Phil Jackson

Nets Pieces Don’t Fit Into Phil Jackson’s Triangle Offense

Michael Scotto,

BROOKLYN — Mikhail Prokhorov has spared no expense in his attempt to deliver a championship to Brooklyn. Prokhorov has invested an estimated $319 million in guaranteed player contracts through the 2015-16 season. Such a spending spree is possible when you’re ranked the 57th richest man in the world according to Forbes at an estimated $13.2 billion.

After spending a lucrative amount to upgrade the roster, Prokhorov has reportedly targeted Phil Jackson as the Nets next head coach if P.J. Carlesimo fails to get the job done on an interim basis.

It’s uncertain if the feeling is mutual for Jackson, but Prokhorov has an open checkbook and a $1 billion Barclays Center arena at his disposal during any possible negotiations.

An even great question is whether or not Jackson would have the necessary pieces to implement his vaunted Triangle Offense?

The answer is no. The current Nets roster does not match the skill set of his Jackson’s past championship teams.

Here’s a brief overview of the offense:

Some argue Jackson can revitalize the play of Deron Williams. However, Williams confirmed earlier this season that he favored the pick-and-roll system from former coach Jerry Sloan. During his time in Utah, Williams worked well with Carlos Boozer in pick-and-roll sets and also ran pick-and-pop plays with Mehmet Okur.

Through Jan. 3, Williams is shooting career-lows both from the field (.399) and beyond the arc (.311). If those trends continue, they would make Williams ineffective as the primary playmaker at the peak of the Triangle Offense.

Williams also is coming off a fatiguing Olympic gold medal run with Team USA and has dealt with an assortment of nagging injuries that have derailed him.

Similar to Williams, Joe Johnson has gotten off to a slower start than in previous seasons. Johnson would theoretically be the primary scorer on the wing within the Triangle Offense. However, Johnson is at his best as “Iso-Joe” when he runs isolation plays, taking his defender off the dribble from beyond the three-point line.

Placing Johnson within a triangle formation would decrease the amount of floor space available to create his own shot. Johnson’s average free throw attempts have declined in each of the last six seasons and his assists average has also declined slowly over the past four years. Those trends suggest he’s settling for more jump shots and wouldn’t be a sufficient playmaker on the wing in Jackson’s offense.

The last piece of the offensive puzzle would be Brook Lopez as the low post component. In this scenario, Lopez appears best suited for the offense.

Lopez is one of the most gifted offensive centers in the NBA. He scores with an array of hook shots, back-to-the-basket moves, and can nail the baseline jumper. If fouled, Lopez can knock down his free throws.

With that in mind, here’s a breakdown of the key pieces Jackson used in his Triangle Offense to win 11 NBA championships. You’ll notice the caliber of talent here is higher, and the skill set of each player is different, in comparison to Brooklyn’s current roster.

Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson

Jackson won his first six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls in two separate three-peats from 1991-93 and 1996-98.

Jackson went 185-61(.752) during the regular season and 45-13 (.776) in the playoffs in the first three-peat.

Michael Jordan was the primary scoring option, and arguably the greatest in NBA history, on the wing. Scottie Pippen facilitated the offense as the point forward as one of the pioneers of the position.

After the first Jackson three-peat, Jordan retired to pursue a career in baseball before returning to the NBA in 1995.

With Jordan back in the fold, Jackson went 203-43 (.825) during the regular season and 45-13 (.776) in the playoffs during the second three-peat.

Jackson utilized the shooting ability of Steve Kerr, Toni Kukoc, and Jud Buechler as the third component of the Triangle Offense to create space for Jordan and Pippen to operate.

Kerr was in the prime of his career en route to becoming the NBA’s career three-point percentage leader (.454) while carving a niche as a clutch playoff performer.

After taking a season off, Jackson returned to the bench with the Los Angeles Lakers where he won his third three-peat from 2000-02 and back-to-back titles in 2009-10.

During the third three-peat of Jackson’s career, the Hall of Fame coach went 181-65 (.736) during the regular season and 45-13 (.776) in the playoffs.

Jackson had all the ideal pieces for his Triangle Offense at this time.

Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest NBA players of all-time, was the playmaker on the wing. Shaquille O’Neal, arguably the most dominant center of his generation, anchored the low post. Derek Fisher and Robert Horry stretched the defense by hitting clutch three-pointers and allowed Bryant more space to drive and keeping the defense honest against O’Neal on the block.

When Jackson won his most recent back-to-back titles, the Triangle Offense evolved.

Bryant remained the focal point, but Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol formed a two-headed monster around the paint. In addition, Lamar Odom was versatile enough to play point forward at the top of the key or spell Bynum and Gasol on the block.

Bynum scored using back-to-the-basket moves, Gasol stepped out and hit elbow jumpers when necessary, and Odom stretched the defense or took his defender off the dribble. This was the most diversified frontcourt the Triangle Offense ever saw.

In summation, the difference between Brooklyn’s roster and Jackson’s teams of the past is striking.

Williams would be the best point guard Jackson has ever coached, but he lacks the winning pedigree of Jordan and Bryant to this point in his career. Williams has also faced scrutiny involving the firing of his two previous coaches, which has decreased interest for the job.

Johnson appears to be slowly declining after six All-Star seasons in Atlanta and has become more of a jump shooter than playmaker.

Lopez would be most comparable to Gasol whom Jackson pleaded to toughen up many times in Los Angeles.

While Jackson has more championships rings (11) than his two hands can handle, this situation is not the fit on paper that will bring Jackson out of retirement.

Michael Scotto is an Analyst for Follow him on Twitter for the latest news from Brooklyn and the NBA: @MikeAScotto