As a new affiliate of the ESPN TrueHoop Network, I’m eager to exploit my membership to tap some of the best basketball noggins around. Last week, I got in touch with the THN’s resident game film guru, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook to ask him a ridiculous question I hoped would inspire him to reveal some killer plays. He didn’t disappoint. Here are two plays Sebastian would bring with him to the other side of the galaxy:
Beckley: Sebastian, imagine if you will, that the MonStars have returned to Earth in SpaceJam Part Deux: The Bloodening. The recession has reached their home planet, so they are once again hoping to enslave the Looney Toons and the NBA’s greatest player, this time LeBron James. As part of their plan to reverse their previous misfortune at the hands of Jordan and Fudd, they’ve hired you for the price of a majority share in Moron Mountain (which you plan to rename). The diminutive extraterrestrials are counting on you to teach them the very best NBA plays available.
Unfortunately for you, these aliens don’t understand the NBA and team building at all. That’s why the original MonStar lineup was a baffling combination of talents including Mugsy Bogues, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing and Shawn Bradley. They did a little better this time, but not much:
(Cut to MonStars sitting in various NBA arenas, scouting talent)
Announcer’s voices from each arena:
…Yao Ming is simply a giant who rules this land with an iron fist!..
…Dwight Howard is ripping Brian Cardinal limb from limb!…
…Paul Pierce is tossing 17 foot daggers into the heart of this Milwaukee Bucks team!..
…Carmelo Anthony is playing in another time, another space, another dimension, he’s not of this world!…
…Look at Brandon Jennings turn on the hyperjets, he’s breaking ankles left and right!…
Sebastian, can you take this motley crew and make them world beaters?
Sebastian: Alright, so here are the MonStars and the talents they absorbed:
Since the MonStars went ahead and stole the skills of some offensive heavy players, we aren’t even going to really worry about the defensive end. Just throw them in a 3-2 defense with Bupkus on the top, Void & Nada on the wings, and finally Null & Zilch on the blocks. The 3-2 helps avoid the defensive three second call. Now on the offensive end, you have plenty of options, and two sets really stand out here. The first play I would teach the MonStars would be one I see the Utah Jazz run every once in a while. It is basically a post up option with a Pick and Roll included on the back end. Here is what it looks like:
….and here’s a variation…
Taking a closer look and you see that it fits this squad perfectly. 1) You have Null/Yao setting a screen for Void/Pierce and Bupkus/Jennings getting it out to Void. 2) Void has a few options here. He can look for an ISO scoring opportunity, something he is very good at, or look in the post. If nothing is there, Void kicks it back out to Bupkus. 3) Now Bupkus takes the ball back towards the middle of the court where he gets a screen from Zilch. Bupkus has a few options here. He can take a jumper, he can kick it out to Nada/Melo who can work the baseline, or he can hit Zilch/Howard on the roll.
Basically this takes advantage of both big men’s strengths while hiding their weaknesses. Null is a better player in the post, and you give him a chance to work there. Zilch is fantastic in the PNR, and this play sets him up for that. You also give ISO opportunities for Nada and Void, something they are very good at. Finally, Bupkus can use his quicks off the screen to either set up a teammate or his own shot.
This second set is something that comes from my little notebook I have lying around with plays in it, so there isn’t any video of it. 1) Essentially, you start out with a box formation with the two bigs setting screens for the two wings. Bupkus brings gets the ball to Nada on the outside.
Now here, Nada has three options he can take advantage of. 1) He can work the ISO to try and find his own shot. 2) He signals for Zilch and gets a screen and they run a pick and roll. 3) If Nada doesn’t call for the screen, Null shoots to the ball side high post looking for the ball. He gets it and can do a number of things here. He can either knock down the jumper (something he can hit) or look for Zilch who dips in as he makes the catch.
The final set here is a quick hitter based on this that can be used at end of games, starts of quarters, or out of timeouts. QH-1) It starts the same with Nada getting the basketball, but instead of waiting on everyone else, Null immediately gets to the high post clearing out the back side. QH-2) The reason you need the back side clear is so Void can set a screen, setting Bupkus up for a lob…
In addition to these plays working with the skill-sets it also works because it doesn’t leave the players with a ton of options. Lets face it, the MonStars are pretty simple creatures. Sure, they have been able to steal the talent from some pretty strong players, but the mental side still isn’t going to be there.
That first set from the Utah Jazz is basically a post up, and if that isn’t open, run a pick and roll. The MonStars aren’t making a ton of decisions here. You also see simplicity in the second “box” set. A player gets the ball on the wing, he can either go for his own shot, use a PNR, or hit the high post. Again, not a lot of decisions to be made on their own, and this will cut into the mental errors that are bound to happen when you take 5 simpletons and give them tremendous ability.
Beckley: Bassy, it looks like you’re kind of modeling your offense after the Portland Trail Blazer’s iso-heavy sets. That’s probably a smart move: limits turnovers, slows the pace, forces Daffy, Bugs and Fudd– who have an average height of 3’4”– to handle the power MonStar game.
Your response also make me think of an issue that many coaches run into in the NBA. In this hypothetical, I played the role of the GM, handing you a team full of size, little ball handling and literally zero bench. Your two best passers are your center and point guard, your PF (Howard/Zilch) can’t pass, and Melo’s skills aren’t exactly team friendly either (33.4% usage with only 3.2 Ast in 2010). Yet you also have a squad with serious one-on-one scoring ability at most positions, so you don’t need to run exotic sets to get them the ball in positions where they can be effective.
It’s no surprise that you chose a Utah Jazz set. Although Sloan’s flex sets often thrive on excellent team passing, plenty of Jazz sets rely primarily on a point guard with serious pick and roll skills. John Stockton and Deron Williams both ranked around the top of the league in Assist Percentage because Sloan’s offense, unlike, say Portland’s, puts a large burden on the point guard to not only run the PNR but deliver the ball to shooters and cutters. I think Jennings has the onions to handle the rock and, perhaps more importantly, the crazy pressure that Taz can put on opposing ball handlers.
In this earth-bound, NBA coaches have their own systems they impose on their players. If the coach inherits a player who is ill suited for the system and can’t learn to be effective in that system, he gets shipped out. You were handed a group of players that don’t fit, and figured out ways to enslave lovable children’s cartoons. Congratulations?
Thanks for your excellent analysis, Sebastian, let’s hope that this transmission never leaves our galaxy.
Check out Sebastian’s phenomenal blog at www.NBAPlaybook.com.
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