Seven Things To Expect In The Steve Kerr Era

Justin Sullivan

This is a set of personal notes I've been collecting on what to expect in the Steve Kerr era, and I thought some others might be interested in reading this (and improving it). They are based on public comments Coach Kerr has made along with some commentary/predicting from me and links to more information. An absolute must-listen is Kerr's radio chat with Tolbert, which pretty much summarizes all his other public comments. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

1. Keeping Mark Jackson's D.

Kerr has repeatedly (and wisely) said that "Jackson did a great job, emphasizing D, rebounding, being tough". He will add to foundation by building up the offense. The Warriors have played an ICE defense (where the defender drives the handler away from the pick to the sideline and the big sags into the paint... this gives up the long jumper to take away the drive and avoid double-teaming) which works well on pick and rolls.

2. System offense, but not the Triangle Offense, only triangle principles.

Some people think system offense is only for teams made of unathletic scrubs. This is completely wrong. The history of the NBA is that every superstar from Jordan to Kobe to Lebron to Curry can be made ineffective by team defense. The triangle offense was for everyone else besides Pippen and Jordan. This kept everyone else involved so the D couldn't focus solely on Jordan. Jordan referred to it as a "three quarters" offense, meaning he would take over in the 4th. The stars still might take over in crunch time, but now they can spring it on a tired D that's been chasing five players for three quarters instead of refining their swarming of the star.

The problem with the Triangle is that you need a lot of smart, trusting, cooperative players and time to implement it. The offense depends on all 5 players reading and reacting to the D and they all have to be decisive, willing passers. This actually does describe the Warriors, but I think the expectations are too high for Kerr to take the 1-2 years to install a full triangle offense. Each defensive move triggers a sequence of 5-player moves (automatics), and it takes a lot of practice to get the timing and sequence right.

There's a very nice overview here of the Triangle Offense principles with more detail.

  1. Penetration.
  2. Spacing.
  3. Ball and player movement with a purpose.
  4. The ball handler must be able to pass to any of his four teammates at any given time.
  5. Offensive rebounding and defensive balance.
  6. Versatile positioning.
  7. Utilizes individual talents.

I'm not sure which of these Triangle principles that Kerr means to use, but they are mostly consistent with the rest of this list.

Other Good Reads: Knickerblogger, ThreeBridgeSports.

3. More passing by bigs.

One Triangle Offense principle is the power of the pass instead of relying on penetration with awesome handles. This made it a difficult format for ball-dominant players like Gary Payton. In particular, the offense often begins by throwing the ball into a big in the low post (could be a dominant Shaq or an unthreatening Will Perdue) who then looks for cutters and reacts to the D.

Kerr says: "Mark Jackson empowered Steph and Klay with confidence. Now it's time to take some pressure off them. So Steph doesn't have to dribble to all of his spots. Use bigs at the high post or low post to get Steph the ball." Kerr also says he'd like to see more "Big to big passing. Lee, Bogut, Green are great at it." The Warriors occasionally run Lee and Bogut at the high post and run sets like HORNS. I think HORNS used to happen more, but for reasons I don't get, I didn't see it much this year.

4. Ws will push the pace and flow into secondary offense and use more bench.

Kerr's motto is "the Spurs today is the way you have to play: fast, rhythm, secondary offense, no isolations." The "today" part means fast Parker-era Spurs offense of the last few years as opposed to the Duncan-post-heavy offense of before. Also Kerr says "The Spurs push the ball on every possession, so they play a lot of bench people." So expect pushing the ball even after made baskets to catch the defense unset and quick flows into sequences of plays.

5. Misdirection and movement: No straight isolations or straight pick and rolls.

The basic idea here is that a good D can render inefficient a straight iso, post-up or pick and roll when it's set and waiting for it. Kerr: "I want ball movement to force the D to make as many rotations as possible" so the D can make mistakes. For instance, he could run more post-ups for Klay! But not just dumping it into the post, "but Klay could run off a couple of screens and then cut back to the post before the D is set".

He likes pick and rolls, but he wants to "move the D around 2 or 3 times and then get Steph the ball with a screen, rather than walking up into a 1-5 screen."

Also consider this Spurs version of a pick and roll. Instead of having the screener hunker down and let the big relax and calculate whether to hedge, ice, switch, etc, they run a kind of legal moving screen handoff called the dribble pitch, where the screener dribbles to the spot and pitches it to the small. This has the dynamics of a screen and roll where everyone is moving and the D is off balance.

6. Possibly other influence from the Spurs offense.

The Spurs offense seems to rely on a number of set plays which require some read and react from players. This is in contrast to the triangle which in its pure form does not feature called plays... they are automatic reactions to the defensive alignment. This also makes the Spurs offense possibly more quickly teachable than the triangle.

A few highlights of the Spurs offense: Grantland, Analyze The Offense, Spurs Motion Offense.

7. Fundamentals Practice. We talking about practice?!

Kerr: "Pop and Phil did 20-30 min of footwork, passing, and shooting drills daily." Other Zen Master players have talked about how they did very regular basic drills that you'd see on a youth basketball team. Mark Jackson had something of a reputation for less emphasis on practice, possibly a reaction to coaches who run soul-draining practices (like Mike Brown, even Pat Riley). But you don't hear that about Pop and Phil, so perhaps Kerr can find a sweet spot.

This FanPost is a submission from a member of the mighty Golden State of Mind community. While we're all here to throw up that W, these words do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSoM Crew. Still, chances are the preceding post is Unstoppable Baby!