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Coach: The Guile of the Gasols, +1 Passes
Posted By Anthony Macri On May 4, 2012 @ 5:00 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Guile of the Gasols
Building a great NBA player goes beyond selecting the best physical attributes. If I were building a player, one place I’d go is to the Gasol brothers for their cunning and guile. The easiest way to describe their gameplay is to refer to them as playing, collectively, an “old man game.” Pau and Marc utilize a variety of methods to outsmart the more athletic defenders covering them. Three specific and transferable skills should be taught to players at every level, because an awareness of them (and full incorporation of the techniques into one’s game) will have immediate and significant dividends.
First, both Gasols (but particularly Pau) do an excellent job of changing speeds in transition. Most bigs are taught, at a young age, to sprint the floor rim to rim every chance they get: and this is good advice – sprinting the floor is never incorrect. But players miss out on certain opportunities when they simply sprint: they could set up their defender with clever changes of speed as well. The Gasols both run the floor, at around 80 percent, most of the time. Then occasionally they burst to full throttle just as their defender settles into a groove, leaving him a half step behind as they catch a pass and finish at the rim. This deception is invaluable – it keeps the opposing team off-balance and unprepared for whatever will come next.
The ability and propensity to shot fake constantly, changing the angle of attack and disrupting the timing of potential shot-blockers, frustrates opposing defenders. Marc is especially adept at using delays prior to shots near the rim. Many defenders know that athletically, they can soar above Marc’s highest finishing point, and therefore they look for opportunities to contest shots above the rim. To counter, Marc often brings the ball up to a spot where he would shoot, then delays for a half second. That half second delay is all he needs to get that defender out of position and unable to contest – and Marc finishes the shot with relative ease.
One final area the Gasols have mastered is something players could learn watching Al Jefferson or Kevin Love as well. An easy way to remember it is the phrase “hips & tips.” Hips and tips means the ability to use hip-to-body contact to keep leapers grounded, while using outstretched arms to tip the ball to an area it can be secured. Many players are focused on hit-n-go box outs, where a player makes momentary contact, then goes to retrieve the basketball quickly. However, players with “old man” games like Pau and Marc Gasol find spots to lean on opponents with just their hips, which avoids foul calls, and then tap the ball to an open spot on the floor where they can snatch it.
It is genuinely fun watching wily players assert themselves in a league filled with the greatest athletes in the world. For the Gasols, guile is their best bet to being successful. Expect the next generation of real superstars to combine that athleticism with outrageous old man tricks – a deadly combination indeed.
+1 Passing & Shot Selection
While many have described in great detail the efficacy of the San Antonio Spurs’ ball screen attack (this analyst included), the real key to their success has been an ability to do ordinary things in a very extraordinary manner. As a team, this year’s Spurs group is the best plus-one passing team I have ever witnessed. When you combine that with their commitment to taking only premium shots, and they become an offensive juggernaut through nearly flawless execution of fundamental basketball.
A plus-one (“+1”) pass occurs whenever a player with the ball has the opportunity to shoot a decent-to-good shot, but gives it up by passing to a teammate for a great shot. Most of these situations occur either when the ball is being moved extremely fast around the key, or on a drive to the goal. The defense is either unable to recover or passer hesitates ever so slightly, forcing the defender to commit or hesitate, buying time for his teammate.
A fair number of teams make the +1 pass to the corners, usually when there is a ball screen on one side of the floor, a drive middle, kickout and rotations allow for a +1 pass to the corner for three. However, the Spurs spend more time finding +1 passes than any NBA team I’ve seen in the last decade. They find cutters in +1 situations. They hit shooters on the wings or at the top of the key instead of just the corner. And a few of their players (notably Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli) have basically perfected the art of the shot-pass: they penetrate toward the lane, rise to shoot and then find a teammate cutting or spotting up for a great shot.
Combine this willingness to pass the ball to create great shots with the patience to wait for those great shots, and the Spurs have the look of a real offensive juggernaut, built to make the scrambling, second-contest defenses of Miami and Chicago scratch their heads. Their entire offensive approach is designed to get defenders to commit, and since that is what a defense like Miami is built to do (overwhelm you with athleticism when they commit), that match-up might mean bad news for a team like the HEAT.
The easiest way to put it is this: they make correct closeouts nearly impossible, which makes them the most dangerous team on the offensive end this postseason. The best way to beat them might be a rather passive, pack-line defense – not the hyperactive attack schemes of the likely Eastern Conference winner.
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Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri will open his notebook and offer an assortment of observations on games, players and teams from throughout the league. Coach Macri serves as a player development consultant for the Pro Training Center and Coach David Thorpe, working with a variety of NBA players on their skills and game understanding and served as an assistant coach at Paul VI Catholic High School (Fairfax, VA), a consensus top 15 team in the nation this past season. The Coach’s Notebook is a weekly feature on HOOPSWORLD.
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