NBA offenses are a lot like high school. When one of the cool kids wears something and really rocks it, all the rest of the kids start falling in line behind him/her. But just because skinny jeans work for Brady doesn’t mean that Tim and Craig should be wearing them because, let’s face it, Brady has the body of a young Greek god, while Tim and Craig have bodies that were created by Krispy Kremes, and skinny jeans weren’t really made for people who like Krispy Kremes as much as Craig.
In the ’90s, the cool kids were quite clearly the Bulls. Running Phil Jackson’s Triangle offense, the Bulls were able to dominate the league by making sure Michael Jordan had a usage rate of approximately 2.5 billion. This was effective because Michael Jordan was hands-down the best player in the NBA. But every other team figured “Hey, if it’s working for Chicago, it’ll work for us!” This led to a ton of teams trying to isolate their own non-Michael-Jordan-superstars on offense, and since Jordan could only be employed by one team, other teams weren’t able to effectively pull off isolation offenses/skinny jeans.
All this to say if you are going to wear skinny jeans, you better have the body for it, and if you are going to run an offense, you better have the personnel to make it work.
Last year, the Heat ran a small-ball lineup with devastating success, in no small part because LeBron James discovered that when he played power forward, he was somehow even more impossible to stop. LeBron’s weakness has been his jumpshot in previous years, so when he played a position that encouraged him to put up more shot attempts near the basket, he ripped through the league like a tornado. It also worked because of the mismatches created by having Chris Bosh at center to stretch out the defense (allowing LeBron an easier path to the basket, less impeded by opposing bigs), and the fact that Shane Battier played completely
out of his own talent level out of his mind at small forward, defending opposing small and power forwards with intensity and knocking down a ton of 3-pointers.
The Celtics, in true high school fashion, are currently trying on a small-ball offense. I don’t say this to be snarky. The Heat look great in skinny jeans, but just because the Heat look great doesn’t mean the Celtics can’t do the same. Indeed, Doc Rivers is loving the way the new offense looks.
“Our small lineup’s good,” he said. “With Jeff (Green), Kevin (Garnett), Paul (Pierce), JT (Jason Terry) or Courtney (Lee), and (Rajon) Rondo, I think is as good as any small lineup we’ll see. I love that lineup.”
Doc knows what he’s seeing. He’s seeing a very talented group who can run the floor when necessary, slow the game down when necessary, and defend with intensity (we can safely assume that once Bradley is back, he will also be a possibility in the place of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee). Doc also knows what he’s up against: a small-ball lineup containing one of the greatest players in NBA history (James), one of the best big men in the league (Bosh) and one of the greatest shooters of all time (Allen), to say nothing of perennial All-NBA superstar Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers, who inexplicably tortured the Celtics during the postseason.
Boston’s small-ball lineup is indisputably very good, and we can look forward to seeing them score a lot of points and play very fast. But we all know who the Celtics are gunning for, and it ain’t any of the everyday teams the Celtics will be playing during the regular season. The real question for Boston’s small-ball unit is whether this particular lineup will enough to take down Miami in the playoffs, because if they aren’t, the Celtics shouldn’t try to outdo the Heat at Miami’s own game. That’s just a recipe for skinny jeans failure.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.