What other coaches/teams might this offense be comparable to? From Hoov Himself
If you had asked this question a few weeks into the 2019-20 NBA season, I would have told you that there was no definitive answer. John Beilein was rigid and hellbent about forcing his polar bears and other collegiate sets, that found him success prior to joining the NBA, on the Cavs. To no one’s surprise, it didn’t work out — as Cleveland ranked towards the bottom of the league in terms of offensive efficiency and shooting percentage under Beilein. We all know what happened next.
According to league sources, the Cavs were hoping Beilein would make it until the end of the season. But, Beilein surprised everyone when he announced he was stepping down from coaching the Cavs — citing similar reasons to Larry Drew: he lost his love and passion for the game coaching Cleveland. In Beilein’s stead, J.B. Bickerstaff took over coaching responsibilities as the Cavs signed him to a long term deal. Not only did the Cavs become 26 years younger at the head coaching position, but they also found their offensive identity under Bickerstaff as well.
With the support of the Cavs committing long term to him, Bickerstaff was able to get a little funky and a little weird when experiment with the team’s offensive lineups and rotations. There was playing Kevin Porter Jr. as a one and featuring his playmaking in sets. There was also the all-big lineup featuring Larry Nance Jr., Kevin Love, and either Tristan Thompson or Andre Drummond. They also made more basic adjustments like running more pick-and-rolls. Bickerstaff quickly found the pulse of an almost flatlined Cleveland offense, and gave it the necessary jolt and posted results that were far more promising than the Cavs performed under Beilein.
So, the Cavs now have substance when it comes to their offense, but how does Bickerstaff mold it to fit the standards of the modern NBA? Thankfully, both Bickerstaff and assistant coach Lindsay Gottlieb provided insight in that they want to take pages from teams under the Orlando bubble that were successful. Mostly the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets.
Their reasoning makes a ton of sense, both Miami and Denver have interesting roster constructions where they play to the strength of their big men in Bam Adebayo and Nikola Jokic. Now, I’m not saying Drummond or Love compare to either Adebayo or Jokic, but they are two of Cleveland’s best players and the team should play to their strengths. Ditto for the team using Porter Jr. like Jimmy Butler, who acted as a point forward on top of everything else for the Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals. There’s also a stable of guards like Jamal Murray, Garry Harris, Goran Dragic, and Tyler Herro for Collin Sexton and Darius Garland to learn from. The same can be said from Larry Nance Jr. studying tape on Jerami Grant.
Denver made it to the Western Conference Finals and Miami took the champion Lakers to six games in the NBA Finals in Orlando. So, mimicking what makes them successful is a good direction to be heading towards for the Cavs.