In a league where a team’s success is largely contingent on floor spacing, ball movement, and fast paced scoring, is it possible that the triangle offense could work? Is it something the Brooklyn Nets should attempt?
Although it is widely believed to be an irrelevant form of offense, the triangle formation has seen tremendous success throughout NBA history. The Brooklyn Nets under the reign of Kenny Atkinson have generated their offense largely on high pick and rolls and high volume three point shooting. With the arrival of two generational players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, could the triangle offense work?
First let’s do a brief history lesson; Though he’s not the architect of the now infamous offense, former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers head coach and NBA legend Phil Jackson is undoubtedly the man behind bringing the offense to light. It all comes down to execution, as the basis of running the triangle is simply a team spacing the floor as efficiently as possible.
The center will stand in the low post, a guard will be in the corner and a forward will sit at the wing. The other guard will stand at the top of the key, and the other forward will reside on the weak side high-post. This will form a triangle offense (ergo; the name) and a team’s ball movement will generate their baskets. The objective is to move within the defense to create a high percentage look for the ball handler, or find a soft spot in the defense to get the assist.
A team can push the ball to the low post which can create a high percentage shot attempt, or push it to the weak side for a perimeter shot following a rotation from the guard that was once at the top of the key, who is now in the weak side corner.
It sounds relatively simple, but as the years pass in the NBA – players have opted not to run it. Most notably when Phil Jackson was running the New York Knicks just a few years ago, and the players decided it wasn’t working for them.
It’s easy for someone like Phil Jackson to say it’s a highly efficient offense when he had the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaq, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen to fall back on, as the offense is generally heavily reliant on a team’s center.
So – can this work for the Brooklyn Nets?
Though this would be something that Kenny Atkinson may be more inclined to try out a year from now when Kevin Durant is fully healthy and returned from his injury, it’s not inconceivable. The Brooklyn Nets have a post-dominate center in DeAndre Jordan, and an emerging star in Jarrett Allen, that checks the box for a competent big man.
The Nets also have a generational talent at point guard in Kyrie Irving, and a perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Spencer Dinwiddie. They have perimeter threats in Joe Harris, Rodions Kurucs, and Caris LeVert. Finally, the Brooklyn Nets have the possible pilot of the offense in Kevin Durant, a consensus top ten player in the history of the game.
When you factor in all of this, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility. The Brooklyn Nets already generate most of their offense on heavy ball movement and gratuitous floor spacing. So, to think that if nothing else, the team could at least run several sets a game through this formation to throw off a defense could very well be beneficial.
The flaws however, are pretty glaring. In a natural basketball setting, teams run sets based on pre-determined cuts. With the triangle offense, there are almost an infinite number of combinations a team can run, as the player movement is contingent on ball movement. Problems can quickly arise if one player doesn’t move the way the natural ball movement would anticipate them to, and the entire possession can be botched.
Not only this, but in a league that’s heavily dominated by versatile point guards, the offense tends to freeze them out, as after their initiation pass they stand in the corner waiting for a shot. With an All Star point guard on the team, the Brooklyn Nets will obviously want to keep Kyrie in the offensive mix as much as possible.
There’s almost too much of a “risk and reward” mindset when running this half court offense. It’s a read-and-react offense that will completely fall apart if one read is missed, and the player doesn’t react. Team’s in today’s NBA generally operate in a “four out one in” setup that can generate more three point shots, with the Brooklyn Nets being included.
There are simply too many inherent flaws for the Brooklyn Nets to primarily rely on the triangle offense. However, with a shakeup in the roster and players to support it, it could certainly be interesting to see it run a few times over the course of a season.
Until that happens however, it looks like the triangle may be retired.