Welcome to the first edition of Right Play Wednesday! Every week, the writers here at Premium Hoops will analyze a few plays that we think were
a. Very cool
b. Aesthetically pleasing
c. Intriguing or Smart
d. Noteworthy & Eye-Popping
This is just a fun way for us to display some of our favorite happenings around the league. Catch some cool moves!
The Cleveland Cavaliers Run a Four-Center Lineup
For a grand total of five minutes against the Bucks (and in total during the season), the Cavaliers ran a lineup of Andre Drummond, Larry Nance Jr., JaVale McGee, Thon Maker, and Damyean Dotson. This is effectively a lineup of three full-time centers, one player who splits between power-forward and center, and a shooting guard who is shooting below 30% from three this season. However, here’s the kicker: this lineup was +5.
When working with a lineup that can’t effectively space the floor, you don’t try to space the floor, and the Cavaliers clogged the paint to their advantage. In this action, Drummond dumps the ball down to Larry Nance Jr. The ensuing play feels lackadaisical as Drummond jogs over to screen Makers’ defender, Pat Connaughton (who is a full seven inches shorter than Maker). Maker saunters over to the Nance’s side of the basket, and because of Drummond (slightly illegal) screen, Maker makes a deep catch. Poor Connaughton’s fruitless attempt is but a blimp to the skyscraping Maker who easily scores a hook.
We busted the myth that all NBA offenses look the same on episode 2 of the Sense and Scalability podcast, and this is a clear example of the experimentation within the league. Even though some of the most famous analysts straw-man analytics by making it all about threes and layups, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Analytics is about finding the best shot for the best player who is on the court, and in this instance, setting Maker up for a short hook over a much shorter shooting guard is clearly the best option. – Cody Houdek
Nikola Jokic Expertly Uses His Hands in the Post
As of January 11th, the Nuggets have the 6th worst defensive rating in the league. Some of it has to do with some Millsap regression, some has to do with Jerami Grant getting a new chance in Detroit, and some of it is just statistical luck. Unfortunately, Jokic will never be a damaging defensive anchor, but he has some tools to make him a somewhat positive impact defender.
In this play, you can see his quick hands on full display. He lacks the vertical pop to make him a functional rim protector, but his sheer size makes driving straight to the basket a difficult endeavor. When he sees Randle taking off for a shot, he anticipates the pass by quickly getting his hand between Randle and the only place the ball could go. – Cody Houdek
Andre Drummond with a Double-Jump Block
Andre Drummond might be the twitchiest player in the last decade or so to stand 6’ 10” and weigh 280 pounds. When looking at his steal numbers, quickness, and strength, it’s shocking that he’s not a perennial Defensive Player of the Year Candidate. However, that ideal Drummond has not been realized.
Adding to his tantalizing potential (at 27-years-old), Andre Drummond randomly erupts for a delicious defensive play. What makes this particular block so fantastic is that he essentially weathers a 2-on-1 while effectively deterring one shot and blocking the next. In one fluid motion, he jumps, turns his body, DOESN’T stick the landing, and still has a quick enough second jump to meet Valanciunas at his 11-foot peak. – Cody Houdek
Zach LaVine is Becoming the Right Initiator
Some players, whether deserved or not, get a reputation of having low feel early in their careers and that reputation tends to stick. Analysts can be slow to update their priors. Jaylen Brown has gotten his flowers this year for making a huge playmaking jump, but he’s not the only young guy who has shown out as a passer this year despite many wondering if he was capable. Zach LaVine has taken the next step as an on-ball player, showcasing much-improved ability as a passer.
While Zach was miscast as a “wrong initiator” early in his career, those bumps and bruises have started to pay dividends. LaVine has improved his patience, his recognition, and the versatility of his passes. He’s even pulling off live dribble bounce passes in transition.
Zach has shown steady improvement in his passing numbers, increasing his assist/game numbers almost every season. He still forces things at times, but the game has mostly seemed to slow down for him. I’m not sure if these playmaking improvements are a flash in the pan or if they’re here to stay. All I know is that I love watching Zach LaVine oscillate from poster dunk to stepback 3 to well-placed dime. He’s fun and he’s good and I will hear no Zach slander. – Evan Zaucha
Sacramento’s Offense is Kinda Fun!
The Sacramento Kings have stealthily put together an above average offense to start the season, clocking in at 13th in Offensive Rating. Forget that they’re 30th in defense, the offense is flat out fun and gave the Pacers problems routinely.
In what is now dubbed “Maize Runner” (Thank you PD Web), the Kings run double drag spain in which Marvin Bagley rolls to the rim and Richaun Holmes sets a pindown for Buddy Hield. Hield collapses the defense by diving inside to set a back screen on Sabonis and drawing his man in McDermott. Bagley’s roll gravity causes the hesitation from McDermott and gives Hield the split second he needs to race to the arc. The two actions in tandem cause miscommunication in Indy’s backline, which routinely caused gaffs in Indiana’s aggressive scheme.
Just a beautiful set. – Mark Schindler
Aaron Gordon Skies
Aaron Gordon is currently maintaining his first season at or above league average true-shooting (fingers crossed); Plays like this certainly help up his shooting splits.
I find this to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing clips from this past week of hoops. Dunks are rad, the Orlando orange pinstriped jerseys are some of my favorite in the league, and we got a poster! Can that sequence be beat in terms of pure watchability? No. – Mark Schindler
Draymond’s Passing Wizardry
This is our first edition of this weekly recurring article, and I have a feeling Draymond Green will come up more than once. Most of the time it is his defensive plays that leave you enamored by his on court smarts. However, I’m going to bring up an offensive play by Draymond here that encapsulates his on court genius.
Draymond Green for lack of a better term, is the short roll passing king. Regularly making great reads in this area when teams usually let him slip the screen while they’re focused on Steph, Klay and KD over the years. Draymond has made defenses pay with how quickly he can read where the help is coming from and tosses well timed lob passes or a bullet into the corner for an open 3.
In this clip Draymond finds himself in the aforementioned short roll area during a crucial possession down the stretch of this game. Kawhi being the smart defender he is, helps low from the weak side and Batum stunts beautifully not giving Draymond a driving angle to his right but also being close enough to contest a kick out to the strong side corner. Draymond looks directly at Wiggins in the weak side corner as if he is about to make that pass he has made so many times, which gets Kawhi to jump in that direction leaving Draymond wide open to finish his roll and essentially ice the massive comeback win. Had Draymond thrown that pass it is most certainly tipped by Kawhi, and if not Paul George was making a great rotation over to that corner to steal a pass that could have got through. – Nate Georgy
Be sure to check back in next week for our next edition of Right Play Wednesday! Let us know what you think of the format and anything you’d like to see added in!