Jordan Kahn breaks down the latest NBA trends in video form. You can find more of his work at Basketball Things and follow him on Twitter @AyoitsJordan.
The Orlando Magic have one of the best pick-and-roll rosters in the league: an agile, strong finisher in the middle, surrounded by great shooters. However, a team can only run so many straightforward pick-and-rolls before the defense catches on. One other way Stan Van Gundy utilizes Dwight Howard and his sharp shooting teammates is by running staggered, off-ball screens.
In their matchup versus Toronto, Orlando was very successful utilizing the different options that come from a staggered screen set. In the beginning of the game, they first ran a curl for Jason Richardson. We see Richardson start on the baseline with Dwight Howard and Ryan Anderson setting up screens outside of the lane. Richardson’s man trails him around the screens, so Richardson curls around Howard’s screen, running to the top of the key instead of the three point line. Aaron Gray provides only token help on the play, Andrea Bargnani is thinking about Primo Pasta, and Richardson ends up with a wide open lane and easy layup.
In the third quarter, we see the same set. Anderson and Howard set staggered screens for Richardson as he curls to the top of the key. After being burned by Richardson the first time, Aaron Gray provides a stronger denial of the pass. This leaves Andrea Bargnani alone under the hoop in a predicament. Ryan Anderson is fading to the corner, while Dwight Howard is cutting to the hoop. Bargnani holds his ground to prevent an easy pass to Howard, but that leaves Anderson wide open in the corner. Hedo Turkoglu makes an easy skip pass to Anderson, who hits the three-pointer.
Early in the fourth quarter, Orlando goes to the well once again, with J.J. Redick replacing Richardson. The previous two times, Toronto has trailed Richardson around the staggered screens, which forced Aaron Gray to help defend the curl. This time, James Johnson loses track of Redick under the hoop, and tries to take a shortcut underneath the screens instead of trailing. Rather than curl to the free throw line where Johnson will be meeting him, Redick simply continues out to the three point line, as Anderson and Howard do a great job angling their screens to protect him. Redick ends up with a wide open three.
Later in the quarter, the Magic set up the staggered screen again, but they put a new twist on it this time. Redick frees himself from his defender and runs to the three point line to receive the pass. The Toronto defenders have become so occupied with the staggered screen action that Orlando catches them sleeping when Glen Davis sets a screen for Ryan Anderson, who is popping out to the corner. Anderson finds himself with another open three pointer.
With strong shooters and a big man who commands the defense’s attention, even the most simple looking plays provide Orlando with a multitude of options. When they aren’t pick-and-rolling defenses to death, keep an eye out for this staggered screen look.