It happened early in the third quarter of an otherwise ho-hum preseason game. Jakob Poeltl ambled towards Scottie Barnes and set a pick on the wing. All was normal. Until Barnes exploded.
He took one dribble towards Poeltl's right shoulder, fitting fairly snugly around the screen. The defender did nothing to respond and smashed into Poeltl, dying on the play. JaVale McGee, playing in drop, stepped up, preparing for Barnes to turn his back and play bully ball, as he usually does. Instead, Barnes bent low to the ground to pound a tight lefty dribble, rocketed past McGee into the lane, and finished a huge dunk off one foot while wearing McGee as a backpack.
You can think of a 'corner' in an NBA game as a moving plane, a straight line created by the defender's hips. As the defender shifts to stay in front of the offensive player, that line moves with him. It is often the Rubicon of an NBA offense -- the point of no return. If the ball passes a defender's hips, the offensive player has officially turned the corner. Then the defense must scatter, rotate, collapse, panic. Everyone's assignment changes. The offense reaps huge rewards almost immediately. The player with the ball finds easier chances to score, an easier lane to the rim, more open passing lanes for more efficient shots for more teammates.
Turning the corner is the Big Bang of a single offensive possession; where once there was nothing, now there is everything.
And the Raptors were one of the worst 'corner-turning' teams in the league last year. Fred VanVleet's inability to get past Nikola Vucevic's hips and turn the corner after the Chicago Bulls started switching was at least as big a cause of Toronto's disastrous play-in collapse as a child's screaming. Gary Trent jr. has trouble turning the corner. Barnes rarely managed to do so -- which was a major takeaway of Samson's magnum opus. O.G. Anunoby can turn the corner, but he hasn't been very threatening after doing so -- frequently losing his balance, committing offensive fouls, or lofting up poor shots.