Right Play Wednesday: LeBron Turns Back the Clock on Defense, and a Smart Switch from Rozier and Hayward

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LeBron Turns Back the Clock a Decade on Defense

Earlier in his career, LeBron was one of the most impactful defensive wings in NBA history. A huge part of that is his physicality, but like his passing, his intelligence is an even bigger driver of that impact. While he may not be the same LeBron physically as 2013, he arguably sees the game better than ever before.

The play begins with Caruso chasing Lillard over two screens near half court. Instead of staying on Covington, Caruso doubles Lillard with Morris to get the ball out of Dame’s hands. LeBron anticipates this, and begins recovering to Covington a full half a second before Lillard makes the pass. By the time Covington catches the pass, LeBron cheats to the left with his hands high so that Covington can’t easily make the pass to the open Jones Jr.

After Lillard gets the ball again at the top of the arc with Caruso on him, LeBron predicts that Lillard will hit Caruso with a cross back to his right hand, so LeBron helps on Lillard and shuts down his pullup three. The Blazers have no choice but to settle for a long Covington three.

When we talk about players blowing up an offensive set, this is the kind of thing we mean. – Cody Houdek

Rozier and Hayward Switch Off Ball

This may be an example of me overanalyzing, so please let me know if you think Rozier is calling for something else.

Rozier begins the possession defending Paul, but as Ayton comes up to set the screen, Rozier calls to Hayward that they will switch once he and Ayton roll into the paint.

Sure enough, as soon as Rozier and Hayward find a moment that Paul can’t exploit, they switch to protect Rozier from the 10-inch mismatch. I’ve railed before against poor communication on defense, and even though this small moment didn’t lead to preventing a basket, it shows a level of defensive awareness that’s necessary for a successful team. – Cody Houdek

Kyle Anderson is here, and he’s perfect

Memphis Grizzlies forward, Kyle Anderson, affectionately dubbed Slo Mo, has always flashed as an intriguing toolsy player who can do a lot of positive things on-court. He provides tremendous defense with, combining his absurd length with excellent basketball IQ. Anderson has always had very good floor vision and a solid handle for his size, and also quality touch inside the arc. However, he’s headlined the “If he shoots All-Stars” since coming out of UCLA.

No longer! Kyle Anderson is attempting a career high 4.1 3-pointers per game, up from 1.3 per game last season. Anderson’s jump started in the Bubble, in which he took ~3 attempts per game and hit at a 43.4% clip.

Anderson is shooting 39% from three on the year after shooting 31.1% across his first 5 seasons. What’s been different? Ironically enough, the speed in which Anderson gets off his shot.

This is Anderson last season just before the hiatus. Notice the hitch in his shot. In rewatching his shots from the Bubble, he had started to work this out a bit, leading to more comfortability and capability with the shot.

The shot release is still pretty slow, but rather than the herky jerky 2-motion, Anderson is letting it fly in one.

While I don’t expect Kyle Anderson to shoot 39-40% from three for the remainder of the year or his career, I would bank on him at least shooting league average.

This is huge!

Kyle Anderson was a negative in nearly every offensive impact metric last season; the defensive numbers have always been solid. Anderson now has a positive OBPM for the first time in his career (+1.6) and is 80th%ile or higher in LEBRON, RPM, and RAPTOR’s offensive metrics.

The Grizzlies have asked and needed quite a bit from him as they’ve struggled with both injury and health and safety protocol. WIth his scoring pop and more on-ball responsibility, his playmaking has flashed even more-so than in years prior. Anderson has seen his usage skyrocket (up 6% from the 2020 season), while turning the ball over less and assisting his teammates at a higher clip.

According to Basketball Index, Kyle Anderson has a 5.5 Box Creation score, compared to 2.5 last year. The metric created by Ben Taylor, gauges the actual creation of a player’s playmaking ability. This jump takes Anderson from slightly above average, to firmly above average in the 86th%ile among players.

I’m not sure what position he ends up at when Jaren Jackson Jr. returns, adding to an already crowded frontcourt. Anderson has been better utilized offensively at the 4 than the 3, and that shows both on tape and in the numbers. The Grizzlies are +6pp/100 with Anderson at the four and -3.8pp/100 with him at the three, with the difference coming almost exclusively in the offense’s production. Overall, the Grizzlies are +5.6pp/100 with Anderson on-court.

Regardless, Kyle Anderson has been a bright spot for an intriguing Memphis team that is yet to play at full strength tthis season.

Anderson has clearly crossed the bridge from fringe starter/useful rotation player into full-time starter if the shooting holds up. – Mark Schindler

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