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.

LeBron’s ISO

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.

Comments (13)

  1. I love these!

    Although maybe it should have been Nash’s ball decisions vs LeBron’s. Also, to LeBron’s credit, the “no defensive” Suns were playing the “no defense” Knicks.


  2. Brilliant…Westphal’s decision to have his rookie DMC throw that lob pass was a pretty shabby decision, too, but I dig it…

  3. I don’t know on that LeBron one, look at the positioning after the switch….Bibby is nearly on the sideline and relatively tight on LeBron, which would have made driving right very difficult. Stupid play, yes, but I’m not sure the analysis is perfect there….

  4. Well, it didn’t help the Knicks during the play that Amare sort of wandered randomly through the lane then politely stepped aside for VC to flush.

  5. @SMK73 that’s what I thought as well, those 3 NYK bystanders and onlookers didn’t help the Knicks’ case.

  6. @ Brad :

    Bibby is close but he’s not that fast anymore (has he ever been ;-) ?) and Lebron got a great first step so I see three endings to this : foul, blow by for a layup or easy jumpshot on the baseline. May not end with two points but I’ll agree with master Sebastian it would have been a better decision.

    @SFII :

    Nash court vision is certainly a plus but it all start with Hill playing the inbound quickly with a clever pass. Sometime bsketball is like dominos, if the first one falls right into place, the rest follows ;-)

  7. Hey Tas, remember the screengrabs that I sent you a while ago about LeBron’s court vision and desicion-making on three different ocasions?

    I pray for the day when people stop calling him the best player, and just start recognising that he is nothing more than a freak of an athlete, and not an inteligent player, let alone a playmaker. :))

    Nice segment, I completely support such posts! Really well presented, Sebastian!

  8. not to mention lebronze travels before he even shoots that 30 footer. he takes two little steps and then shoots from standing still

  9. as a hawks fan and I can say that Bibby is underrated as a defender. He’s as slow as Jason Kidd or Juwan Howard, but he’s a savvy vet. The only time he’s really going to get himself in trouble is when he’s isolated at the top of the key when the offensive player can go in either direction. I don’t know if Lebron could’ve gone baseline on him considering he didn’t look right most of the game on that ankle anyway.

    As an aside, I remember watching this game and saying holy crap, as bad as he’s played, Lebron’s going to win this game by himself in OT. I looked at the play by play and it confirmed it – James scored 10 himself and assisted on the eddie house layup for all of the heat scoring in OT.

    If it wasn’t for Joe Johnson’s clutch buckets to keep pace the hawks would’ve lost this one just like Portland. BTW, make fun all you want, but I’d rather pay a guy like Joe Johnson big money to win games now rather than care about what happens 5 years down the road.

    In summary, it’s crazy that if he makes that 3 over Bibby, LeBron’s all over sportscenter again, but because he misses, he’s back being dissected under the spotlight.

  10. i wouldn’t put too much faith in ESPN. lebron can do no wrong in ESPN’s eyes.

  11. Funny that you don’t have a screen grab of Mike Bibby straddling the sideline, forcing LeBron to have to go left. If LeBron tries to go baseline he either steps out of bounds or Bibby takes a charge. The defensive positioning you have Bibby pictured in lasts for .1 seconds. LeBron would have had to instantly read the defense and crossed over and gone baseline. I think that is unfair. In the clip it shows that LeBron takes a dribble and steps back to see how Bibby will play him which gives Bibby the chance to shut off a drive baseline and force him to the help.

    Before Bibby is switched onto LeBron, LeBron has a little head of steam going. Maybe you should argue that LeBron should have realized who was switching onto him and never stopped to survey the defense and just blown by Bibby. If that is what you are saying then I think it is unclear as it reads now.

  12. The end of the Heat vs. Hawks game frustrated me so much and you just demonstrated one reason why it made me feel that way. The Heat were fortunate enough to get back in the game and actually take the lead down the stretch, but they had several TERRIBLE possessions that resulted in either a turnover, a long-distance three-point attempt, or some other ridiculously difficult shot. With LeBron and Wade on the court, it baffled me why neither of them attacked the rim and tried to draw some contact. Great illustration.

  13. +1 Justin – Bibby clearly forces LBJ to the middle. If LeBron attempts to go baseline, he’s likely to plow over Bibby for the charge call.

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