"We're going to play an exciting brand of basketball. It's going to be up-tempo. They certainly didn't hire me to run the Princeton offense. It's going to be up-tempo with a lot of 3-point shots." - David Arseneault Jr.
There's an old adage that says any publicity is good publicity and the Reno Bighorns certainly would have to agree at this point in the 2014-15 D-League season. The league and it's followers have been abuzz with Bighorn-mania to start the year and all the attention seems to be centered around sudden star Brady Heslip. The attention is so rampant now that Heslip recently appeared on the Dan Patrick Show to discuss his early successes.
The league (and the Sacramento Kings) have to be thrilled with the relatively suprising hire to this point considering all of the media buzz that is surrounding the team, Heslip, and ultimately the league. While all of this is good news, the question remains -- is The System capable of winning at the professional level and will it serve the D-League's purpose of developing players for the next level?
The numbers are astronomical, both on the offensive and defensive side, however they haven't yet turned into team success for Reno who currently sits at 3-4 through their first seven games. There has definitely been an immediate impact from The System as shown in the following chart.
As you can see the offense has flourished under the new regime and it isn't merely Brady Heslip alone having a great season. Other guys are prospering as well, but just haven't received the media onslaught that Brady has. Ra'shad James is the other name that pops up as a big winner here. He averaged 7.6 points a night last year with Reno and so far he's up to 19.5 points per game! Some of that can be attributed to hard work and natural progression for James, but how much is because of The System?
There lies the difficult question as to how these players are supposed to be evaluated by scouts looking for players they can plug in at the next level. Some of these numbers unfortunately have to be taken with a grain of salt, however the fact remains that shots still have to be made and the Bighorns are certainly making them in abundance.
The System is looking like it could be revolutionary on offense, however there are two ends of the court in the game of basketball and where this system excels on one end, it surely falls flat on the other.
The worrisome part of the scheme Reno is employing is that the players are not playing good defense, if they are playing any at all. The helter skelter style of the full court press lends itself to wide open layups and dunks which is why opponents are shooting a ridiculous 56.3 percent against Reno this year. Giving up easier shots for opponents also explains why Reno is giving up less 3-point attempts this year (as shown above) but still allowing almost 34 more points per game.
While the goals of each D-League team might range from winning D-League championships, to getting players called-up, to developing players and coaches the best they can, etc. it's clear that Reno is proving to be very successful at garnering attention for their franchise right now.
"My dad never thought it was going to be a competitive strategy. He just thought that if they were going to lose, why lose 60-40 when you could lose 150-130. At least then the guys will have something positive to talk about after they lose because somebody was scoring all those points." - Arseneault Jr.
Will the success of The System earn Reno's players NBA looks, or will their production be lost due to their circumstances? Reno hasn't had a call-up yet this season, though only five teams have, and perhaps even more troubling is that they did not have a call-up the entire 2013-14 season (Only Fort Wayne, Idaho and Reno didn't have a call-up last year). Their last call-up was Garrett Temple almost two years ago on Christmas Day 2012.
The goal has to be to develop these players and prepare them for the next step and for me the jury is still out on whether or not this strategy will help the franchise achieve that goal.