UNC Basketball: The Point Forward System


If your getting tired of all the Kendall Marshall wrist gate coverage here and everywhere you turn, sorry, we are to.  But let’s face it, this isn’t just the biggest story for North Carolina.  It’s the biggest story for Ohio, Kansas, NC State, Kentucky and everyone else that’s left in the NCAA Tournaments Sweet 16.  Roy Williams has been pretty open about both the uncertainty of Marshall’s status and what he’s going to do about it on the court.  Roy has openly admitted he’s got to come up with something.   I agree with the strategy of moving forward as if Marshall will not play another minute in the tourney.  With that in mind, here’s a suggestion, quickly install the point forward system.

Before I explain this system, I have to admit, I’m not really all that positive that it qualifies as a system.  In fact, if it is a system, it might just be called something else and I don’t know it.  It is what my AAU summer coach called it though (don’t be impressed I wasn’t playing at some high level AAU like your thinking of).  It’s really pretty simple, if you have a team with a few decent ball handlers but no true point guard, you run without a point guard.   I can’t believe I’m saying this but for those of you that were around for Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen’s six championship Chicago Bulls teams is a perfect example.  The Bulls had true PGs, they just weren’t one of the best three perimeter players most of the time.  So Phil Jackson simply had either Jordan, Pippen, Ron Harper, Pete Meyers or whoever else played next to Batman and Robin bring the ball up and initiate the offense.  Who started the fast break?  Whoever had the ball started it and whoever didn’t got down to the other end of the court just as they would any other time.

Before you scream it at me let me acknowledge that I understand Jordan and Pippen were a special duo.  Most of what they did on the court together will not ever be duplicated by a perimeter duo ever again.  But I’m not suggesting that Harrison Barnes, Reggie Bullock and PJ Hairston suddenly morph into Jordan and Pippen.  I’m just suggesting they handle the ball a little bit more if Marshall is out to ensure the most effective lineup is on the floor at all times.

In my opinion this strategy would be easier to employ on the fly than asking the team to adapt to the combination of Stillman White and Justin Watts at the point.  I’ve received some flack for my assessment of White and Watts game as some feel I don’t give them the respect they deserve.  So let me put this out there, I really like these two as role players, again, as role players.  But let’s be honest with ourselves shall we?  They are not on the same planet as Barnes, Bullock or Hairston athletically or as basketball players and they never ever will be.

The real problem with switching from Marshall to White/Watts is how it affects the pace.  They simply cannot create fast enough to keep up with their own teammates for long.  Asking these two to run Carolinas offense which is pretty much a display of unreal athleticism combined with an unrelenting high paced attack is borderline delusional.  Barnes, Hairston and Bullock won’t get the ball up the floor as fast as Marshall nor will they even combine for his average in assists most likely.  What they possess the ability to do however is take it to their defender one on one.  Create offense for themselves and their teammates.  Take the ball coast to coast, hit the spot up jumper, throw it down in the centers face.  Sure, Watts and White can play a decent, low turnover game and hit a shot or two.  If I’m coach Williams, I feel a whole lot more comfortable in the hands of Barnes, Hairston or Bullock, especially in the postseason.

As it stands UNCs perimeter players are told to high tail it down the court as soon as Carolina has secured the rebound.  Marshall’s job of course is to go get the ball and start the offense.  Whoever got the rebound, look for #5, easy enough right.  The only difference in the point forward system is a division of Marshall’s responsibility as the initial ball handler.  Each perimeter player is assigned an area of the floor, similar to a zone defense.  For example, if the ball is rebounded on the right block, the ball goes to Harrison Barnes, on the left it goes to PJ Hairston, in the middle or long goes to Reggie Bullock.  The can change for two reasons 1) One of the perimeter players secures the rebound themselves or 2) A different player other than the one assigned that spot on the court is closest to the rebounder.

I can say with 100% honesty and certainty that this is extremely easy to run and get used to at the same time.  Installing new plays takes work, but these guys are almost pro’s at this point, they can handle it, especially with the extended break heading into the Sweet 16.  If you have any doubts as to whether or not they can all handle being essentially part time primary ball handlers.  Think about it this way, seven foot center Nerlens Noel the #1 recruit in the 2012 class plays some point guard for his HS team right now.  Every single one of these guys was the toast of his high school and played plenty of point guard.

I don’t know if Kendall Marshall will play against Ohio or for the rest of the Tourney for that matter.  If he does play, nobody knows if he’ll be the same.  One thing seems clear to me though, if UNC is going to win without an effective Kendall Marshall on the court, they need their best players to do it.  They don’t need one of them sitting on the bench watching Stillman White or Justin Watts playing more minutes than they are because they aren’t a “point guard”.

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