Pinch Posting and Toasting: Triangular Summer League Expectations

@brightbeige

With Las Vegas sumer league getting ready to roll, lets take a basic look at what to expect from the Summer Knicks in the triangle offense.

Hello everyone, coach Stingy here, the omnipresent and original, magnificent and uncharitable dorkus of basketball! The end all, be all. Jamming sea salt in your meemaw's bleeding maw every time i touch down on my seesaw. Thats the seesaw of life, child, and I'm out here hot as ice while you act wild.

Summer league is practically here. We have a new coaching staff, and a group of young guys who will all be looking to impress. Some will be fighting for their basketball livelihood. Its always an adventure in Vegas, and this should be an especially exciting week. Our first game is Friday at 4PM Eastern against the Summer Mavericks, who recently released their roster, which boasts a lot of high-caliber glue guys such as Chris Smith and Fatty Arbuckle.

Coach Derek Fisher will be instituting that old triangle offense we've heard so much about, and have now seen a little bit of. The most noteworthy triangle offense proprietors are probably the UConn Huskies under Geno "The Jalapeno", "Big Dilemma" Auriemma, the absolutely legendary "Pitter" Pat Summit "Never Plummets" and her Tennessee Vols, and apparently some mope named Phil Jackson.

The triangle is a set (to run plays out of) that revolves around crisp passing, effective cutting and limiting the amount of dribbling. It requires every player to react according to what the defense offers and make them pay for even the slightest notion of a double team. Its also designed to keep everyone within a pass or two away. Thusly it requires willing passers, proper positioning (via good footwork), and a killer's instinct when in position to score from all five players in unison.

So, we have a team. Lots of new faces, some familiar. The question, though, is what should we be expecting from each player and position, and what should we be looking for? Are they getting to the right spots and executing? Are they freelancing at the expense of continuity? With that in mind, lets have a little positional breakdown of how to run through the very basics of a triangle offense, with a little bit of tailoring for the guys who might make the regular season roster.

If I had to guess, the starters and depth chart will look something like this:

1 - S. Larkin / L. GallowayB. Triche

2 - T. Hardaway / S. Brown / Z. Johnson

3 - C. Early / T. Antetokounmpo / W. Sheehey

4 - J. Tyler / C. Moore

5 - C. Aldrich / Jordans H.V.

Seems fair, no? Now lets explore some stuff to look for, starting at the point guard and working our way up.

Triangle_rawffense_medium

1. Is Larkin stopping short?

Pretty much every time we find ourselves in the half court, the offense will be initiated from the top of the key. The most basic action will start with Shane Larkin passing across to the wing or inside to either pinch post, and cutting all the way through to the "2-man" corner, to stretch the floor as much as possible.

With Shane looking to break into an NBA rotation, he'll need to make smart, decisive cuts. He must read the defender and force him to trail hard or stick his man behind (under) a screen and fade to space, all the while keeping the two-man game as an active threat, via short-corner pick-and-rolls or post-ups. The key for Larkin and the other guards will be limiting their dribble, instead moving the ball by passing fluidly. All the players will really need to fill space effectively and set their feet for spot-up opportunities, but it's imperative for the guards to set this tone. Its a classic Clyde-ism for sure, "Move the ball, move yourself".

Of course shooting a high percentage on corner threes will come in handy and Derek Fisher will likely stress that. The underrated skill of entry passing will also help predict some futures with the team. Given Larkin's contract and potential, I'd assume he is a near lock for the Winter Knicks, but I'm intrigued to see how effective he can be as a floor spacer and extra-pass maker.

2. Is Hardaway making it easy on himself?

Tim Hardaway Jr. certainly struggled on defense last season, and is exactly the type of guy a triangle offense would look to expose. Liable to get caught ball-watching and lost on backdoor cuts, Tim should be able to learn about defense from this offense! Luckily he's ours, and no one else in the league will float him way out on the weak side and backdoor-cut and baseline-screen him to death. Nope, can't think if anyone that would do that.

Tim is going to need to revert to his college style a little bit, by being a more focused and willing facilitator. Then he can move, and allow the ball to gather energy on its way back to him. He always loved to shoot, and he'll still have plenty of chances to do that, but a major next step for him will be making his teammates better. Where have we heard that before?

This summer league will be strictly practice for the second-year gunner. He should fit into the offensive flow really smoothly and might be somewhat of a featured player, but it will be nice to see if Tim has put on some muscle and if he seems committed to the chores of defense.

You may see some Langston Galloway, Will Sheehey, Zane Johnson and Shannon Brown in the same slot this summer but they seem more like warm bodies than anything. Wouldn't be surprised to see Shannon Brown make the regular season squad just based on his familiarity within the organization, but he really just strikes me as an extension of the coach on the floor here, and I'm not expecting to see him much (if at all) in the second half of these contests.

3. Where is Cleanthony early in the possession?

One thing I'm really excited to see is where they slot Cleanthony Early to begin possessions. Is he starting from the pinch post? Or is he being stashed in the corner and working his way to the post through action? He played a lot of power forward in college, but he really isn't a big fella in this liga. He is a bonafide NBA three.

The intriguing thing with Early is that he's a fairly creative and effective post scorer. He is better off the catch than he is off the bounce, so the motion of the triangle should get him the ball in dangerous spots, and he should be able to get buckets if he utilizes good, aggressive footwork. If Carmelo Anthony decides to return to the team, Early's summer performance may act as a preview for what to expect.

When Cleanthony gets the ball at the witch's nipple, he better be looking to score! If he isn't, I might be inclined to think he's unsure of himself for some reason. Perhaps not really grasping the concepts. Hopefully nothing an open jumper or transition dunk can't cure.

At the other 3-spot, of course, it's hard to not be enchanted by thoughts of Thanasis Antetokounmpo, I'm sure they're wonderful...

Thots_medium

Certainly Thanasis will be able to wreak a little bit of havoc on the defensive end. He probably won't be called upon to create through post play, however. The Greek Sheik will have plenty of success in transition, but whether he can put it together in the triangle, making concise cuts, very much remains to be seen. Don't be surprised if Will Sheehey gets minutes here and even impresses (and then carelessly turns it over and/or jacks up bad shots).

4. Is Tyler all knotted up?

Oh baby boy! I want this whirling dervish to turn into a productive member of the team! Tyler has had one heck of a winding road to get to this point in his career, and he still has to prove he can hang. A threat to score anywhere near the basket, he'll need to work on interior passing and using his feet to put him in better spots. Another facet of Tyler's game he'll need to shore up is setting effective big-to-big screens and backdoor screens for guards to careen around. Jeremy is often robotic or late in these situations, so it would be really exciting to see him understand where he needs to be and get there on time!

When isolated in the post, he's always chilling too hard, pounding the ball into floor until everyone stops moving, then suddenly bulldozing his way to the rim. He'll need to be more willing to move the ball and reestablish better position on a different post as the ball fizzes around. I'd imagine we'll see him snaggling a lot of high-to-low post passes when he's carved out enough space. The guy also needs to learn to make a pass.

I don't know much about Cameron Moore, but I'll boldly say he's a poor man's Jeremy Tyler.

Straight bologna, homie.

5. How is Cole using his energy?

We'll round things out at the pivot. Personally, I've been unimpressed by Cole Aldrich for quite a long while. Guess what, though: recently that changed! I like what Aldrich brings to the fundamentals table, and I think that should really help him going forward. He'll now have spots he needs to get to, and space that is reserved for him. Cole is a lot like Pau Gasol in his penchant for keeping the ball very high in close quarters.

Cole will probably play more of the high post within your various high-low situations, in large part because he can make nice little touch passes to the baseline. And when the defense eventually sags off, he should be able to make that free throw line jumper. I feel pretty good with him in that capacity. He'll also need to crash boards like King Hippo and keep possessions alive. I think he'll be pretty good at that too. Not asking Aldrich to step out and be a superior athlete in high screen-and-rolls should help him make a little jump up the ranks.

Can Jordan Henriquez and Jordan Vandenberg do that sort of stuff? Who cares really? Do you care? Nah, just show us some triangles!
And thats just some basic crapola. As the roster takes shape, and once the season gets rolling (so we have actual examples of what the Knicks are doing) we can dive further in to the triangle offense and its many splendors. Until then, lets get excited about these Summer Knicks, and how they project! I wish I could be there! They better win on the 14th, or France and I will be severely disappointed.

Let me know what you'll be looking for in the comments section!

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