Roundball Roundup: Part I – Brian Shaw bringing Indiana to Denver, the Triangle Weave, and Denver’s new look defense

  • Ty Lawson, still good:

I went in depth about how Lawson’s game has evolved last week but it’s worth reiterating how good he’s been. It’s difficult finding five point guards playing better then him right now, and his three-point shooting is only just now starting to come back around. In fact, Lawson is one of only two players this season to combine prolific shooting with his amount of passing in the league. I’d say he’s in pretty good company when it comes to point guard play. Combine that with his seeming invisibility once he beats his man off the dribble, and you have a good idea why he has the 11th best PER in the league.

  • Nuggets rounding into form:

If you take away Denver’s horrendous three-game start to the season, the Nuggets are 7-3 with a 4.4 net rating, good for ninth in the league. The offense, at first featuring Anthony Randolph prominently in the rotation, has now stabilized with the inclusion of Wilson Chandler to the top-ten caliber offense that this roster has projected to be for a while now. The defense, an unequivocal tire fire for the first couple of weeks, has shaped up to be instead rather middling, a victory if you consider the defense-defecient roster. Through 13 games, Denver is looking more and more like the borderline playoff team many thought they’d before the season, as opposed to the lottery-bound fodder they masqueraded as to start the year. Whether that’s a good thing or not is debatable.

  • Dre’s posterior-o-matic flare screens: 

Andre Miller was born an old man, there really is no other explanation for the wealth of “50-year old pick up player that still can school you” tricks he has at his disposal. A new ruse Dre has been fond of employing is the post-up flare screen, where he’ll back down his man around the extended elbow (sometimes with the ball, sometimes without) and he’ll just flip the ball to an open three point shooter, usually Jordan Hamilton.

Dre Butt Flare Screen

  • From the hedge to the switch:

I highlighted the disaster Denver’s defensive hedging scheme had been to start the season earlier this month and it seems I wasn’t the only one to take notice. Shaw seems to have scraped that scheme in favor of one that relies far more heavily on switches, one where contact doesn’t even really need to be made on a pick and roll for Denver to switch a wing onto a big and vice-versa. The possession below is a good example of this, where the play begins with Hickson hedging to corral Ellis but then descends into many fast-paced switches between both Miller and Chandler and Miller and Arthur. Denver’s wings are dynamic enough to pull this off, as Chandler and Arthur do here, but the solid defense is wasted because Nate Robinson, as he often tends to do, was playing free safety and lost his man badly enough to end up being stuck guarding Marion in the post.

The ball handlers in pick and rolls are still abusing Denver, but overall the Nuggets have taken to this style of defense rather well, and have climbed into the top ten in points allowed per possession per SynergySports.

  • Shaw bringing Indiana to Denver:

The Pacers inside-out roster, much to Brian Shaw’s chagrin, is constructed much differently than the dribble-drive Nuggets. That said, Shaw has still made an effort to bring many of the plays and principles that made his former team so successful back to Denver. The Nuggets have started to run a ton of flare screens for Chandler, Hamilton, and Foye that begin with the shooter cutting baseline, a staple of Indiana’s offense, and it’s benefits are seen in the Nugget’s highest three-point shooting percentage in three years.

Shaw has also brought in a play Indiana ran a ton for George Hill, where a player posting up, usually around the elbow, flips the ball to a driving guard before setting a quick back screen. Denver has run this play many times using both Faried and Hickson as the post-up players and Foye and Miller as the guards.

Denver also seems to have acquired the new defensive mandate to not double on defense under almost any circumstance, a principle the Pacers took pride in all of last year. When done correctly, with the nearest man stunting (a form of semi-doubling that doesn’t leave one guy open) correctly, this has been a success. But Denver’s switch-heavy scheme leaves a lot of clearly mismatched defenders left alone on an island. There needs to be a balance here, and that, hopefully, will come in time.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 2.15.04 PM

  • The triangle weave:

Matt wrote a great piece on Darrell Arthur’s hidden value that is well worth your time, and this particular set play Denver likes to run with him on the floor reinforces that value on offense. The play begins with the strong side guard on the right wing, Arthur at the top of the key, and another guard waiting on the opposite wing to form an inverted triangle.

Screen Shot 2013-11-26 at 4.11.42 PM

From there the ball can swing to the weak side guard for a three-pointer off an Arthur flare screen, it can swing back to Arthur for an open jumper if the defense overplays the three-point shot too much, or Arthur can set a screen to create a driving lane if his defender sticks to him. The play does a good job emphasizing how versatile a player Arthur can be, and the productive way Shaw is using him (when he give him minutes).

Chandler’s Reverse Split Action:

Golden State runs a split action play where Curry will set a screen for Iguodala before popping out to the three point line while Iggy cuts to the basket. Denver has a sort of fun inverse version of this play where Chandler will set a running pick for a popping out three-point shooter before cutting to the rim. The version of the play below features Andre Miller’s incredible ability to fake out defenders with his lobbing ability, another wrinkle that makes the reverse split extremely difficult to defend.

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David Walker

Freshman at FSU. Love the Nuggets, the beach, and the game that involves a ball that occasionally goes into the hoop.
  • David Acker

    Very good insights. The true test will be when and if the Nuggets make the playoffs. Will Shaw’s new system pay off? The concern for me is the 4th quarter fade outs. What do we attribute them to? New system, thinking when they should be reacting, it’s hard to tell. There is nothing but upside for this team though. Gallo to come back, McGhee to come back and more familiarity with Shaw’s new system as well as Shaw being more familiar with his team. Go Nuggets

    • slader

      Nice piece! I think the balance mentioned in the post will play out with the Nuggets mostly running on offense, but with an improved halfcourt game to fall back on; and using a mostly non-switching defense which will however switch a fair amount.
      I am lousy at understanding D, but even I can see that Arthur knows what he’s doing, especially against the PnR. Some of that seems to be rubbing off on Hickson (sporadically), but Faried really needs to work on this.

  • heykyleinsf

    I hope you keep the freak-out fest from the first two weeks for posterity.
    There was some genuine bedshitting from being hysterical and downright
    mean-spirited towards the team, especially the new players, but more towards Coach Shaw than anyone.. Oh.. That includes the posters here as well.

    Sorry Matt.. it’s true. Please re-visit the grades you gave on Nov 16th..

    The team has turned the corner. It’s time for the fans who sold them down the river to admit it.

    • Chad Bevard

      You cannot tell me you were not disappointed after the first few games.. were you defending the team then? if so… I admit that I was frustrated and very disappointed. But, I am seeing the light, and appreciating their progress. Go Nuggs!

      • heykyleinsf

        I can tell you three things.
        1. I never deluded myself that this is a title-run year, and
        had patience with new coach and 4 new players.
        2. I don’t like any loss, but I love every win.
        3. I never was one these “fans” that want to trade
        all the players like cattle until they win “best of show”
        I’m a Nuggets fan. Not an Iggy fan. A Nuggets fan.
        Not a fan of any other player or any other team.. other
        than respect. A fan of the Nuggets. Nobody else.
        I’m loyal.
        The team we have NOW.. and the team suited up NOW.
        If they are dead last.. (and I’ve been through plenty of
        those years)… the story doesn’t change.
        I’ve been a fan for over 20 years. They have never won
        a title for me, and maybe they never will.
        Doesn’t change a thing for me.

  • Kelvin Cheong

    Hmmmm I personally think that the switch defense is no good at all… Call me old fashioned but I think guarding the PnR through hedging is the best way to guard. Switching off defenders is just lazy and create impossible mismatches throughout the game. This is especially through with Dre as he seems to switch off on his man every time a screen is set on him. He always end up fouling the big man whom he switched off on. Its inefficient defense but it covers up Dre’s lack of speed and agility to fight pass the screen though. I mostly see some good hedging especially from Arthur which is terrific. The mavs game on the road was a good example of what this team is capable of. When Lawson is not needed much for the 4th, it means the team is doing great on a whole. I still think we need to get a shooting guard though…Foyle ain’t cutting it and Shaw doesn’t seem to like Evan… Maybe we can play a big lineup of Lawson Chandler Gallo Hickson Mosgov? I hate to say this but we should trade Faried + Miller + Foyle for a decent guard and some picks.

    • Richard Pesicka

      Looking at the stats I see Faried is showing up in the stats for percentage in shooting, Rebounding etc. Without Faried who is your rebounder then? I agree with you on a shooter. We already let our best steals guy go, corey brewer, so picking up a shooter would be great.

    • ryanvdonk

      foye has been pretty servicable, he’s not a great defender but he puts a lot of effort on that end which makes him a plus on defense. he has a shot that other teams respect and that creates a lot of room that wouldn’t be there for drives and pick and rolls. his deficiencies mostly fall on his ball handling, where he’s a little turnover prone as he drives the lane, this may be due to average athleticism, and his passing is mediocre which is too bad because he actually seems to be very willing to move the ball when he’s the one running the offense. for the price we are paying for him i don’t see a reason to complain. fournier just looks like a deer in the headlights on offense, afraid to make a mistake and just defers to his teammates too much. what about hamilton as a big 2? he’s coming along a lot, we know he has the skill on offense, but his defense is finally pointing up now that hes not afraid of karl’s doghouse, where he’s allowed to play through mistakes with only risking the rest of the game as opposed to karl who’d bench him for a week or more for being slow on rotations or an overzealous shot.

  • Alex

    I can’t help but wonder what this team would look like right now with Nene instead of McGeezy. In his own words, Nene is ‘aging like a fine wine.’ Had his first ever 30 point game last night!