Breaking It Down: How The Raptors Can Get Open Shots for Steve Novak

8 mins read

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!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.