Anthony Randolph busts the zone

There’s been some recent chatter about getting Anthony Randolph more involved in this first round series with Golden State, and for good reason. The agile 7-footer is actually Denver’s fifth-leading scorer in this series with 16 points in just 16 total minutes.

Randolph came on strong towards the end of the season, where he was a great source of paint points and rebounds when Faried went down. His defense, however, is inconsistent at best and Randolph is prone to forcing up bad shots and falling apart on the offensive end. Because JaVale McGee suffers from a lot of the same stuff and neither one of them can pass, it’s tough to bring both off the bench and George Karl has avoided even messing with it for most of the season.

With Golden State switching to guerilla tactics after the David Lee injury, this series is now small ball all the time and Randolph may have found himself a niche role against the Warriors zone defense, which they’ve favored for important stretches of the first two games.

Here are just a few examples of how Randolph has demonstrated his ability to successfully attack the zone.


Play 1: Made 5-ft jumper in the lane (and one)

Randolph Zone 1

As the play starts, the Warriors are zoned up and focused on the possible pick and roll action on the strong side with Iguodala and Faried. Randolph has just set a down screen for Brewer and notices the gap in the middle of the zone. He waits until Iguodala is ready to pass and shoots the gap.

Randolph Zone 1-2

Carl Landry is slow picking up Randolph but contests the shot. Randolph’s length is too much for the 6-9 Landry and he scores the short jumper and the foul. Good patience and execution by Randolph flashing to the middle of the zone while the Warriors stand around trying to figure out what the play is.


Play 2: Made layup at the rim

Randolph Zone 2

As the play starts Randolph has already been very active on this possession, faking a screen for Miller and darting through the paint to clear up the middle on the left side of the floor. Miller elects to pass back out to Lawson, who attacks the middle of the zone and gets the first step on Curry.

Because of his activity early in the possession, Randolph has disappeared behind the entire Warriors zone. Golden State has no idea he’s been hiding behind the baseline right under the rim.

Randolph Zone 2-2

Randolph beautifully follows Lawson’s drive, creeping up from the baseline just at the right moment for Lawson to hit him with a pass underneath the rim. He gets perfect position and Lawson delivers. Landry contests but he’s way out of position and Randolph drops in the bunny. Once again great patience and good hustle early in the possession leads to the shot.


Play 3: Awkward post-up, floater blocked by Ezeli, shot clock violation

This one doesn’t end as well but demonstrates how Randolph continually looked to attack the zone.

Randolph Zone 3

The play starts with Golden State zoned up and Ezeli protecting the rim. Notice the bad spacing by Denver and the obvious gap in the zone. Randolph sees what’s up and decides to attack it from the baseline again.

The problem on this play is Iguodala dribbling left against Curry, away from the basket which doesn’t threaten the zone long enough for Randolph to sneak in from behind again.

Iguodala should have attacked the zone, but he still recognizes Randolph flashing middle and delivers the pass. Unfortunately, Randolph steps up further than he needs to and without any misdirection before the play, Ezeli has already read it.

Randolph Zone 3-2

By the time Randolph gets the ball, Ezeli is all over him and Golden State has 3 players at the rim ready to rebound. Randolph has the drop-pass for Faried underneath but he’s only thinking one thing: score. He tries a few post moves on Festus Ezeli, who is all over him and blocks the shot easily. Golden State loves Anthony Randolph shooting this and will take that all day.

This play ends badly, but could have easily resulted in another bunny at the rim with a little more hustle and execution from everyone. Randolph’s effort allows Denver to get the ball deep in the paint against the zone despite his teammates standing around and not making any real effort to run offense.


As you can see, Randolph could be useful against Golden State’s zone, should they continue to use it. There’s also no doubt the Warriors have studied the tape and will be watching out for Randolph sneaking up behind the baseline on them.

Playoff series are all about matchups and adjustments.  Randolph wasn’t expected to have a big role in this series but I also doubt the Nuggets expected this much zone either. Look for the chess match to continue in game three as both sides look wherever they have to in order to gain the edge.

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • amlowlife

    Starting Randolph at center might be interesting…

    • Evan S

      Would get bullied by Bogut but should definately get more time.

    • Stompy

      Start McGee and substitute in Randolph when they go small

      • Thomas

        lose game and series.

  • http://espn herpderpnuggets

    Nuggets need to trade some depth this offseason for a true star while keeping most of the main core in tact, we are seeing deep team problems right now

  • ny nugs fan

    note to nuggets:

    klay thompson is a turnover waiting to happen; jarrett jack has brain freeze when shot clock is winding down

    get ball out of curry’s hands…pick him up full court when he’s bringing it up

    pray richard jefferson gets to play more


  • D3Ntilthe3ND

    None of this is gonna matter….
    Apparently George is planning on starting Wilson at center today..

    Not sure if he’s actually gonna do it, but we’re screwed if he does.

    You don’t give a hot shooting team offensive rebounds to kick back out for another shot at 3.

    ESPECIALLY when that team’s at home.

  • Andrew

    Whatever he does, Karl had better do the coaching job of his life! With Westbrick out for knee surgery, Nuggets would have to beat Spurs on the road, but if they could manage that, they would either face the Thunder without Westbrick or the Clippers at home…man, Karl, this might be the best shot you have ever had…as long as you don’t continue to get outcoached by the first year guy in G State.

    Come On, NUGGETS!!!

  • Yeazy303

    I like the Idea of Randolph starting instead of KK.
    sf- ill will
    pf- manimal
    c- randolph

  • pgwarner

    They are showing Curry as questionable tonight with a bad ankle sprain.

  • Ban Johnson

    West is WIDE OPEN now with Westbrook gone.

  • ny nugs fan

    the few times mcgee and randolph were on the floor together this year i actually thought they played together well…i dunno

  • mike

    As I have said all year long: the nuggets don’t have ONE above average big on the entire team. With gallo out. When Chandler is playing poorly they have no one over 6’7″ who is above average.

  • mike

    UNACCEPTABLE to put in Miller for the last 3 minutes of this game. The teams offense was going fine for the last 4 minutes and the defense was strong other than not playing Curry exactly right. Miller hitting shots OK you put him in possibly, but in this game he has been horrible on both sides.

    • Ban Johnson

      unacceptable, but utterly unsurprising

  • doop snog

    Absolutely unacceptable effort by GK. Does he have a daughter who’s dating Andre Miller? That’s the only thing I can think of at this point. He’s crumbling. Dissolving. Melting. Mark Jackson is kicking George Karl’s ass in every way, shape, and form. Set aside an off night by Curry and the Warriors are going for a sweep in Game 4- a sweep of a team that should be in the Finals this year. SHOULD be in the Finals- I wholeheartedly believe that after Westbrook’s injury.
    And Andre Miller. Andre F&*^( Miller. There was a play where the nuggets were getting a 5 on 4, miller was 4th up the floor. Lawson passed it to Miller and the Nuggets were off and running towards a layup. Except Miller. He stopped, then walked the ball up while the lagging warrior caught up. Then he set up a half court “offense” where dribbled, posted up, then bricked a 3 footer. Everything about this guy just screams “MEEEE!!!” I’d expect that from the younger players in this league, but not from the generation Andre Miller comes from. Screw you Andre Miller.

    • Charliemyboy

      Screw U, no play. The only game we won was because of Miller. He’s 34; lighten up and go to bed.