jordan's teams were excellent offensively and poor defensively. And, not coincidentally, Jordan spent more time in practice working on offense.

Regarding Larry Brown, his schemes are similar to what the better defensive teams do for a reason -- they're all copying him. Brown's been coaching similar defensive schemes for years. Someplace in my home office I have an old article he wrote for a coaching magazine that describes what his NBA teams do defensively. It describes the Spurs defensive system; Cleveland's under Mike Brown; Thibs in Boston and Chicago, etc., etc., etc. Brown published the article in the early 80s.

And, if asked about it, he'd probably be pretty quick to say that his defensive schemes are based off stuff he learned from Dean Smith.
"A lot of what we call talent is the desire to practice."
-- Malcolm Gladwell

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Post#8 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Tue Nov 23, 2010 12:40 pm by hasslinghoff

i'm surprised the topic didn't come up earlier. i see alot of team-drtg, -ortg used in player comparisons, which always seems a bit iffy too me. usually a good coach establishes a system that makes the most out of the talent presented to him. guard-heavy teams playing uptempo, frontcourt-heavy teams playing a halfcourt set, etc.

i'm mentioning this, because of the recent debate about kareem's defensive impact ( or lack thereof ), with the main argument being that he never anchored a top3 - defense. i think it's more a result of the lakers playing uptempo ( which tends to result in easier baskets on both ends ) to fully utilize magic than kareem not being an elite defender.

edit: sorry, if my posts seems off-topic.
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Post#9 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Tue Nov 23, 2010 4:57 pm by Vinsanity420

So you're basically saying that different coaches use different schemes to get the W, and one should concentrate on the SRS/W totals and not the O/D rating? So while judging a player we shouldn't be emphasizing a player's impact on O/D ratings as much?

I guess this throws Bastillon's Kareem argument out of the window... which is always good to see.

I think it's all about finding the right balance that gets you the W... Orlando is 5 points per 100 possessions better on D last year... but that's not because the Magic has gotten better on D... it's because they have to work much harder on the defensive end since they simply can't get into the offensive rhythm, slipping from #3 to #19 ranked offense.

Great post though, this helps puts everything into perspective.
Laimbeer wrote:Rule for life - if a player comparison was ridiculous 24 hours ago, it's probably still ridiculous.


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Post#10 Re: Skiles, Brown and the impact of coach emp
Wed Nov 24, 2010 11:49 pm by Chicago76

I think this goes beyond schemes. Take a guy like Brown. He normally works with GMs or takes on a dual role where he can make personnel decisions that suit his style (defense first).

@Indiana, he dumped Schrempf for McKey and picked up a couple of guards who could play a bit of D (Byron Scott and Haywoode Workman) in yr 1. Another priority was to get Antonio Davis back from Turkey. Workman was cheap, but Brown is notoriously tough on PGs, and Haywoode didn't really suit Brown's style, so he picked up Jackson to run the show, etc.


When given the authority to make roster changes and the flexibility required to do so, Brown tends to mold morph teams through emphasis and personnel shifts into the "Larry Brownized" version of that particular franchise.
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