Well, folks, we’ve officially passed the most exciting part of the off season. In a normal summer, this means that there won’t be much news outside of the NBA schedule release until close to Media Day in September. To satisfy hoops withdrawals, we’re starting a new series this summer where we’re going to take a look at individual plays from the 2017-18 NBA season.
These will be very fluid discussions to highlight a specific moment or sequence. We’ll take a look at the who, what, where, when, why and how aspects of the play, the context, what we can learn from it (if we can learn from it), how much of it will translate into this upcoming 2018-19 season and more. For me personally, I’ll be trying to draw out non-highlight plays so we can gain some insight on the finer aspects of the game that usually aren’t as flashy.
To get the ball rolling, I’m going to take a look at a play from the first time we saw Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward suit up this season as members of the Boston Celtics in the preseason opener against the Charlotte Hornets.
In the following play, you’ll see how the talents of Boston’s “Big Three” all combined to open up a fantastic look for Al Horford:
With this play, we see a unique shift by having Al Horford run the pick-and-roll with Kyrie Irving. This is the versatility that the Celtics have had since signing Al Horford. His ability to handle the ball and run the PNR opens up a million different options. It’s harder to showcase that with less talent/shooting around him, but with the return of Gordon Hayward and Irving this upcoming season, expect to see more of this inverted action.
If you notice, Jaylen Brown barely moved in the entire play. This might be part of the reason why I could see Brown getting more minutes with the starters and Tatum more minutes with the bench; that would be the best allocation of our talent across the board. After a huge jump in his second year, Brown is a huge threat in the corners as both an improved shooter and an athlete who can attack closeouts viciously.
Hayward, off the catch at the top of the key, will be such a major threat this season. Just in this play, Hayward’s slashing after Horford’s pass, drew in four (4!) defenders, leaving the defense to have to pick between closing out on Horford and Irving.
If Horford (43% shooter from 3 last season) didn’t want the shot, he could have easily dumped it off to Kyrie Irving, who shot 41% from 3 last season, who was just as open. Hayward, another knockdown shooter, drew four defenders and left two 40+% shooters from deep open. That’s a big deal, and that’s something the C’s can look forward to next season.
I really don’t think people understand how much of a threat Gordon Hayward is. Just his presence will open up a wealth of possibilities. Horford’s versatility and Kyrie’s, well, ability to be an outstanding offensive player will be invaluable components of what looks to be a top-5 offense next season.