What to Watch When You Watch Golden State on Offense

There are only a few teams in the NBA that I’m interested in watching on a regular basis because they do something interesting with their offensive attack. Golden State’s open-post motion offense is one I pay attention to. I’ll use the video clip below to help explain some of what has caught my interest:

Four things to notice:

1. No player is in the lane.

I call at least this alignment by Golden State “open post” because no player has a foot in the yellow lane area. You might be right to argue and say it’s 4 out motion with a post player playing high. What this alignment does is allow all players space to cut to the basket. This works great for Golden State because when you start worrying about their shooters coming off of screens, everyone (shooters and screeners) has room to cut backdoor to the basket.

2.  Players weave with the ball.

What’s the weave? Watch how a dribbler heads to their teammate, the teammate goes behind, and the dribbler flips the ball to their teammate. After a dribbler gives it up, they can cut to the edge of the floor and come back for another handoff. Golden State mostly uses the weave to get the defense moving before they do the thing on offense they really want to do.

3. Players have choices.

Part of what appeals to me about the motion offense is that players have choices. Instead of telling players exactly where to go when, they can set screens and cut and decide what they will do based on how the defense plays. If you’re watching Golden State and Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference Finals, look to see what the players do on offense without the ball. I think you’ll notice a lot more movement from the Golden State players. One way isn’t better, but if I’m playing or coaching basketball, I prefer the kind of team play I grew up watching with Bob Knight’s use of the motion offense or Phil Jackson’s triangle. As a player, I hated having to go stand in my spot and wait to run the coach’s play. As a coach, I hated yelling, “Set it up.” I prefer to empower players to use what they know to make decisions on the fly.

4. #23 Draymond Green’s Down Screen

The action in this video is worth watching multiple times. Check out the screen Green sets for Thompson. I especially like the way he heads toward mid-court to get a good angle before he heads back toward his basket to get the screen.

A Few More Plays from Warriors Offense

Golden State, Warriors, NBA, OKC, Thunder, Western Conference Finals

Watch Curry. Rather than come off of the down screen, he cuts back door to the basket.

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Bogut and Curry set down screens. Then Bogut screens the screener Curry.

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Golden State, Warriors, Screen and roll, Westbrook, Curry, Bogut

Westbrook stops on the screen and roll. Did he think they were supposed to switch?

 

The Curry Brief

Thoughts on the NBA’s Western Conference Finals

Back on February 27th, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors played in what was probably the best game of this year’s NBA season. Five Western Conference All Stars competed. OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 37 and 26 while Golden State’s Steph Curry and Klay Thompson went for 46 and 32. The fifth all star, the Warriors’ Draymond Green, had fourteen rebounds, fourteen assists, six steals, and four blocked shots. Although the Warriors trailed by seven points with less than five minutes to go and by four with fourteen seconds left in regulation, they still managed to win in overtime on a long Curry three-point shot he stroked from beyond thirty feet with less than a second remaining.

I recently took a look back at the game and came up with a few ideas for slowing down the two-time reigning MVP.

1.  Crowd Curry When He Has The Ball

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Just about everyone gives Curry space believing that this will help contain his drive. If Curry has any room at all, he will unleash his pregame warm up on the defender in varying combinations. Against Singler, Curry goes between his legs into a crossover dribble, between the legs again, crosses over, and then crosses over one last time before stepping back for what seems like an impossible shot. While Curry will hurt teams with his drives, at least he won’t make twelve threes. 

2. Make Curry Pick Up The Dag Gum Ball

Every chance Curry gets, he’ll let the ball roll up the court without touching it. This allows for the Warriors to maximize all of the time on the shot clock. During the OKC / Warriors game back in February, there were several times Curry didn’t pick up the ball until it was near mid court.

3. Attack Curry on Defense Whenever You Can

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Sure, it’s old news to make the star offensive player work on defense, but OKC needs to do this even more. It’s not just attacking him 1 on 1 as Westbrook does above, but I’d try and put him in as many screen situations as possible. Who Curry guards should be screening for the ball or a shooter on a downscreen. During the regular season match up, Curry spent too many defensive possessions standing in the corner doing nothing.

4. When You Attack Curry, Be Prepared for Lots of Help

You’ve got to do more than isolate Curry; you have to plan for where the help is going to come from. The Warriors usually defend isolation plays by putting every single player in the lane and this often causes Westbrook or Durant to call off the attack, kick the ball to a low percentage shooter, or attack too deeply into a double team that often brings Warriors center Andrew Bogut, once an all NBA defensive team selection. Recently, instead of putting their big men in the corner, OKC has been filling both blocks for offensive rebounds and lob dunks.

5. Don’t Switch

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Double team Curry on high ball screens if you have to, otherwise you’re going to see a lot of what is pictured above.

Of late, OKC has had a lot more ball movement on offense and made use of their players NOT Durant and Westbrook. I’m looking forward to seeing how OKC tries to defend Curry when he has the ball and the ways they try to make him work on defense. It should be a great series!

 

 

LeBron or D-Wade? Who is the man?

One of the dumber questions I’ve heard debated lately on sports-talk radio asks who  “The Man” is on the Miami Heat basketball team.  I seem to be most in agreement with Jalen Rose who argues that “The Man” is something the media likes to think about and the players and coaches think about much less.  I’m taken back to my own high school coaching days when I used to constantly prep players on the fact that people who don’t know basketball will mostly ask players they meet about how many points they scored or are averaging for the season.   In the locker rooms I used to inhabit, we knew that making shots was one part of a game with many important parts.

John Paxson: Superstar No; Clutch Shooter Yes (nba.com)

No doubt, LeBron has struggled in fourth quarters of late making shots.  He may or may not be a nice person and that might be effecting the way he is reported upon.  Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo seems to hate him, so much so that my primary reason for clicking on something he writes is to see what creative new angle he’s found to be negative about.   Something I do know:  all players struggle.

There used to be a poster out when I was a kid that touted all of the shots Michael Jordan had taken and missed that caused his team to lose.  Remember all of those brutal Bulls’ losses to the Pistons before they started winning titles?  Remember when Phil Michelson couldn’t win the big one in golf?  Don’t forget all the big shots hit by Jordan’s teammates, players such as John Paxson, Steve Kerr, and Craig Hodges.  Was Jordan a coward for passing off?  Silly question now that we can look back on what happened over the span of his career.

 

Jordan "Failure" Poster

As a high school assistant coach in North Carolina, I watched our team beat a team with Chis Paul on it on its way to winning the state title.  Clearly Paul’s team had defined “The Man” for itself, but our team, with at least eight good basketball players on it of whom practically now one has ever heard of, our team won the game.

In tonight’s NBA finals, players will (with suggestions from their respective coaches) choose to help a teammate on defense or not.  Playing the Mavericks, sometimes it’s better to stick close to the three point shooter, but if you do that, it gets very hard to contain dribble penetration.  Will the Heat move LeBron off the top of the key and get him the ball in the middle or along the baseline?  It’s something I think would help the Heat’s offensive attack, a way for LeBron to not be so easily accounted for by the defense. If the Mavs are forced to finish in the lane rather than have the freedom to kick out to open shooters, will they be able to succeed?  Who will guard Jason Terry and J.J. Berea?  Who is the man on the Heat?  I don’t care.  There will be a lot more interesting parts of the game to watch.