This week’s Right Play Wednesday includes Brad Stevens keeping Kawhi out of the paint and the Celtics switching to protect Kemba Walker. Make sure to check out all our previous Right Play Wednesdays:
Stevens Playing Keep-Away with Kawhi
Stevens is clearly calling for a specific action to start this possession, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know what it is. Any hardcore Xs and Os Celtics fans out there who can help?
Anyway, Edwards starts in the corner and makes a cut after hearing the play call. However, Stevens angrily calls Edwards back to his original corner. I’m not sure if this was a mistake on Edwards’ part or Stevens calling an audible, but I know one thing for sure: it’s meant to keep Kawhi away from the paint.
Kawhi is guarding Edwards, and as soon as Edwards is back in the corner and Tatum can see Kawhi to his left, he makes a strong drive to the right: far away from Kawhi who needs to watch Edwards in the corner (fun fact: Edwards is shooting 0% from corner 3s this season). – Cody Houdek
Celtics’ Mass Switch Protects Kemba
Really, you’re going to give me attitude for picking two plays from the same Celtics game?
When a team has a fantastic isolation scorer, a simple offensive set to run is trying to switch the defense’s worst defender on that scorer. That’s exactly what happens here when Walker switches onto Kawhi. However, the Celtics move perfectly on a string to protect Kemba.
On the catch, Tatum doubles Kawhi which leaves Lou Williams open on the perimeter. In many schemes, Kemba would be the one to scramble back to Lou, but Grant Williams immediately cheats towards Lou, and before Lou can release the pass to Morris, Edwards is already closing out. If the Clippers make passes quickly enough, they should be able to take advantage of this domino effect by getting Batum an open corner three, but Kemba bypasses all of this and makes the right play by sprinting straight to the corner for a strong contest.
Just like the best defenses, dominant defenses don’t just react: they dictate. The Celtics knew the Clippers’ moves before the Clippers did. – Cody Houdek
Mike Breen & Clyde Frazier
The Knicks are in the midst of a resurgent season with numerous positive arcs for both the team and players; Julius Randle is playing at an All-Star level, RJ Barrett has been impressive over the past few weeks, Immanuel Quickley is putting together more and more flashes of impressive play, and the Knicks own a Top 10 defense in the league.
However, the Knicks broadcast team deserves the spotlight. Mike Breen and Clyde Frazier have graced the MSG airwaves for over two decades now, bridging the gap between eras of competent Knicks basketball.
I can’t overstate how much I love listening to Breen & Frazier while I dissect a game. As PD Web would say “It’s about joy,” and that comes through with this broadcast crew at all times. They LOVE basketball. They don’t complain about threes or hype up bygone eras to boost their egos; they just talk about the awesome things occurring on-court, and I appreciate that. We need more of that in basketball. Great things happen on every plank of hardwood, whether it’s easy to see or not. There are little things you can look forward to about a possession. Breen and Frazier embody the joy of basketball for 48 minutes every other night, and there’s something special in the simplicity of that. – Mark Schindler
LaMelo Ball’s Creation Future
I won’t lie, I don’t have a central theme here. However, I do have an agenda: LaMelo Ball is more than just a flashy passer, he’s the next big time creator prospect and every team that passed should be kicking themselves. Despite my professed adoration for Killian Hayes, even I’m kicking myself for not slotting Melo in at #1 overall on my 2020 NBA Draft Board. The thing that makes Melo so special isn’t just his preternatural predictive passing aptitude or his manipulative handle; what makes Melo such an enticing prospect as the floor general of your offense is the brain that ties it all together. Ball has put that brain to good use, making NBA Top Ten highlights on a consistent basis and diming up teammates in audacious fashion.
Everybody knew he could pass and, if you paid close attention, you weren’t too worried about the shooting either. Of course we felt pretty confident about his handle and his acumen for counters, but the core strength left something to be desired when considering his willingness to attack the rim.
What compels me most about his play so far is that LaMelo is doing all the things I was worried would take him the most time to develop, and he’s doing them less than 30 games into the season for a team in playoff contention. He’s shown his willingness as a catch and shoot AND a pull-up shooter, and defenses are closing out as a result. Despite his relatively slight frame, he attacks the rim with force and doesn’t shy away from contact. The core strength is still coming along too, which means we can expect increased range and consistency on the jumper and increased confidence attacking the rim in LaMelo Ball’s future.
Since Melo is brilliant and takes nothing off the table himself, he can run all the P&R he wants, reading and reacting to how teams choose to try to stop him that night. Sell out to stop the shot and he’ll put it on the deck and attack, knowing he can score himself, draw a foul, or find the open man. Sell out to stop the drive and Melo feels comfortable enough with his shot to punish. There are moments where Melo does everything right but misses that little bit of extra strength required to put the finishing touches on the layup, or his shot falls just a bit short. As LaMelo Ball’s physique continues to improve, the rest of the league should be quaking in their boots wondering what he’ll look like when he comes out of the Hyperbolic Time Chamber. – Evan Zaucha
Sweet Sato Dime
Nate and I spoke on pod about the Chicago Bulls trending downwards, however, there are positives. I wrote last week about Thad Young being better utilized and resurging in year 14; similar things could be said about Tomas Satoransky.
Last year, Satoransky was tasked with doing far too much offensively, burdened with a creation load he couldn’t handle. While he’s playing less this year, he’s been in a role that’s much more suited for him. He’s currently +8% TS compared to last season, his assist rate is higher with significantly lower usage, and overall he seems more comfortable on both ends.
The record isn’t drastically different this year, but competent coaching and putting players in their proper role makes a difference. I’m really hopeful for a healthy Bulls team and what they can do, but they’re going to endure a pretty rough stretch sans Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen; More Thad though!
The pass isn’t out of this world, but the move to get there is. Also, the dunk from Zach LaVine is just nuts. I don’t care that it’s not contested, the hang time is ridiculous. I’m happy to see Tomas Satoransky thriving this season. – Mark Schindler
Siakam Driving & Dishing
Pascal Siakam has rounded back into form after a rough start to the season; He’s putting up 24ppg/7rpg/4.4 apg on 58.5% TS. What’s stood out most to me about Siakam the past few weeks has been his passing. While his handle is fairly herky jerky still, his vision has improved in my eyes.
This is one of my favorite types of improvements to see. I highlighted this with Dejounte Murray a few weeks back; players who are fantastic drivers can have a tendency to get to the rim and either force a shot or bad pass if the look is rough. Slowing down and finding the open man is a huge step in utilizing your individual gravity.
Last season, we’d often see Siakam drive to the rim, find himself heavily contested, and try to force something or hesitate, killing the flow of the possession. But, he’s starting to slow down, read the help, and find the corners.
Siakam currently is on pace to set a new career high in assist percentage (21%, up from 16.4% last year), without a sizable increase in turnover percentage. Per NBA.com/stats, in 2019-20 Siakam passed out on 36.5% of his drives. This season, he’s passing out 45.5% of the time This subtle improvement goes a long way and I’m interested to see how Siakam continues to develop as a passer and opens up more of his game. – Mark Schindler
Talen Horton-Tucker Reverse
First of all, shout out the Detroit Pistons. They’ve been a really fun watch for me and I don’t really understand the flak or national criticism they’ve gotten. They’re rebuilding in a way that makes sense; you can’t strictly have 23 years olds on the roster and full on Process. I think we’re going to look back in three years and collectively realize that Troy Weaver has a plan that was outside the norm and did things in a way that made Detroit better.
That being said, Talen Horton-Tucker has been really fun this year and adds some intersting elements and depth to the Lakers. This reverse finish is just gorgeous and I’ve really enjoyed his sort of bully ball game that also employs quite a bit of fluidity and craft. THT is shooting 67% at the rim right now! That’s really solid considering he’s yet to play his 400th minute in the NBA.
Tucker brings something on both ends that’s positive; learning from LeBron and playing on a veteran contending team provides a unique space for THT to grow and develop. I’m interested to see how he fits in the rotation moving forward. – Mark Schindler