Okay, we've added Peja, but lost JO for the forseeable future. You all know the rest of our roster, I won't bore you going through what else we have. Assume for a moment that, one, we make no further trades, and two, Rick will not quit or be fired. How do we make this work? Do we give up and focus on developing our young players? Do we play a 7-man rotation of our vets to try and stay afloat until JO returns? Do we play a 5-point lineup of Jamaal, Cabbage, Gill, Fred, and AJ, just for ****s and giggles?
This is what I want to see.
The goal should be to be as competitive as possible, with two caveats: evaluate how much Peja still has before free-agency, and make it a priority to keep Danny and David involved, because their development is paramount to the future of this franchise.
As far as the offense goes, scrap the playbook. Debate the merits of our low-post offense until you're blue in the face if you want, but we simply do not have the personnel. Unless you want to run everything through David, which, of course, isn't terribly practical with his foul troubles.
I know some want to Run-and-Gun, but, even with Peja, we don't have the scoring power to do that on a nightly basis, and a fast pace will not cover up our defensive weaknesses, it'll exacerbate them.
What I propose is the '99-'00 offense as a base, with some modifications. I start off with that, simply because we know Rick can and has run such a system. Now, for those who forget, this was still a highly structured offense. I've spoken at length before about knowing what play we were going to run before Jax had crossed mid-court.
Defensively, I hate to say it, but we're going to have to play some zone. The rotations I have below will hopefully minimize it, but things happen. Foul trouble, poor matchups, etc. We're going to have to have a fall back position of a basic 2-3, maybe some zone-and-1 in certain situations. Otherwise, a smart opposing coach will carve us up.
Offense- It's time to give Tinsley the keys to the car. We've heard a million times over that everyone is sick of Rick's leash, and Jamaal is at his best when he's running the show.
However, this is still a structured offense. The difference is, back in the day, Jax called the plays. He knew the playbook backwards and forwards, he was a coach on the floor, and the coaches trusted him in that role.
With Jamaal, it's different. He's not a student of the game the way Jax was. His first choice isn't to sit down with Rick and chalk up plays and options. He's more improvisational.
Therefore, Rick needs to play to his ego. Rick needs to go to him and say, "Look, Jermaine's out, Peja doesn't know what he's doing, Jack's a loose canon. You've got to be the one to run things out there. I'm gonna let you, but we need to work together here." Rick needs to sit Jamaal down and blueprint what he wants and why. If Jamaal sees other opportunities, he should go with it, because he really can improv quite well. But Rick needs to drill the base system into his head, and before every game go over what plays will work best against that opponent.
Peja and Jack are the gunners. I don't believe either one can carry us on their own as the "first option". Think back to Reggie and Jalen the finals year. The offense revolved around screens for Reggie, but Jalen was a primary option, due to his ability to drive as well as post up. Now, obviously, Peja is not as good off the ball as Reggie was, but he is still competent at running off screens. We're certainly not going to see the double or triple run-offs, with fakes under the basket, but Peja does know how to get open.
Along the same lines, Jack is not going to create offense for others the way Jalen could. I'd like to think that Rick could talk to him, but he's a lost cause when he's got the ball in his hands. It's going to be Tinsley's responsibility to get him the ball where he's got an advantage, but not overuse him, because things will stagnate as a result.
David and Jeff are support. David's primary responsibility is to screen for Peja. Yeah, he's gonna rack up fouls like a son-of-a-*****, but he needs to learn. Repitition will make him better, and allow the refs to become more comfortable with his game. Jamaal will give him some looks if he gets position, but we won't be force-feeding him like we did Rik at the beginning of games.
Obviously, Jeff isn't in for his offense. He's in there to cover Peja's *** on D. Scrutinize his ability all you want, he is the most versatile defender we have in the post, and he's gonna have to help his *** off. On offense, his job is to screen and hit the boards. Maybe get a tip in now and then if we're lucky.
Harrison's gonna rack up the fouls every night. It's a fact. His replacement (and god I hate to say this, but it's necessary) is Granger. Yep, Danny's 4 and Jeff moves up to 5. Danny takes over the cover position, and Jeff goes down low. Danny gives us a more versatile look, if we're lucky he'll force some changes from the other bench.
Where's Austin, you ask. He's (and, god, just shoot me now) the center on the second unit. Yep, Peck's laughing his *** off right now. I admit it, with this roster, Cro's a freakin' center. There's no way Cro can play off Peja on D, and it's too much to ask Jeff to be in that help position all the time. Danny keeps that position fresh, and Austin focuses on the one place he can be a credible defender, the low post. He'll also fit in better with the second unit's offense.
That brings us to AJ and Cabbage. Look, call me a hater all you want, but Cabbage has shown me no signs of getting Rick's current playbook, I'm skeptical he'll pick up a new one on the fly. However, AJ and Cabbage have, in spurts, shown a real knack for playing off each other. First in the preseason, then in early December when Rick experimented with some Princeton sets.
That's what I want to see here. AJ and Cabbage take over the backcourt, Jack slides over to the 3 (at least until Peja gets more acclimated), with Danny and Cro down low. Give Cabbage some more opportunities to push the tempo here. Cro can catch his defender napping for some 3's, Jack can get some cuts to the basket, maybe play around with trying to get Danny some easy looks there as well.
Fred's the utility man here. He can be easily inserted into any of the first 3 positions and play off the remaining lineup. He gives us more of a scoring punch and will enjoy the faster tempo. As Peja gets more acclimated, I want him out there more with this unit, considering he's the only one we have besides AJ who has played in a Princeton system.
That's all I've got for now, and I've spent too long on this as it is.