In this latest Roundball Mining Company Film Room installment, we will take a look at how the Nuggets got Wilson Chandler open for a game-winning 3-pointer running their unconventional offensive system.
Prior to the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the Denver Nuggets hired new assistant coach Vance Walberg, famous in basketball circles for creating what’s known as the dribble-drive-motion offense. He officially joined the staff after having consulted for Denver the previous season. At that time Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post described how Walberge implemented his innovative system: as a high school and college coach:
Walberg would put four players on the perimeter and, as one player attacked the basket, the offensive post player would open space by moving to the weak side of the lane. Meanwhile, the other three perimeter players would rotate accordingly. If that particular dribble-drive play failed, the next ball handler would just dribble and drive again.
George Karl elaborated on how the Nuggets incorporate dribble-drive-motion concepts in their offense:
We create our penetration off pick-and-rolls more than [Walberg] teaches, but the principles hold true both ways. It’s just trying to get the ball free to where the defense has to help. And then teaching what happens after that. Everyone has always penetrated the ball, but we teach the reads.
With the score tied and about 15 second remaining in Denver’s Jan. 15 game versus the Portland Trailblazers, Chandler got free in the corner and hit what essentially was the game winning 3-pointer. His open look was set up when the Nuggets used a dribble-drive-motion play to get Portland’s defense a little off balance, with the help lagging just enough to create an opportunity for a good look at the basket.
Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the play, followed by the video. (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge).
As the play starts, Ty Lawson takes the ball to the left side of the court, where Danilo Gallinari moves in to set a screen for him. The other three Nuggets players clear out the paint to open up a lane for Lawson, with Chandler running across to the weak side while Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala move out to the perimeter.
Damian Lillard moves under Gallo’s screen to cut off the lane as Lawson begins his dribble penetration. Meanwhile, Iguodala rotates to a better spot on the perimeter.
As Jared Jeffries goes over to help Lillard cut off the drive, Lawson dishes out to Iguodala and gives Jeffries just enough of a bump (there’s hardly enough there to call it a screen) to cause him to lose half step as he chases Iguodala, who is already driving to the basket.
Because Jeffries was unable to prevent Iguodala’s penetration, LaMarcus Aldridge, who is covering Chandler, is forced to help stop the drive to the basket. Chandler gets loose and cuts across the baseline to the corner.
Aldridge is too late in his recovery. By the time he’s flying out towards the corner, Chandler is already in the air releasing his jumper, which catches nothing but net.
Of course, in this case it was a happy ending for Denver. But obviously the entire dribble-drive-motion concept is predicated on the notion that, when successive drives get cut off, there will be shooters on the perimeter who can knock down open shots. As Nuggets fans are well aware, this is an area where Denver has struggled mightily this season.
The result of lacking the perimeter shooting dimension has been opponents packing the paint and limiting the success of Denver’s offensive game plan. This is not to say that it has been entirely unsuccessful. The Nuggets are blowing away the league in points in the paint with 56.2 per game. The Los Angeles Clippers are second with 46.6, nearly a full 10 points fewer, to give you some idea of how dominant the Nuggets have been in that area. And Denver is seventh in offensive efficiency at 105.2. Considering their shooting woes this season, that could be a whole lot worse.
But it could be better, too. The Nuggets would be even more efficient if they had at least one more reliable perimeter threat who could create better floor spacing to open up more driving lanes and open shots. It will be interesting to see if Masai Ujiri makes a deadline deal for a stretch four (my personal preference) or a sharpshooting guard who can meet this need.
Here’s the video: