As the calendar rolled over from 2013 to 2014, the Brooklyn Nets immediately became the team most NBA fans expected them to be. They went on a tear, rolling through the rest of the season, beating the Heat 3 times in that span, and nearly catching the Raptors for the Atlantic Division crown before resting their players for the final few games of the season.
Although to many fans it simply seemed like the Nets finally became what they should have been, there was a clear tactical change for the team. Kidd inserted Shaun Livingston, every early 2000s NBA nerd’s favorite “what-if?” story, into the starting lineup and made him a focal point of the offense.
Livingston has flourished in that role, finishing the season #1 in the NBA by scoring on 61% of his post ups, per SynergySports, and the Nets as a whole have been a dominant post-up team this season, finishing 3rd in the NBA by scoring on 49% of their total post-ups.
As a team, the Nets trot out one of the most interesting lineups in the NBA. They have rejected the uptempo, open style that many NBA teams are taking on, shooting around a league average number of 3 pointers while playing at the 4th-slowest pace in the league, per Basketball-Reference. In its place is a post-up heavy attack that features a bunch of tall, long players that can provide mismatches on opposing teams.
The Nets have gone to “small-ball” in name only by moving Pierce to nominal power forward, spreading teams out with Deron Williams, Livingston, Joe Johnson, Pierce and the platoon of Mason Plumlee and Kevin Garnett at center. Throw in Marcus Thornton, Mirza Teletovic and Andrei Kirilenko and you have a group of about 9 players who can all space the floor and mix-up teams either by creating favorable matchups for themselves on offense or by being able to match up with multiple configurations defensively.
This post-heavy scheme relies on them finding some mismatch somewhere on the floor, with Livingston being the player that’s benefited the most from these mismatches, creating good shots for himself and others.
The Nets offense prior to this shift produced a lot of results like this:
The Nets try multiple pick and rolls here featuring Alan Anderson, Tyshawn Taylor and Teletovic, but the Wolves are not concerned with mismatches caused by switching, and they snuff it out.
Since, their funky lineups have forced teams to bend their defense in uncomfortable ways, resulting in looks like this:
Here, Amir Johnson cannot decide between his natural inclination to protect the rim and sag on Joe Johnson coming off the pick, leaving Pierce open for 3 on the pop. This is an uncomfortable situation for big men.
Livingston has reinvented himself as a dominant post player, able to score over smaller guards using his length and strength:
Livingston is able to first power Mario Chalmers off his spot with a power move, then uses his length to finish over his recovery.
Dion Waiters is a strong guard, so Livingston instead uses his length to create space and hit the fadeaway:
So, considering the way the Nets’ have reinvented their team using these hybrid big/small lineups, how can you do the same in NBA 2K14?
Of course, 2K14 is not a perfect basketball simulation, so unfortunately there isn’t a perfect way to recreate the Nets’ gameplan in the game. In fact, the Nets themselves are pretty bad at it, mostly due to 2K’s reticence to give Shaun Livingston a lot of love in the ratings.
No, in 2K14 you need to be able to take advantage of the things the game does well: namely, using multiple ballhandlers in the pick and roll and spacing the floor with shooters.
In MyGM play, you want to target two types of players: bigger guards who can shoot 3s and small fowards who can run well and handle the ball (shooting there doesn’t hurt, either). Basically, you want your shooting guard to be bigger than the opposing shooting guard at all times. This will give you an advantage over the CPU when it comes to creating space for jumpers and for hounding the passing lanes on the defensive end. If the players have the ability to post up it’s definitely a bonus.
Online, you want to find a roster that supports these types of lineups and exploit your matchup advantages when able.
Not surprisingly, the best hybrid lineup in the game belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The lineup is this: Russell Westbrook at point guard, Kevin Durant at shooting guard, Caron Butler at small forward, Perry Jones III at power foward, and Serge Ibaka at Center.
Every player in that lineup can shoot, and all but Ibaka can handle the ball somewhere between decently and exceptionally. There are so many options here: pick and pops with Westbrook and Durant and Durant and Jones, pick and rolls with Westbrook/Durant and Ibaka, or simple spacing to combat the myriad of zones that you’ll face online. Westbrook is a terror with the ball, and Durant’s size will allow him to rise up over the smaller defenders that guard the perimeter.
Here, Deron Williams gets switched onto Durant after a backscreen. Durant gets into the lane with ease and finishes over the much-smaller player. Note that, because of the shooting on the court, no help comes. Johnson stays with Butler, Pierce stays on Westbrook, Garnett stays on Ibaka, and Livingston (who makes a bad play, admittedly) stays on Perry Jones III.
This is the basic matchup you’re looking for. Durant in the post against Livingston is a terrible matchup for the defense. Durant does what he should (even if this play would have gotten a 3-second call in real life).
Durant’s real-life post ups follow a similar pattern. Watch what happens when he gets matched up against Lance Stephenson:
If you really want to get funky against the 1-3-1 so many players use, put Durant at power forward in a traditional small ball lineup, but shift Jones to small forward and Butler to shooting guard, or bring in Jeremy Lamb to replace Butler. In most sets, Durant will settle in at about 15 feet on either baseline, and a simple Westbrook drive and kick to Durant should provide open shots with the game’s deadliest shooter on almost every possession.
In every case, you have 3 point range at every position on the floor, something the Atlanta Hawks used to great effect for about 6 quarters in their playoff series against the Indiana Pacers before going ice-cold in the second half of game 2.
Here’s a great look for the offense, and even though Jones misses the shot (bad release on my part), the defense has to pick its poison. Everybody stays home except for Pierce, who has to, otherwise Westbrook will get right to the rim. Rotating is also not an option, as the closest possible rotator is guarding Durant in the corner.
The other popular teams online, like Miami and New York, have similar capabilities. Miami, with a Chalmers/Allen/James Jones/LeBron/Bosh combo has good shooters at every position, even if those shooters don’t necessarily have the ball-handling capabilities or size of the Thunder’s group, and the Knicks can trot out JR Smith, Tim Hardaway, Jr, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony and Andrea Bargnani to create a fuzzy approximation of the Thunder’s ideal group.
There are some things to note with these types of lineups, though. In a lot of cases, you won’t get offensive rebounds, but you can try to sell out for offensive boards since, particularly with the Thunder, you have enough speed to recover if you don’t get one. There’s also a greater chance for an offensive rebound if you’re facing a 1-3-1, as a drive and kick will collapse the defense, giving you a greater chance for long rebounds. This strategy will be even more deadly if 2K is able to introduce a “tip-back” mechanic in future games.
Even if we can’t perfectly recreate the strategy the Nets used to turn their season around, we can adjust their style for our own purposes and create deadly lineups in NBA 2K that allow for expert teambuilding in MyGM and online dominance.
How will you use hybrid lineups in NBA 2K14? What type of strategy do you use to build your team? Sound off in our community boards or in the comments below.