Featuring Joel Embiid, Avery Bradley, and Spencer Dinwiddie
Welcome to the third week of “How They Drew It Up.” If you have been with us from the beginning, you’re awesome, and if you are just joining us, we are happy to have you. We have a hodgepodge collection of clips from last week’s NBA schedule. Great defense? Check. Dribble hand-offs? Check. Knicks not playing good defense as they give up a 15-point lead to start the fourth quarter? Check. It’s a nice, eclectic group.
Kyle Howard joins me once again and Will Muckian makes his HTDIU debut. Kyle is going to start us off with a clip from the Heat-Pistons game last Sunday, followed by Will discussing Kris Dunn, and then I’ll close the article out discussing Spencer Dinwiddie, Joel Embiid, and the Cavaliers offense against the Knicks. Let’s get into it!
Detroit discovering the dribble hand-off
When Avery Bradley moved from the Boston Celtics to the Detroit Pistons this offseason, it was easy to predict some sort of fall off on the offensive end. After all, the Celtics ranked top 10 in offensive efficiency and the Pistons ranked 25th. The Celtics ball and player movement opened things up for limited players like Bradley, allowing them to thrive. One of the ways they did this was through the use of dribble hand-offs. Instead of having players try and run the pick and roll from a stationary position, Boston would run them on the move, often towards the middle of the floor to help players get a better read of the defense. Over the past two seasons, no team has used dribble hand-offs to score more than the Celtics. Only J.J. Redick used hand-offs at a higher frequency than Bradley in that same time period.
The Pistons meanwhile, ran hand-offs to score at a frequency of 4.4% and 3% the last two seasons. Moving to a system where his pet play was nearly nonexistent, the offense might have been hard to come by for Bradley. But, good coaches adapt to their players and Stan Van Gundy has done just that with Bradley. Through the first 10 games, the Pistons are running dribble hand-offs more than twice as much as they were last season, leading the league in frequency by a wide margin. Bradley, of course, has been the main beneficiary, using 77 of the teams 172 hand-off possessions, while over 27% of his own offense comes through such actions. He is shooting a career high from beyond the arc, and his straight line speed combined with his midrange proficiency make him a threat from all three levels when receiving the hand-off.
He works particularly well in tandem with Andre Drummond, whose big body makes for a good wall to hide behind. His athleticism also keeps the defense from committing too much to Bradley due to the threat of the lob to the rim. It’s always nice to see a coach implement actions that benefit the players. Detroit as a whole has benefited from it, as the team currently ranks in the top 10 in offensive efficiency.
Kris Dunn going back to back
The Bulls are not a good defensive team, generally speaking, especially with defensive savant David Nwaba sidelined with an ankle injury for at least another week or so. In Friday’s win against the Charlotte Hornets, the needed defensive spark came almost entirely from usually-nauseatingly-bad Kris Dunn. Dunn’s physicality throughout the game was impressive, but he especially gave rookies Monk and Dwayne Bacon trouble in the full court, as seen in this clip here.
When players like Dunn buy into the idea of active and energetic defense, it has tangible payoffs. It’s also infectious. Dunn steps up first, picking up the slighter Monk from the opposite three-point line and immediately ups the physicality as he crosses half court, applying pressure to the rookie’s dribble. Monk is obviously uncomfortable, shying away from the pressure, and Dunn uses his monstrous 6’10 wingspan (Monk’s 6’3 wingspan is at an obvious disadvantage here) to poke the ball loose, recover it with the opposite hand to begin the fastbreak, and use his size to dive straight into Monk for the layup.
Here’s where we see the infectious nature of active defense: Bobby Portis, who ran the break with Dunn following the first turnover, starts to deny the passing angle to Monk. Dunn picks up on it, forcing Kaminsky to inbound to Bacon, whose man, Pondexter, picks him up at half court. Bacon is still surveying the area for Monk, allowing Dunn to sneak in and again tap the ball away, sparking a second break and subsequent easy lay-in. The Bulls have been largely miserable to watch for this young season, but wade into the muck a little and you’ll find some entertaining bits.
Spencer Dinwiddie, point guard extraordinaire
Entering Friday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Utah Jazz were the 7th best defense in the NBA. Do you think that mattered to Spencer Dinwiddie? Absolutely not. Dinwiddie had a fantastic game against the Jazz, scoring 25 points with an 85.7 eFG% (not a typo), eight assists, and zero turnovers! For players who have played at least six games this season, Dinwiddie is seventh in assists per 100 possession as well as in the 80th percentile in pick and roll scoring, per nba.com.
In the clip above, Dinwiddie gets Raul Neto caught in Tyler Zeller’s pick as he crosses Neto up and doesn’t use the pick. Favors shuts down the drive, but it doesn’t matter. Royce O’Neale comes over to help out with Zeller, leaving his man, Caris LeVert. Dinwiddie recognizes this and executes a perfect jump pass to allow LeVert to shoot in rhythm, draining the 3-point shot in the process. Despite the Nets having some injury issues at the point guard spot, Dinwiddie has stepped up in a big way, showing that he is a damn-fine lead guard in the NBA.
Joel Embiid can pass?
Yes folks, Joel Embiid is learning to pass and is doing so quite well. This improvement has been noticeable since the beginning of the season too. Given that we only discuss five clips per week, some exciting stuff does get caught on the chopping block, similar to how defenders get caught on the low block when trying to play one-on-one defense against Joel Embiid. I couldn’t leave Embiid out for another week. That and, you know, the whole 46-15-7-7 stat line in a win against the Lakers.
In the clip above, Ben Simmons brings the ball up and passes to Robert Covington on the right wing. Simmons fakes a screen for Covington, then slips into the paint unguarded. As the fake pick is being set, Covington passes to Embiid, who immediately recognizes Simmons. Embiid flings the ball into the paint with purpose and accuracy, leading to the easy dunk. Once Embiid cuts down on his turnovers — averaging 4.5 per game — there will be nothing he can’t do on the floor. If you haven’t already, start watching the Sixers.
Kyle Korver’s gravity
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? That’s exactly what the Cavaliers did to the Knicks with less than five minutes remaining in the game. And what Cleveland did wasn’t anything fancy either. All they did was rely on the greatness of LeBron James and Kyle Korver.
In the first part of the clip, you see James bringing the ball up the court with JR Smith in the right corner with Dwyane Wade and Channing Frye looking to stagger screen for Kyle Korver on the left side. This allows James to iso against Courtney Lee, who has absolutely no chance of stopping James on a drive. The Knicks help defense is so focused on Kyle Korver that they aren’t even looking at James. LeBron easily drives on Lee, then Frank Ntilikina comes off Smith to help out on the drive. James kicks it out the Smith in the corner for the easy three.
Then on the very next Cavaliers possession, they run they SAME EXACT PLAY! This time, Korver does come off the screen as Porzingis and Kanter sit back to help on a potential LeBron drive to the basket. James doesn’t drive and instead hits Korver coming off a screen in rhythm. Tim Hardaway Jr. tries his hardest to get around the screens, but he’s a second too late, and that’s all the time heat check Kyle Korver needs.
Note: statistics for this article for collected on November 19 and may have changed since then.