Happy Thanksgiving, campers. This Thursday, since it’s a holiday, I’ll spare you my weekly 2,000 word screed on what I’d like to see the Cavs doing and just show you a perfect example of the Cavs doing exactly what I’ve been begging them to do all season long.
Hopefully, the above video above (which comes from @DawkinsMTA, who runs the best NBA YouTube channel out there) is set to the appropriate time, but since I have no idea how to do that, skip to the 3:55 mark if it starts from the beginning. This is how a 2014-15 Cavalier offensive set should look.
STEP 1: The play here is a simple 3-1 pick and roll, which was a staple of the Heat offense when LeBron played there and has been an attempted staple of the Cavalier offense this season. It’s a very effective set, since not many teams can have a 250-pound man as the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll. The problem with it so far for the Cavaliers has been that Kyrie has been setting nonchalant screens, so instead of a 3-1 pick-and-roll it’s “Kyrie and LeBron waste 8 seconds of the shot clock while standing near each other.”
On this play, however, Kyrie sets a screen like a guy who was born in Australia, not like a guy who went to Duke. LeBron’s man can’t fight over the screen fast enough, and LeBron has a lane to the basket. Now the Wizards are on the back foot, and good things can happen organically. That’s what a successful offensive set does.
STEP 2: Marcin Gortat makes a nice rotation to keep LeBron from getting an easy finish on the drive, and Kris Humphries rotates down to keep LeBron from having a pass to Thompson for an easy dunk. This leaves Joe Harris open for an above-the-break 3, and LeBron fires the pass to him.
STEP 3: Since Harris is a 3-point threat who has to be respected, Kyrie’s man leaves him to contest what would be a wide-open 3. Harris, without so much as putting the ball on the floor, swings the ball to Kyrie, who’s open at the top of the 3-point arc. This forces Dion Waiters’ man to leave Waiters alone in the corner and close out on Kyrie at full speed.
STEP 4: Kyrie now has two options: Hit Waiters with a pass that would set him up with an open 3, or decimate the ankles of a defender who has to run at him full-speed, and thus has no real chance of staying in front of one of the best ballhandlers in basketball. Kyrie goes with option B, and goes from left to right with a behind-the-back dribble on his man.
STEP 5: Kyrie is now between the top of the key and the free throw line, with options. He can pull up on his man for a mid-range jumper, which isn’t a terrible shot, but isn’t a great one. There’s still enough room between Waiters and his man for a three if Kyrie fires a pass to his right side. But the best option is the one Kyrie goes with — since Kyrie’s crossover forced Humphries to step into the middle of the lane to prevent Kyrie from getting a layup on a potential blow-by, LeBron is now open just under the basket, on the left side. In a flash, Kyrie picks up his dribble and hits LeBron with a bullet pass in one fluid motion. Now LeBron’s got a layup, and he even gets an and-1 out of the deal.
That’s what we’re talking about here — spacing, guys working together, multiple good options created by actions, and LeBron and Kyrie using their respective talents to make life easier on each other. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.