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What Ulysses Grant and Hernan Cortez taught me about basketball

   During the final stretch American Civil war it became increasingly evident the North would win. The South was just too short on men and assets to win. The North had the men, money and firepower to just hammer down the South. And that's exactly how they did it. They wore down the South through attrition.The South entrenched themselves down heavily in Virginia and Grant won by just throwing swarm after swarm of men down on them. The North lost a lot- a lot- of men through this strategy. But it worked. Essentially he was trying to knock down bowling pins by haphazardly throwing down 10 bowling balls en masse instead of carefully and skillfully sending down one ball to get the ten pins.

  Now refer to Spaniard's siege of Tenochtitlan in 1519-1521. A  relatively small Spanish force (numbered in the hundreds) overtook the great Aztec empire (numbered in the hundreds of thousands), largely due to superior weaponry and strategy.

  Two different wars. The same result of victory. One inefficiently won through overwhelming attrition. A necessary strategy? Maybe, maybe not. Something tells me General Lee wouldn't have employed that strategy were he Northern commander.  The Spanish won a resounding victory through superior weapons and strategy- they didn't have the men to spare. There may be more than one way to skin a cat, but historically, I think Cortez's penchant for strategy was probably a better move than Grant's penchant for sheer attrition.

 

  Okay, enough boring history. What did a Civil War General and a Spanish Conquistador teach me about basketball?

 Strategy trumps volume, and there is a preferred way to win a war. In basketball, sound defensive strategy  combined with efficient offense trumps volume scoring and porous offense.

As Yucca Man pointed out in his post today, we are in rebuilding mode. Or at the very least we need to be. In this process of rebuilding, we need to carefully consider what strategy for winning we are employing.

Two teams play a pick up game. Team one has Allen Iverson, Kevin Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani.

Team two has Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Gerald Wallace, Tim Duncan  and Andrew Bogut.

Who wins? The explosive offensive team with a porous defense or the strong defensive team with an averagish offense?

We could debate that all day long. I'll tell you my vote would be team 2. The first team would throw up shot after shot after a horribly inefficient rate and then play no D on the other end. The second team may not have the offensive "firepower" of the first team, but they will play lockdown defense. I really think Team 2 would win this little pick up game. It's strategy over attrition.

The lesson in short- the Jazz will win more games if they rebuild with the goal in mind of FIRST playing lock down defense and SECOND having scorers. To me, a great defense with serviceable scorers will win more then a a team with great offense but only serviceable (or worse) defenders.

 To that end, a guy like Ben Wallace (in prime) may be a more valuable piece to the Jazz than Al Jefferson. I know that doesn't quite roll off the tongue right, but it's true. Wallace has a great interior presence and plays fantastic defense. Al? Not so much. So while Al may score 20 points how many is he giving up on the other end? Guys like Wallace are the bread and butter of title winners. 

  So, when building a team, we need to have a defensive team with scorers filling in the gaps rather than an offensive team with defenders spread here and there intermittently. In employing this strategy it may seem we are opting for lesser talent, but defense is what will win championships.

   Coach Ty would be better served brainwashing our guys in training camp with defense than implementing a complicated offense. I know we need both- but for a rebuilding team- like the Jazz-- the offense prowess must follow the defensive prowess, and when choosing between players we need to get the guys who play defense, even if some offense is sacrificed in the short term. In other words, if, say the Raptors were willing to trade both Reggie Evans and Andrea Bargnani, we should prefer to trade for Evans despite how good Barg's O is. It's why we would be better off trading for a guy like Carlos Delfino rather than a guy like Jason Richardson. Counter intuitive, I realize this- but defense must be the first priority. And our future roster moves must reflect this truth of basketball.

  When evaluating a player to acquire, be it draft, free agency or trade, the priority for basketball traits should be 1) Defensive skill 2) how do they play as part of a team and then 3) offensive skill. In all seriousness, Andrew Bogut would add more wins to our team were we to acquire him than Carmelo Anthony would. Why? Because Bogut fits the mold of my criterion better than Anthony does. Guys like Anthony have their place on a team- but only after a skilled defense has been put in place. We need to escape the idea that  we can put some strong defenders on the court to cover up for the mistakes of our defenseless scorers. Look at what Thibs has done in Chicago. He's surrounded Boozer and Korver with the likes of Asik, Noah, Brewer, Thomas. That's not conventional thinking.

In the process of rebuilding, we need to build up the walls before we bring in the cannons. It has to be that way. If that means we call up the Suns and offer Al for Gortat, then that is what it means. If it means we pass up on a chance to get a Granger type so we can get a Tony Allen type, then so be it. This is the way it needs to be.

All comments are the opinion of the commenter and not necessarily that of SLC Dunk or SB Nation.

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