Finding the Balance
Neither full-motion nor full isolation is used in the NBA and there is usually a balance — even for the Warriors and Rockets, they each run a bit of both. However, what we are trying to find is where the balance behind isolation and motion is most effective.
Also, Durant did mention that the Warriors’ system worked fine for the first two rounds of the playoffs but for the Conference Finals and NBA Finals they would need more isolation. So given that assumption, the argument is limited to the latter two rounds of the playoffs.
Looking at the best NBA teams in the modern era (since the hand-checking rule came in), it should be possible to decide which offense is more successful at winning championships. The new rules came in for the start of the 2004-05 season so teams from then onwards will count.
The most successful teams of that time period have been as followed.
- Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs (2005, 2007, 2014 champions; 2013 finalists)
- Phil Jackson’s Los Angeles Lakers (2009, 2010 champions; 2008 finalists)
- Erik Spoelstra’s Miami Heat (2012, 2013 champions; 2011, 2014 finalists)
- Tyronn Lue/David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers (2016 champions; 2015, 2017, 2018 finalists)
- Steve Kerr’s Golden State Warriors (2015, 2017, 2018 champions; 2016, 2019 finalists).
We’ll look at how each team ran individually and what type of offense they used to find out where on the spectrum they all sit.
We’ll then give each team an arbitrary number based on where they roughly sit as a team on a spectrum from 0-100 with 0 being totally motion and 100 being totally isolation.