This article is a facsimile of an earlier publication on The Basketball Writers (TBW), which recently closed its doors.
Another week of NBA action, another set of tidbits in the film room. As we think about what we're thankful for this holiday season, I'm very thankful for Synergy, the video and statistical service that allows us to quickly and neatly dive into these tidbits.
While this week has a heavy emphasis on offensive sets and individual tendencies, we are diving into those niche categories that often can fall under the radar.
Jerami Grant Quick Rips
The Denver Nuggets got a steal in Jerami Grant. On top of stabilizing what is now the NBA's top defensive unit, Grant is scoring 9.2 points in only 21.9 minutes per game. He's a great mismatch at the 3 or the 4, zipping past stiff defenders and finishing vertically. A master of simplicity, he knows not to overdo it with dribble moves, jabs or isolation scoring.
One quick jab and a lanky first step is all he needs to get into the lane and to the rim.
He's gotten so good in these areas that the Nuggets will run a play for him specifically out of timeouts. It's a nifty misdirection designed to get the defense jumping the other way and raise the help defense to where they can't help at the rim. All that's left for Grant to do is to make a simple crossover and then he's suddenly throwing down a monster dunk:
I love when coaches utilize their role players in a featured way on occasion. Grant is a really good backup and needs his shine. Getting him in situations like this maximizes his use and keeps him engaged to play high-level defense.
Some Darius Garland Fun
I've been a pretty huge Darius Garland believer since last Spring.
He's a natural-born scorer with an insane quickness and change-of-pace. He makes shots from deep, is an accurate passer and plays with a tempo that's hard to match. Playing alongside Collin Sexton puts him in an off-ball situation more frequently than not, so Garland isn't dominating the offense with the ball or getting the opportunities like Memphis Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant.
That doesn't mean Garland isn't really fun already. He's impressing with his feel for dribble handoffs—essentially the same two-man action as a ball screen but faster. That means it can put more pressure on the defense if run well, though it also requires a ball handler that can make quick decisions on the fly.
Garland is such a handler. He needs to be making this shot with consistency in order to open up the other facets of his game:
This shot is incredibly important for Garland, who has been a dismal finisher at the rim to start the year.
Making downhill floaters at full-speed will prevent his thin body from taking a beating. Teams chase Garland over the top of screens and handoffs because he's such a good shooter and, frankly, a poor finisher. He's going to have defenders on his back a lot.
When he does get space in the lane to toy with the big, Garland has been nothing short of dynamic. He's already mastered the hostage dribble, a tactic used to toy with bigs that step in his path, preventing them from guarding both the ball and the roller. Garland adds a little extra flair, playing with the bigs by shimmying his shoulders via a second deceptive move that is just out of this world:
Of course, the real prize is Garland's potential to be a lethal shooter.
In those rare instances where defenders go underneath on handoffs and ball screens, even when they are deep behind the line, he's making them pay and reading the play appropriately. He steps back and gets his quick wrist-flick shot off with room behind the screen:
At this point, no team should go under anything involving Garland. He hasn't proven enough at the rim. That's precisely why it's exciting to already see growth with his floater and how he manipulates defenders near the basket. He'll continue to improve and get a feel for the interior game. As it gets better, Garland will be a pretty complete offensive threat.
Inverted New York Knicks Ballscreens
Speaking of pick-and-rolls, the New York Knicks are running a lot of wonky combinations of screens from unique locations, including Julius Randle as the ball handler and a guard serving as the screener:
Good grief. When it's a shooter like Wayne Ellington or RJ Barrett setting the screen, they are a threat to pop. Randle can either hit them to get an assist or barrel down the lane as the defense scrambles to take away the pick-and-pop opportunity.
A point guard like Frank Ntilikina pops and can facilitate, swinging to find the open man.
According to Synergy Sports Tech, ball screens with Randle as the handler produce 1.276 points per possession–good for the 99th percentile across the league. The Knicks have scored 55.2 percent of the time they've run these sets. For a team looking for an offensive spark, this might be a good way to get one. Part of what makes them effective is their rarity, though.
David Fizdale should find a balance between overkill and heightened incorporation.
Leave a Reply.
Head Boys Basketball Coach, Boys' Latin School (MD).