Here are some things I’ve found interesting over the past few weeks in the NBA that can easily go unnoticed.
Cutting in Transition
In half court sets, teams use cuts to not only get into scoring positions but also as decoys. A good cut can draw a defender and open up an opportunity for a teammate. Mike Prada on a recent Limited Upside Podcast episode even mused there should a stat for when a teammate’s cut creates a shot for another, similar to a screen assist.
Even more interesting than a cut in the half court, is when a player cuts during a fast break and creates an open shot for a teammate. Taj Gibson sprinted right down the middle of the court while Jimmy Butler brought the ball up on the wing in transition. His cut drew the weakside defender and opened up a passing lane which Butler used to find Tyus Jones in perfect stride for a wide open three.
The same thing happened when Al Horford sprinted down the middle similar to what Gibson in the last example. It forced the Sixers’ defender to take two steps towards him and that was Kyrie Irving needed. The cut opened up the passing lane and he whipped the ball to an open Terry Rozier.
These two cuts do not show up in the box score, but without them, these lanes would never have opened up.
Brandon Ingram Getting Strong
It was no secret when Brandon Ingram entered the league as a rookie, he needed to add weight. He essentially looked like a stick figure, and it was clear it affected him on drives in the lane. Here he drives on the defender and is not able to finish through contact, no foul was called; last season Ingram finished with 22 And-1s.
Ingram went into the offseason with the goal of adding weight. His work is already paying off with 12 And-1s after just 21 games. His new added weight has increased his confidence in his ability to attack the paint. He went from averaging just 2.7 free throw attempts to 5.0 this year. Here Ingram took Klay Thompson to the rim and finished through the contact with Durant for an And-1. Something he wasn’t able to do last year.
The Pass Defenses Fear
There is a scene in the show Friday Night Lights where Jason Streets says to his replacement, “Look, Saracen. Run the post, run the slant, and they will respect you… run this pattern, and they will fear you!” The pass to the weak side shooter is the pass that defenses fear from the Pick-and-Roll ball handler.
Steph Curry made this pass to Thompson, when the defense doubled him off the Pick-and-Roll, everyone on Oklahoma City pulled in take the easier passes away. Curry launched the ball over his head to the open Thompson.
Ricky Rubio came off the High Pick-and-Roll; he was able to attack the Denver defense forcing a double team, then he made a cross-court diagonal pass to the waiting Joe Ingles in the corner who had all the time in the world to line up the shot.
It is impossible for defenses to take away everything and most usually leave the weakside corner open with the hope that the passer could not make that pass like Street said, make this pass “and they will fear you!”