August 2, 2019, 2:26 am
Hoop Ballers from around the world, welcome to our offseason Premium International Dynasty feature where we shall take a glimpse into the NBA playbook.
With the NBA season wrapped I wanted to take the time and point out to our loyal readers some plays and actions that were behind the success of many fantasy players this season. The details surrounding NBA offenses are not appreciated enough but there’s something about a perfect possession, filled with motion, screening and ball movement, that makes me excited every time I tune into an NBA game. Plus, good execution leads to numbers which, as fantasy players, we have a deep appreciation for.
While it’s always hard to see the future and to predict how guys transition from one year to another, it’s definitely easier to review the film and figure out the reason for statistical improvements. I gave my grades and Fantasy Season Awards earlier in the year, so rather than talking about the letdowns and pleasant surprises we’ll focus mostly on changes that don’t seem like flukes that will most likely continue in the coming years.
Nikola Jokic as the initiator
Mike Malone got a lot of heat last year for a young Nuggets squad that barely missed the playoffs but the franchise was smart enough to stick with him and reward him with an extension before the start of the season.
Malone and his coaching staff spent the summer focusing on how to make Nikola Jokic the epicenter of their offense and the results were magnificent with the Serbian big having a career year and leading his team to the Western Conference Semifinals where they just couldn’t overcome the experience of the Blazers.
“Double Rip” action
One of the plays that the Nuggets ran consistently was what is being called a “Double Rip Action” to get Jokic into the post where he can either score or pass to the wings.
This action has the Joker cutting to the basket as two of his teammates set a couple screens deep in the paint, forcing a lot of switching and making it hard for opposing bigs to set their feet and defend accordingly. Jokic uses his fluidity and a plethora of post moves to go one-on-one while he easily passes to open teammates when the double-team appears.
Here is the play being executed at the beginning of the third quarter with Myles Turner fighting through screens and holding his ground against Jokic, who patiently waits and finds Will Barton at the top of the key for the open triple.
On a variation of the above play, the Nuggets use the post up ability of Paul Millsap as a decoy while Jokic runs a screen-the-screener action for Jamal Murray, who ends up with the wide-open shot. I’ve also seen this action run with Jokic in the post and Miles Plumlee screening the screener.
Joe Harris as an offensive tool
Hoop Ball favorite Joe Harris had a career year with the Nets this season, averaging 13.7 points while shooting 50.0 from the field and 47.4 percent from behind the arc. Harris has major physical limitations but he earned the starting job mainly due to his high basketball IQ that allowed Kenny Atkinson to run some exceptional offensive sets through him.
The main play that Harris executed with D’Angelo Russell all year long is what is being known as “Charlie V.” It’s a play that former Nets coach Lawrence Frank named after Charlie Villanueva, who would confuse defenses up by acting like he was popping after the pick-and-roll before diving into a roll.
Look at how Wayne Ellington stays attached to Harris as he moves toward a screen set by Jarrett Allen at the top of the key. Ellington avoids going under the screen, fearing that Harris might launch the triple, inadvertently putting himself a couple steps behind as Harris sees the opening and sprints to the rim for the easy layup.
Another very successful option that leads a shooter to the corner is what is being called a “Back-Flare Screen-the-Screener” and is a popular trigger within the framework of a modern NBA offense.
The play progresses into an action where the initial screener receives a screen curling to the basket but quickly changes direction and moves to the corner for what is usually a wide-open triple. Right off the bat against the Hornets, Harris pretends to set up a screen only to quickly outrun Kemba Walker who is trapped into a Jarret Allen screen.
Pacers misdirection “Screen-the-Screener”
A variation of that play was also used by the Pacers, who traditionally aren’t a team that one associates with good offense. After Victor Oladipo went down, their offensive deficiencies were on full display but head coach Nate McMillan was successful in seeking out switches and attacking smalls in the post.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 18.0 points this season taking advantage of back-screens (usually from Daren Collison) that allowed him to operate deep in the post against smaller defenders.
Look how, on the very first possession of the game, the Pacers run this o perfection and Bogdanovic is able to finish against a helpless rookie (Kevin Knox).
Trae Young and the “Loop Elbow Lob”
Lloyd Pierce was an excellent addition to a young, rebuilding Hawks team and it was no surprise that USA Basketball announced him as an assistant coach for the Men’s National Team that will compete for the FIBA World Cup this summer.
Pierce has been instrumental in the development of Trae Young as a passing guard and one of the plays the Hawks ran consistently this season was an excellent misdirection leading to a lob for one of their wings.
Look at Kevin Huerter lurking at the top of the key before he quickly cuts to the rim and receives the hard screen from Dewayne Dedmon as J.J. Redick and Furkman Korkmaz completely fail to read the play.
Sixers Invert Pick-And-Roll
One of the latest trends in the NBA has been designing plays which exploit shooting gravity in order to create openings in their offense. The Sixers and Brett Brown have embraced that trend and have overpaid J.J. Redick the last couple years because of the veteran’s ability to allow the offense to flourish in many different ways other than pure scoring.
Under the invert pick-and-roll, a skilled big man like Joel Embiid comes off a pick from a face-guarded shooter near the elbow. Disguised as a dribble handoff, it’s a great counter to face-guarding defenses, as shooters, who are usually smaller defenders, can’t switch and their defense collapse.
Look at the Sixers running this play against Julius Randle and a helpless E’Twaun Moore. Redick sets up a solid screen that has two Pelicans trapped while Embiid drives to the basket for the uncontested dunk.
Luka Doncic running the “Elbow Curl Lob”
Doncic had an amazing first year in the league, putting up stats across the board and while we knew he could pass, not many folks predicted he would go on to average 6.0 assists per game. Luka began the season operating as the pseudo-point guard and as the season progressed and Dennis Smith Jr. was shipped to New York, he ran the majority of the offense in Dallas.
A longtime favorite in the Rick Carlisle playbook is the “Elbow Lob,” a play simple in its execution but so tough to stop, even when you see it coming.
The wing usually arrives at the elbow only to quickly shift direction and cut to the basket, taking advantage of the screen the big provides; unless the defenders communicate the switch it usually leads to an easy lob dunk or layup.
Look at how Steven Adams focuses on the upcoming pick-and-roll and completely ignores Dorian Finney-Smith, who uses the screen and elevates for the dunk after the accurate pass from Trey Burke.
The career year from Terrence Ross
Steve Clifford found a role for his swingman that allowed Ross to enter the game and attack defenses relentlessly. Ross had a career year and it’s the perfect example of a player being put in the right position to succeed.
The coaching staff didn’t just give him the ball, instructing him to score, but they specifically ran a few plays exclusively for him again and again. The general idea was to have the Magic line up in a compressed set with non-threatening spacing where Ross sprints around the screens and executes before the defense can react.
“Ram Alley Double Level”
You’ve probably seen the unorthodox shot from Ross quite a few times this year in an action where he comes off the curl and releases a jump shot or the floater as a couple of his teammates set consecutive screens that give him the necessary space. The Magic often had trouble scoring the ball and it was interesting how they kept running the same play on and on again. Here is Michael-Carter-Williams dropping the pass to the cutting Ross.
“Ram Deuce Down”
Another very effective play had the Magic overloading one side of the floor while leaving Ross stationed in the corner, where he was almost always able to beat his opponent via backdoor pass with his speed and athleticism. Look at Pat MacCaw unable to read the play as Ross quickly cuts to the basket and finishes with authority all while Serge Ibaka is far away trying to keep an eye on Khem Birch.
Mike D’Antoni and the “Free Screen”
I’m a big fan of Mike D’Antoni’s offensive schemes that have revolutionized the NBA the last few years and the veteran coach did not disappoint this year, coming up with a new set play that combines the toughness of P.J. Tucker with the elite scoring of James Harden and Eric Gordon.
There aren’t many innovators in coaching but usually a few key figures who change the way everybody else thinks and D’Antoni is one of those innovators. The “Free Screen” is another way to spring an elite scorer open, faking a back screen and flipping the angle into a down screen.
Look at Justise Winslow playing it safe, assuming that Harden is going to cut to the rim as the Beard instead uses Tucker’s screen to walk to the top of the arc where he launches the triple.
The Jazz are a must watch for any X’s and O’s junkie as Quin Snyder is a tactical savant and his team features a series of creative and exciting after-timeout plays (ATOs), which give the coach full control of his offense.
Over-running the Dribble Handoff
One of the new concepts that I’ve seen this year is what coaches call “over-running the dribble handoff,” and it’s a simple way to spring free a shooter who is being denied on the perimeter. The Jazz are one of the first teams that have implemented this play in their offensive arsenal and it has led, unsurprisingly, to Rudy Gobert, who is by default one of the better screen-setters in the league, averaging a career-high 2.0 assists for the season.
Here is Derrick Favors running this play with Kyle Korver, as Tim Frazier has no clue how to defend the screen. The key on this play is the screener, who reverse-pivots into the handoff and gets further from the basket, allowing the DHO to serve as a screen.
Defensive switching has become an integral part of today’s NBA and coaches are smart to take advantage of teams who refuse to switch or lack the personnel to do so. Snyder has found another way to create easy buckets for Gobert by using a side screen while the Frenchman cuts to the basket, where he either has to go against a smaller opponent or has a clean look.
Here is Donovan Mitchell setting up the screen down low as Mitchell Robinson gets trapped on the elbow; Henry Ellenson rotates timely but regardless, Gobert is too deep into the paint to be contained.
Marcin Gortat’s “Snake Screen”
Marcin Gortat’s rebounding numbers have declined the last few years while he hasn’t been able to effectively protect the paint, but his playing career has been extended due to his ability to set up elite screens for his teammates. He was also the one that invented a very effective concept versus drop coverage that has gained steam in the NBA over the last several years.
This action requires that after the big sets up the initial screen for the pick-and-roll with his point guard, he slowly coordinates with the latter cutting to the basket, providing a deep second screen to eliminate the drop protection that the defender provides close to the basket.
Gortat has been running this play with John Wall since last year but it’s a concept that is being adopted widely around the league with the Spurs adding it to their arsenal this season. Here is DeMar DeRozan receiving the first screen from Jakob Poeltl, who follows him toward the basket and screens Steven Adams, allowing the Spurs guard to drive for the easy layup.
How the Raptors exposed the Bucks
Toronto was able to win four straight against the Bucks and while much has been written about successfully slowing Giannis Antetokounmpo, I want to emphasize the offensive side of the ball where Marc Gasol torched his opponents in the pick-and-roll action.
Coach Bud run a great program in Milwaukee all year long but his team opted not to switch and instead drop back with Brook Lopez as their anchor. The Celtics gave them a rude awakening in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals but they were able to quickly adjust and recover.
Unfortunately, that was not the case against Gasol and the Raptors as Bud failed to adjust after Milwaukee took what seemed to be a commanding 2-0 lead. Gasol went 2-of-9 from behind the arc in the first couple games but 10-of-20 in the next four as Lopez kept rolling to the basket, allowing open looks for Big Spain.
Hope you enjoyed reading this month’s article and please free to reach out to me on Twitter @philysstar for any fantasy or dynasty trade talk. Stay up to date on all the breaking news and rumors posted on our website and on our Twitter account @HoopBallFantasy.
September 16, 2019, 6:33 pmMychal MulderPG, Miami Heat
The Heat have announced the signing of guard Mychal Mulder.
Mulder played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League and averaged 8.8 points in Summer League this year. He has good range but is unlikely to contribute much at the NBA level in 2019-20.
Source: Miami Heat
September 16, 2019, 6:13 pmVincent PoirierC, Boston Celtics
Nicolas Batum praised the play of Celtics center Vincent Poirier at the FIBA World Cup.
According to Batum, Poirier "is a center that can block shots and control the paint." A native of France, Poirier has performed well over six seasons in Europe. Nevertheless, he should only be a depth option for the Celtics with Enes Kanter starting.
Source: NBC Sports Boston
September 16, 2019, 5:49 pmZach LaVinePG, Chicago Bulls
Zach LaVine has been fine tuning his playmaking skills in the offseason, according to an interview with FanSided.
LaVine enjoyed the best field goal percentage of his career for the Bulls last season. He also scored a career best 23.7 points per game. However, LaVine averaged 3.4 turnovers and his fantasy value will increase if he can take better care of the ball.
September 16, 2019, 5:19 pmTyler HerroPG, Miami Heat
According to Ira Winderman, rookie Tyler Herro is unlikely to start for the Heat at the beginning of the season.
The Heat drafted Herro out of Kentucky with the 13th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. Dion Waiters should be the primary shooting guard at the outset. However, expect Herro to get plenty of opportunities to contribute.
September 16, 2019, 4:40 pmJordan MurphyPF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Forward Jordan Murphy will be in training camp with the Wolves after signing an Exhibit 10 deal, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.
Murphy averaged 14 points and 11 rebounds for the University of Minnesota last season. Murphy could join the Iowa Wolves of the G-League if he does not crack the NBA roster.
September 16, 2019, 4:28 pmSemi OjeleyePF, Boston Celtics
Semi Ojeleye could compete with Grant Williams for more minutes at forward for the Celtics, according to Jay King of The Athletic.
Ojeleye only played 10 minutes per game for the Celtics last season but improved his field-goal shooting to 42 percent. He has shown some defensive prowess but could use more consistency in his perimeter shooting. Ojeleye is unlikely to contribute much for standard league owners.
Source: Jay King of The Athletic
September 16, 2019, 4:06 pmMohamed BambaC, Orlando Magic
The Magic exercised their team option on Mo Bamba, signing him through 2020-21.
Bamba averaged 1.4 blocked shots during his rookie season in just 16 minutes per game. However, the #6 overall pick in 2018 is firmly behind starting center Nikola Vucevic on the Magic's depth chart.
Source: Orlando Magic PR on Twitter
September 16, 2019, 3:49 pmJonathan IsaacPF, Orlando Magic
The Magic exercised their team option on Jonathan Isaac, signing him through 2020-21.
Isaac started 64 games in his second season, scoring 9.6 points per game to go with 5.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Isaac also improved his free-throw shooting, finishing at 81.5 percent. He certainly has the potential to do even more going forward if he can stay healthy.
Source: Magic PR on Twitter
September 16, 2019, 3:41 pmJames Ennis IIISF, Philadelphia Sixers
James Ennis should be the first wing off the bench for the Sixers, according to Rich Hofmann of The Athletic.
Ennis, who averaged 6.7 points in 21 minutes per game last season, will provide depth behind Tobias Harris. His fantasy value isn't terribly high, but head coach Brett Brown trusts his defensive game. This report could mean a slight uptick in playing time for Ennis.
Source: Rich Hofmann of The Athletic
September 16, 2019, 3:16 pmMarkelle FultzPG, Orlando Magic
The Magic have exercised their team option on Markelle Fultz.
That will keep Fultz under control through the 2020-21 season. While Fultz is a former No. 1 overall pick, this was not a slam-dunk decision for the Magic given his health record and all the mystery that's clouded the first couple years of his career. With current starter D.J. Augustin set to hit free agency following the upcoming season, Orlando could be preparing to hand Fultz the reins. We want to know that he's healthy before endorsing him as a fantasy selection but the upside is enough to at least consider a deep-league flier.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter