Frames of the Game: Quick passes are important.
So I watched the game on league pass on my computer because that is the only way I could watch it. I don't know for sure how regular a thing this will be, but since I was watching on my computer (and not live) anyways I figured I'd take a few screenshots of things I saw and share them with you. I considered putting them into my recap post but decided that would be too much time. So yeah, I don't know if this will be a real regular thing or not, if you like it be sure to say so. And if you have not read my recap, go do that because several of the things the pictures are of are direct references from the recap.
Also keep in mind, that most of these things are not the only examples, you just sort of have to trust me when I say “I could take more pictures of this but that would take too much time”. If you disagree go ahead and say so. But basically, I am not going to go through and take pictures of every single possession. (although if I had time to do that, it would be awesome.)
Hopefully these are somewhat instructional in helping you to look a little deeper at the game, I know that when I started to look deeper I started to enjoy the game a ton more. This also can give a little further insight into the way that I think about the team because all of the things here are things that I immediately was like “Omg rewind I need pics” for.
The Pistons didn't run a lot of pick and rolls, but they had some really fun action.
I mentioned in my recap that one of the reasons that the Pistons offense seemed a bit disjointed is because they did not run many pick and rolls, instead focusing on other actions. Which makes sense because SVG likely has near total faith in (insert PG here) and Andre running pick and rolls to create offense. Here is just one example of a really cool and fun action the Pistons ran last night. (please excuse the time bar and whatnot, I couldn't get it to go away.)
The Pistons set up as though they are simply going to run a simple double pick up top, allowing Ish to go either way. This on its own is a very nice action that gives defenses trouble.
But then, instead of actually staying put, both Tobias and Andre slip the screens, Tobias to the 3 point line, and Andre into the paint. Effectively forcing a double team onto Ish Smith that the Nets were not really planning on.
Trevor Booker (correctly) stays with Harris, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (once again, correctly) shifts over to keep Drummond from an open dunk. Leaving Morris wide open in the corner.
Ish dumps it down to Andre, who although he could likely score with some ease on the much smaller Hollis-Jefferson, you can see in the frame that he is immediately looking to pass to Morris. Also notice that Tobias has drifted further away from Morris to pull Booker that much further away. Also worth noting, this is getting Morris a shot from, by far, his favorite place beyond the arc.
Andre is dead on with his quick pass, leaving Hollis-Jefferson to try and scramble all the way from the restricted area, and as good a defender as he is, he has no chance.
Why didn't Ish just skip pass it all the way to Morris?
Go back to the second picture. That is the point where Ish is passing, first off, it is just a much simpler pass to get to Andre than to go all the way across the court to Morris, essentially using Andre as a cutoff man. But it actually has some real strategical advantage as well, if you skip all the way at that point, Booker (or whoever would be in his position) is in a much better spot for a rushed contest as long as they are ready for it. At which point Morris is now guarded, and then Lin simply shifts over to Tobias and everyone is guarded. It still has created some mismatches and Marcus is still working against a scrambling defense so it is likely to yield a good look, but by dumping it to Andre it ensures that there will be a wide open shooter available.
How should they have defended that?
I mean, you don't really. But if it were a perfect world, at the moment of that 2nd picture, Booker is starting to rotate over to Morris and Lin is scrambling to Harris with Lopez likely leaving Ish (a bad shooter) to crash down on Drummond so that he has little time to take advantage of his size mismatch. But for that to really work, it needs to be incredibly quick and crisp, and given the quick read Andre made out to Morris, even with perfect defense you are getting a good look.
Individual players stuff:
There was other stuff I could highlight as far as plays, but that is enough there I think. There were some things I saw from individual players that impressed me that I want to highlight.
I said a lot last year (and this offseason) that Andre showed flashes of being a excellent passer, and that leads to tons of people going “say what now?” because he has never put up many assists. But this game already showed the progress he has made, and the previous play was already a good example. But here are some other plays from last night where Andre put his passing on display:
In those two frames, Andre makes a hop stem into the middle of the paint, one of his go to moves before going for a jump hook. But he then passes it out to Ish Smith who will then attack against a now somewhat scrambled defense.
Ok so look at those 4 pictures. Andre catches the ball on the wing and sets up in triple threat. He makes a move to the hoop, draws a double team from the weakside and the does a bounce(!!!??) pass to Morris in the corner. With this one the pass was not quite accurate enough to take advantage (and Morris would actually step out of bounds after teetering for a moment so it is moot anyways) HOWEVA, in both of these plays Andre makes an important play. He sets up, makes a move, and THEN makes a pass after drawing the defense in. Last year he showed great promise as a passer when he was looking to pass, but once he stopped looking to pass he got awful tunnel vision where he decided "I'm going to throw up a jump hook no matter what" which sometimes lead to almost comically bad results.
One of the big improvements i have cited as him needing to make is exactly this, even though the pass to Morris is not a great pass, he actually made a read after going to the hoop! He see's where the double team is coming from and passes there. In the first play he see's Ish's guy is sucked too far into the paint and passes out to the open man. If he is making these sorts of passes with regularity this year, it will be an absolute boon for the Pistons offense.
Here is one more Andre passing example this time just straight out of the post. (more in line with most of his passing last year.)
Once again, Andre with the ball (lower) on the wing but this time with his back to the basket. This is a great example of his excellent vision and accuracy when he is just looking to pass. (also, I probably should've taken one more screenshot here but whatever) In the first shot there is no obvious pass, Ish is a little bit open but Vasquez is recovering with arms outstretched so it would be a tight fit, HOWEVA, Ish's fake cut was a very smart move by him (and a great example of how simple movement can help your offense.) because the threat of him cutting causes KCP's defender (Who I believe is Joe Harris) has to take a step and shift his weight into the lane to ensure he is cutting off Ish. This creates a small lane for a pass to KCP, which Andre hits, Harris has not even turned by the time KCP is catching the ball, and look where that ball is, literally right in the pocket. That is a LeBron type of pass, there is no other way to put it. (KCP missed the shot, unfortunately.)
Of course looking good in a single preseason game does not mean that it is time to make Andre a honorary Gasol yet or anything. But when I talk about Andre's passing prowess, this is what I mean. Dude could legitimately be one of the best passing bigs in the NBA.
People other than Andre?
Yeah, I want to do a quick look at KCP and Reggie Bullock. I have raved on and on about Bullock's quick passing and thinking so I figured I would show it here in case you don't totally get it.
In the first picture Bullock is receiving a pass from McCallum, and he is already preparing to rifle a pass to Leuer in the paint. Literally not even a second has come off the clock in the time, the pass would not get to Leuer totally cleanly but Leuer is able to control it to put it in the bucket. But the thing to notice is just how quick the decision is, if Bullock is not as quick with that pass as he is then the pass is not available, that is the sort of quick passing and decision making that can make plays.
Compare that with KCP.
(Should've probably taken more than one screen shot. I thought I had. Oh well.)
But KCP has just received the pass from Ish Smith. Tobias is wide open at this moment, if this is Bullock, the ball is likely already on its way to Tobias Harris, but KCP needs to hold it for an extra beat (what the shot is of) before he see's Harris. KCP actually made this play fairly quickly though, and he did this a few more times in the game and was a good sign for him. (Because he has at times been almost fatally slow in making these passes in the past.) But the difference between Bullock and KCP here may seem small over the course of the game, but it is the difference between Tobias getting a totally clean look or a (at least partially) contested one and it adds up over the course of a game.
Once again, KCP actually looked crisper this game with his passing than he usually has in the past so that will also be something to watch because it was an obvious area for improvement with him.
Leuer had a really great game, he did a lot of things right, but apparently while watching I get a thing for passing so that is what I am going to highlight here when he ran a fast break to perfection.
Remember that this is a near 7 footer doing this play here. Leuer receives the ball from McCallum just a bit past half court, he takes one dribble, (dude has some real long strides.) and goes into the paint getting 2 defenders to commit to him, and even throws a pump fake to Baynes for good measure, before throwing a perfect pass to Morris for a wide open corner 3. That is the sort of stuff that makes it worthwhile to watch even the most meaningless preseason basketball games, and Leuer made many other plays where he showed great basketball IQ and skills, it's just one (preseason) game of course, but looked great.
That's all folks.
Yeah, so those are the pictures. Hopefully ya'll liked them, also I am specifically avoiding getting to technical with the basketball coach speak partially out of fear of calling something the wrong name, and also because it goes over the heads of lots of people.