Insight On Drew's Offense

Michael Cunningham has some insight on Coach Drew’s offense in his latest blog entry.

There was lots of motion and ball movement, yes, but what stood out was how much of the action had players cutting to the basket. It seemed there always was an option for the next man in the sequence to either accept the ball while moving to his position or reverse field and look for a cut to the basket. Not everything happens on the strong side, either, so ball-watching and inattentiveness by defenders can mean backdoor baskets.

I am really liking some of the things I am hearing about this offense.  I have always been a big proponent of offensive systems that utilize ball movement and player movement.  This may be the Hawks most organized offense since Terry Stotts was the head coach for a short period of time, getting the most out of a group of replacement level players once the team was blown up during his tenure.

Not much possession time is spent on the one- or even two-man game. Each guy gets a chance to touch the ball at different spots on the floor. Decisions must be made quickly for things to flow correctly.

Some of my notes: “pindown screens with curl to free-throw line. . . dribble hand-offs, sometimes with roll man. . . backdoor cuts. . . high-post pick-and-pop. . . flare screens with roll man. . . ball reversal to quick weakside seal post-ups. . . high-low post-ups. . .”

Coach Drew speaks of having “interchangeable” pieces on this team, and this leads off into the discussion of possibly playing Josh Smith at the small forward position at times.

“He has the ability to erase a lot of defensive mistakes because of his athleticism. I won’t match him up against a lightning-quick guy where he would have to defend multiple screens. But he certainly will be able to play some 3. At the same time, he can be a tough matchup at the 3 as well. You play him at some 3, there is a high probability he is bigger than that three man, stronger than that three man. Certainly the way to take advantage of that matchup is to post him up. We will certainly try to utilize his ability against a smaller guy. It won’t necessarily be about us adjusting to what the other team does. We want to put the opponent in a position where they have to match up with us.”

The talk of Josh playing the small forward position may cause a fire storm on some message boards.  There are many fans that advocate moving Josh to the small forward position with Al playing power forward, and there are others, like me, who don’t want Josh anywhere near the perimeter.  I don’t know exactly what Coach Drew has in mind, but my guess is, he is looking at situational rotations with this talk.  The Hawks could very well run a jumbo line up with Josh at the “small forward”, Al at the “power forward”, and Zaza/Jason Collins at “center”.  To me, this clearly would not be the starting line up, but it is a line up they will use when the situation dictates it.  I have big questions about Josh’s ability to defend on the perimeter and whether this will actually encourage him to shoot more from the perimeter.  A good idea would be to have Al utilizing his mid range game in these sets with Josh being used primarily as a cutter to the basket.

I also like the talk of the Coaching staff utilizing the strengths of the team and also expanding the bench.  The latter will likely be done because this appears to be an offense that will be very up tempo with a lot of player movement.  With that will come fatigue, and with fatigue will come multiple substitutions.  We will get to see Coach Drew’s substitution patterns very early. 

Also, with the emphasis on ball movement and player movement and less emphasis on one on one situations and the two man game, this is a scheme that may help extend Mike Bibby’s career a couple of years.  He won’t have to create for himself or others in this scheme and will likely be utilized primarily as a spot up jump shooter, which he does do well.  Also, considering that Joe Johnson was the league’s top scorer  in pick and roll situations, I think it is likely that we will be seeing a lot more of them and a lot fewer isolation plays.

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