Right Play Wednesday: Chris Paul Slices the Nets’ Defense, O’Neale Slips a Screen

Make sure to check out all our previous Right Play Wednesdays:

Chris Paul Eviscerates the Nets’ Zone

The Suns beat the Nets defense by manipulating space and gravity in an interesting way. When one thinks about beating a zone, they envision a 5-out offense with every player being an adequate shooter. Not here. 

Henry Ward points out that having a player in the dunker’s spot, which is where Crowder is positioned, can have benefits over a 5-out approach. However, this assumes that the other four players are on the perimeter. Ayton mucks that idea up by stationing himself at the top of the key, and his gravity contorts the defense. 

“Wait,” you might ask, “I thought gravity referred to shooters on the perimeter?” It does, but like any celestial body, all offense players have some level of gravity, and Ayton being stationed where he is requires the Nets to set up in a triangle around him to A) prevent a rim run and B) prevent an easy screen and drive for Paul. Bringing Jordan up even the slightest opens up the pass to Crowder which Paul fires off like a bullet. 

Once Crowder has the ball, it’s over for Brooklyn because they’re forced into scramble mode. Two quick passes after Paul’s initial look left him wide open for a three, and it was all accomplished without a single drive. – Cody Houdek

CP3 Recovers the Run

We are double dipping on the point God because this is a column about making the right play.

I’ve been watching a lot of people play Tony Hawk games on Twitch. I am good, but nowhere near as good as AndyTHPS. I can follow the same sequence of moves he does to get high scores, but when he messes up, he can recover in ways I wouldn’t dream of. Take this clip, for example. Getting stuck in the halfpipe with no speed during a combo is a death knell. That is, unless, you’re AndyTHPS.

This difference in improvisational instincts between the best and the rest holds true for basketball players. Most point guards can engineer a set and make the pre-determined reads that stem from it, but struggle when thrown off script. Paul is the AndyTHPS of the NBA. He takes what looks like a grim possession and creates an advantage by keeping his head up while the ball is loose. From there, the Suns generate positive ball movement and the play ends with a Devin Booker and one. – Scott Levine

O’Neale Slipping Causes Los Angeles Miscommunication

In a previous Right Play Wednesday, I cited the fact that slipping a screen is maybe the best way to counter a switching defensive scheme. This play is the perfect example of that. 

The Clippers like to switch screens when their perimeter players are involved, but when a big like Zubac or Ibaka is involved, they often drop. The Jazz start this play by having Favors hanging out near the top of the key while O’Neale sets a screen on Mitchell’s man, Beverley. Like clockwork, Beverley and Williams switch while O’Neale immediately slips. Favors approaches Beverley (who is now guarding O’Neale), and Beverley interprets this as a screen, so he pushes O’Neale down to Ibaka who is slightly dropping. 

That split second miscommunication between Ibaka and Beverley opens up enough of a window for Mitchell to whip the pass down to slipping O’Neale who is already behind Ibaka. It ends in an easy layup. – Cody Houdek

Defense Requires Constant Communication!

Yay for more switching mishaps! In episode 6 of Sense and Scalability, we discussed how the Nets change to “Switch everything all the time” mode when Jordan is off the court. Based on that, both Green and Harris are at fault for a couple of reasons. First, Green doesn’t communicate the switch quickly enough so that Harris can know to switch. Second, Harris shows WAY too high during Crowder’s screen. I’m really not sure why he cheats so much towards Booker in no-man’s land. Third, neither are keeping an eye on Paul who correctly floats to the corner and call for the pass. 

I want to give Harris credit for making a really impressive recovery and contest, but ultimately, this multi-faceted breakdown can’t happen in such a tight game. – Cody Houdek

Semi Ojeleye: Rotation Player

In February, Boston Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye has cemented himself as part of the rotation, logging double digit minutes in every game of February and averaging just under 22 minutes per game, a career high. Yes, Boston has struggled of late, but I’ve been impressed with some of the flashes of Ojeleye. He shot well on low volume last year, now he’s shooting well above league average from three on about twice the attempts. Semi’s not there yet, but he’s starting to take the next step in evolving as a floor-spacer.

In the series against the Atlanta Hawks this past week, Semi did something he rarley does (2.5 per/75 from BBall Index) off the catch; Drive.

Semi’s handle isn’t great frankly, but starting to diversify his ability to attack is huge. It happened only twice this past week, but you could see the seeds for success! DO I love this turnaround? I would say I’m indifferent. He can’t beat Collins off the dribble (Great defense from Collins btw), and goes to the jumper to create some space, so it makes sense.

However, this clip shows that his handle isn’t quite at the level yet to attack someone off the dribble if they’re in position already.

Now this clip, this is the secret sauce.

Especially with the right match-ups, Semi can start working on attacking the close. There will be situations where Ojeleye is facing a better defender/athlete, but if he can pick his spots and start to attack off the initial bend in the defense, that would be huge for him and the Celtics. – Mark Schindler

Saben Lee’s Explosive Start

With Killian Hayes and now Delon Wright out for a significant amount of time, the Detroit Pistons are giving heavy minutes to Dennis Smith Jr., and now 2nd round pick Saben Lee. Lee has now played more minutes in the last two games than he did in his first eight seeing action combined.

I didn’t see any of Vanderbilt last year, so Saben Lee is a completely new player for me. I was pleasantly surprised watching him in the two-game series between the Pistons and Magic.

Simply one of the cleanest at rim finishes I’ve seen in the NBA this season.

Lee has looked incredibly confident and has scored efficiently from the floor (16.5 ppg on 70.9% TS in Orlando Series) while competing defensively. While two games isn’t enough to establish a formattive judgement, it’s more than enough to catch my eye. I’ll be tuning into the Pistons regularly to see more of what Saben Lee and the young Pistons can do. – Mark Schindler

OG’s Post Game is On its Way

OG Anunoby’s post-game is coming. He gets called for the travel here, but the feel is there. He’s been flashing this since last season, figuring out how to use his strength and leverage his body to gain an advantage on the interior. He does an excellent job of shielding the ball just enough to not allow Simmons to help onto him.

His post-up efficiency numbers still aren’t great, but in watching, you can see he’s closer to finding ways to make it a positive aspect of his offensive repertoire. As his ability to attack mismatches continues to evolve, OG grows farther from being a toolsy 3 & D wing, and closer to a multi-dimensional two-way player. – Mark Schindler

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