[Editor's Note - Excited to place Joseph Billiot's FanPost on the front page. Two excellent FanPosts on our front page in less than 24 hours. Keep 'em coming! - Fish]
I've got good news and bad news.
The bad news? The Pelicans' small forwards are awful. No, they're really terrible. Like on a scale of one to suck, they are easily the suck (AKA the succubus - a person who sucks all joy out of life).
The good news? The Pelicans' have three guards with actual talent. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, and Eric Gordon, all of whom are 6’4" or taller, form a three-headed guard rotation unlike any other in the NBA. Most commentators have criticized the Pelican's guard rotation because it creates "unnecessary duplication". Nonetheless, where others see duplication, Dell Demps and the Pelicans see consistency. Why is duplication of talent a good thing? Answer -The Amoeba Theory.
The Amoeba Theory: This theory, fostered by football’s Ryan Brothers, is premised on the assumption that putting the same players on the field will create it's own inherent mismatches when other teams stick to the more traditional positions. e.g. A line full of DE’s & LB’s who can shoot the gaps of an offensive line creating absolute chaos.
How can the Amoeba Theory Apply to a Basketball Game?
First, having three interchangeable guards allows for less thinking on defense and more actual playing. Traditionally, NBA offenses' have been built around matchups. For example, one of the basic concepts behind a pick and roll is to force the big man to switch onto the guard thereby giving the (hopefully) quicker guard an advantage over the bigger, slower forward. Chris Paul used to be deadly at this. I have fond memories of that 2011 Lakers series where CP3 took Pau Gasol to the woodshed again… and again… and again…
When teams play the Pelicans' starting lineup they will find no such favorable matchups. Why? Because, all of the guards are very similar. Instead of playing man on man - the Pelicans can play this quasi-zone style defense. They can switch, switch again, and then switch some more without having to think about the mismatch these switches typically create.
Why is this good? It allows the guards to play more instinctively. Taking more chances without having to worry about blowing up the defensive scheme. Centrally, just like the quicker LB’s and DE’s can shoot the gaps of an offensive line, the Pelicans' guards can press into passing lanes. We saw this a bit in game one against Orlando where the three guards combined for 5 steals. The Pelicans had an impressive 10 steals overall.
Secondly, it allows the bigs, AD & Turk, to sit back in the lane instead of coming to play "HELP!!!" defense. What does that lead to? It leads to blocks... lots and lots of blocks ... Against Orlando, AD & Turk combined for 14 blocks. Instead of leaving the lane to hedge on a mismatched player the bigs can sit back - safe in the assumption that whether Tyreke, Jrue, or Eric end up on the wing player the difference in their defensive ability is negligible. Hence, even if the wing player creates penetration, the Big Men can stand pact, instead of breaking down (at least in theory).
Thirdly, the inverse effect applies to the Pelican's offensive scheme. If teams want to trot out a traditional SF, they must face the fact that no matter who he guards, he might get brutalized. Again, we saw this in Orlando, where Tyreke took Tobias Harris to the woodshed. Repeatedly.
Of course, this Amoeba Theory won’t work against every team. Teams with superior SF's will thrash the Pelicans. But honestly, those SF are few (like just LBJ) and far between. Honestly the Pelicans would probably get thrashed by those players regardless.
What do you think? Am I an idiot who is just giving another name to the well-known concept of playing small ball? Or, is this a legit strategy fostered by Dell and Monty (perhaps to duplicate the Thibodeaux style of defense)?