Suns must navigate ‘The Nash Rules’
The Phoenix Suns’ closing kick in the chase for a Western Conference
playoff ticket will greatly depend on their navigation of “The Nash
For the record, The Nash Rules have nothing to do with the avoidance of processed foods.
of registering as guidelines for a fastidious diet, The Nash Rules are a
defensive blueprint other NBA teams use when dealing with the two-time
Most Valuable Player. More specifically, they have a lot to do with how
the opposition handles the Suns’ high pick-and-roll tactics.
what we called ’em,” said one NBA assistant coach, referring to a
previous coaching stop where The Nash Rules were in effect. “There are
several ways to defend the high screen-roll, but some of those ways
don’t work against Nash … so they were forbidden.
key is making sure the guy guarding Nash gets up into his his trail hip
as the teammate guarding the screener makes an aggressive show or hedge
… if you don’t have any pressure on him, well, then it can get pretty
Yeah, from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ perspective, a loose
approach to handling Nash on screen-roll was the first misstep in
allowing Suns center Marcin Gortat to score the opening 10 points in an
eventual 25-point Phoenix triumph on Sunday.
It also should be
noted the Suns have counters for each and every tactic used to limit
Nash-related damage in PNR. When their shooters are dialed in, defenders
are forced to choose between staying attached and opening the middle or
jamming Gortat’s basket dives while his teammates find openings to spot
up. As Phoenix attempts to move from 10th position in the conference to
a cozy spot in the top eight, winning this chess match will go a long
way toward deciding this season’s fate.
“With pick-and-roll used
in so many possessions — not just by the Suns, but by the league in
general — proper execution within your scheme to stop it is pretty much
everything on defense,” the coach said.
A good test for how the
Suns handle efficient screen-roll defense will come Tuesday, when the
San Antonio Spurs visit US Airways Center.
“They (Spurs) like to
play it with — I guess you could call it — medium resistance through
the first three quarters against the Suns,” our expert said. “As long as
Nash hasn’t turned the game into a rout by then, the Spurs will blitz
or trap in the fourth quarter and mix up their rotations. If you do it
early in the game, Nash will have enough time to adjust … and kill
HANDLE WITH CARE
A troubling issue for many
young players I’m asked to worked with — in a hoop-training capacity —
is the inability to beat someone off the dribble.
proper shot mechanics are an important part of a prospect’s development,
there often is too little emphasis placed on teaching the art of
timing, leverage and using dribble-move foot fakes to create an
imbalance for the defender.
This problem can be seen at all
levels of basketball, including the Elite Eight round of the NCAA
tournament. According to a scout employed by an NBA team, two projected
high lottery picks — North Carolina sophomore three man Harrison Barnes
and Florida freshman two guard Bradley Beal — still have problems in
“They both have NBA bodies, solid shooting skills and
are pretty decent athletes,” he said, “but in our league, elite
perimeter players are expected to be able to create their own shots
against high-level defenders. These two have the potential to be really
good pros, but it’s a bit disappointing to think that they’re two of the
most-liked prospects in what’s considered a strong draft but are
deficient in a pretty important area.”
Barnes, a capable
perimeter shooter at 6-foot-8, is expected to be a top-five pick if he
leaves Chapel Hill for the NBA draft. Beal reportedly has grown to 6-5
after arriving at Florida as one of the top shooters in high school
basketball’s class of 2011. His perimeter success was sporadic this
season, although much of his rhythm was compromised by the
often-reckless approach of the other two guards in the Gators’
Beal, on occasion, has demonstrated
off-the-dribble potential, and any reluctance to attack may be generated
by his role at Florida. But when Louisville went to a switch-everything
man-to-man defense in the second half of Saturday’s win over the Gators
at US Airways Center, Beal didn’t use the bounce to his advantage when
matched against Cardinals center Gorgui Dieng.
Barnes, it should
be noted, has put in considerable work to improve at putting the ball on
the floor with a purpose, but he still lacks the fluidity necessary to
maintain balance once he makes his move.
So while young players
should continue developing as shooters, time spent on
dribble-penetration (and dish) skills is just as important. Once players
get older, improving the ability to get into the lane usually is more
difficult than making upgrades in shooting.
this year’s potential draft pool has stirred considerable optimism,
some prospects have more than a few personnel sharpies “terrified.”
would be a word I would use in association with some of the players
expected to be available,” one assistant general manager said. “The guys
in this class have the talent to be from really good to even special
… but there are some red flags attached.”
expert’s list includes Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie, a 6-11
forward with bounce, quickness and almost three-man-like face-up skills.
But his 34-point explosion in the Bulldogs’ NIT loss to UMass also
featured Moultrie’s seeming disinterest in mixing it up on the defensive
“It’s almost like two different players,” our personnel guy
said of Moultrie on offense and Moultrie on defense. “Too bad we can’t
use a platoon system.”
Other players on this fear-factor list are
freshman Tony Wroten and sophomore Terrence Ross, two extremely
talented guards from Washington. The Huskies’ appearance in the NIT
(instead of the NCAA tourney) is evidence enough, our expert said, to
make you wonder about their future consistency.
“You’d hope a team with two guys of that caliber could make the NCAA tournament,” he said.
He also mentioned 6-4 Syracuse sophomore guard Dion Waiters.
thing about Waiters is that he’s spent most of this season off the
ball,” our assistant GM said. “I think he might have the vision and
skill to play point guard, but if he comes out, teams will have to make
that decision without really seeing him in that role. He’s a bit short,
defensively, to play the two, and the fact that we’ve only seen him play
in that 2-3 zone makes him a question mark at either spot.
“But he’s just really electric with the ball in his hands, and that often is enough in the NBA.”