Saturday Miscellany: OADs Equal NOW, Systems Analsysis of Basketball

  • (Note: @ralster got me thinking again. So: I’m trying to be a good glue man and provide him some glue here.)

    If Bragg is a stretch-4 NOW, and if Self will scheme for him to play NOW, rather than spend 3/4 of the season coaching him up, before giving in and scheming to play through what he can do NOW, then I see us as being in very good shape NOW, without having to do anything but find one plodding footer over seas NOW.

    One of Self’s virtues has been his ability to do “both.” He has developed guys and then played guys.

    With OADs he has to reverse this.

    OADs play.

    Then develop.

    OADs have to play NOW!

    If they want to develop, they have to promise to stay a second season.

    This is the only practical way to work with OADs now.



    We have to have the talent that OADs have to be competitive in March and because they are OADs we have to have it NOW.

    Playing now and developing late is what Calipari has been doing, and this is really the only thing that he is doing that Self can improve himself by emulating.

    Cal wires his teams to do what his OADs can already do. About half his guys have to stay a second season, not because he has held them back, but because the pros get a look at how limited they are and decide not to draft them till they have had another year to “develop.” The minute UK guys decide to come back a second season, the UK coaches go to work on them HARD for an off season; that is when improvement happens to players as UK; that is when guys get coached up.

    Why does this make so much sense? Why not coach them up from the moment they hit town? Answer: because it takes 3/4 of a season of coaching them up to make them just a little better and you never know what they will and won’t learn to do by that point. So: at the 3/4 point of the season, you have to fish, or cut bait, anyway, based on what the OADs can do. And invariably, what Self decides is to play through the only few things they either are developed enough to do, or that their posse will let them do, while they are protecting merchandize.

    By just going with what they can do, and what their posse will let them do, from the start, then you develop your team for an ENTIRE season, so that it is a well oiled machine down the stretch with certain known limitations you spend an ENTIRE season scheming to compensate for, instead of waiting till the 3/4 point, and having to try to develop it “just in time” inventory style, and then confronting limitations you could not anticipate and trying to restring the bow the last month in the heat of competition and when so many guys are injured and fatigued that you don’t know which guys to depend on for restringing the bow, because you don’t know which ones will fit to go full speed during the tournament. Self got caught sideways in exactly this situation this season AND last.

    I am grateful that you have been trying to introduce your systems think to board discourse. I have waited for someone else to introduce it, because I was trained in systems analysis and was afraid I would bore the piss out of folks with.

    The key thing in systems analysis is first to distinguish what kind(s) of systems you are working with: open, or closed. Second, are the systems integrated, or isolated. Third, what are the net benefits to varying degree of integration? When you are working with human beings you are more or less consigned to trying to achieve/optimize system dynamics that are a product of feed back between open and closed systems. Sometimes the feed back is direct, sometimes indirect. One of the problems I see when folks talk about basketball in systems is that they don’t distinguish between the closed and open systems operating. As a result they very seldom analyse actions with sufficient accuracy to learn much about who the systems fit together and interplay (dynamics, and in turn, about how these systems can be adapted to achieve more desirable dynamics.

    For example, few seem to understand that the high low post offense (aka Carolina Passing Offense) is two sub systems–one closed and one open. Again, I have been reticent about introducing this kind of analysis, because I wasn’t sure anyone would care to understand things on this level.

    The two posts are a closed system. No matter what they do, whether they rotate between the most basic high and low positions, or rotate cross the lane block to block, they are moving in a closed system in relation to each other. Even if they both come out high, or even if one ranges to 30 feet and the other runs to a far corner, if they are moving in relation to the other, they are a closed, 2 element system. If they are not moving in relation to each other, then they are not playing a high-low post offense. They have paused to play something else, say a pick and roll offense, or a two independent post offense, or what have you. The key here is that to understand the high low post offense you first have to grasp that the two posts are playing in a closed system; that their play has meaning in terms of each other–in terms of a closed system. We might call it a closed circuit of movement.

    The other three players–the perimeter players–exist in an open system–a 3 node series circuit around the perimeter. It is a circuit that does not close or cycle. In simplest terms it stays put while a looping closed circuit (system) operates within its umbrella, i.e., between it and the baseline and side lines.

    What is going on with these two systems?

    No one is screening anyone.

    What makes this an offense at all?

    Ball movement through a media of variable resistance, i.e., scoring risk.

    Think of the ball as an electro magnetic impulse. The ball has charge and magnetism. It can even be given spin, but that is overworking the analogy necessarily.

    Each player is a node that attracts and the discharges it toward another node. Each player’s abilities to scorer from the nodal location he is at varies the charge and magnetism of the ball.

    The ball may move within either circuit or jump across circuits. It may be passed around the perimeter on the open ended series circuit. Or it may be passed into the closed circuit where it takes on a new level of charge and magnetism.

    Charge and magnetism of the ball in various player hands at various player nodes within the circuits increase and decrease the attraction of the defensive players to the ball, and so their positioning on the floor.

    The essence of the high low post offense, and why it is called a “passing game.” is that there is a difference in magnetism (defensive attractiveness of the ball at any given location and in a particular players hands) to be exploited by charging (passing) the ball to the next player at the next player node. An example will help here.

    When the ball gets into Andrew Wiggins hands, he suddenly gives the ball both enormous charge and magnetism, because of his enormous capabilities to score from anywhere on the floor by either shooting it or driving it. The defense is greatly attracted to the ball in his hands. If Andrew were a part of no offensive systems, it would always make sense for him to shoot or drive. But he is a part of an offensive system. He is a part of a high low offense (a passing offense) comprised of two circuits or subsystems that I have described above.

    The two circuits are layed out on the floor to enable Andrew with the ball to exploit his heavy magnetic attraction on the defense by passing (putting a charge on the ball) the ball to an open player on one of the two circuits at a rate faster than the open man’s defender, drawn away from him and toward Andrew’s magnetism with the ball, can recover.

    Now do you see why Self does not like to set picks and screens and why he values ball movement, especially between circuits, especially when he has exceptionally magnetic guys on his team? The more talented and magnetic the guys on his team, the more he wants them kept spread apart so their magnetism attracts the defense, and allows the ball to be passed along the circuits to the open man.

    Now do you see why he prefers more than one pass? The first pass exploits the oversight of the defense to Andrew. But the second pass exploits the scrambling recovery of the defense. In principle the second pass can be made along the circuit, or across the circuits even before the defense has completed recovery, so that the second pass should yield a sharply more open look.

    Setting picks and screens and running actions basically create resistance in the circuit, kink it up, The only reason to set picks and screens and run actions off them is if opponent’s defenders are so evenly matched with your offenders that ball movement does not create any overshifts by the defense that two quick passes can exploit.

    Self almost always starts out running the high low passing offense to test the two circuits–to see on that given day against that given team what the degree of magnetism of each of his players is going to be. It is a systems diagnostic. This diagnostic reveals which players the opposing coach has decided to overshift most toward to deny. This is what Self means when he talks about opponents taking things away. But running the passing offense to start the game Self sees quickly what the other team has decided to try to take away, and which of his players have skills to exploit that take away strategy. After three to five minutes of this, Self then gets out the scalpels and directs his players where to begin attacking, and whether to attack through the passing offense, or through any one, or X number of plays of a thousand pages of offensive actions he has prepped them on for that game.

    (Note: all this talk about this offense being too tough for OADs to learn is a lot of horse dung. It was designed by Iba and modified by Dean and Larry to be learned in three weeks by guys that had never played together in their lives. Self probably never teaches any team in any season all 1000 pages of the offense, i.e., every possible action. He probably picks a few pages of it that they will practice for any given game, as supplement to the basic passing offense. This is NOT rocket science, or brain surgery, or RF engineering. This is a bone head simple, two-circuit passing offense supplemented with some actions run under a few simple rule conditions, or when called by the PG, or the coach. That’s all folks. End of stewing about how much easier it is to learn Cal’s offense, or Sean’s offense, or K’s offense, or Fred’s offense. They are all designed for idiots to learn in a hurry, because it has never been a requirement for basketball players to have high IQs. Quite the opposite. The history of basketball has been for every one Bill Bradley that plays the game there are about a thousand guys that can barely think, and then a lot of folks in the middle.)

    IMHO, the thing to keep in mind about offensive systems is that they are of three basic kinds. And most combine, at least at times, some elements of the others.

    One kind is that which we have been describing: the offense that attempts to favorably redistribute a defense spatially with ball magnetism and ball passing. It can have one circuit, two, or more. One of its characteristics is that no one has to get any where at a certain moment for the offense to work. It is not a timed offense set to create a shot a designated place for a designated player. It is instead search for an open look, regardless of who might get it. It is ball motion driven. Dean’s and Larry’s and Self’s high-low is one example.

    The second kind is an offense aimed to use player motion, rather than ball motion to create a timed open look at a particular spot on the floor for a particular player. Here again, all kinds of circuits and elements may be pieced together to choreograph the player motion. The Princeton offense is one example of this. The Oklahoma Shuffle is another. Frankly, Cal’s dribble drive is another.

    The third kind is something of a hybrid of both of the above. It aims to use both player motion and ball motion according to rules of interaction to deform defenses. These are what a lot of folks call (apparently with only rudimentary understanding) rules and spacing offenses like Knight and K’s motion offenses. And the Triangle of Tex Winter falls under this category also. Though they operate quite differently.

    I have to run, right now, but hopefully, this opens up the discourse on systems analysis of basketball this off season.

    Obviously, offenses are systems on one end of the floor and defenses are systems on the other end of the floor. And they feed into each other.

    Rock Chalk!

  • The problem with learning offense well enough to execute… every player has to know the variations of every position in every set/play. And that is only the beginning. Then you have to learn the tendencies of every player and combination out there. From that point, players should create some on the fly, and other players should get a sense of what other players are going to do, including what is not in the playbook. Teams can never reach “perfection” or even close, but should only have to reach a certain level of execution where they can raise their offensive effectiveness to win most games against most teams. I really laugh at clowns like Calipari throwing around the word “perfection”… even had Kentucky won out. There was nothing even close to perfection in that team. He might as well have proclaimed himself as being Jesus. He seems to think he has “God-like” goals.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Nail on the head about “coaching them up x 3/4th of the year to get a little better”…this applies to Cliff, I think. He had some ability, but was lost a bit on both ends of the floor, adjusting. So Self tried to coach him up. We saw the same with Oubre, who actually figured it out by late-Dec. I honestly hoped we’d see the same light-bulb moment for Cliff, but that impermissible benefits/NCAA thing TOTALLY shafted us, as we got nuthin in terms of fruits of labor by Self in trying that traditional coach-him-up method–>Cliff rode pine during a stretch we absolutely could have used a 6’8, 245lb “body”. We went 6-5 our last 11 games!! Man, nobody can tell me that late-season Cliff couldn’t have given us 8/8 like upperclassman Darnell Jackson did. We never got the payoff.

    Of course, if Cliff played NOW (meaning early, often, and a LOT as a starter), he would have done a quick frosh Shady and frosh TRob, collecting 3 fouls in the first half of most games. Or play so passively to avoid fouls–that he minimizes his own defensive presence too much. They have to learn the balance…unfortunately there is no substitute for repsas every good drill sgt knows…

  • @drgnslayr You brilliantly summarized what Self’s system needs, and how much needs to be learned by the players: timing & options within a play, tendencies of teammates, and attaining a certain level of reliable execution. We keep changing half the lineup every year, we thus never attain that level of play…

    Really, we cannot boil it down any further. @drgnslayr has boiled Selfball down to its essence.

  • @ralster

    What would be really awesome is to find a couple of quality 3 to 4-star players that grew up together and have played their whole lives together. They should know each others game inside out. Then the coaches need to realize that connection and build something around it (to some degree). I always wondered if we could have developed more of the natural chemistry between the twins. They also say twins know what is in the mind of each other. Makes me wonder if that is part of their sales pitch to play on the same team in the NBA.

    I’m sure you have played some of your later years ball with a player or two from your youth and found some of that natural chemistry. It is almost impossible to make a TO because you know exactly where the other guy is going, how he likes his passes, etc… and he knows exactly how you throw the ball, and your exact timing when the ball will leave your hands…

    For other guys to be put together and form that, you are talking about some real magic. I think if I was playing for Kansas right now, with the summer upon us, I’d want to lock on to one or two players and play every day all summer together. Build that connection.

    I’m really not a coach so I don’t know what the best schemes are to run with D1 players… but I know that if you can KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) guys should be able to think less and focus more on feeling it. It seems we need guys feeling the play more and less thinking.

  • @jaybate-1.0 “For example, few seem to understand that the high low post offense (aka Carolina Passing Offense) is two sub systems–one closed and one open. Again, I have been reticent about introducing this kind of analysis, because I wasn’t sure anyone would care to understand things on this level.”

    Heck yeah I want to understand things on this level!! I love the complexity involved in the game and if I understood it better from an analytic standpoint then I could follow the pace of the game better in terms of where each guy is on the floor in relation to which position he plays and how they move through set plays and all your open/closed circuit systems.
    I love it. Give me more!

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