I have never been an NBA guy but drop an NBA team into my media market (The OKC Thunder) and I become a fan of the local team. My son and I loved watching Stephen Adams pound the paint for the Thunder. “Aquaman” is huge and a gifted athlete. But, that is not the direction of the game. The new direction of the game is “point forwards” or “position-less offense.”
Muss builds his team the same way. The traditional PF/C who always plays with their back to the basket and bruises everyone in the paint is not a part of his philosophy. It allows him to attract recruits who want to play in a system that preps them for the NBA.
I’ve posted this recently, somewhere, so forgive the redundancy: rather than expecting UA to always respond to the size or quickness or skills of the opponent, maybe we should be executing OUR game so well it causes other teams to respond to us. Last year when we’d play 5 guys no taller than 6-5 or 6-6 other teams couldn’t keep up with us, and they’d bench a big guy in response.
There is a lot of teeth gnashing after the Mizzou game where fans think the problem is that we don’t have players like Tillmon. Of course we don’t! He wouldn’t fit our system!! When Nolan was confronted with UNLV he was seeing an opponent that did not have to alter its rotation to play with us…and were bigger, stronger and more physical. The response was not “change the system” or “recruit different types of players.” It was, “find players who can play like we play, but are also bigger and stronger and more physical.”
Nolan brought in Darnell Robinson (kind of a poor man’s Zion Williamson if you ask me) and Lee Wilson was a fine pickup as well. One of the keys to the 94NC team was Dwight Stewart was big enough to bang in the paint but capable of shooting outside.
There is also hand wringing about replacing Smith. With a 13-man roster you do not get back-up plans for very many spots. You have your starting five, a couple of pieces you rotate into the starting lineup as substitutions, and then “others.” If anything, Vance and Vanover are the “same” player - tall, outside players vs. paint bruisers. We have one of those, Smith. Maybe the new transfer fills that role. Maybe the JUCO transfer for next year fills that role, but I would ask a rhetorical question (for consideration, not for answering, as I don’t think there is a good answer), “who do you purge from the roster to get a back-up for Smith?” And, “how happy is that back-up going to be when Smith is healthy and playing 30 minutes a night?”
Injuries suck, and you have to deal with it. I prefer the interchangable pieces at the 1-4 vs backup plans at the 5. That is me, and I am a product of Nolan’s style of ball. (I skipped out on a couple of big UA games late in Sutton’s career to go watch Billy Tubbs’ teams at OU; played defense AND they played offense…Nolan was a gift from the basketball gods for this student-fan).