This concludes our look at the sets and actions integral to each NBA playoff team's success. Read about the Knicks, Celtics, Heat, and Bucks here; read about the Nuggets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Warriors here.
Brooklyn Nets: Deron Williams and the UCLA cut
Brook Lopez has emerged as a force to be reckoned with on the block this season, but it’s still Williams who makes this team go. Thanks to improved health, the Nets star guard has been on a tear lately and has transformed the Nets from first-round fodder to an intriguing wild card in the Eastern Conference playoffs. To slow Williams down in the coming weeks, opponents will have to defend an action dating all the way back to the days of John Wooden — the UCLA cut.
The UCLA cut is a simple, straightforward movement that involves the ball handler throwing an entry pass to the wing before making a vertical cut off a big man waiting at the elbow. Though it seems relatively simple, this can be incredibly tough to defend on the NBA level because of the sheer talent of a player like Williams. The Brooklyn guard is adept at taking advantage of any defender who doesn’t display solid technique while navigating the screen.
James Harden was delightful on Wednesday night in his Houston debut, looking every bit like a quirky max-level wing player for a pick-and-roll era of NBA basketball. And in a bit of fun NBA plagiarism, the Rockets ripped off one of my absolute favorite Harden-centric Oklahoma City plays — Harden skipping a pass from the left sideline, all the way across the court, to a shooter hiding behind a surprise back screen from a big man. Here’s Carlos Delfino nailing a 3 out of this action in the fourth quarter: