In last week’s edition of Savvy/Shabby, we looked at successful and not so successful play calls. Today, we are going to look at decisions made by individual players. The good, coming from Grant Hill, who makes a quick decision on a sideline inbounds pass that leads to a dunk. As for the bad, we are going to look at a poor decision made by LeBron James late in their loss to the Atlanta Hawks last night.
Grant Hill’s Inbounds Pass
In the middle of the second quarter of their game against the New York Knicks, the Suns found themselves in a situation where they had a sideline out of bounds opportunity. As everyone on the defense was lazily getting to their men, Grant Hill was handed the basketball to make the inbounds pass:
Hill sees that Raymond Felton is playing too far in front of Steve Nash and that Landry Fields is too close to his man (Vince Carter) to make a play on the basketball. Hill decides to quickly lob the ball in to Steve Nash on the block. This forces Fields to come down from the weakside and double Nash in the post.
With both Fields and Felton on Nash, Wilson Chandler is now responsible for two Suns’ players, Channing Frye and Vince Carter.
Nash kicks it out to Frye and Chandler needs to close out on him. Frye quickly swings the ball to Carter, forcing Felton to close out from the block.
Because Felton is closing out hard, Carter is able to pump fake and watch as Felton goes flying by him.
After the pump fake, Carter is able to take a dribble, attack the rim, and finish with a dunk as the rest of the Knicks’ defense just watches. Here is the play in real time:
Grant Hill does a very nice job of recognizing that nobody was in position to make a play on a lob pass to Nash, and then executes with a very nice pass. The result is a double team on Nash down low, which is kind of funny but also puts the rest of the Knicks’ defense at a disadvantage, eventually leading to a Carter dunk.
There are a lot of different directions we could have went for the Shabby play of the week, including Coach Westphal’s attempt to win the “award” back to back weeks. In the end, I decided to go with LeBron’s late game decision-making against the Hawks last night. Down by two with the clock running down, LeBron had one of the biggest mismatches that you are ever going to see, and he decided not to take advantage of it:
As James starts to dribble out the clock, Eddie House comes from the corner to set a screen on LeBron’s defender, Josh Smith.
Instead of staying in position and setting a good screen, House slips the screen and pops out looking for a three at the top of the key. This forces the Hawks to switch, meaning that Mike Bibby has to step up and pick up LeBron James.
James now has Bibby covering him with 8 seconds left on the shot clock. Josh Smith is at the elbow, ready to provide help on any drive to the middle. If LeBron chooses to go baseline though, there is really no help available as every defender on the weak side is pressed up against their man. All LeBron needs to do here is drive baseline on Bibby, and he will have an easy shot or even an easy kick-out opportunity to a wide open shooter.
LeBron decides not to drive to his right and take the baseline, but he instead drives left, right into Josh Smith.
Smith provides good help and he forces LeBron to pick up his dribble. LeBron is forced to kick it out to Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers gives the ball right back to LeBron, and with just two seconds on the shot clock, LeBron is forced to put up a thirty-footer to try and get the win. He misses. Here is the video in real time:
The biggest problem I have with this play is that if LeBron goes baseline, that makes everything so much harder on the defense. If no help comes, LeBron is able to rise up against Bibby and make an easy layup. If defenders come to help from the weak side, LeBron is able to force the defense to move, and a kick out pass would result in an open jumper. Instead, LeBron drives right into a waiting Josh Smith, and the defense isn’t forced to move at all, bailing out the Hawks for switching that slipped Eddie House screen.
Coaches in the NBA can only do so much, as a lot of what happens on the court is a result of decisions made by individual players. Here, we saw two examples of what can happen when a player makes a good (or bad) decision on the court. Until next week.