If there’s one thing we’ve learned from free agency so far this summer, it’s this – the league isn’t adapting to the NBA champions.
The San Antonio Spurs have secured the main core of players from their championship run to return to defend their title next season and the rest of the teams in the NBA seem to be ignoring that fact.
While teams are salivating at creating their own versions of a Big 3 combination with the opting out of contracts by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade, San Antonio is still looking to keep the same mindset and game plan going into next season. Sure the Spurs have injuries to big rotational players such as Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili for now, but they can easily plug into the system a versatile guard to fill in that void.
The Spurs showed us during the NBA Finals that a complete balanced team can defeat a healthy Big 3 consisting of the top players in the league. This is a testament of each player’s versatile skill set of being able to do more than two things on the basketball court. There were no specialists on the court for San Antonio unlike the rest of the team’s they eliminated.
When the Finals came along, the Spurs saw the same Big 3 that broke their hearts in a Game 7 in last year’s NBA Finals. San Antonio’s game plan was definitely different from this year’s as the Spurs tried to match the Heat’s stars with a similar 1 vs. 1, or pick-and-roll type of situation on the offensive end, while trying to play a game plan of forcing the Heat to make the right decisions when San Antonio was on defense.
The 2014 NBA champion Spurs had a different game plan: exploit the Heat’s Big 3. The Spurs forced the one dimensional game plan of a Big 3 concept of one man basketball into exhaustion, while the versatile players of the Spurs could take turns on the offensive end to see who had the best situation to score along with ball movement and off the ball movement from every player. While James was forced to carry the majority of the offensive load, the Spurs shared the basketball while forcing every opposing player (including James) to play defense with little to no rest while he was on the court. We saw offensive explosions from Patty Mills, Boris Diaw, and other role players while they were playing alongside the Spurs’ best players, something that cannot be said of a predictable system of the old Spurs Big 3 system that many teams are trying to copy this upcoming season. Even a Big 4 system that the Miami Heat are trying to construct wouldn’t answer a balanced system like San Antonio. The problem with the Heat in the Finals wasn’t the best three players, but players 4-10 on the playoff rotation. There was no contributions like the Spurs’ rotational players from the Heat,, nor any opposing team that the team met in the playoffs.
Why is the NBA still in love with a Big 3 system over a balanced overall team? There’s no clear answer to that, especially with the NBA champions coming into next season with the same team that dominated the majoriy of the playoffs. There’s one thing for sure before the season starts, and that is the Spurs are the favorites to win another Larry O’Brien trophy, because the league is choosing not to adapt to the defending champions.