Positional Designations MatterBefore Kevin Durant played his first NBA regular season game, I declared that then-Seattle Coach P.J. Carlesimo was making a mistake by shifting Durant from his natural forward position to shooting guard. Durant had never played the guard position before and I predicted that this change would make Durant's adjustment to the NBA more difficult--and that is exactly what happened. Durant did not look like a future All-Star in the making until Scott Brooks replaced Carlesimo; Brooks' first big decision was to put Durant back in his comfort zone at small forward. Durant's statistics immediately improved across the board and his numbers have continued to rise since that time.
It was amusing but not surprising to notice that many so-called NBA experts dismissed the effect of the position change, arguing that the small forward and shooting guard positions are not really that different. While there can be some similarities between those positions and there are some players whose physiques/skill sets enable them to be effective in both roles (Kobe Bryant and LeBron James leap to mind), the demands and responsibilities are indeed different. During Thursday night's Sixers-Clippers game, TNT's outstanding NBA commentator Doug Collins--a four-time All-Star shooting guard who also coached in the NBA for eight seasons--talked about how much better Andre Iguodala has played this season since being moved back to small forward from shooting guard. Collins declared, "A lot of people think that '2' (shooting guard) and '3' (small forward) spot is interchangeable. It is not." Five-time All-Star shooting guard Reggie Miller immediately agreed with Collins.
With all of the statistical analysis that has recently become so prevalent in NBA circles, wouldn't it be interesting to go through the posts at this site, compare them to the material that is published at ESPN, Yahoo!, Slam Online and other "big name" content providers and see who consistently produces the most correct analysis about such matters? It should surprise no one that the same so-called expert (Kevin Pelton) who praised the Lakers' supposedly revolutionary defensive scheme early last season--when in fact the Lakers' defense was hardly new or revolutionary, as my conversation with Lakers' assistant coach Jim Cleamons confirmed--also declared that it is an "overblown" assertion to say that the position switch significantly helped Durant's progress. So, compare, contrast and draw your own conclusions about who really knows the NBA game and who simply does a good job of promoting his name in the blogosphere but does not understand how the sport works; when a certain True Hoop Network member cited Pelton's work in a misguided attempt to refute my analysis of the New York Knicks it was a classic example of the blind leading the blind--one person who does not understand the NBA game relying on commentary by another person who also does not understand the NBA game.
posted by David Friedman @ 7:09 AM