Following the Golden State Warriors wire-to-wire dominance of the 2014-15 season that was capped last week with a championship, the talk of the basketball world has centered on the NBA evolving into a “small ball” friendly league.
After falling to a 2-1 deficit to the Cavs in the Finals, the Warriors moved to a rotation that primarily featured a lineup of players no taller than 6’9” but no shorter than 6’3.” Cleveland conversely tried countering and adapting to a lineup that featured its taller player at 6’9” and it’s shortest at 6’3”.
But how can a team be successful using “small ball” and what are its key components?
In short, the answer is a “Take-Over.”
So exactly what is a “Take-Over?” A Take-Over is just what it sounds like, a player who can take over a game at any given moment.
A “Take-Over” is a player who can create his own offense, whether it’s off the dribble getting to and finishing at the rack (for a dunk or layup in traffic) or is capable of creating space to splash a jump shot in your mouth.
A “Take-Over” is that guy a team depends on for that guaranteed bucket or call to the free-throw line during clutch situations.
A “Take-Over” is an expected playmaker that can put a team on his back. A “Take-Over” can dominate and impose his will on either ends of the floor at any time: offense and defense and possesses the vaunted “killer-kill” instinct.
A “Take-Over” will boom over you anywhere and his range of dunking capability parallels the unbelievable angles you can take off from by hitting the turbo button on your controller when playing NBA2k (Think Derrick Rose over Joell Anthony in the 2011 ECF).
A “Take-Over” is fully capable of “wapping” you for 2 straight three’s and four jumpers after posterizing you for said dunk.
The prototype “Take-Over” is a multi-dimensional player: above average shooters, ball handlers, passers and defenders. They usually resemble an uber athletic 6’5″-6’8″ swingman in stature, combining athleticism and skill.
A “Take-Over” is usually a perennial top-5 scorer in the league, and more than likely has won an MVP (or Def MVP) in the All-Star Game, the season, or the Finals.
Lastly a “Take-Over” is a winner who can win games off of will and can affect his teammates just off his potential and presence.
Super-star players win championship rings. With the exception of the 2004 Detroit Pistons, teams who win titles in the NBA are lead by an uber dynamic star if not two, or three (most recently Kobe/Shaq, Shaq/Wade, Kobe/Pao, Boston 3, Spurs 4, LeBron/Wade/Bosh).
The crème dela crème of the “Take-Overs” are one’s that also focus and excel in playing defense.
Of course there is only one Larry O’Brien trophy annually awarded, and the rest of the “Take-Overs” are left regrouping for the proverbial cliche “next year.”
The Break is over. Here are the “Take-Overs” that’s running this league ish:
1. Lebron James: As he said recently, he’s “the best player in the world” although according to my eye test, he’s slightly declining physically—in explosiveness, quickness and verticality. But still, he’s THEE best 2-way player in the league and he should have won at least one Defensive Player of the Year award.
2. Kevin Durant: Maybe the second best pure scorers in the league, but he’s definitely a shooter. He and Melo could definitely pick it up on the defensive end, but single-handedly leading the country to a gold medal last summer and being the youngest back to back scoring champ in league history carries a lot of weight.
3. Anthony Davis: There’s simply NOTHING on the court that he can’t do, whether it’s defending (blocking shots, rebounding) scoring inside and out or handling the ball. He may be in line to be the leagues best player, and as NBA-TVs Brent Barry once said, “He’s the exclamation point of the evolving NBA player.”
4. Russell Westbrook: Everyone was mesmerized with LeBrons sensational output in this years Finals—and deservedly so— but Russ was putting up video game numbers all year. Russell maybe the most explosive and athletic point guard of all time, and he has a passionate, high running engine to play both offense and defense. The question is, has he outgrown and OKC and ready to take on a team for his own? I believe he is the only player in the league right now that could succeed the Black Mamba.
5. Steph Curry: The reigning MVP, 3-point champ and NBA Champ is an unusual takeover. He adheres to all the aforementioned “Take-Over” tenets but with an amazing weapon known as the 3-point shot. Steph’s 3 pointer is so deadly that it puts fear in his opponents heart reminiscent to Shaq’s dominance in the post in the early 2000s, where players dreaded getting dunked on by the Diesel.
6. Kyrie Irving: The only reason I have Steph over Kyrie is for the obvious reasons: NBA champ and regular season MVP. But everybody knows that Kyrie is my favorite pg. He and Steph are either 1a or 1b in handles or jump shooting in my opinion, but Kyrie’s uncanny knack to get to the hole strong with either hand makes him virtually impossible to cover. It’s a real shame he was injured for the Finals, because had he been healthy, maybe it’s the Cavs hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy instead of the Warriors.
7. Melo: Maybe the best scorer in the league. Can shoot the 3 and outside jumper, but his jab-step, hesitation jumper is lethal. He’s also a load in the paint, just ask Kobe in the ’09 playoffs (where he bullied and threw the Black Mamba around like a rag doll). I initially gave this nickname to Paul Pierce, but Melo is “The Handful.”
8. D Rose: the third player on this list that isn’t at least 6’5″ or taller. Even though Rose is on the road to recovery and overall health, he’s still a former MVP. He may not get back and return to that form, but I’m still rooting for him. Yes the emergence of Jimmy Butler have some questioning if he’s the number one option for the Bulls, but let’s not forget he avg 25 ppg in this league and would finish at the rack as explosively as anyone in the league at the pg position.
9. Jimmy Harden: You may ask how a player that was second in the league in scoring and led the Rockets to a #2 seed in the vaunted Western Conference be ranked below an oft-injured D-Rose…Well I’ll tell you why: defense. Im aware that Harden maybe the best SG in the league (offensively), but whenever there is a youtube recording that’s over 5 minutes long featuring you NOT playing defense, then you have to be penalized. But Harden’s old man game (step-back, effective one on one dribbling to get to the rack) is second to none— apologies to Manu and Kemba.
10a. Klay Thompson: Rounding out the top 10 for “Take-Overs” is Klay from the Bay. He’s a champ, averaged 20+ ppg with the league MVP overshadowing him, and he scored an NBA record 37 points in the third quarter of a game this past season. With his tenacious defense to compliment, he may be the best all around SG in the league—apologies to Jimmy Butler.
10b. Blake Griffin: Blake showed me a lot this year. In the past, if you pretty much put a body on Blake and prevented the “lob city” effect, then you essentially shut him down. But his game grew this season—he developed a mid range jumper, he can play with his back to the goal, he became a decent free throw shooter and utilized a serviceable “handle” for a big man—-all of which makes him unstoppable in the paint.
TakeOvers not in their prime anymore or coming off injury that are still capable of closing a game in the 4th quarter:
1. Kobe: Until Kobe retires and leaves the NBA for good, I don’t put it past the Black Mamba from putting up 25/game and dominating at a moments notice, despite being long in the tooth and coming off a multitude of injuries.
2. D-Wade: When he’s healthy—emphasis on ‘when’—he’s shown that he’s still capable of being an efficient shadow of himself.
3. Paul George: Before he was hurt, he was in the leagues top 5 category for best “2-way” players.
4. D Howard: His multiple Def MVPs have to account for something despite taking a dip and quasi-regression on the offensive side.
5. Dirk: Once Dirk gets all the pieces he needs around him to win, he can still be a reliable 20 point scorer and effective closer.
6. Paul Pierce: The original “Handful” proved that he can still close out games in the fourth and put teams on his back, as evidenced in the 2015 playoffs. He should be a tremendous addition to the Clippers to help them close out games for there 4th quarter woes—depending on a vertically challenged six footer in Chris Paul has proven unsuccessful.