Debunking conventional wisdom

The Wizards offensive style truly is one of a kind.  There are many reasons why, but the one that sticks the most to me is that it somehow manages to be completely different from two paradoxical mainstream comparisons.

One school of thought compares the Wizards' offense to the Suns because of it's fast-paced, quick-trigger nature.  Another seems to characterize it as a "Princeton offense," using Eddie Jordan's coaching background as evidence.  This characterization implies the Wizards beat you with superb halfcourt execution.  These two comparisons therefore come in conflict.  

And somehow, they're both wrong.  

The Wizards offense isn't really your classic Princeton offense.  I don't think all the contested jumpers Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler take are the type that are supposed to result from  proper execution of this style.  A Princeton offense also implies that baskets are assisted, and the Wizards are 22nd in the league in assists per game.  

At the same time, however, they aren't like the Phoenix Suns.  Phoenix's offense is one in which all 5 players are constantly in motion.  Steve Nash is always moving, and he's always drawing the defense and finding open shooters.  The idea is that it's an offense that goes completely against the grain of the traditional isolation-type structure.  They also don't draw many fouls (the Suns are first in the league at fewest free throws made per shot attempt).  The system only works if you have a pure point guard like Nash in place.  Otherwise, nobody is going to find the shooters and athletes in the right spots.  

The reality is that the Wizards are the complete opposite of the Phoenix Suns.  Where the Suns' offensive system is designed to put a pure point guard in a position to involve all five players at once, a typical Wizards posession is designed to put one player (usually Arenas, the designated point guard, or Butler) in a position to exploit an isolation.  Everyone else either stands around to potentially exploit a gap or crashes the glass.  Even when the Wizards do employ lots of motion, it usually only serves to create as much space as possible for an isolation.  

This description seems overtly negative, but the fact that it works illustrates Eddie Jordan's offensive genius.  Jordan is currently saddled with a roster lacking a true point guard, a spot-up three-point shooter, a traditional back-to-the-basket power forward, and a post-scoring center.  Instead, he has a dynamic scoring combo guard who lacks Nash's point guard skills, two wings that are better slashers than scorers, a power forward that has probably the most unique offensive style in basketball, and a center who's best post move is an ineffective jump hook.  Yet the Wizards are second in the league in offensive efficiency and have been riding their offense to the top of the Eastern Conference.  

How'd Jordan do it?  He blended the one-on-one talents of Arenas and Butler (and to a lesser extent, Stevenson) with the superb cutting mobility of Jamison and Haywood.  The end result is an offense that spaces better than anyone in the league, save for Phoenix.  Arenas and Butler have tons of space to play in their isolations, and if anyone tries to double, Jamsion and Stevenson can make you pay, either with a jumper or a dribble-drive.  The system also allows for offensive rebounds, tailoring to Haywood's best strength.  Butler and Arenas will often get by their man and take a shot once the help comes, leaving open space on the offensive glass.  Essentially, Jordan has taken a flawed offensive roster and somehow found a way to incorporate a system that capitalizes on every player's best strength.  

Every time you hear Arenas say that teams can't double him because they have to worry about Butler and Jamison, this is why.  It's not just because they're so good offensively, but it's because the spacing of the Wizards' offense makes it easier for Butler and Jamison to make opponents pay.

This genius is why Eddie Jordan should not go anywhere.  No other coach could get this much out of this roster offensively, and with all the obvious shortcomings on the defensive end (Arenas' disinterest, Butler's lack of strength, Jamison's lack of speed, Haywood's inability to rebound), it's safe to say no other coach could be as successful with this team.    

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