Ed’s Note: This is a guest post by William Lou.

If you’re a fan of Mad Men, you’re probably wondering why I used the chip ‘n’ dip from season 1 as the title picture for this post. If you’re not a fan of Mad Men, you’re probably wondering what the a chip ‘n’dip is, and what it’s doing in a basketball blog.

I’m going to use it to make (an ill-advised) analogy; Steve Novak is that chip ‘n’ dip.

Don’t get it twisted; that’s no ordinary chip dip. It was given to Peter and Trudy Campbell as a wedding gift (in fact, they got two! That’s why people register), and it cost $22, and that was back in 1960! According to this CPI inflation calculator, this very chip ‘n’ dip would cost ~$174 today! This is some fancy stuff!

So how is Steve Novak like this chip ‘n’ dip? Well, they’re both kinda expensive and useless on their own. However, they are both excellent at their highly specific functions.

Is that a bit of a stretch? Maybe. I just wanted to reference Mad Men. Hey, it’s a fantastic show. You should watch it. The show never overlaps with Raptor games (Sundays at 9 pm, EST).

Steve Novak is good for one thing. That one thing is spot-up shooting, and it’s usually from 3-point range. You know this, I know this, and Aaron Rodgers knows this (because he stole his celebration; tsk tsk Novak).

Last season, Novak scored 1.27 points per play (ppp) on spot-up shots, which was good for 14th in the NBA. Granted, a lot of that is because so many of his spot-ups were 3’s (106/128 makes were 3 pointers), but it’s still pretty fantastic. After all, he shot a clean 42.8% on three-pointers, which is right in-line with his career rate of 43.3%. Any way you cut it, Novak is a pretty fantastic spot-up shooter.

However, he can’t do it alone. He needs help. He usually needs to be set up to succeed. He was assisted on a whooping 94.6% of his three-point attempts last season, and that’s not an aberration; his career low is 91.2%.

That’s not to say that he’s useless. He is far from useless. Would call that chip ‘n’ dip useless? Well, Peter Campbell did when he swapped it for a rifle, but then his wife left him (SPOILER ALERT), and his wife is played by Alison Brie. Imagine losing her (I’ll help by linking to an image).

Back to Novak (unfortunately). So we know that he needs help. How can we help him? Well, let’s take a look at how the Knicks got Novak open looks (and no, it wasn’t by the magical allure of Melo’s offensive prowess). This excellent youtube video compiled a bunch of examples of how Novak got open. Let’s breakdown each of those three plays:

“The Reversal” – Ball Screen + Down Screen

The set starts with the point guard (Felton) on the right side of the floor with a big (Martin) on the near elbow, and Novak in the corner. Martin comes to set a ball screen for Felton, who cuts around Martin and starts to head towards the basket. This is shown below:

1 bd 1

Second, Felton cuts a bit to the basket, while Martin slips Felton’s defender (who is caught on the screen) and sets a down screen for Novak, who is flashing to the wing from the corner:

2 bd 2

Novak’s defender is caught on Martin’s (sliggghtly illegal) screen, and is open to shoot the three after receiving the pass from Felton:

3 bd 3

The “triple decker” – Cross Screen + Ball Screen + Down Screen

This one is slightly trickier, so bear with me. The action starts off with the point guard (Prigioni) on the left side. Novak, Smith and Melo are lined up in order from the strong-side. Novak is going to set a cross-screen for JR Smith, who flashes to the ball.

4 cbd 1

Smith comes to set a ball screen on Prigioni’s defender. The Celtics actually make an astute observation and switch on Smith and Novak. However, they are not out of the woods just yet. Novak cuts around Carmelo Anthony.

5 cbd 2

As Novak cuts around Anthony, Melo side-steps away from the ball, and sets a down screen for Steve Novak. Prigioni uses the Smith screen.

6 cbd 3

Smith’s ball-screen creates a wide-open lane for Prigioni, who fires a pass to a wide open Novak. It’s a thing of beauty.

7 cbd 4

The “Flare”

This set is the trickiest, so pay attention. The action starts with Prigioni passing the ball over to JR Smith on the right side of the court. Novak stands on the left wing, while Kidd waits on the right side of the court.

After the pass, Prigioni cuts across the floor, while Novak shifts over to the top of the floor to receive a pass from Smith.

8 flare 1

Prigioni is going to cut all the way to the left wing, and receive a pass from Novak. Kidd is going to shift from the right low-post to post-up on the left elbow. Smith starts to cut to the far corner as a decoy. The mystery big (I want to say it’s Camby) starts to shift to the right elbow.

9 flare 2

Kidd acts a decoy in the post. JR Smith also acts like a decoy as he swings all the way around to the near corner. Camby(?) comes up and sets a down screen for Novak’s man while Novak “flares” behind Camby’s screen at the top of the court:

10 flare 3

The end result is that Novak is open. Prigioni fires a pass over to Novak, who nails a wide-open three pointer.

11 flare 4

With the help of these three simple plays, the Toronto Raptors can make good use of the chip ‘n’ dip that is Steve Novak. As you can see from the play’s construction, this is not a product of “superstar-magic”. It’s just a simple matter of execution. If used correctly, Steve Novak will be a very useful player for the Raptors next season.

Unless we have two. Then we can swap one for a rifle. Mad Men joke, sorry!

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  • sitnonDfence

    You lost me at Alison Brie…

    • Vimsanity

      Only for a few minutes.

      • It takes me a bit longer.

  • raptorspoo

    I have a better solution for you… trade Gay, DD and Lowry. Problem solved.

    Maybe if we had competent team players / pressure the D and creating openings – as opposed to the solo drive to the rim and if all else fails then find the bail out man – type players, we’d be aok.

    • DDayLewis

      What problem is solved?

      • raptorspoo

        Your stagnant offense that creates shots for no one. Read between the lines buddy.

        • DDayLewis

          So Lowry and his 33% assist rate (1th best in the NBA) isn’t creating shots? I agree that DD and Gay aren’t a good duo.

          • raptorspoo

            Not sure about his assist rate (is that ‘1th’ a ‘1st’ or ’11th’?) but one sense I get from watching him play is that he doesn’t ‘run’ an offense very well. More like drive and find the bail man.

            Not sure how much of that is Casey’s fault but I’m gonna put a lot of that responsibility/inability on Lowry too cause a good PG would set good plays up regardless of the coach’s offensive play setup ability.

            Jose was a much better facilitator and better at getting players involved in actual set plays.

            • DDayLewis

              10th. Sorry about that.

              Okay, but if he always find the bail-man, how can you explain nearly half og his assists leading to shots at the rim?

              And yeah, Jose was great. He never got the appreciation he deserved here in Toronto. I was very sad to see him go.

              • SR

                Good ball movement is critical, but it doesn’t even depend on the PG. It’s got to be a team-wide thing.

                The Raptors ball movement was the best that year they won the division. They also had a lot of “team first” guys that year. That’s by far the best kind of ball to watch, according to me. Awe inspiring individual talent is also great, but I’d rather watch that ball move. It gets the whole team into the game when role players are confident they’ll get their touches.

                Jose was better at running the offense. Lowry creates offense.

            • DDayLewis

              BTW jose was first in Assist rate last season.

  • SR

    That asssists-on-makes percentage is crazy. I’ve never seen one that high.

    I also hope the Raptors improve in the execution of their offensive sets (and defensive too, for that matter). I think that’s your biggest hope for seeing them move up the standings – JV will be better, but he’s still a very young big and I think we’ve got to temper expectations a bit re: the pace of his development, and the magical elixir of Landry’s and Rudy’s surgeries is about the only other thing we’re banking on. That stuff’s not going to keep up with the progress the Cavs, Wizards, and Pistons have made.

    Casey has the roster right from pre-season and he doesn’t have BC toying with it all season long. The turnover in the starting 5 last year was nuts. Hard not to end up running a bunch of iso’s for Gay and DD at the tail end of a season like that.

    • DDayLewis

      What progress did the Wizards make other than draft Porter? Sign Al Harrington?

      • Nilanka15

        A healthy Wall to start the season is pretty significant.

        • DDayLewis


          Is that roster really that good? Wall is going to be great, but he’s not there yet. Lowry’s more productive right now.

          • SR

            @DDayLewis – Why the payroll link?

            • DDayLewis

              Lol I don’t know. I just had it open. It does show the roster though.

              • SR

                How about both guys @ 22 years old?


                Lowry only started 21 games that year, but their per 36 numbers aren’t even close. Wall is also a much, much better defender imho.

                Wall’s only 22 and is already in any “Top 10 PG” discussion. Lowry is 27 and isn’t in any of those discussions. It isn’t really close, is it?

                • DDayLewis

                  Yeah, but why are you comparing their numbers through age 22? Lowry is 27 this season, and Wall is 22. I specifically said that Lowry is more productive right now.

                  Last season:
                  Player/ WS48 / WP48

                  Wall / 0.134 / 0.124
                  Lowry / 0.133 / 0.190

                  Now, Lowry could get injured, but so could Wall (they both have injury issues). Wall can certainly see development and improve, but the difference isn’t that big right now.

                • SR

                  Why at 22? Because Wall has made considerable improvements each of his first 3 seasons and ought to make another leap in 2013/14. 2013/14 was the original discussion here (Raps vs. Wiz moving up the rankings next year), not 2012/13. As you said, Lowry is 27 and nobody’s expecting similar improvements from him. Last year is a fine indication of what he’ll do next year.

                • DDayLewis

                  Yeah, but why compare Wall and Lowry through their age 22 seasons? That doesn’t pertain to Lowry’s next season’s production.

                • SR

                  Because I missed the “right now” in your “Lowry’s more productive right now” comment and got sidetracked into a player comparo. Can you handle that? (/joke)

                  I guess my more basic point has to do with your “Wall’s going to be great, but he’s not there yet.” Based on his progress through his first 3 seasons and how well the team played with him healthy last year, I think he will be more or less “there” in 2013/14 – at least he’ll be “there” enough for the Wizards to leapfrog the Raps and make the 6-8 seed. He’ll also be “there” enough that he’ll be a considerably better player than Lowry, which was more the intent of the comparo.

                  I think the Raps are going to have to bank on something going wrong with the Pistons, Cavs, or Wizards to make the playoffs. All those teams have improved more through roster changes or rapidly improving lottery picks (ex. Wall) than the Raptors. That goes back to my original comment above.

                • DDayLewis

                  I get pretty snippy on these message threads. You saw the mammoth thread about Gay vs Marion. It’s a bad habit.

                  If Wall takes the next step and becomes an all-star calibre point guard (and I mean more Rondo than Jrue “super inefficient shooting” Holiday), then yeah, the Wizards look like they can make the playoffs. I have no idea how good Porter is, but their front court is solid (Nene and Okafor). I’m also pretty high on Beal.

                  You know what’s weird? The Cavs have Bynum, Bennett, Thompson and Varajeo in their front court. Someone is getting traded. I want the Raptors to land any of those players.

                • SR

                  If Sideshow Bob and Psycho-T both land on the Raps, the “blue-collar” fans of Toronto will explode. I don’t know if they can handle it.

                  The Raps need another big. I’d like to have Ed Davis back.

                  I’d also like them to make the playoffs. I just think the most likely outcome will have them landing 9th or 10th. Of course the most likely outcome never actually happens – at least 1 or 2 more talented teams are going to underachieve. Back to the original point, the Raps best chance for taking advantage of another team’s rough season is going to be team-play/offensive and defensive execution (shout out to your original post).

                • DDayLewis

                  Varajeo is really underrated. That guy is very good. He’s just perpetually injured. I’d still lpve to see him in a Raptors uniform.

                  I miss ED! so much. He and Amir were a great duo. Damn Colangelo had try and save his job. He screwed the whole franchise over.

                  The Cavs have serious health concerns. Bynum, Varajeo and Kyrie are all injury risks. The Pistons…well, let’s just say that I won’t be drafting Josh Smith onto my fantasy team this season; him at SF probably means it’s back to the long-2’s for Smith.

                  You’re right about the defense. The famous 5-man unit of Lowry-DD-Gay-Johnson-Valanciunas was amazing on defense (~92 DRtg). If they can replicate that, it’ll definitely be the team’s strength.

        • SR

          Wizards were significantly better when their full roster was finally healthy last year. They only had 3 guys play more than 70 games, but still managed to have the 8th best opp ppg (95.8) and their defensive rating was 5th (103). That’s pretty incredible, considering how much they struggled with injuries and how young some of their key players are.

          Wall’s also made significant improvements each of his first three seasons and his PER nearly hit 21 last year. Then you’ve also got Beal, who has loads of talent but also only played 46 games. He’ll be better. A healthy Nene also helps a lot.

          Their biggest question is whether or not they can be healthy (that’s the key to their “progress” – their internal development and realistic ceiling actually mean something). However last year may turn out to be the norm for them – Wall has yet to play more than 70 games in a season.

          I think they’ve got more talent and a higher ceiling than the Raptors. A jump in the standings, given good health and the continued improvement of their lottery picks, is much more realistic for them than it is for the Raps. They’ve definitely got a better defense.

          • DDayLewis

            Wall played the full 66 games in 2011-12.

            • SR

              Ahh yes, the lockout! That was worth it.

  • DDayLewis

    BTW does anyone have any thoughts on the article? Breaking down plays isn’t really my forte, so I’m anxious to get some feedback on this thing.

    • elkabong

      i liked your article a bunch and i wish they’d do more of it on the telecasts ala Kenny the Jet segments. you see these guys sitting wide open for a 3 and wonder how the heck did that happen? well most of the time it happened because several team mates had to be involved and it happened so fast most of us average fans totally missed all the details. it think it also helps to emphasis that it really is a 5 man unit working together type of game to be successful. hopefully Casey is paying attention not only to the 3 point plays for Novak but has went to school on some better inbound plays which i thought were horrendous for the most part last season and need the same type of team cooperation to get from rugby scrum to open shots

      as for the ” amazing on defense (~92 DRtg)” of the one good 5 man unit we played last year i’m on the side thinking there was something good happening there and liked the chemistry i saw so i’m hopeful they can continue to jell as a unit

      • DDayLewis

        Thanks for the read, and for the kind words. These type of pieces are my favourite as well. 80% of the pieces we read are “what” pieces, telling us what will happen, or what did happen. It’s cool to see the “how” behind the “what”. It explains things well,

  • Bucksfan

    Three point shooter also spreads the floor for slashers and prevents defenses from double teaming the low post. Not sure if that will help the raptors…

  • caccia

    If Toronto needs to get Novak the ball, perhaps they should hire this guy, Jonny Flynn:


    If Quentin Richardson does not join the team, there will be a slot open

    • RaptorsFan

      Kabongo is still available (rather crazy)…

      • Brett

        The dude got cut from team Canada….. He doesn’t have a spot in the nba yet.

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