We have a bad habit of judging players in vacuums. We look at the guy, his numbers, his misses, his successes and failures… and we hardly ever look at who his teammates are and how they impact his play.
When the Celtics traded for Kyrie Irving, a common refrain rose from trade skeptics: how will he evolve his offense to justify the high price paid to acquire him?
In looking for ways that would happen, I saw something that jumped off the screen. The simple swap of laying pick and roll and dribble hand-off with Al Horford instead of Tristan Thompson, Kyrie will have a new world of options open to him. I laid it out on Boston.com.
The hand-off is a great way to get a guy open shots in a free-flowing motion offense. The scorer can start off the ball while other guys behind the play are creating action that requires defensive attention. Horford is the perfect guy for this kind of play because of his intelligence, precision, and passing ability. Last season, Thomas was second in the NBA in field goal attempts off hand-offs and Avery Bradley was eighth. Thomas was second in field goals made and Bradley was tied for seventh (with Gordon Hayward, coincidentally. He’ll also thrive with this play this season). The Celtics love to run this play and it will be a great way to get Irving clean looks without having to isolate.
Sell out to stop Irving? Nope, we just saw Horford pop out for a three.
Still go over the top of the screen and have the big hedge but still respect Horford? Nope, then he’s too far out of position and there’s a lane to the basket. Since he’s out of position he, or a help defender, will be more likely to foul. This is why Thomas got to the line more often.
Go under a screen? Nope, Irving will just rise up from three behind the screen.
Send a help defender? Nope, then you’re leaving someone open in the corner.
Having that pop option opens up the world for Irving. Don’t be surprised if these pick and roll numbers switch and it’s Irving who ends up at the line more this season.
I think Kyrie Irving’s free throw attempts can double this season simply by having Horford there to create driving lanes that didn’t exist in Cleveland.
Please go to Boston.com to read the full piece. It’s full of pretty charts and gifs!