Princeton Offense Back?

Recently, Kobe Bryant has come out and said that he wants to run the Princeton offense next season with the Los Angeles Lakers. With the hiring of former 76ers and Wizards head coach, Eddie Jordan, the Lakers will definitely run a heavy dose of the Princeton next season.
With the triangle being a distant relative to the Princeton offense, Kobe Bryant is all for this. He’s willing to play this because of the principles of cutting and playing out of the post just as the triangle offense had done. Here’s the quote from Bryant on whether or not the Lakers should use this offense.

It’s exactly what we need. It takes us back to being able to play by making reads and reacting to defenses. It takes a great deal of communication, but that’s where we’re at our best: Reading and reacting as opposed to just coming down and calling sets. Calling sets make you vulnerable. -Kobe Bryant

More from Bryant.

There’s so many threats, so many options, it’s very tough to defend. Against the type of defenses that teams play nowadays, they load up on one side and are constantly coming with help from the weak side. The Princeton offense makes it very, very tough to lock in on one particular player.

So, from the look of those quotes, it sounds like Bryant is feeling like a kid in a candy store about next season. He wants to use this offense and Kobe normally gets what he wants in most situations. Now, lets delve into whether or not it will be a good fit for this Laker team.

First, let me give you a bit of a background of the Princeton offense. It was most famously used and mastered by Pete Carril at Princeton University though some of its principles can be seen throughout basketball history. Carril was widely successful with this offense; he had 13 NCAA berths with Princeton and won 500 games throughout his tenure with them. There are various teams in the NCAA who still use this offense today, Georgetown is the prime example, and very few teams have had success with it in the NBA.

Eddie Jordan is the man when it comes to the Princeton offense in the NBA. He ran certain variations of it at every stop he made. He learned it from Pete Carril as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings when Carril decided to take his brilliance to the NBA. It wasn’t very successful to say the least. It earned a less-talented Wizards team a few playoff berths when infused with the renegade play of Gilbert Arenas, but other than that it wasn’t much.

I don’t think that this offense would be a great fit for the Lakers. I think they only have two starters that are really equipped to run this style. Those guys are Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. Both players thrive in the post game–especially the high post. Though, both post spots will be used a great deal, the high post will be heavily relied on because of the space that it leaves cutters. A general Princeton set will start off like this.

Usually, the big that is the focus of the offense is the center. In the Lakers case it will likely be Pau Gasol, so just think of him being at that five spot. You need three point shooters to run this offense successfully and the Lakers were awful at three point shooting last season.

This is what I expect the variation of the Lakers’ Princeton attack will look like.

They’ll need Andrew Bynum to occupy that space between the low post and the corner on either side of the floor. If Bynum can hit a 15-18 foot jumper consistently, then the Lakers shouldn’t have any problem with this. If he can’t, though, it will be a huge snag in their new offense. If he will or not remains to be seen. If he can’t, defenses won’t respect him that far away from the rim. That takes away from the spacing for the cutters that are going to feed off of each others screens and cut from the post. It would look something like this.

The five for the defense would just sit at the rim and wait on the cutter while the two would switch assignments and cover Steve Nash as he makes his cut. He can’t go to the rim because of the way that the five is playing Andrew Bynum so all the two would have to do is sit back and protect from a possible flare by Nash. The best thing you’d get out of that is a Kobe Bryant mismatch on an opposing point guard but it’d be an isolation with little space to work.

A cure would be switching Bynum and Gasol’s positions in this offense, but that will be difficult as well because Andrew Bynum is not a very good passer out of the post. Gasol would command respect with his jumpshot but his passing element will surely be missed there.

Also, I think that this switch of offense will limit Steve Nash as well. Nash is not very good at playing without the ball. All of Nash’s successes have come when he’s manned the controls of his team and ran the show. In the Princeton offense, the point guard is really limited in what they do. They play off of the post more than anything. Perimeter players usually tend to suffer here.

Nash being off of the ball and cutting at his age with his limited athleticism isn’t really the best look for him. His spot up shooting is what could save him, but he’s a much better player than a spot up shooter. You won’t be milking your investment for everything its worth with this offensive change.

It will be difficult to make this work in LA, but its definitely a possibility. These are professional players and they have jobs to do just like everyone else. If they are committed to improving then sacrifices will be made. I don’t know how good they’ll be at these sacrifices, but I don’t believe that they won’t try. After all, there are many variations that they could run. There’s the 2-3 or the 3-2 form. Or the 1-2-2 version as well which leaves the lane pretty much open for guards like Nash. As long as they make it their version, then the Lakers should be fine. I just don’t think that the offense maximizes the talent of all of their players.

They can’t go anywhere but up offensively after last year, though. So we’ll see how it works.

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One response to “Princeton Offense Back?

  1. Pingback: Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview | What's Left on The Floor·

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