D'Antoni highlights Lakers pick-and-roll

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Dwight Howard and Steve Nash likely will be critical in Mike D'Antoni's pick-and-roll attack.So much for Phil Jackson returning to Los Angeles.

After firing Mike Brown on Friday, the Los Angeles Lakers announced early Monday that Mike D’Antoni will be their next coach. It is D’Antoni’s fourth NBA head coaching job. While Jackson has won 11 NBA titles as a coach, D’Antoni has five playoff appearances – four with the Phoenix Suns and one with the New York Knicks.

D’Antoni’s success with the Suns depended largely on one man – Steve Nash, who happens to be his point guard again. When Nash returns from his leg injury, the 38-year-old will run D’Antoni’s uptempo offense. From 2004-08, the Suns led the league in offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions).

D’Antoni Coaching Career
With and Without Nash Playing

One look at D’Antoni’s win percentage with and without Nash shows how valuable the two-time NBA MVP has been to the coach.

Another signature of D’Antoni’s time with the Suns was the pick-and-roll. Phoenix led the NBA in pick-and-roll points per 100 possessions three times during D’Antoni’s tenure. They ranked seventh in 2005-06, a season in which the “roll” man – Amar’e Stoudemire – missed 79 games to injury.

In Los Angeles, Dwight Howard could play the role of Stoudemire. During his time with the Orlando Magic, Howard was one of the league’s premier “roll” men, excelling especially the past three seasons. While he has struggled in that spot this year, Nash only has played in two games.

Howard Pts Per 100 Poss
Pick-and-Roll “Roll” Man

One area in which D’Antoni is constantly panned is his defense. His Suns teams consistently finished near the bottom of the league in points allowed per game, but those numbers were somewhat skewed by the team’s furious tempo. Taking pace into consideration, Phoenix was near the league average defensively in D’Antoni’s last four seasons there, ranking 16th three times and 13th once.

Considering his history, D’Antoni is a surprising hire by the Lakers. He has a .534 career winning percentage as an NBA head coach. The last time the Lakers hired a coach with a career winning percentage that low was Del Harris (.493 in 8+ seasons) before the 1994-95 season.

D’Antoni also has a pedigree for leading his teams to terrific regular seasons only to fall short in the playoffs. He finished first or second in the Western Conference from 2004-07 with the Suns. He is one of three coaches since the 1996-97 season to not reach the Finals over a three-year span despite finishing number one or two in the conference (Flip Saunders and Pat Riley were the others).

Speaking of Riley, D’Antoni will join him as the only men to have served as head coach for both the Knicks and the Lakers, according to Elias. Riley recorded a 533-194 record with the Lakers from 1981-82 to 1989-90, winning four NBA title. He then moved on to the Knicks, where he went 223-105 from 1991-92 to 1994-95 with one NBA Finals appearance.