With Steve Kerr taking the helm as the Golden State Warriors’ head coach, the frustrations of watching an isolation-heavy, no ball movement offense are hopefully behind us. While former head coach Mark Jackson successfully instilled a tough-minded defensive mentality (ranked #4 in the league in defense under Jackson), he was infamously known for his lack of play calling and offensive sets.
Last season, the Warriors were ranked 12th in the league in offense which was subpar for a team that possessed two of the best three-point shooters in the league. During late game situations when the Warriors needed to maintain the lead, Jackson would often resort to isolation plays which would result in a stagnant offense. It left them with countless contested shots and turnovers in critical moments of the game.
Jackson failed to install a legitimate half-court offense that maximized his players’ abilities. Because the Warriors have already established the personnel and intensity needed to play great defense, Kerr can focus more on implementing an offensive system that can capitalize on his players’ skill sets. Kerr played under Phil Jackson’s Chicago Bulls for five seasons, making him possibly well-versed enough to utilize principles of the triangle offense this upcoming season.
A History of the Triangle
The triangle offense was popularized by (Phil) Jackson and assistant coach Tex Winter during their tenure with the Bulls, earning them six NBA championships. When Jackson coached the Los Angeles Lakers, he installed the triangle offense once again and won five more rings in Los Angeles. This legendary offense was responsible for a total of 11 championships in the association.
The triangle offense focuses more on off-ball movement and post players creating passing lanes as opposed to penetration from perimeter players. Essentially the triangle is a free-flowing offensive philosophy, rather than a collective set of plays; it is a read-and-react offense that provides for great spacing. This makes it difficult for defenders to trap or commit without giving up open looks.
In this scheme, every player on the floor is a viable offensive threat. To be effective, everyone on the floor must be unselfish and be able make decent passes. Each player must be able to read the defense and adapt appropriately.
The Warriors have the potential of flourishing under the main principles of the triangle. With strong passers in Stephen Curry, Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Andre Iguodala, and an improving passer in Klay Thompson, the spacing would be superb.
The triangle is typically initiated by the player who brings the ball up the court. He would then make a pass to either player on the wing and follow with a cut to the corner. A post-player will then move up to the free throw line which forces the other wing to move to the top of the key.
A classic sideline triangle formation is now created by the low-post, the corner, and the wing player (as indicated in the following diagram –via reddit.com):
This formation is typically the beginning of all offensive sets and ideally the ending point as well. The goal is to always create this formation no matter how many backdoor cuts and screens are made.
From this position, the wing player has a myriad of options. He can take the shot for himself, pass it to the corner, or pass it to the post player. Regardless of the decision, the triangle can always be reformed on the same or opposite side of the court. The point of the triangle is that there are so many options to choose from, and breaking down each possible play would be tedious.
Last season we witnessed glimpses of how deadly the Warriors offense can look when the ball is moving. One benefit of the triangle is how Curry can still flourish, as evidenced by Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, who were both part of Jackson’s championship teams.
While his assist numbers may decrease under the triangle, Curry’s effectiveness can improve if he is able to get more open looks off cuts and screens. This great offensive system can also relieve Curry of ball-handling duties when the ball is in motion.
The triangle gives every player on the floor countless options. The Warriors can improve their offensive efficiency with great passers and deadly shooters. If the Warriors can adopt and master this fluid offense, defenders would be left helpless, dazed, and confused.