All coaches steal from each other but not all coaches emphasize the same details of the game. This is the third part of a pre-season series dedicated to the nuances of Dwane Casey’s coaching philosophy and technique.
Part 1 - how to properly closeout/contest jump shots.
Part 2 - defending the pick-and-roll.
It’s no secret Dwane Casey will be seeking an uptick in three-point attempts from his new team. Only the Houston Rockets and Brooklyn Nets launched more three-pointers per game last year than Casey’s Raptors and Pistons fans should expect a similar long-ball priority heading into next season.
While all three-pointers count for three points (hold on, yep, the math checks out), Casey’s teams utilize the side pocket more than most. Per CTG, under Casey, the Raptors have been a top seven team each year in regards to frequency of the corner three-point attempt since the 2013-14 season. Over the same span, the Pistons finished anywhere from 10th to 29th in corner-three regularity.
As the famous old saying goes “Tell a man about corner-threes and he can watch basketball intelligently for a day. Show a man the corner-threes and he can watch basketball intelligently for a lifetime” - and that’s what we’re going to do. Below will highlight the many ways Casey generated below-the-break looks for the Raptors last year. Do the Pistons have the skill set to emulate (insert nervous emoji face)?
Secure the ball and go.
The boring days of walking the ball slowly up the court while barking out time-killing and methodical set plays are in the rear view. There is certainly a time and place for designed attacks (ATO, EOQ) but pushing the pace supplementing a natural free-flowing offense is here to stay in the NBA.
Casey’s transition game plan includes filling both deep corners:
During a kickoff in football, each player has a specific “lane” they’re coached to stay in as they vigorously sprint down the field. If all 11 players stay in their designated lane, odds are, one of them will make the tackle. Transition offense in the NBA is somewhat similar. If everyone bolts to their designated spots, odds are, someone will be open.
Each player on the court has a specific lane to fill as the ball changes possession which includes both deep corners. The faster those corners are filled, the more space it will create putting immediate pressure on the defense. The low-budget graphic below depicts each spot that should be occupied with the 1 representing the pushing ball-handler:
It doesn’t always end up looking exactly like above but it’s the general idea.
Perhaps the Raptors biggest advantage in this specific situation was their on-court interchangeable parts. While the lanes must be filled, and the ball must be pushed, on a multi-skilled roster, it doesn’t matter who does what as long as it gets done.
Below is an example of nine different Raptors making a transition corner-three:
Well, you’re going to have to take my word for it on the last two as GIFs can only be a minute long but I think you get the point.
Now, DBB, put your thinking cap on. Which possible Pistons starter scares you the most in being able to consistently convert this transition invasion?
Unless Andre Drummond’s three-point career completely takes off, he’ll always be the trailer in this scenario on the starting unit. Unlike Toronto’s power forward Serge Ibaka, Blake Griffin can initiate the break on his own which is a welcoming plus for the Pistons. Reggie Jackson can bring the ball up the court, too, and adequately fill either corner or slot. Ideally, Reggie Bullock is a corner or slot guy.
Here’s my best educated answer:
It’s not to say all the Raptors players were knock-down marksmen but, as of last year, Stanley Johnson is a hard two on the I’m-confident-he’s-going-to-make-this-shot 1-10 scale. In his defense, it’s a hard two, but a two nonetheless.
If Stanley Johnson cannot hit the open corner three, fastbreak or not, he’ll continue to be a liability on offense.
Ok, bummer, the defense got back in time and denied the transition three OR after a made basket, there is a slower pace - now what?
One of Casey’s favorite early looks in Toronto featured DeMar DeRozan collecting a slot screen from one or both bigs. The action gave DeRozan space to create for himself or for teammates which included the corner-three:
Also, of course, producing non-three looks too:
Basically, it provided DeRozan immediate freedom quickly into a possession.
Keeping the trailing big involved is essential to offensive balance while also making sure he feels part of the flow. Believe it or not, some bigs lose interest when they’re not directly involved (I won’t name names):
Above are examples of a throw-and-chase PNR and a skip pass off this look, both resulting in a corner-three make. Like the DeRozan action from above, there are multiple avenues early offense can apply off the trailing big.
In the half-court, Casey’s offense revolved and thrived around drive-and-kick and overall ball movement. The Raptors finished 7th in both ball-handler and roller scoring off the pick-and-roll but the PNR also played a light hand in the corner-three:
As always, it’s far from groundbreaking but the high PNR is an implemented tool that Casey encourages.
On the more creative side of things, below are near-identical possessions against the lowly Bulls. The first is a ball-reversal into an immediate PNR and the second is the counter to the Bulls’ over-aggressive defense to the same play. Both spawned a corner-three:
Stan Van Gundy showcased a similar look last year (sans crafty counters) that usually ended in the way one would expect:
Man, the more time that goes by, the more I realize just how painfully vanilla the offense during the SVG era was. It’s a wonder th.....ugh, nevermind.
This PNR possession ends with a hammer screen freeing up Kyle Lowry:
Fun, right?! I guess it largely depends on your definition of fun.
The corner-three also creeps its way in dead-ball situations as well, like this BLOB:
By and large, though, most corner-threes generated in the half-court are the result of basketball players simply being basketball players. Drive, attract attention and find the open man:
It’s is an easy game if you let it be.
In 2008, if you were to tell me that I would spend an entire sunny-skied 82 degree September weekend in 2018 ameraturly diagnosing the Toronto Raptors three-point tendencies under Dwane Casey’s watch for fun, I would’ve wondered what went wrong? And, yes, I do wonder...
Of course, in 2008, if you were to tell me Donald Tr......ugh, nevermind.
Part four, soon. Maybe.