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.
This post is part of our playoff preview series here at Hickory-High, complete with both statistical and video breakdowns. Check out the rest of the previews here.
With Dwight Howard missing the playoffs, most pundits are picking the Pacers to beat the Magic with relative ease. With the help of mySynergy Sports, let’s take a look at how the Pacers can take advantage of the new-look Magic and how Orlando can change things up without Dwight.
It may be surprising, but the Magic ranked last in the NBA in defending the post, and that was with Dwight Howard in the lineup for the majority of the year. Now that Howard is out, Roy Hibbert will be facing one of Glen Davis, Ryan Anderson, Earl Clark, or Daniel Orton in the post. In case there was any doubt about that being a mismatch, the chart below shows how bad those four have been as post defenders.
Orton allows the fewest points per possession, but he has been on the floor so little that he doesn’t qualify to be ranked. The rest of the frontcourt ranges from meh to very bad as post defenders.
Once Hibbert starts scoring the post, things will open things up for the rest of the Pacers. Hibbert is a pretty good passer, so one thing the Pacers wings do cut off Hibbert after they throw the post entry. The clips below show a few examples. Even if the wing defender doesn’t lose his man, he can just be pushed into Hibbert, who serves as a screener.
When the Pacers aren’t cutting to the basket, they can spot up for threes. Instead of just standing and waiting for the ball to come, Indiana has set screens for Danny Granger to get him open. The video below shows Granger’s man giving him a bit too much space and then getting caught by surprise on a David West screen. The post player in the video clips is Paul George, but this action could easily be run with Hibbert in the post, as well.
Speaking of Granger using screens, another way the Pacers get their top scorer open is by using staggered screens at the top of the key. Indiana rotates the ball to the opposite wing, and the two passers set screens away for Granger to pop to the top of the key. video below contains a few examples. On the season, Orlando ranks 13th in the league in defending players coming off screens, but Granger’s shooting and driving ability will put them to the test.
Since Dwight Howard left the Orlando lineup, they have abandoned their post-up game and relied more on their perimeter shooters and pick-and-roll game. But as noted earlier in the season, and it rings even truer now that Howard is gone, you can only run a boring old pick-and-roll so many times before a defense catches on. One way Orlando can keep Indiana on their toes is by using a wing player (Jason Richardson or JJ Redick, for example) as an initial decoy screener in the pick-and-roll before setting the “real” screen with a big man. Because the initial screen gets the defense to react, they are scrambling back to their assignments while the second pick-and-roll occurs. In the video below, watch how defenders turn their backs on the play or get lost when recovering to their man. The Pacers have been strong in stopping pick-and-roll ball handlers this year, ranking 5th in the NBA in points per possession allowed, but they are below average against the roll-man in the pick-and-roll. Orlando’s creativity and effectiveness in the pick-and-roll may go a long way in determining the series. Switching things up like this could be a way to steal a game by freeing up Ryan Anderson or Big Baby Davis.
If any of the games come down to the wire and the Magic need quick points, expect to see a faux pick-and-roll to distract the defense from focusing on JJ Redick. On this play, Jameer Nelson receives a screen and drives baseline with the intention of passing. Meanwhile Redick receives a screen on the weak side of the floor, which creates a perfect passing lane for Nelson. The video below shows a few of the times that Orlando has run this play.
With so many shooters on the floor, Orlando always has the potential to score in bunches, but they definitely have their work cut out for them against Roy Hibbert, Danny Granger, and the rest of the Pacers.