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George Karl's 'More Playmakers' Philosophy

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Mike Prada talked to Nuggets coach George Karl about Denver's success playing two point guards -- Ty Lawson and Andre Miller -- together frequently. The insight is particularly interesting for those of us watching the Kings this season.

[Y]ou get the sense that Karl really does believe this is the way to win. When asked to elaborate more on why having multiple point guards on the floor is good, he responds rhetorically, "Isn't it more important to have good decisions than position players?" Later, he puts it more bluntly: "The more playmakers you put on the court, the better you play."

That philosophy defines the Nuggets. Without a true offensive superstar, Karl's offense relies on constant motion. Playmaking gets split between Lawson, Miller, shooting guard Arron Afflalo, ace small forward Danilo Gallinari ... basically, anyone who has the ball. The offense works well no matter who plays, but the offense really works well when the best playmakers are all in. This year, that's been Lawson and Miller.

Some would argue, of course, that the Kings have no point guards, let alone two suitable to play together. But Karl's philosophy -- "the more playmakers you put on the court, the better you play" -- and that of Geoff Petrie tend to match. This is the Vlade-Webber transposition of the early 2000s, but flipped. Petrie has always valued ball skills and playmaking ability highly, along with shooting. The only two first-round picks Petrie has used on players who weren't abnormally skilled at passing or handling for their position or could shoot the lights up have been Gerald Wallace (who was considered a pure athlete more than anything) and Omri Casspi (ditto -- a tough athlete). Peja was a shooter. J-Will one of the nation's best, most creative passers. Hedo, Quincy Douby, Kevin Martin, Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes, Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Jimmer Fredette ... even Jason Thompson was a case in which Petrie went with the double-double small conference player who grew up as a guard and could pass the ball. (That aspect of JT's game hasn't exactly translated, though I feel comfortable with him handling the rock some.)

Free agent signings and trades have been similar: Vlade and Webber, later Brad Miller, John Salmons (twice). It hasn't been nearly as unanimous on the transaction side, as there are plenty of Bonzis, Ron-Rons and Jim Jacksons, brought in for other (usually defensive) reasons.

But Petrie definitely seems to agree with Karl's philosophy on having as many playmakers as possible. Unfortunately, many of the playmakers that he has collected on this roster are not doing a great job of making plays. Tyreke has looked much, much better after being given a playbook by Keith Smart, and he's a real-deal playmaker. Jimmer and Cousins? The jury's out. Salmons? The jury is in tears. Thornton? No. Garcia? No. Thompson? No. Hayes? We'll see. Isaiah Thomas? Definitely.

Karl has the luxury of two great point guards, which allows him to exploit the advantage. The Kings have one good point guard right now, and one rookie second-round pick who can do the job but brings other challenges to the table. When Jimmer can string together multiple good games and find his place in lineups that feature Reke, we'll have another glance at whether this is a workable philosophy with this roster ... and whether Smart is on-board. (He'd seem to be, as he put together a No. 11 offense with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis starting together.


I encourage you to check out Prada's full column. Karl's a fascinating figure.