“I’m telling you right now; they will not win a championship this year…” “I just don’t think you can win a championship shooting jumpers.”
That was NBA analyst and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley in 2015-16 discussing the Golden State Warriors and building their team around the back court of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two superstars who specialized their games around one flashy skill: shooting.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The NBA has never been the same ever since the Warriors revolutionized the way that roster-building and reliance upon shooting has become with Thompson and Curry- in their championship-hoisting dynasty, the league has had to adapt to the way that players are defended, they’ve had to prioritize shooting themselves, and now the youth across the world are taking jump shots from thirty feet out because it is a skill that is so highly-valued. It caused the old-age of thinking reminiscent of the era that Barkley thrived in, where the game revolved around a big man who could control the paint with a balanced offense, to face a force they had never seen before as they were all proven wrong into the dust of their 4 titles in 7 years.
Having to defend Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson so tightly away from the basket spaced the floor like nothing we’ve ever seen before- it opened up holes and opportunities for every other man on the roster as the defense had to keep their head on a swivel of their big-play threat at all times.
We’re only two weeks into the Mike McDaniel era in Miami, but it looks like we might be seeing a similar sort of revolution with the Dolphins receiving room.
The Dolphins offensive situation has been one that has been highly-scrutinized heading into the year- Tua, as highly-touted a prospect as he was coming out of Alabama where teams were literally tanking for him, suffered a devastating hip injury, and has never looked the same since. There is a motherload of memes on the internetsphere of Tua not being able to throw the ball with any depth down the field whatsoever. The moves that the organization have made thus far have made this season a bit of a “prove-it” situation for Tua, as the NFL has become more and more of a “do you have THE GUY” league at the quarterback position.
They spent big on the offensive line, they hired Mike McDaniel, the boy genius run game coordinator out of San Francisco that maximized any “limitations” Jimmy Garoppolo may have had on offense by unlocking Deebo Samuel, and they traded for Tyreek Hill out of Kansas City. If Tua and McDaniel couldn’t get this offense humming, a change would likely be made.
Much like Steph and Klay Thompson’s style of skillful play that took the top off of the defense caused the gritty, do-it-all capabilities of Draymond Green to be the superglue that held those Warrior teams together in the NBA, the finesse playstyle of Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill have maximized Tua as the Dolphins are 2-0 and overcame a 21-point 2nd half deficit to defeat the Ravens on Sunday. They outscored Baltimore 28-3 in the fourth quarter in the same way that a basketball fan never feels like a lead is safe against the Warriors when they go on those murderous second half offensive flamethrower runs. We thought McDaniel was going to play it safe with Tua this season, relying on the run game or short dump-offs to their speedy wideouts and skill groups, but Tua tossed 6 touchdowns on the Ravens and Miami has thrown the ball the 4th-highest % of their offensive plays in the league at 67.97%. Tyreek and Waddle combined both accounted for 22 receptions on 32 targets for 361 yards and 2 touchdowns in their valiant come-from-behind victory to take down Baltimore.
Grown men in aqua are literally waddling like a penguin in the stands celebrating Jaylen- that’s how electric it is in South Beach currently.
Waddle and Hill have such a similar skill set of speed and finesse as receivers, almost as if when they run the field has been tilted at a downhill angle, that so far, it’s been impossible to account for both the way that their receiving corps has been set up. If one of them runs a go route down the field, that person has either been open for Tua to toss the deep ball, or the coverage that has to account for that receiver leaves the dump-off pass underneath completely covered; the Dolphins’ blocking for the passes underneath and their roster construction has allowed for Hill and Waddle to make magic happen with yards after the catch if the homerun play isn’t available. The defenses thus far have had to pick their poison, covering the receiver with the 99 overall speed in Madden or the one with the 97.
The Dolphins have been absolutely humming so far in the same way that the Warriors sparked the 3-point revolution. Going into the year, with their strong defensive roster and electric skill position group, the only question had to do with any arm strength question marks surrounding Tua. If that question mark is answered and he does perform up-to-par and at the same rate as what we’ve seen, the Dolphins are going to be the AFC playoff contenders that we thought they could potentially be. It’s a tall task given that the conference is so loaded with quarterbacks that have elite level decision-making, skills, or rocket arms- they’ll be contending with the likes of Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, or Russell Wilson just to name a few. However, this new brand of offense could force teams to play with their left hand. Tua’s “limitations” might not even matter in the end as teams will be scrambling to gameplan with their left hand.
The Dolphins have given Tua a Lamborghini- as long as he doesn’t crash it come winter, we may be seeing something the league has never seen before from an offensive standpoint in a similar fashion to when Golden State owner Joe Lacob said the Warriors were “light years ahead” in the NBA.