Fans of the San Antonio Spurs have relished in five defensive-minded championships since 1999. Mike D’Antoni has shown us for years that teams can’t win even with the best offense in the league if they continually ignore defense. His Suns, Rockets, Lakers, and Knicks all showed us that you can have Chris Paul, James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol at your disposal, but if you don’t emphasize team defense, you’ll never even sniff the NBA Finals.
Now that I’ve gotten my Mike D’Antoni rant out of the way, what if the Spurs did the total opposite? What if they gave minutes to a lineup of five players who were all defensive-minded first and scorers second? Of course, this team wouldn’t win many games simply because scoring wouldn’t be a priority, nor something this lineup would be particularly good at.
But maybe for five minutes a night, just to stop the opposing team makes a run or in order to hold a lead, Popovich could become the antithesis of D’Antoni and plugin players who get stops, not necessarily buckets.
In the world of mutated basketball, there have been a handful of prime examples. The Seven Seconds or less Pheonix Suns played a Frankenstein-esque version of basketball that resulted in points, points, points. The 2018 Rockets lived by the three-ball all season, and then they died by it when they missed 27 in a row against the Warriors in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
Troy State beat DeVry University in 1992 with a score of 258-141. Both teams agreed to shoot as fast as possible. It was radioactive basketball.
All three of these instances saw teams try and score as much as possible. The Spurs have a five-man lineup that could be just as experimental but in the opposite direction. In an attempt to win a basketball game 50-45, the Spurs have the lineup to do it.
Should they run these five for 36 minutes a night? No, but if they threw these five guys in for just a couple of minutes, opposing offenses would not know what to do.