Coach’s Notebook: Melo’s Efficiency, Redick’s Evolution
Each week, HOOPSWORLD NBA analyst and coach Anthony Macri opens his notebook and offers 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. The Coach’s Notebook appears on HOOPSWORLD every Thursday.
Offensive efficiency and the second line of defense
One of the best ways to help a player develop his individual game is to use an exemplary model. When we work with players who need help attacking offensively on the catch (and usually from the wing area), the player we look to before all others is Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets.
Melo’s wing attack understanding and technique is compact and efficient. He drives in straight lines, with little side-to-side movement and plenty of changes in speed, both to initiate the move and on the drive. In his game against the Orlando Magic earlier this week, Melo’s talents were on full display as he got to the rim aggressively and consistently. Selective in where he receives the ball (typically on the wing and only 21 feet out, inside the three-point line), Anthony sets himself up for productive after-the-catch scenarios. By attacking from areas of strength time and time again (unlike LeBron James, who only fights for specific areas of the floor occasionally), Carmelo can constantly put pressure on opposing defenses and avoids settling for anything less.
It helps that his finishes are excellent. Once he’s used his great first step to elude the initial defender, Melo’s quick step-hop explode allows him to take contact and finish at or above the rim on most possessions, giving him the ability to get to the rim before the last line of help has a chance to react. His footwork should be a point of emphasis teaching any young wing player.
Where his game really shines, and perhaps the thing students of the game can take the most from watching Carmelo play, is how he recognizes, analyzes, and dissects the second line of defenders. For players like Carmelo or Kobe Bryant, the defender who is actively guarding them is of little consequence – what lies behind him in help defense is what really matters. While it may look like they are staring down their one-on-one defender, the reality is their awareness of help coming down from the top, across from the weakside, or up from the post is why they are able to score even when the defense knows what’s coming. Because of the way Melo fights for and gains a favorable position on the floor from which to attack, he often knows where the defense will be relative to his position. He puts this knowledge to use when he finally makes his move.
That makes him one of the more efficient wings in the league.
The evolution of a pure shooter
When J.J. Redick took the floor for Duke, everyone knew him as a deadly shooter who could accurately fire from nearly anywhere inside of 35 feet. When he first entered the NBA, he was the same shooter, but he struggled in his first few years. While many pointed to the speed and size of defenders at the NBA level, something else seemed a little off and prevented him from maximizing his opportunities.
In college, most of Redick’s shooting opportunities resulted from one of two situations: either catch and shoot as he came off of multiple screens – so his body was on the move, he rarely had more than a moment to locate the rim on the catch, and he typically was fading or shifting backwards or to the side – or they came off the dribble. Like all great shooters, Redick became accustomed to and trained to excel in the conditions he faced in games.
When Redick got to the NBA, however, he was asked to do something entirely different. There, he wouldn’t receive multiple staggered pin-downs or fade off of cross screens. Instead, Redick’s job largely became that of spot shooter off of penetration by Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, the inside presence of Dwight Howard, and as a safety valve from teams rotating to defend the multi-pronged Orlando pick-and-roll attack.
As a fifth-year player, Redick is proving he has truly evolved and become much more of a complete player. He has now scored in double digits in eight of Orlando’s last 10 games, and watching him it is easy to see that he has adapted by becoming a very capable and effective spot shooter (and he still has retained some of his movement shooting skills). Redick is also attacking the basket more, getting to the line a fair amount, and has slowed down his play to take advantage of situations.
No longer having plays called for him dozens of times each night, he has made himself a very solid role player for a team that will likely contend for a championship this year. His evolution is a great testament to both hard work and to the recognition that player fit and aptitude is just as important as pure potential.
Offense syncing up in South Beach
In their last 10 games (all wins), the Miami HEAT has managed to reach triple digits in scoring six times. Compare that with their first 17 games, where the Heat only reached the 100+ plateau seven times, and it’s easy to see why Miami is picking up wins now. Part of the story of their success comes from the defensive end, where the HEAT is playing aggressively, challenging shots, creating turnovers, and rebounding well. It is the other end of the floor, though, where things are really looking up.
Early in the season, some pointed to the HEAT standing around offensively and claimed it was a result of faulty gameplanning overemphasizing one-on-one play. However, the HEAT hasn’t really altered the mechanisms of their offense since their slow start. They are running similar sets and patterns, and attempt to get the ball to their big guns in the same ways. So what changed?
Much like how a quarterback and wide receiver have to work on timing and reads in order to really make an impact on the football field, the Miami offense needed experience to come together and develop a flow. While the movements are the same, there is a different purpose to them now– a rhythm not present earlier in the season. Pinch post actions and dribble handoffs are becoming more and more effective, as players get a feel for one another and where the soft spots in their opponent’s defense will develop. This isn’t the result of adjustments by any two players, but rather how their unit has coalesced and created a structured cadence to their attack. It took the Los Angeles Lakers some time to discover the cadence of the Triangle Offense – and now they might be the leagues’ most in-flow team.
At this point in the season, on at least half their possessions, Miami is not far behind.
Have questions for Coach Macri? Be sure and drop by HOOPSWORLD on Mondays at 2PM Eastern for the Coach’s weekly basketball chat! You can also follow Coach Macri on Twitter @CoachMacri.