Despite the great number of things that can go wrong on a single alley-oop, said ‘oop is a valuable weapon in the NBA. It’s one of the few plays that changes the geometry of basketball, raising the action up off the chest-to-chest plane that dominates so much of the game. No team understands this more than the Portland Trail Blazers, who mastered the alley-oop last season, at one point leading the entire league in completed ‘oops, while also having the individual leaders in alley-oop assists (Andre Miller) and alley-oops dunked (LaMarcus Aldridge).
That’s why Nolan Smith, their first round draft pick, has been practicing throwing lobs all summer. From SLAM:
“It’s a skill to it,” Smith told SLAMonline. “You just can’t just throw it up there to a 6-10 guy and expect him to convert it. It has to be the right touch with the right amount of air under it.” [...]
“I’ve been practicing throwing full-court lobs and half-court lobs,” Smith said. “When I’m in the game, I don’t want the offense to miss a beat.”
This is pretty smart thinking on Nolan Smith’s part. He doesn’t want to be a rookie who comes in to an offense that throws alley-oops all the time, and not be able to throw an alley-oop. That would be so embarrassing. “Look at the new guy who can’t even throw alley-oops over here,” said all of the veteran Trail Blazers, probably. No, thank you. Really, really wise to be perfecting the lobs.
I especially like that Nolan Smith has been specifically practicing throwing full-court and half-court lobs because he “[doesn't] want the offense to miss a beat” like the Blazers are a team who have an offense that is predicated on the point guard’s ability to throw 90-foot alley-oops. They’ve finished no higher than 28th in the league in pace since Nate McMillan took over as coach — and have finished last the past three seasons — so it’s kind of hilarious to think that an ability to throw accurate full-court lobs would be important to thrive in their system. It is definitely a skill, and there are lots of bad lob-throwers out there, but I am sure Nolan Smith will be just fine if he practices lobs from normal distances.
That being said, here’s hoping Nolan Smith gets really, really good at throwing full-court and half-court alley-oops, because that’s going to lead to a bunch of highlights. So if he thinks his practice time is best spent learning how to do such a thing, then I am all for it. After all, who can be mad at a full-court alley-oop?