As the NBA Playoffs have proven, the Cleveland Cavaliers' offensive firepower might be too much for the rest of the league to handle. As I noted in a more detailed post on BBALLBREAKDOWN, Cleveland's entire organization decided to go "all in" on offense, building a roster designed to attack any defense and any type of team, all centered around LeBron James and the pick-and-roll.
So far, that strategy has paid off big for the Cavaliers, winning twelve of thirteen this postseason while having the most efficient offense this postseason by several measures. With LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as two of the most talented ball screen creators in the league, coach Tyronn Lue simplifies the game and lets those two pick apart defenses. As shooters surround the action, there's little opponents can do once the Cavs get any sort of dribble penetration.
As a side note, the NBA Finals will be fascinating because the best scheme for preventing dribble penetration off ball screens is to switch, and no team is better at executing a switch than the Golden State Warriors. Cleveland will be armed with counters and quick-hitters to knock the Warriors back, but the push-pull between the teams in their third-straight NBA Finals will be a chess match for the ages.
In the video above, I break down three different ways the Cavaliers use the ball screen:
At the end of each section, the video shows how the Cavaliers use the effectiveness of the pick-and-roll and the supreme shooting prowess of Kyle Korver to leverage each other. The pick-and-roll sucks shooters away from Korver, and when defenses pay too much attention to the ball screen, a lethal three point threat becomes open. The inverse is also true, where too much worry about Korver (elite shooters have a "gravity" or gravitational force that sucks defenders towards them) can leave the lane open.
Watching ball screen after ball screen isn't the most aesthetically-pleasing style to many basketball purists and casual fans alike. When the pieces work, and with the sheer brilliance of LeBron James, it's hard to argue with its frequent use in Cleveland. Lue has done a great job not over-saturating the playbook with ball screens or dialing them up too frequently during the regular season -- that and that alone is why worry of the Cavs' regular season results was so misguided.
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Head Boys Basketball Coach, Boys' Latin School (MD).