Don’t Panic…. Yet

Scared money don’t make none. These words echoed throughout our hearts and souls in this seemingly perfect off-season. Two consecutive years now OKC has had a summer that did nothing short of inspiring the entire state into believing greatness was coming, but for the second consecutive start to the season something is wrong. Yes, Russ missed the first two games, but losing at home to the Kings and then another second-half collapse to the Celtics have given birth to that familiar worry we have felt as Thunder fans all too often. Don’t press the panic alarm yet though, there are some simple steps this team can take and get back on the right track in this wild wild west.

Let’s start with the obvious. Terrance Ferguson needs to play less. MUCH MUCH LESS. He is playing about 20 minutes per game and shooting a whopping 18.8% from the field and less than 10% from three. The 2nd year guard has looked lost and is a net negative for OKC right now. He doesn’t even appear to want the ball on offense at times just standing in the corner as if he were Andre Roberson. I have no quarrels with getting your young 20-year-old minutes to develop him, but 20 minutes a game from someone who is a net negative is absurd.

Now we need someone to start in place of Ferguson. We need a guy who can step in right away and contribute. Someone with experience and has something this team desperately needs. SHOOTING! Alex Abrines needs to start and play close to 30 minutes a night. He adds a different element to this team none of the other guys can provide right now. He isn’t shooting stellar right now, but we know the Spaniard can catch fire quickly.

Lastly, OKC has to hit free throws. Everyone knows OKC doesn’t have great shooters. We all understand that this team doesn’t have great free throw shooters necessarily. But 64%???? That is just awful and good for dead last in the NBA. Andre Roberson has yet to step foot on the floor and this team is last in free throw percentage. It’s unacceptable. It is early and they won’t continue to be this bad, but in order for this team to compete with the best of the best, they have to hit free throws. They don’t have the luxury of elite shooters on the wings to get them back in the game. This team is going to win games through swarming defense, relentless attacks on the rim and taking advantage at the line.

OKC is not in panic mode. Fans should be worried, players should be on edge, and Billy Donovan should be squirming in his seat a bit. The panic button is starting to vibrate a bit. It’s over in the corner of the office looking enticing. Don’t press it. Resist the urge. This team has two All-Stars and elite athletes across the board. They will be fine. But hey, if they lose to the Suns Sunday. Sound the alarms.


It’s time for the Kings to unleash Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley III

In his third season as head coach of the Sacramento Kings, Dave Joerger has shown one consistent preference when it comes to rookies: He likes to bring them along slowly.

The Kings began Joerger’s first season with three rookies on the roster who were first-round draft picks, and added a fourth with a midseason trade for Buddy Hield. The rookies started a combined 30 games, and 18 of those were by Hield, who didn’t join the team until February. Skal Labissiere started 12 games, while Malachi Richardson and Georgios Papagiannis never started.

In Year 2, the Kings took point guard De’Aaron Fox with the No. 5 pick. Although he was often their top scorer, he was still coming off the bench until about one month into the season while Joerger stuck with veteran George Hill. From the looks of things, it took an embarrassing 46-point loss to the lowly Atlanta Hawks to make Joerger finally pull the trigger on making Fox — who the coach had already said may have the highest basketball IQ on the team — a full-time starter.

That patient approach wouldn’t be a big deal in a place like San Antonio with a coach like Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are a perennially successful franchise that doesn’t often get lottery picks and doesn’t need 19-year-old rookies to make an impact.

The Kings, however, are constantly in search of that next savior and face of the franchise. Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs in 12 years. They seem to have a permanent reservation at the NBA Draft Lottery table. So it can be understandably frustrating and confusing for Kings fans when their shiny new rookies aren’t being handed the keys like other top picks around the league.

The latest potential star for this team that is being is being brought along slowly is rookie forward Marvin Bagley III, the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft who is by all accounts viewed as a critical piece of the franchise’s foundation.

But one week into the season, Bagley is still coming off the bench, and it looks like Joerger is again taking the slow approach with a standout rookie.

Meanwhile, it has become clear that Bagley is legit and that it’s time for the Kings to unleash him on the rest of the league.

Bagley’s NBA debut was forgettable. He only played 12 minutes in a loss to the Utah Jazz. But even in that cameo, he showed some flashes of brilliance. In his second game, he put up 19 points, eight rebounds and three steals in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in which he was at times matched up with MVP candidate Anthony Davis and more than held his own.

Bagley posted 13 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes during Sacramento’s first victory of the season, last Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In Tuesday’s loss to the still-undefeated Denver Nuggets, Bagley looked like a star: 20 points, nine rebounds, three assists and five blocks while shooting 9-for-11 from the field. He played 32 minutes on the road in Denver’s notorious high-altitude and his motor never appeared to slow down. And again, he came off the bench.

Perhaps the impressive play Bagley made in the Nuggets game — and there were plenty — was on the defensive end. He was being posted up by Denver’s Trey Lyles, who spun into the lane, fooled Bagley on a pump fake and went up to shoot. But Bagley recovered so quickly that he was able to block Lyles’ shot on his second jump.

On another play, Bagley was being posted up by Denver center Nikola Jokic, who was voted the Western Conference Player of the Week and appears on his way to an All-Star Game berth. Jokic, who has about 15 pounds and a couple of inches on Bagley, went up strong right at the rim but Bagley blocked his shot.

Another time, Bagley blocked a shot by All-Star forward Paul Millsap, trailed the ensuing Sacramento fast break, then drove past Millsap to score between him and Jokic at the rim.

Although it’s a short four-game sample size, Bagley is showcasing a skill set that is similar to the likes of established stars Anthony Davis and Joel Embiid. He can score in the paint, from mid-range, and hit 3-pointers. He can handle the ball and run the floor. He can defend multiple positions and block shots.

Bagley (14.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 60% FG) should be starting for the Kings. It may not seem like a big deal, since he’s getting a lot of minutes, but that simple gesture isn’t just about putting the team in a better position to win. It is also a vote of confidence for the 19-year-old that he is one of the building blocks and faces of the franchise.

10/22 NBA Over/Under Picks

LeBron James Lakers

Pacers @ Timberwolves: 226

The Pick: Over

In my eyes, this is a safe pick for tonight. The Minnesota Timberwolves don’t play defense, and they score a ton of points. With Jimmy Butler likely to return to the court for Minnesota tonight, their offense will gain more firepower. For Indiana, they have also been a high scoring team, averaging over 114 points per game through their first three contests. For a game with two teams that have a ton of offensive firepower, take the over on this contest.


Magic @ Celtics: 210

The Pick: Under

The Celtics defense is no joke, and the Magic leave something to be desired on the offensive end. With a home game in Boston, expect the Celtics to clamp down on defense and keep the total on the under.


Hornets @ Raptors: 225.5

The Pick: Under

This seems like a safe pick tonight. While the Hornets have been scoring the ball with ease early in the season, the Raptors have one of the best defenses in the league. For me, this game will easily stay under the total.

Knicks @ Bucks: 226.5

The Pick: Over

Two teams who don’t play defense! Both teams should be able to dominant the opposing defense allowing this to be a high scoring contest. With little defense expected, the over is the choice for Knicks @ Bucks.


Bulls @ Mavericks: 230

The Pick: Over

More teams that don’t play defense! Along with no defense, both teams have a solid offense, allowing this game to hit the over, despite the high total.


Grizzlies @ Jazz: 216.5

The Pick: Under

Stay away from this game. This is one of the harder games to judge on the slate. Theoretically, the game should be under the total, but with the high scoring contests in the NBA this season, it’s safe to bet on a different game.


Wizards @ Blazers: 226

The Pick: Over

Both teams have started the season out hot offensively, and I’m expecting that to continue tonight. The teams will be looking to outscore the other in a game that will have a lot of points. Take the over in this contest.

Suns @ Warriors: 227.5

The Pick: Over

In what seems like another easy pick, this game is more complicated than it may seem. With the Warriors playing on the back end of a back-to-back, there is always the possibility of Golden State resting players. However, I still see this game hitting the over, despite the risks.


Spurs @ Lakers: 221.5

The Pick: Under

The Lakers don’t like to play defense. But, with Rondo and Ingram out, their offense will be slightly more limited. With a great defensive team in the Spurs, I see the game staying under the total in a risky play.

The young big who needs more minutes

Zach Collins

Zach Collins.

Boom. I won’t make you read the entire article. You also probably guessed it was him from the feature image of this page. If not, well then get some observational skills, darn it!

What has Zach Collins done in only two games which has me falling head over heels for him? What can we expect from Zach Collins going forward and why isn’t Zach Collins getting more minutes? Why do I keep referring to him by his first and last name?

All good questions. I will try and answer each of them. Let’s tackle question number one.


Collins is from the School of Highhandsianism

A graduate of Hands High High School, Collins does everything to mitigate his somewhat underwhelming wingspan. Comparatively, most 7 footers in the NBA have a wingspan which exceeds their height. Or at least, the best shot blockers have wingspans that are abnormally larger than their height.

Collins bucks this trend. He stands a legitimate 7 feet tall, but has a 7’1″ wingspan. Not ideal. So why does he excel as a rim protector? Why was he able to get 6 blocks against the Los Angeles Lakers during the first game of his season?

Collins has a great standing reach of 9’3.” For comparison, Anthony Davis, last season’s league leader in blocks, had a standing reach of 9’0.” Collins compares well to other shot blockers like Capela (9’2.25″) and Myles Turner (9’4″). What’s more, Collins uses his reach to his advantage, and mitigates the fact that he has an underwhelming wingspan.

During his first game versus the Lakers, Collins had his hands up high before the offensive player attempted his shot. In fact, out of his incredible 6 blocks, he had his mitts raised up twice before the shot was attempted. By my count, this is a good ratio.

Below, watch Collins keep those puppies high and give Josh Hart no chance at this layup.

In this next clip, watch Collins stifle the crafty Rajon Rondo. Collins uses his tall frame to cut off Rondo’s angle for a rightside layup. Rondo has to adjust and for a scoop shot on the left side of the hoop, and Collins still blocks him. He embarrassed a former All-Star and veteran point guard.

The high hands aspect of Collins’ game is a mindset for him. How do we know? Collins does this on the offensive end of the court as well. If you close eyes and think really hard, you can hear an old high school coach yelling at some unskilled big man to “keep that ball high! You’re too tall to bring it down low where guards can slap at it!”

Here, Collins catches the ball in the paint while cutting to the rim. He does need to bring the ball down to collect himself for a dunk. Instead Collins says to himself, “wait a second, I’m 7 feet tall. I’m just gonna keep this bad boy up high and slam it home, cuz…duh.”


Collins is from the School of Defensive Instinctualism

I know what you are wondering. What about those four other blocks? Excellent question.

Upon review, those four other blocks display awesome defensive awareness by Collins. Most bigs (I’m looking at you, Kelly Olynyk) need years to learn how to play the game defensively. Collins picked up on defensive positioning and timing almost immediately.

His block against Lonzo Ball summed this up well for me. In this play below, Collins is defending Kyle Kuzma in the pick and roll. Lonzo is the ballhandler. The instant Collins sees that Kuzma is not popping for a three, he drops back into the paint. His spacing is perfect. Collins is in position to contest Ball’s shot and prevent Kuzma from receiving a dump off pass.

This play looks simple. It is not. So many big men in the league cannot read and react this quickly. Next time you are bouncing around League Pass, watch big men during this defensive play. Often times they overcommit to the ballhandler and allow an easy dump off pass. Or, they stick to the roll man to prevent a lob, and allow a layup.

Even LeBron screws up this defensive spacing…


Ugh, that Nurkic signing…

If you are wondering why Collins is not getting more minutes, look no further than Jusuf Nurkic’s 4 year/$48 million deal.

When you pay a center, especially one you traded for, an annual salary of $12 million a year, do not expect them to come off the bench too often. Portland may feel obligated to go with Nurkic, who is a good offensive player in his own right. Yet, Collins has feel for the game as a passer and a developing offensive game.

Collins is also the better floor spacer. Sure, Collins is still finding his footing as a stretch (and switch) five, but he shows a ton of promise. Compare Nurkic and Collins 3-point shooting from last season.

Totals Table
Rk Player Season G MP 3P 3PA 3P%
1 Zach Collins 2017-18 66 1045 35 113 .310
2 Jusuf Nurkic 2017-18 79 2088 0 7 .000

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/21/2018.

Although not efficient, Collins at least attempted a sizeable amount of triples and projects to be a competent shooter from beyond the arc. Nurkic wants to shoot treys this year as well, but looks far behind Collins in his development

Additionally, Collins projects as a better defender than Nurkic. Nurkic gets roasted on pick and rolls, but is actually not as bad of a rim protector as many people think.

Yet, management will likely stick with Nurkic in the starters role, at least for the time being. That would be totally reasonable; Nurk is a starting caliber center. Is there a point, however, where they consider relegating Nurkic to the bench? As of now, Collins is playing 21 minutes per game while Nurkic is playing 20. Will this split grow even wider? I hope so.

Collins has flashed glimpses of promise that secure his as a better long term prospect than Nurk. Despite them both being young (Collins is 20, Nurkic is 24), Collins has shades of Al Horford in his game. It’s still wayyyyy too early, but depending on how the season goes for Portland, Collins could be given more minutes to speed up his development.


His nickname problem…

What do we do here?

Do we rock with Z-Co as a play on Z-Bo? Would that be too Portlandy? Do we call him ZC but morph it into Zeese? Like Z and C meshed together?

Or, do we call him Zachary, like we’re his parents and mad at him for not eating all of his veges?

I’ll stick with Zach Collins for now, but am open to suggestions.

One play all non-Celtic fans should be scared of

Boston Celtics

If you didn’t watch the Celtics/Raptors game last night then you are a fartface who deserves to be grounded for a week.

Sorry. That was my adrenaline from last night’s game talking, not the two cups of coffee I had this morning.

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a Boston Celtics fan. But, I sincerely try my hardest to be unbiased when observing the game I love. The only thing worse than a partisan basketball writer is a partisan basketball writer who is a #casualfan (which is my new favorite NBATwitter hashtag, by the way.)

The Cs looked great in the first half of last night’s game, but waned in the second half. They missed the same midrange jumpers they were hitting in the first two quarters. Their effort on the glass fell back to Earth and they should not have gotten so switch-happy when defending Kawhi (Jaylen Brown did a great job, let that man do his thing!)

Yet, one tiny nugget of NBA goodness stood out to me. One play. One brief moment that makes you say, “Oh, if they nail down this set, then they could have something dangerous here.”

So, what is the set I’m talking about?

Play – Horns Give

The Actors:

1. Al Horford: Passing big man extraordinaire who can roll for lobs or pop for treys.

2. Kyrie Irving: Goes by “Uncle Drew,” one of the best at-rim finishers in the game, sniper.

3. Gordon Hayward: Underrated wing who can beat you multiples ways one-on-one.

The Play:

The Breakdown:

Brad Stevens waited until the second quarter to break out this bad boy. But do not be fooled, the Celtics have been working variations of this play for a while now. So, what happened?

1. The pass: In most horns sets, the ballhandler uses the high screener for a pick and roll. Not today. Kyrie places a nice, high pass to Horford on the right elbow.

2. The movement: After the pass, Kyrie cuts left to use another high screen from Hayward, this time on the left elbow.

3. The fake: Except, Kyrie does not really use this screen, because Hayward never sets it. Hayward feigns the screen and cuts to the right block instead.

4. The result: The tall Horford simply passes over his defender to get Hayward the ball down low. Hayward makes a quick pivot and spins away for an 8-foot jumper over Kawhi. Boom.

 Why is this so special?

This trio of personnel is more than incredibly talented, they are incredibly multifaceted.

Horford can pop to shoot threes, or roll for a lob to the hoop. Either way, Serge Ibaka must stay draped over him. This opens up the floor. Horford is also one of, if not the best, passing big man in the game. In this play, he can be used as the screener, scorer, or passer, making him a triple threat.

Irving is one of the most underrated players in the League when moving off the ball. Last season, Irving finished in the 81st percentile for off-ball movement, scoring 1.15 Points Per Possession (PPP.) Given his deep range, Irving must be stuck to defensively as well.

Hayward is the key, however. In his last full season (2016-17) Hayward finished better than both Lebron and KD in field goal percentage in the post. During that same year he shot 39 percent on catch and shoot 3-pointers, making his popability a threat. What is most special, though is Hayward’s ability to cut.

During the 2016-17 season, Hayward finished in the 84th percentile on cuts. He scored a stupidly efficient 1.44 PPP during that time as well. The dude can kill you in several ways when involved in these types of sets.

What will we see going forward?

During last year’s preseason, we saw some of this action being tested out. This horns set started the same way. Irving begins by passing to Horford at the elbow. Then he cuts left, but this time Hayward does not fake a screen. Instead, he comes to get a dribble handoff (DHO) from Horford.

Hayward drives then kicks the ball back out to Horford, who popped. Horford, being the brilliant facilitator he is, finds Kyrie in a gap down low, and Kyrie drains the jumper. Watch below.

In this next clip, the trio involved is Hayward, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes. Use your imagination to swap Irving for Rozier and Horford for Baynes.

This time, Hayward gets the give. Rozier, in the role of Irving, cuts to the hoop after he makes the pass to Hayward. Next, Baynes screens for Hayward and rolls to the hoop. By doing this, Baynes sucks the defense towards the rim, and allows Hayward to drain an easy pull up J.

We’re only two games into the season, but Hayward has looked lethal on his pull ups. And guess what? Last season, Irving scored a wild 1.58 PPP on cuts, which placed him in the 95th percentile. Oh, and Horford shot 41 percent on catch and shoot triples last year.

So, what’s the ultimate point I am trying to get across? The Celtics will use this play to peak effectiveness because each variety of it results in a high percentage shot. Maybe it will be Hayward taking a pull up. Or Kyrie cutting to the hoop. Or Horford pops for a 3-pointer.

Regardless, NBA defenses should start planning for this play now, because it will only get better with practice.

Wait, these guys are shooting 3s now?!

#NBATwitter is at its finest during the first and last week of the season. This year, there is a different kind of troll on Twitter. This troll is the one who will says things like…

“I will NOT overreact to the first week of the season because I am NOT a #casualfan.”

“Here we go, now everyone will start making their Kembaisatopfive point guard case.”

“ALREADY tired of the #LeBronforMVP narrative and it’s been one game.”

Well guess what, I AM going to be that guy.

Although the 2018-19 season has been alive for two days, there are some things we can observe and report on. I’m talking about 3-point shooting bigs, baby. Who are the guys who spent all summer working on their trey ball and are ready to show it off? You know, the guys who make us say, “Hold up, when the hell did this happen?!” The Jonas guys. The Aron Baynes guys. The *gulp* DeMar DeRozan guys. Allow me to enlighten you.

1. Jarrett Allen, 2-3 from 3 versus Detroit

If you weren’t already scared of the Brooklyn Nets towering center, well, now you should be. Allen went 2-3 from deep during his season opener. But, this is no fluke. Allen spent his summer working on his 3-point shot. Don’t believe me? Check out Allen draining a corner three during the 2018 Summer League.

If JA can take around 3 3-pointers per game for the entire year, and hit between 31-33 percent of his shots, then we are all done for. To be clear, do not expect Allen to hit north of 34 percent from deep. It takes years for some big men to learn how to consistently drain three-balls. But if anything, Allen is already trending in the right direction.

2. Andre Drummond, 1-3 from 3 versus Brooklyn

Allen was not the only center in his game who tried to show off their new 3-point prowess. Andre Drummond, who had reportedly been working on his jumper, attempted 3 shots from behind the arc, and canned one of them.

And guess what…it didn’t totally suck… Watch the clip from his opening game versus the Nets. Drummond jumps too far forward, but his upper body forms looks okay. The bench goes nuts too! This could totally take my beloved UConn alumni’s game to the next level, and have people talking about him as a top 15-20 player. Remember, Drummond became one of the League’s more potent passing bigs last year, and has his eyes set on improving another area of his offensive game. Do not doubt him.

3. Julius Randle, 2-4 from 3 versus Houston

We see you, J. Randle.

Before the season started, I had a gut feeling that LeBron and the Lakers may miss Randle. Still, letting Randle walk is an easy price to pay for landing The King. Randle only took 45 treys last season, and emphasized being the most efficient player he could be. It worked. He shot 55 percent from the floor last year, and had a 60 percent true shooting percentage.

Will this gamble work out? Randle turned his career narrative around last year, and became a covetable asset. He did so by taking shots near the paint; something he excels in. Will this new offensive mindset alter Randle’s game for better or worse? Take a look at his 3-point shots from his first game of the year and decide for yourself.

During his first made 3-pointer, Randle doesn’t look pretty. His left foot flares forward, the ball dips too low, and I don’t know what the hell his right (non-shooting) hand is doing. But, the ball goes in.

On to 3-pointer number two. In this clip, Randle again dips the ball too low. Do not be too alarmed by his body positioning, however. Most lefty shooters point their body this way during jump shots. If you don’t believe me, then watch some IT clips.

The verdict? It isn’t pretty, but Randle made half of his four 3-point attempts. Regardless of his form, Randle has an undeniable touch. Expect him to shoot around 32-34 percent from deep this year but on less than 4 attempts per game. Yet, if he slumps at any point, do not be alarmed if Randle abandons his 3-point shot altogether.

What to expect from Coach Budenholzer in Milwaukee


A descendant from the San Antonio Spurs tree of coaching, Mike Budenholzer has had some impressive career moments. Remember when he led the Atlanta Hawks to 60 wins during the 2014-15 season? The Milwaukee Bucks are hoping Coach Bud can work his magic once more and improve upon last year’s 44 win total.

There is reason to be hopeful. The Bucks have retooled their roster with some key offseason acquisitions. They added a floor stretching center in Brook Lopez and reunited another 3-point shooter, Ersan Ilyasova, with his old coach. In case it wasn’t obvious that the Bucks wanted more shooting, they went out and drafted sniper Donte DiVincenzo from Villanova.

Finally, Milwaukee can keep Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded with floor spacers at all times. This basketball philosophy is not unfamiliar to Budenholzer, as his Hawks teams deployed lineups with four, and sometimes five 3-point marksmen.

Next year, the Milwaukee Bucks could run out plus shooters like Khris Middleton, Malcolm Bridges, Ilyasova and Lopez next to Giannis. I know it’s still early Fall, but I just got chills. Their small-ball lineups are just as tantalizing. So, how will Budenholzer’s offensive scheme mesh with the Bucks roster?

In Milwaukee, I expect Budenholzer to run the same free-flowing offense he installed during his early Hawk years. The Bucks now have the talent and spacing to mimic it. He will also sprinkle in horn sets but add a key twist to them. But now, let’s discuss those Al Horford era Hawks.

In the 2014-15 season, the Hawks finished 2nd in assists and 4th in 3-point attempt rate. The following season they again finished 2nd in assists and 6th in 3-point attempt rate. It is important to note that they did this even before Horford was a accurate and willing 3-point shooter.

Contrarily, last year the Milwaukee Bucks ranked 25th in 3-point attempt rate and 14th in assists. Expect these numbers to change drastically. To understand how, check out a play where Millsap finds Horford in the corner for a 3-pointer.

Here, Millsap fakes a screen and dives towards the rim while Teague passes him the ball. The weak side help is sucked in and Horford is wide open for a corner triple, which he buries. Simple, no?

Fortunately, Milwaukee has a plethora of shooters who are lethal from the corner. Last season, Lopez only took 12 percent of his shots from the corner, but he drained 42.5 percent of them. Middleton took 19 percent from there, but hit 43.2 percent. Tony Snell canned 43.9 percent of his and Brogdon led the way by burying  an amazing 47.6 percent of his corner triples.

Look for Budenholzer to utilize another one of his favorite sets for setting up corner 3-pointers. This play sends the ball cross court to find the open shooter. Watch how John Collins resets his screen then dives to the rim to draw in the help defense. Malcolm Delaney stays calm while being hedged and finds Mike Muscala for a wide open shot.

The Milwaukee Bucks can copy and paste this play into existence. They can even use Giannis, an underwhelming 3-point shooter, as the dive man. His explosiveness and lob-catching ability will attract the helpside defense.

In the video below, Giannis was the screener and then rolled to the hoop. He is so skilled at finishing at the rim that he draws four defenders to the paint. Unfortunately, only Khris Middleton on the left wing is in position to catch and shoot a three. This will change with Budenholzer as the head coach.

Giannis is a nightmare as a pick and roll ball handler, despite only utilizing it in his offensive possessions 11.3 percent of the time. Interestingly enough, he could realize his awesome potential by operating without the ball in his hands. via Synergy helps give insight into how Giannis performs when he is not the pick and roll ball handler.

When being used as the screener, which is not often, Giannis still ranks in the 64th percentile with 1.15 PPP (points per possession.) Coming off screens he put up an astonishing 1.43 PPP and finished in the 97th percentile. Off of handoffs Giannis created 1.16 PPP and ended in the 90th percentile. Yet, former coaches Joe Prunty and Jason Kidd hardly took advantage of their star forward’s off-ball skills.

This will change under the direction of Budenholzer, as he surely knows how capable his creators are. Brogdon finished in the 86th percentile as a pick and roll ball handler while Middleton finished in the 93rd percentile. Eric Bledsoe’s data from last season is incomplete, but in the 2016-17 season he ranked in the 88th percentile for this category.

Should Budenholzer strictly use Giannis as a screener, or perhaps run him through picks? Of course not. But, the offense as a whole would benefit from Giannis being more frequently deployed this way. Running his style of horn sets will help. But first, we must show how stale the Bucks offense was in horn sets last year.

This set begins with Bledsoe taking a dribble-handoff from Tyler Zeller. If that doesn’t make you want to vomit, take a look at Giannis just standing in the corner with no purpose. The play turns into a horns set. Zeller dives to the hoop but this allows Jaylen Brown to switch back onto Bledsoe and Horford to recover. It results in a contested midrange jumper.

The Bucks do a good job stretching the floor here, but Zeller is the wrong person to dive to the rim. If Giannis is the roller, he can command enough attention that Brown will have to stick with him and allow for Bledsoe to take advantage of a mismatch. Budenholzer will adjust his personnel accordingly.

Yet, it would be criminal to use Giannis as a roller too much. In the clip below, imagine Lopez in the role of Horford. Instead of rolling, Horford pops after his dribble-handoff. Atlanta has four-out and Horford only dives when he senses an opening. Throughout this entire set, Hawks players never spend more than a second in the paint, which allows Schroder to drive the lane and score.

In the play featured above, Giannis would play the part of Mike Scott (32) but be even more effective as a diver. Middleton could adopt the roll of wing Thabo Sefolosha and Snell could set up in the corner like Korver. Bledsoe or Brogdon run the point.

If nothing else, the Milwaukee Bucks postseason loss to the Boston Celtics was incredibly frustrating. They possess the talent to make some postseason noise, but their offensive schemes lacked imagination and therefore, effectiveness.

Fortunately, Budenholzer is as a creative as they come. The Bucks have the personnel to adopt Budenholzer’s principle of floor spacing and will benefit from free-flowing movement. Giannis will benefit the most, however. There will be no more wasted time hanging around in the corner.

In Atlanta, Horford and Millsap expanded their roles and became effective playmakers both on and off the ball. Budenholzer will do the same with Giannis, and maximize his role as a both the creator and recipient of offensive sets. If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine, I don’t know what will. A 50 win season is not out of reach.

(In fact, I am putting so much stock in the Budenholzer impact that I have the Bucks finishing 3rd in the East…but ssshhhh… don’t tell anybody!)