The Suns' new offensive scheme has come to be called The Blender by players and media. Igor Kokoskov may be a mad genius, but the Blender is not a Shelley-esque combination of Dragan Bender and Alex Len.
The Blender calls for the ball to rapidly move between players at the top who are moving over screens in opposite directions towards the sidelines. This makes it difficult for defensive players down low to read which is the strongside vs. weakside, and creates switches. All this is geared so that when a ballhandler eventually comes off a screen with an advantageous match-up he can turn the corner going to the middle, allowing him the option to pass to either side or finish at the rim himself. If the defender sags back instead, he clears for an open shot. Variations have shooters clearing off screens on either side of the court as the ball reverses direction. Worst case scenario the defense is hopelessly switched around and the ball finds the player with the advantageous match-up. The on-ball defender changes rapidly and that man is tasked with making reactionary decisions that boil
There is no doubt that this has been effective. The Suns lead the league in percentage of assisted field goals.
However, they also lead the league in turnover percentage (TOV), and it seems fair at this point to question whether the offensive scheme is part of the problem. Far too many perimeter passes are being picked off and taken back to the other end for easy transition points. It almost looks like a Cardinals game out there.
It would be easy to pin it on the players. The PG rotation thus far has consisted of a G-League re-tread, two rookies, and a pair of shooting guards with redoubtable assist-to-turnover ratios thus far in their careers. The team on the whole is just young. Everyone is new to the offense.
But let me suggest that the scheme is also part of the problem.
The Blender calls for extra passes on the perimeter. Extra passes are extra opportunities for long defenders to play the passing lanes.
The scheme calls for the ball to change directions in a way that can be anticipated to a certain extent. If the defender expects the pass to come back in the opposite direction, he may very well be playing for the steal.
The offense requires players at every position (possibly except center) to be able to pass, dribble and receive passes on the perimeter.
To exacerbate things, the League's point-of-emphasis this season is on freedom-of-movement. Since it is no longer allowed to entangle oneself on the screener long enough to prevent a good roll to the basket, players are looking for different ways to defend, and attacking the ballhandler and jumping the passing lanes are suddenly much more prevalent than they've ever been.
It isn't possible to say conclusively at this point that scheme is the cause of the problems with ball security. But it's time to give it some scrutiny. The scheme puts the opponent's defense in the Blender, forcing them to pick-their-poison with read/react decisions. But it also puts the offensive players in there, making equivalent reads/passes that the players may not be ready/able to execute.
Can the guys on the current roster clean it up? Can they learn to live and thrive in the Blender? Or perhaps, does the team need to tailor the roster to the scheme to make it work?