This post was inspired by this Tristan Thompson (TT) hype from ESPN:
That was the University of Texas connection to the stunning NBA Finals, and our TT’s play was in fact magnificent. Even his little midrange jumper in traffic seemed to float in again and again, and there was no denying his timing, his hustle, his D, and his connection to LeBron James.
But there was also no denying who was the MVP. LeBron James is the only player ever who could play PG, PF, and defensive rim protector on the same sequence of plays. The man would be competitive with the best at every single position on the floor. In leading his team to a come back three consecutive wins he often eschewed scoring for finding the open man – as he did with Thompson on several memorable plays. On defense, he was the superb rim protector, the thief, and that spectacular late game block on Iguodala’s easy fast break lay up – just how fast can LBJ run the 40? -was one for the ages. Having a terrific shooting guard in Irving opened the floor for him, of course, and it meant that LeBron had to be played one-on-one. But Golden State is an excellent one-on-one defensive team; perhaps that was as crucial to their great regular season total as their extraordinary shooting.
Golden State’s game is Spurs 2014 taken to a different level because the requirement to guard three shooters 25′ or more from the basket opens passing lanes and driving lanes as nothing else. This is a type of game engineered for the reincarnation of Larry Bird. The combination of three great shooters, one agile rim protector who can score when needed, and a slasher/defensive stopper will be the model now that many will try to emulate. If the slasher/defensive stopper is LeBron, or Kawhi, or the second coming of MJ, all the better.
Tristan Thompson is a becoming one model for the agile rim protector in the three out offense. Surely Olajuwon would have been great in this offense, but we will never know. The agile rim protector must be aware of his shooters and get the ball out to them on offense, when he is not wide open underneath or when early in the possession, usually looking to score as the last option and on set plays. This is because three points are cumulatively much better than two per possession. So while Cleveland cannot yet match Golden State from three, and while the Cavs depended on stellar performances from Irving and Thompson and an overwhelming effort from LeBron, I think with one additional sharpshooter they would become nearly unbeatable.
It is to me interesting that in the three point era there have been some teams prior to GSW that could have played like them. I think, particularly, that Stockton-Hornacek averaged nearly 50% from trey some seasons, but did not shoot nearly as often as the Splash Brothers. I am guessing that trusting the three as a staple in the arsenal just took a long time to happen, or it took an assemblage of three sharpshooters at once.