this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; A lot of coaches were vying for the chance to mold Anthony Davis, and it didn't take Alvin Gentry long to show why he beat out the rest of the contenders. His plan for the league's most malleable superstar is ...
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|06-28-2015, 06:32 PM||#1|
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Alvin Gentry Already Proving He's Right Coach for Anthony Davis' Future
A lot of coaches were vying for the chance to mold Anthony Davis, and it didn't take Alvin Gentry long to show why he beat out the rest of the contenders.
His plan for the league's most malleable superstar is both the most forward-thinking and the most fun—with the second part being a nice little bonus.
Shortly after landing the job, Gentry had a directive for Davis, according to Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com:
You know what that means, right? Gentry isn't messing around with the boring, time-tested approach of basketball yesteryear. He's not plopping Davis into the post and dumping him the ball 20 times per game. He's not pigeonholing Davis as a roller or a mid-range specialist or anything so uninspired as that.
He's pulling the pin on the league's most incendiary talent grenade, lobbing it at the rest of the league and waiting for the explosion.
Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported, "Gentry was hired largely because of his reputation as a players' coach and his ability to maximize Davis' prodigious ability in his fast-paced offensive system."
The mission is not accomplished yet, but with Gentry's first piece of advice residing very much outside the box, he and the Pellies are off to a strong start. Where things go from here depends on Gentry's commitment to next-generation thinking and, of course, The Brow's unparalleled talent.
Davis is the NBA equivalent of a choose-your-own-adventure book. His potential is basically limitless, and if there's a challenge to coaching him, it's figuring out which way to use him.
The Pelicans considered other coaches before picking Gentry. Good coaches. Coaches with higher profiles and much stronger playoff records.
Coaches who, in theory, would have addressed the Pelicans' glaring defensive woes more effectively than Gentry, whose reputation shows he's clearly an offense-first guy.
Jeff Van Gundy came in for an interview.
Tom Thibodeau's name popped up as well.
Both probably would have had success, albeit in a more conventional, old-school kind of way. Those post-ups and pick-and-roll touches would have been there for Davis under other coaches, and he's likely to make a dozen or so All-Star games no matter who's in charge.
But Gentry is going to stretch Davis. He's going to push him to be something we've never really seen before. And that's much cooler.
This will probably take time. Davis is 3-of-27 from deep in his career. But who cares?
The stroke, fundamental release and touch are all there. It's just a question of reps now, and we know confidence from long range is not an issue.
Aesthetically, nudging Davis out to the perimeter a bit more is a good decision. Seeing big guys operate away from the basket is just more fun. Though, to be fair, it's unlikely Gentry's decision has much to do with pleasing the crowd.
This is a strategic move, one that fits into the NBA's developing infatuation with pace and space. These days, everyone wants a big man who can defend on the inside and pull frontcourt bodies out of the lane on offense.
Remember, Gentry just won a ring with the Golden State Warriors, whose decision to go small swung the Finals. We saw them feature a five-out lineup in the most crucial games of their season.
Not everyone has the personnel to employ the Warriors' fast-paced, switch-heavy defensive scheme. Nor is it common to field a five-man unit in which everyone on the floor can make plays and threaten to score from the perimeter.
But with Davis, the Pelicans have something even the Warriors lacked.
Draymond Green gave up size while playing center on defense—a sacrifice the Dubs happily made in exchange for his offensive impact on the perimeter. But Davis, given another year to develop, won't make concessions on the defensive interior.
Even if he gets no better, he'll still be a dominant paint-patroller. He led the league with 200 total blocks last season. This isn't a perfect comparison, but if we're still using the Warriors as a model, it's almost like Davis can play the role of Green and Andrew Bogut (provided he continues to develop his mental game on defense).
If Davis can be anything remotely approaching a threat like Green on offense, the Pelicans would have a weapon nobody else does: a 5 who shoots threes, runs the floor, defends the rim and can switch onto point guards in pick-and-roll coverage when necessary.
That's a basketball unicorn.
We're extrapolating a lot from Gentry's comments on Davis shooting threes. But his insistence on that issue isn't the only clue about how he'll leverage Davis' unique skill set.
Pelicans guard Eric Gordon told Andrew Lopez of the Times-Picayune, "We're going to play faster. I think it'll be a different dynamic for us. With Monty, we ran plays and slowed it down because he wanted to be a big-time defensive team."
Gentry helped the Warriors finish just a fraction behind the Los Angeles Clippers' league-best offense last year, per NBA.com. And the year before that, he was the top assistant on a Clips team that finished first in offensive efficiency.
During his stint as a head coach with the Phoenix Suns, his offenses were routinely elite. Gentry prefers to play fast, push the ball in transition and force defenses to adjust to the style he wants.
And if you take that preference and extend it to Davis, the logic is just perfect.
Davis isn't a player who should fit into anything. You don't give him a conventional role and hope he eventually learns how to play it.
You unleash him in ways that force opponents to adjust. And here's a fun thought for Pelicans fans: The adjustment that can stop Davis (as coached by Gentry) doesn't exist. You'd basically need another Davis to level the playing field.
Credit Gentry for seeing Davis for what he is and for what he can become.
By ignoring the guidelines on roles and preconceived positional norms, Gentry is paying homage to whatever ambitious basketball gods made Davis in the first place.
They created a player whose talents are so varied that it would be a sin to keep him from testing them all, and they sure weren't paying attention to rules.
Gentry gets that, which is exactly why he's the best thing for Davis.
Grant Hughes covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him @gt_hughes.
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