Breaking It Down

Breaking It Down: Offensive Decision Making and Stagnancy

Having talented offensive players does not mean you’re playing smart offense.

I’m not going to go into excruciating detail in this one, but do want to highlight a couple things that you see quite often in the Raptors offense.

Rudy Gay Decision to Shoot

Couple of things about Rudy Gay who can’t manage to shoot 50% in a game to save his life.

Here’s a play early in the second half:

I don’t know if someone was supposed to set a screen on Pierce to get Gay a cleaner look than what he got, but I do know the decision to shoot when under that level of contest is a poor one. Here’s the exact moment before he gathers and launches:

At this moment, he’s decided to shoot even though Pierce is all over him and that’s totally Rudy’s bad. Take a step back, though, and see what options he has to pass to. Both bigs are covered with defenders between Gay and them, a pass to Lowry is too risky as Bradley, a good defender, will pick it off. This leaves DeRozan, who happens to be behind Gay here. Good luck finding him under the pressure from Pierce. Also, don’t discount the presence of DeRozan’s defender here on Gay, who has to be aware of him as he gathers for a shot.

As much as it is Rudy’s fault for taking such a poor shot, the position that he finds himself in and the lack of a decent outlet almost forces him to. Let me be clear: it’s Gay’s fault for taking the poor shot, all I’m saying is that it’s helped by the Raptors positioning on the court, which again, is partially caused by Gay’s decision to drive right into three defenders. This is also where a three-point threat might help. For example, if DeRozan was a respectable three-point shooter, maybe his man wouldn’t have come over to help seal Gay’s drive.

DeMar DeRozan Decision to Drive/Pass

This is an example of starting the play at the wrong spot, and ending up doing what the defense wants you to do:

DeRozan starts the pick ‘n roll way further out than what he would’ve wanted to. You can credit the Boston defense for pushing them, or more likely, it’s a lack of patience and deliberation shown by the offense as they get things going a little too prematurely. DeRozan’s weak handles betray him as on the drive he can’t blow by anyone since he has to worry about handling the ball so much that it affects the pace of his moves.

When he does get into a position of interest, i.e., the FT line, he’s doubled and his only logical outlet is Amir Johnson at exactly this point:

Gay is behind him with a defender lurking in the passing lane, and I doubt DeRozan even knows he’s there. Lowry and Gay have been stagnant for almost all of this play and are posing the Celtics defense no threat. Jonas is begging for the ball and is probably the highest percentage option here. More importantly, though, Amir Johnson is the easiest option to pass to and that’s by design. By Celtics design, that is, just look how much space Garnett is giving Johnson so he can help seal off DeRozan’s drive.

When they say “playing into the hands of the defense”, this is exactly what they mean. DeRozan passes to a poor jump shooter, probably thinking he made a play, when it’s in fact exactly what the Celtics have conceded to the Raptors and is exactly the play they’re hoping the Raptors make.

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