In the post-game thread last, I was harping on our offensive system for roughly the millionth time this season. While our young players make plenty of mistakes, I was arguing that our lack of offensive movement and cohesion was hurting our team more than any specific player (i.e. Evans). And not just ball movement, but off the ball movement. With Rick Adelman we were treated to screens, cuts and player movement that created easy baskets and open passing lanes. Right now we are making the game extraordinarily difficult for our young stars. And while Evans and Cousins have plenty of opportunity to grow their games, I think they get unfairly criticized when for not making passes that simply do not exist.
However, there's only so many times you can make that claim. So I wanted to find some video. Luckily the Magic-Kings game from Sunday was posted on YouTube. I wound up watching the last 5:30 and took screen grabs of both team's offensive sets to see how they were conducted.
The results are pretty telling. This is every offensive set run for both teams. Not selected examples to emphasize a point. Not YouTube highlights where something went well for one play, but 6 unedited minutes of real game action. These are only the actual half court sets, not fast breaks. This is about seeing plays and movement.
This is an epicly long post. However, it's worth making your way through all of the plays. There is a very stark contrast in the way moderately competent offense runs and our offense runs. The consequences of this will become more apparent with each set. It takes multiple, consecutive plays to really see what a complete and utter failure of coaching this team has been operating under and how it is stunting our players' growth and our perceptions of them. I would suggest as you have time to come back and actually look closely at these pictures. Look at body language. See how players are changing position beyond my descriptions. It's fascinating.
Play 1 (Magic)
Offense initiates as Nelson dribbles up top. Hedo comes down to set a screen for Howard. Anderson and Richardson start in the corners.
Howard uses the screen and comes up top to screen for Nelson. Hedo sets up in the low post. Anderson and Richardson stay stationary.
As Nelson & Howard do the pick and roll, Hedo rotates from the key to the top of the three point line. This forces Salmons to shift up and clears a passing lane to Richardson.
Evans never moves on defense. Richardson and Hedo are both wide open for three. There is no clutter as Hedo moved to the right spot. Richardson sinks the open three pointer.
Play 2 (Kings)
Isaiah initiates offense as Green runs to one corner and Salmons is in the other Hickson starts in the high post.
Thomas drives. Green still headed to corner. Hickson takes 3 steps to top of key. Salmons and Evans stand still. At least Salmons looks ready to shoot. I have no idea how Evans positioning is conducive to NBA basketball.
After Isaiah kicks out, Salmons, Greene and Evans are all all in the same positions. Hickson is isolated 19 feet from the hoop - I have no idea what he is he can possibly do with the ball there.
Hickson drives into the defense as Isaiah, Greene and Evans are all standing in their same spots. Salmons has at least rotated up but Hickson fell the wrong direction.
Play 3 (Magic)
Kings recovered from steal. Offense starts here. Not a long play, but watch the movement.
As Hedo drives Howard moves to the post and Anderson clears to the corner. Richardson takes the Salmons "old man" role of standing in one spot.
As Anderson gets the ball, Richardson stats sliding towards the top of the three point line to be open if his man contests in time. That's smart spacing.
After an offensive rebound, the Magic reset. Richardson had made it to the top of the three point line and now shifts to the opposite side for spacing. Howard is hopelessly outmatched by Throton's D, but call for the ball anyway.
As the pass gets thrown inside, Greene doubles and Anderson makes a hard cut. He could have had a layup, but Salmons slid down. Hedo drifted out to the trigger position at the three point line and is now wide open.
As the defense rotates and Hickson sags back towards the key - Hedo actually rotates down towards the baseline to give Howard a perfect passing lane. Hedo missed. And Howard got the board and was fouled.
Play 4 (Kings)
Cousins comes in for Hickson. Kings start their possession with Salmons, Greene, Isaiah and Evans in the exact same positions as last play. Salmons looks comfortable or disinterested or both.
Evans passes to Isaiah and Cousins sets up shop in the high post. Greene runs the baseline.
Salmons has no idea Greene is coming, so Greene has to point and yell. Evans stands in one spot.
3 seconds later, we have three players in the same vicinity. Evans is walking towards the corner three position, but not screening or moving with any purpose. Greene is now standing in no man's land. Salmons is jogging up top.
Salmons and Evans are literally trying to occupy the same space on the floor. Greene is standing in the same spot. After feeding the post, Isaiah starts making the most purposeful cut we have seen yet. I was actually excited to see where this was going - back cut, screen for Greene, etc.
Nope. Isaiah goes to where Green was standing as Green take two steps up into no man's land. Evans in the same spot. Salmons is literally walking towards the top of the three point line. This is not an offense. There is no passing lane or option for Cousins at this point other than back down three time Defensive POY Dwight Howard.
As Nelson cheats over to go for the steal, Cousins throws a pass to Isaiah (who to his credit took a step baseline), but Cousins missed timed the pass. Ball winds up going out on Magic. Kings ball with 4 seconds left, we actually had an inbounds play that got Greene an open shot, but this is about half court offense.
Play 5 (Magic)
Magic start their offense 4 on 5 for some reason. Howard screens for Hedo.
Howard rolls to the hoop. Anderson stands by the baseline. Richardson finally emerges and shows why he's their version of Salmons. Remember this when Howard demands another trade.
Howard posts. Everyone else is standing in one spot. Not a banner play so far.
Terrible job by Orlando here. They took a play from our offense and got a similar result. Nelson and Richardson are standing very close together. Howard was left on an Evans/Cousins-style island, got blocked in traffic and Kings got the ball.
Play 6 (Kings)
Evans initiates the offense. Cousins comes over to set a screen. You won't be able to guess where everyone is going. Magic defenders are happy to avoid all the sweating and moving they normally experience playing defense.
Screen and roll is well defended. Four seconds after last screen grab and no one else has pretended to move. They just finished going to their positions and are standing. Salmons is gunning for MVP of Standing in One Place. Evans dribbles backwards towards top of three point line.
Evans passes to Salmons on the wing, and he starts to dribble in. Cousins has taken two steps towards the baseline. Evans stands in one place. Isaiah has at least started drifting up towards trigger position.
Salmons gets to bucket. Isaiah has at least moved. Cousins, Evans and Greene all in the same position.
Play 7 (Magic)
Offense initiates with Howard going to post and other three players overloaded on the opposite side.
Richardson is seriously walking to the Salmons spot. Maybe that's why Petrie got Salmons, every team needs a terrible, older player to stand motionless in every set. Anderson and Hedo motion to each other and start rolling.
As Howard goes out to screen, Hedo roles tight to the high post. Anderson rolls wider and starts heading to the opposite corner. Richardson stands and challenges Salmons for that MVP award. Notice how all of this movement is happening before Nelson is supposed to drive into 3 defenders. Or I assume that's the play from watching our offense.
As the screen and roll happens, Hedo continues to roll to the top of the three point line, almost doing a full circle to where he was before. This makes it harder for the help defender to track him than standing in one place. Anderson gets to corner. Richardson stands in one place and is now nicknamed The Statue.
Nelson drives. As he gets stopped at hoop, Richardson springs to life and starts rotating up. Anderson also starts rotating up to give Nelson a potential passing lane as there were 3 Kings between the two of them when he was in the corner.
Nelson passed it to the moving Richardson, turns and quickly rotates the ball to Hedo. Now see the blur of Anderson. As Richardson turned to swing the ball, Anderson is already moving towards the top of the three point line to set a screen for Hedo. Nelson rotates to the corner.
Anderson sets the screen and starts rolling towards the hoop. Howard comes up to the high post. Nelson and Richardson stand.
Hedo buried the lucky bank-shot 3, but notice how Anderson has kept rolling to the hoop and is at least in rebounding position. The greater point is not that Hedo got lucky. It's the constant movement and positioning. It doesn't always generate a great shot in 24 seconds, but when run consistently, it eventually creates some easy buckets to go with the hard ones. We only generate the hard ones.
Play 8 (Kings)
Kings initiate offense from what we can affectionately call the Groundhog Day position. Salmons is trying to out-statue The Statue. We ran more complex sets on my 8th grade basketball team.
Isaiah drives. Cousins and Salmons are standing. Evans is at least rotating up top. Greene to his credit gives us our best and only true cut in all of these plays. Isaiah and him misconnect, but the cut was golden.
Thronton is back in the game and gets the ball to initiate the offense. Evans is standing. We would appear to have our first off the ball screen with Greene screening Salmons man after the inbounds.
Nope. Apparently pretending to screen was enough for one day and went their separate ways. Wish I was making this up.
Magic probably shocked to see this set. Evans stands. Salmons stands. Green stands. Thornton and Cousins do high pick and roll. Howard feigns surprise to spare our feelings. Note Salmons hands by his side. Embarrassing.
Knowing Evans can't shoot, Hedo cheats down to cover Cousins, while Howard and Nelson trap Thornton. It's almost like Van Gundy was able to somehow prepare his team for our surprise play. In response - Salmons, Evans and Greene stand in one place.
Thornton passes to open Evans as Hedo closes out. Cousins fights for position. Thornton drifts backwards (he is not cutting to top of three point line as he probably should). Salmons and Greene respond to swing pass by standing in one spot. Evans misses.
[Magic ran fast break. Howard got fouled. No offensive set occurred.]
Play 9 (Kings)
Kings bring Hickson back in for Greene. Initiate play in standard spots, but with Hickson in high post.
Hickson receives the ball in the high post. Salmons swings around to receive the handoff. Thornton looks like he might screen off the ball for Evans (I thought this is what was happening), but runs to the corner instead. Cousins and Evans stand in one place. Starting to think Kings have rule that only 2 people can move at the same time.
Attempted handoff doesn't work. Hickson now trapped without his dribble 19 feet from hoop. Three players are all in the same area with no passing options for Hickson. Thronton is at least moving to the corner. Cousins and Evans watch Hickson flail around. This is like watching the beginning of Hoosiers or Saw 6.
Hickson gets the ball to Salmons and takes 2 steps towards the high post. We are down to 10 seconds on the shot clock. Cousins run up quickly to screen for Salmons. Thornton is standing in corner; however, given the spacing and defense he's in the right spot. Evans is still standing in the same spot. His defender is facing away from him. This is why God invented backdoor cuts. Even if he doesn't get a layup, notice the open corner on the opposite side. If Evans clears that direction and Salmons uses the screen, Hedo will follow Evans and there will be a perfect passing lane to Thornton if Nelson helps. Right now, Hedo is in position to help on the drive and the passing lane to Thornton is congested. Our best case scenario on Salmons' drive is a mildly contested Evans 3 or a dump off to Evans when Hedo stops the penetration.
Salmons picks up his dribble. Thornton and Evans are still standing in the same spots. Hickson takes 2 steps out to no man's land. Cousins is at least moving towards the basket. Similar to last play, Howard has helped trap the ball handler and Hickson's man has rotated down to help with no fear that Hickson can hit the long jumper or will back cut him for a dunk.
Salmons dumps off to Evans with 7 on the clock. Evans drives as Thornton take two steps up for no reason. Salmons moves towards Thornton creating terrible spacing. Hickson has taken a step towards the ball, but is still standing in no man's land at 19 feet.
Evans gets to the hoop and hits the And 1 shot. Thornton and Salmons are still in the same spots, spaced terribly. Hickson is still at 19 feet. Cousins also standing still, but he's at least in the right position. Evans has bailed us out, but this is terrible, terrible offense. We could trade for pure point guard Jose Calderon tomorrow and he would curl up in the fetal position and cry. There is no movement and no passing lanes here. Just everyone standing and hoping Evans can create a miracle.
Play 10 (Magic)
Magic start another set batched on one side. You can already see Hedo pointing and communicating with teammates.
Anderson swings through and heads towards the corner. Hedo heads to the low post. Richardson..... stands.
As screen and roll occurs, Hedo cuts up top towards the three point line. Anderson and Richardson stand in opposite corners.
As Nelson penetrates, Hedo reaches the top of the circle and rolls towards the top of the three point line. He has lost his defender and is wide open for three. This moving without ball concept "threatens to revolutionize basketball."* Anderson stands. Trainers check Richardson to see if he still has a pulse.
* Quote from Kenny Natt [Needs sources]
This was the crafty play where Nelson acted like he was going to bounce outside like earlier and then spun back to the hoop and got a layup. Howard has rolled. Hedo is moving towards the trigger position as an outlet for Nelson. Anderson like last time moves up higher to create a passing angle for Nelson. Important to note that first time wasn't a fluke. Anderson seems to understand that when Nelson drives and then continues to the opposite side of the court, he needs to rotate up to create a passing lane. Stark contrast with our team.
Play 11 (Kings)
Thornton initiates offense. Hickson is in the low post. Evans is standing in the "Evans spot." Salmons is auditioning to play Jason Richardson in the Dwight Howard Trade movie.
Ball is swung to Cousins as Evans fakes baseline and cuts back up. Love that in our offense there are no real cuts or off ball screens, only fake ones. It's like if the 49ers ran no running plays, but had play action passes. Thornton stands in trigger position. Hickson moves towards the opposite side of key. Salmons is still standing like he thinks Dwight Howard's eyesight is based on movement.
Cousins faces hoop as Evans runs behind his back. Cousins dribbles at three point line. Hickson takes his spot in low post. Thornton stands still. Salmons might be a cardboard cut-out or Fathead on the court.
Cousins puts shoulder down and drives. No one else has moved except Evans who stepped backwards out of shooting position. Maybe the worst place Evans could move to. Like a stopped clock, this would have worked if Cousins kept his head up as Thornton and Salmons were open with the Magic needlessly gambling. Nelson in particular made a bad decision leaving Thornton. Instead Cousins missed badly.
Play 12 (Magic)
Nelson starts offense up top. Hedo drifts to one corner. Anderson is running to low post. Richardson... well, let's just say this isn't exactly Where's Waldo.
Howard comes up to screen as Magic have two in the corners and Anderson set up in the low post.
This time as Nelson drives off the screen, Richardson cuts to the trigger position and Anderson moves from the low post to the corner. This coordinated off the ball movement may seem alien to community members who became Kings fans post-Adelman.
This dastardly display of movement confuses the Kings defense (i.e. Hickson who stays in low post). Nelson throws a bad pass to a wide open Anderson, but as Evans runs over to help and contest the three...
Anderson swings it to a wide open Richardson. Unlike our players, notice how Anderson immediately turns back to receive the ball again. Hedo also starts drifting to the trigger position for a swing pass. Nelson is standing out of bounds. He studied off ball movement from Evans.
Richardson puts down one dribble and swings to a wide open Anderson. Hedo has also moved up high enough to be open for a cross-court pass if necessary. Anderson drains the shot.
Play 13 (Kings)
Evans initiates offense and gets immediate screen from Cousins. Everyone in the stadium knows where Salmons and Thornton are. Hickson is standing in no man's land.
Evans drives and Cousins does a soft roll. Hickson stands. Thornton drifts up top as Nelson continues to cheat big time. Not really sure where he's going as his old position is a perfect outlet for where Evans is driving. Salmons. Ugh.
As Anderson doubles Evans swings the ball to Hickson. Thornton is actually in good position now. Cousins cuts hard to the hoop. Salmons doesn't stay in the corner or move up higher for the swing pass. He actually steps into two point territory, but not towards the hoop. Literally the worst angle I can think of for him to be taking.
Thornton gets swing pass. Cousins is in good rebound position. Evans pops towards opposite corner. Hickson stands. Salmons to his credit moves back into a position to receive a pass. Kings get the three pointer. At least they get credit for having better spacing. But the off ball movement was atrocious. This play was created out of thin air by Evans.
Play 14 (Magic)
Nelson starts the offense from up high. This time the Magic show a different look. Dwight is in high post. Anderson is in low post. Hedo starts in no man's land. Richardson is in the Richardson memorial corner. Someday we will spread his ashes there.
As the screen occurs, Hedo pops up and Anderson pops out to the corner. Richardson stands still. Howard cuts hard.
As Nelson dribbles towards the middle this time Hedo continues to roll up top. Actually a bad dribble by Nelson as it cuts off a streaking Howard. Fortunately Nelson pulls up and misses.
Play 15 (Kings)
The infamous possession starts with Evans initiating. Salmons and Thornton are in the Groundhog Day positions. Hickson is in the low post.
Cousins gets the ball. Nobody moves.
Evans gets it back and Cousins goes to screen. Thronton is at least moving up to be an outlet pass if needed, but is high and out of shooting position. Hickson and Salmons stay stationary.
Evans goes right and so far everyone is standing in the same position. Given the angle Evans is driving from and the position of the defenders, the ref appears to be in the best position to receive a pass. Remember how Howard rolled hard to the hoop? Cousins is standing one step in from the three point line.
Evans gets to the hoop 3 seconds later. Cousins, Thornton, Hickson and Salmons are standing in the same position. Anderson has come over to help. Hedo covers Hickson. Salmons is open. But Salmons is also standing stationary and not looking to create a better passing angle. Notice how there are two Magic defenders and Hickson between Evans and Salmons. The corner isn't a bad spot when a player is driving baseline, but given the congestion, moving up to where the ref is would actually create a passing angle for Evans. The same can be said for Thornton sliding down slightly to the trigger position. You can see Evans face and the large open space going from his eyes, through the key to the three point line.
Evans starts to twist. Arguably he could pass to Salmons, though the angle isn't very good. Again, everyone is standing in the same position. No off the ball movement. At least Hickson looks like he is fighting for a potential rebound. Evans misses. Game over. We get a turnover and a garbage alley-oop from Evans to Hickson with the Magic playing prevent defense.
And that was the game. Overall, there is a lot on offense and defense that can be taken from these pictures. But my real motivation here is to show how our offense does nothing to maximize our players abilities or to get us into position to score. There is no off ball movement or smart positioning by our players.
The Magic are not known for having a complex offense. They run a very simple offense based around a superstar talent. However, even they utilize off ball movement to get into position for high percentage shots. For all of our criticism of Evans and DMC, our offense is completely stationary. Both Evans and Cousins are good and willing-ish passers. However, we are not running an offense to open any passing lanes for them.
Right now, they have the pressure to create something out of nothing on every single play. Against good defenses, that is exceptionally hard to do. Until we install an offense that caters to our strengths and emphasizes off the ball cuts and screens, we can bring in the world's purest PG and will still have a difficult time scoring efficiently. Right now we are conducting a playground-style offense where players just take turn creating 1-on-1 or running a screen and roll. We have no movement, no trickery and no spacing. We are putting no pressure on the defense. That doesn't work at the NBA level.
Some of this is running more/better plays and some is teaching fundamentals. I don't think the Magic were running plays on every set, but they knew how to position themselves and move into positions to recieve the ball. Notice how the Magic created open passing lanes for Howard and Nelson on almost every play. Our team does not do that. Our players tend to stand in one spot until the pass comes or they need to run and get the ball from a teammate. The one time the Magic stood around like us, Howard got blocked in the lane and flailed around like Evans & Cousins do at times. The disaster here isn't our players. We have talent. It's not perfect talent, but we have more talent than a number of teams with a better record. We just don't run a NBA offense and it is killing our team.
[Note: This doesn't absolve our players for not moving or mean they have nothing to learn. Evans and Cousins are very, very young and still learning to make the right basketball decisions. They have a lot to improve on. However, our obscenely simple offense is robbing the team of easy baskets, making everything come hard and making Cousins and Evans look less efficient by forcing them to create something from nothing on every play without having their teammates even create passing lanes on many plays. Likewise, this doesn't mean that Petrie has done a marvelous job and everything wrong is with the coaching. However, I think Petrie is a good GM. Adelman made him look fantastic by getting the most out of both great players and role players. Now, horrendous coaching is making Petrie look far worse than he is and making a young, talented team look much awful. That, however, is a topic to explore further on another day.)