Go check out the video breakdown of how Nene, Kevin Seraphin, and Emeka Okafor fit together.
One way to open things up for the big men is by playing a little high-low, with one player flashing to the free throw line while the other sets up in the low post. The Lakers and Grizzlies often have two big men on the floor, and putting Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol in the high post creates problems for the defense. Of course, Nene and Seraphin haven’t displayed that level of skill; I doubt we’ll be seeing a Nene-Seraphin pick-and-roll alley oop any time soon. But although they aren’t Gasol-esque, both Wizards showed some comfort in getting the ball at the free throw line. From there they can look to throw an entry pass into the post or (hopefully) hit the short jumper.
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with the acquisition of Ariza, the Wizards have a more reliable slasher at small forward. The Wizards shouldn’t let Ariza dribble into isolation situations, but when he can take one or two dribbles against a scrambling defender, he can get to the rim. On a similar amount of spot-up drives as Singleton, Ariza got to the rim twice as many times. Ariza is listed as 15 pounds lighter than Singleton, but he plays much stronger than Singleton in these situations. The video below shows Ariza’s ability to beat his man even when they aren’t closing out with urgency.
The problem here is that although Ariza may get to the rim more, he doesn’t always finish those shot attempts. He’s been up and down as a finisher in recent years, and he shot only 47 percent on these at-the-rim attempts on spot-up drives. At the very least, those shot attempts at the rim bring a greater possibility of drawing fouls. With a little random variation in terms of made layups and fouls, Ariza could be a solid bailout option instead of a negative presence.
Go check out the video breakdown of Harrison Barnes and the Wizards’ playbook!
Finally, Wittman had a play to get his shooting guard into a pick-and-roll. Wall wasn’t the only guy using ball screens last year; about one third of Crawford’s offense came from pick-and-roll plays. On this play, Crawford runs off of screens to get to the wing and then receives a screen when he gets the ball.
Crawford took a lot of the ball handling responsibility last year, so it will be interesting to see if Barnes assumes a similar role. The major holes in his offensive game include his ball handling and pick-and-roll abilities, so that could mean that the Wizards have one fewer ball handler and initiator on the team.
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Beyond simply putting Beal on the right side of the floor and standing around, Randy Wittman may try to use off-ball screens to get Beal to his sweet spot at the top of the key. According to Draft Express, Beal is effective at using screens, and Wittman had a few plays to free up shooters at the top of the key this past season.
One way to get Beal clean looks is by running a decoy pick-and-roll. In the video below, Wall draws the defense’s attention by running a pick-and-roll on one side of the floor, while Beal (potentially) gets a screen on the other side of the floor. The defense is threatened by Wall, so they can’t focus their attention on helping on Beal. This play worked for Jordan Crawford, so it should work for Beal, as well.
Head over to Bullets Forever to check out a video breakdown on the two defensive-minded veterans that the Wizards just acquired.
Another part of off-ball defense is defending spot-up shooters. Ariza was solid in his recovery to spot-up shooters, ranking 87th in the NBA in points allowed per spot-up possession (Sidenote: Synergy’s defensive spot-up numbers can be a little misleading because it is difficult to assign responsibility for a particular spot-up shooter.) The defensive player will always be at a disadvantage in a spot-up situation. They can close out slowly and allow an open jumper, or they can sprint at the shooter and give up a driving lane.
Again, Ariza’s physical gifts really help him shut down spot-up shooters. Check out the clips below, as Ariza plays help defense in the lane and recovers to block his man’s shot. It’s not often you see a player cover that much ground, even in the NBA.
Go check out the crunch time conflict between John Wall and Randy Wittman.
Wall breaks the play and decides to take the game into his own hands. He nearly pulls it off as his shot comes just after the buzzer. The full play is below. Pay attention to Wittman on the sidelines during the play. He signals for the pass to Crawford and then looks dumbfounded when Wall decides to go one-on-one. Clearly frustrated, he doesn’t pay much attention to the rest of the play.
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In the videos below from Game 7 vs Boston, Miami doesn’t have a numbers advantage, but we see Lebron attacking before Boston’s defense gets set. In this first clip, Lebron pushes the ball up the floor after a rebound. Watch Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce on the play. When Lebron starts his move to the hoop, neither player is prepared to help, as they are still tracking their men. Lebron ends up getting the basket and the foul because Pierce is a split second late getting into the lane.