With 61 assists in just six games since taking over for injured starter Kyle Lowry, Jose Calderon has reminded us all that he is one of the NBA’s most underrated playmakers. Perhaps because the Raptors have seemingly been trying to replace him since the beginning of his tenure, it may have gone unnoticed by the average NBA fan what an incredible offensive player Calderon is. The vast majority of his plays never make highlight reels or get mimicked at playgrounds, but they tend to produce winning basketball with the right people around him.
The growing importance of the 3-point shot in today’s NBA is hardly a secret. It has become an essential element for efficient team offense. Not only is the shot itself valuable, but its mere threat creates by far the most precious commodity in the game today — space.
Modern-day defenses, more sophisticated and aggressive than ever before, are built to take away that space. Elite offenses, meanwhile, emphasize ways to create as much of it as possible. With the exception of a select few, like Dwyane Wade, this becomes a struggle for players who struggle with outside shooting.
Because of that, a reliable 3-point shot has become the most critical skill for players to develop. It not only helps maximize earning potential, it allows players to seamlessly fit into nearly any system with positive results. Rudy Gay and Evan Turner are two such players currently reaping the benefits of an offseason spent honing their 3-point strokes.
Coming into the season, the biggest question facing the Milwaukee Bucks was one of fit. Their ceiling was going to be defined by how well their diminutive, shot-happy backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis could co-exist.
Armed with a full training camp, it was left to head coach Scott Skiles — known for his defensive acumen — to devise a creative offensive scheme that made all the pieces fit. Like Rick Carlisle does year in and year out in Dallas, Skiles has built a system with concepts that allow his primary creators to not only play to their strengths, but also to avoid their weaknesses.
For both Jennings and Ellis, that means minimizing the number of times they're forced to create with the ball in their weak hand. Ellis, in particular, has diminished effectiveness when forced to his left, something that can occur quite often when teams use “down” side pick-and-rolls or execute a “weak” coverage on ball screens in the middle of the floor.
Three weeks into the season and it’s become clear the Indiana Pacers are in big trouble. An offense that ranked in the top third of the league last season has completely slid off the rails, ranking 29th in offensive efficiency, just ahead of the woeful Wizards team they defeated last night. It’s been a rather startling development for an Indy team many considered to be a solid, up-and-coming team, capable of making a deep run in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Watching the team squeak past the Wizards, it’s hard to imagine they are even remotely capable of winning a game in the postseason much less an entire series. So what went wrong exactly?
In today’s NBA, it’s hard to find a more polarizing player than Blake Griffin. To those that despise him, Griffin is a whiny, flopping ogre capable only of powering the ball through the rim with vicious force and little else. Others able to take a more objective look at his game point out that Griffin, outside of his shooting woes, is about as skilled a power forward as you’ll find in the league.
No matter what side of the fence people sit on, they likely still don’t give Griffin the proper credit for his ability as a passer. Last night, in the Clippers' superb win against the Miami Heat, that skill was on full display.
Just days after transitioning from Oklahoma City’s sixth man to the focal point of a young Houston roster, James Harden put on quite the show in his first game as a Rocket. In his first test as a leading man, against the Pistons last night, Harden looked the part, notching 37 points and 12 assists while shooting 14-for-25 from the field.
Here's a breakdown of what Harden, his teammates, and his coach did to create such a spellbinding performance, along with some words of caution to bring us all back down to earth a little.
Despite Sam Presti providing a shocking twist with the James Harden trade Saturday night, there still remain five teams entering the 2012-13 season with serious championship credentials. As tipoff continues to inch tantalizingly closer, here's a guide to the go-to sets for each member of this quintet of contenders.
San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker Drag Screen in Transition
How It Works: With Tim Duncan no longer capable of controlling a game from the low post, the Spurs switched to a pick-and-roll-centered offense that calls on Tony Parker to take on the role of primary creator. The drag action is designed to help free Parker to attack the opposing defense when it is at its most vulnerable — in transition.
When a Spurs player secures the rebound, he finds Parker, and the team tries to push the ball up the floor as quickly as possible. One of the trailing bigs (usually Duncan) looks to set a ball screen on Parker’s defender early in the possession.