The most common complaint heard about Steve Nash is that he has not instilled a discernable system. Boston's ability to bottle up Kevin Durant while sweeping the Nets only enhanced the narrative that Nash is not adding value through his coaching.
The classic coaching trope is that there are coaches who adjust their schemes each year to suit their rosters and there are system coaches who employ the same approach every year and find players who can excel within that system. The epitome of the system coach is Phil Jackson, who won 11 NBA Championships with his triangle offense (having Jordan and Kobe didn't hurt).
Nash's predecessor was a system coach, focusing on the analytics to eschew the mid-range and get the most out of a roster decimated by Billy King. There was a wide-spread appreciation that Kenny's brand of basketball was allowing his team to be more than the sum of its parts.
Interestingly enough, the Nets have a significant Spurs pedigree via Marks and this would suggest they would embrace a system approach, since Gregg Popovich is a close second to Phil Jackson as a system coach with 1,344 wins against only 701 losses and five NBA Championships. In addition, Steve Nash thrived within a 7-second offensive system during his hall of fame career. It was only the Spurs dynasty that kept his Suns out of the NBA Championship.
But after two years there seems to be no cohesive system, other than KD, Harden, or Kyrie taking turns in isolation. Why? Is it because Steve Nash does not know how to instill a system? Or his stars do not want to play in one?
My opinion: Steve Nash has not had the opportunity to imprint a system on this roster. Will KD play in a system? Personally, I doubt he would agree with being told to dunk or shoot 3s, but he has shown he can adapt his game to what his team needs and certainly seemed to thrive playing for Popovich on the world stage.
I think the problem is that Kevin Durant played only 35 games in Nash's first season and played only 55 in Nash's second. Kyrie only played 54 games two seasons ago and just 29 this season. Then there were the injuries, veteran minimum comings and goings, and two major trades that led to 81 different starting lineups in Nash's 154 games as head coach. That is a different lineup every two games.
Would Pops have imprinted his system on the Spurs if Duncan and Robinson were playing 45 games per year each and he was rolling out a new starting five every two games for multiple seasons?
Would any coach have been able to overcome the Celtics with a roster that had KD and Kessler, 4 centers. and a bunch of guards shorter than 6'4"? The Nets did quite well to limit Tatum, but then had no length to contend with Jaylen Brown and Al Horford.
The Nets lost Harris to injury, cut James Johnson, cut DeAndre Bembry, traded Paul Millsap, and went into the playoffs with KD and a rookie as the only non-centers over 5'4" on the entire roster. Yes, I know Blake had his moment in game three where he hit a couple of shots, but he cannot guard or shoot well enough to play the 4. So Nash coached against a big Celtics team with guards, centers and no forwards.
Did Nash play small because he is stubborn? Does he have no cohesion because his stars don't play and the lineup is new every two games? I don't know.
I would love to have one healthy, normal season to actually find out what kind of coach Steve Nash is. With two years under his belt that probably feel like ten, there are no excuses left. Hopefully he gets the shot to prove that he can define roles, get the best from his roster, and start imposing his will on other teams by creating favorable matchups.