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Making basketball easy for Stanley Johnson through proper spacing and timing

Exploring the lack of spacing and ill timed Pistons’ offense.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

In part one we discussed the importance of Stanley Johnson capitalizing on cutting to the basket.

No matter the game plan the number one defensive bullet point for any team is to disrupt the offense’s spacing and timing. Whether it’s trapping pick-and-rolls, switching, funneling the ball to the baseline - whatever scheme you believe in - it’s all in a effort to throw off the spacing and timing of the jerks on the other side of the ball.

In obvious contrast the goal of the offense is to consistently keep the defense chasing the ball through proper spacing and timing.

Getting beat by a superior defense is one thing. Continually beating yourself is a whole different set of undesirable headaches and for the Pistons, 2016-17 saw more of the latter.

As in part one, the shitty Pistons’ spacing and timing (see below) isn’t unique to Stanley Johnson but since he’s being asked to make a rather large leap next year it’s probably best to focus on his development.

Let’s see here:

Setting an odd screen on the block - check.

Spreading the floor with Ish Smith - check.

Jon Leuer getting away with 5 seconds in the lane - check.

Reggie Jackson with the heave - you know that’s a check.

Yeah, it’s a team issue as, unfortunately, this isn’t a cherry picked example.


As Tobias Harris drives to his left Johnson creeps closer to the break which absolutely destroys proper spacing as it allows James Ennis to help on the drive and defend Johnson without moving.

And again:

Another blocked shot.

In this case, Johnson has one of three reasonable options: clear out to the opposite corner (via backdoor) while the opposite perimeter players shift over one spot, dribble hand-off or STAY in the deep corner - not the break.

Staying in the deep corner would’ve looked something like this:

The difference of where Johnson receives those passes are only a couple feet but those are awfully important feet as it completely changes the angle. Kelly Olynyk had to choose between committing to help on the drive or taking away the pass.

Stan Van Gundy has forgotten more about basketball more than I’ll ever know but this poorly spaced sequence played out so much over last season that I have to assume it’s being coached. Not that he cares - nor should he - but I don’t get it.


Above, old man Pau Gasol has time to reach on a driving Beno Udrih and recover to contest the Johnson spot up. Giving one defender the chance to dictate two offensive players’ decisions is a relative nightmare in regards to spacing.

Remember we want the defense to chase the ball and Johnson is cutting them slack by not sliding with the penetration into the corner. Doing so would’ve caused Kawhi Leonard to rotate to Johnson giving Andre Drummond perfect position for an easy dump down. What Drummond would’ve done from there is anyone’s guess but it’s better basketball than another spot up brick.


In this set, the closer Johnson is to the top-of-the-key three point area the worse it becomes for Detroit. Instead he should be closer to the near slot with Reggie Bullock firmly planted in the corner. Again, Johnson gives Brandon Ingram the ability to partially defend two players simultaneously. Clear avenues would open allowing a Johnson drive or drive and kick had Stanley been properly spaced.



Missing Andre Drummond for easy buckets - one of my biggest Detroit offensive irks last year - played out almost on a nightly basis. The blame falls equally on recognition of the defense, poor technique and timing.

Above, the instant Drummond reverse pivots to seal off Horford there is a clear lane for Stanley Johnson to fire a pass that surely would’ve resulted in an dunk or at the very least a Horford foul. Johnson must realize the opening, and like when a quarterback throws the ball to the receiver before he makes his break, that ball must find Dre’s hands.


In real time, hey, this play is alright!

Johnson ends up with a decent look and just misses the shot. Missing shots happens.


When Philly traps Jackson after the pick-and-roll the ball is rightfully swung around the horn and finds Johnson by the near break. Richard Holmes comes all the way from the PNR trap to deny Andre Drummond an entry pass.

Dre can’t let that happen.

As good of a job as Dre did with sealing off Horford in the prior example, Drummond’s effort on establishing position on this play is piss poor. If he doesn’t let Holmes deny that pass it’s an easy catch and finish. The timing was there but the technique was horrendous.

Those are easy assists that will never see the light of day.


Spacing and timing are the most important concepts for an offense to grasp and it’s on Johnson and the Pistons to right these easily fixable gaffes.

Take a look at what disciplined spacing produces:

Bullock in the slot, Johnson in the deep corner and damn I’m gonna miss Baynes.

Basketball is an easy game if you let it be.