Vogel's 4th quarter offense-a video breakdown
This has been the best two weeks I've had as a Pacers fan in years. Coach Frank Vogel has given the players some much-needed confidence after several years of mixed signals about playing time, unclear roles, and a confusing offensive gameplan.http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/bas...#ixzz1DrUnQkSo
"I think he's (Vogel) making it easier for us to play more to our strengths," Collison said. "For myself, he's making it easier for me to get to the paint and create for myself and others. For Danny, he's making it easier for him to get better shots.”
What's refreshing to most of us goes beyond a simple coaching change. There was no doubt we would see a honeymoon period after a half season of misery. But there is more to this honeymoon period than a boost of morale. The player rotations have been fantastic. The offense has been simplified. The philosophy has changed from outside-in to inside-out. Players have clear-cut and defined roles. We're making the most out of each player's strengths rather than molding them into a system. This article has a narrow focus on one small but very important change, which is the play-calling in our 4th quarter offense. And to narrow it further, I'm focusing on Danny Granger.
Danny is our most talented scorer. His most important strength is his shot, and his most important weakness is his speed. Because of this, he's not able to penetrate easily and create his own shot. We've attempted to run him through screens in the past with mild to moderate success, but speed is a factor here as well.
Because of his weaknesses, combined with opponents' defensive game-planning and a lack of plays that take advantage of his strengths, we've seen Granger struggle for the past two seasons with the game on the line.
I went through a few 4th quarters from games earlier this season to reaffirm what I'd remembered. Problem #1 is that we weren't making a consistent effort to get the ball in Danny's hands, bad plays or not. I found several games where, outside of transition, he only touched the ball three or four times. I found some of the following videos from other games, which represent a good sample of his typical 4th quarter play.
Here are some clips from a recent game against the Knicks.
Granger pick and roll with Foster. The idea here is good, but there are two problems. 1-floor spacing. We have Rush and Posey at opposite ends of the court, which is good, but both are in the corners which means both defenders have less distance to cover for help. Between this and having Ford, a terrible finisher near the rim, NY is in a position to easily help should Foster roll to the basket. Also, the spacing is crammed because Foster sets the pick inside the foul circle. 2-it's Jeff Foster. Jeff's been very successful in his career at rolling to the basket, but he's not a threat to shoot. Because of #1 and #2, NY is ready to play Granger on this play.
Amare's in good position before the play starts as he slides over to protect penetration, forcing Danny to pull back, meanwhile Foster is completely covered. Danny then takes an out-of-rhythm jumpshot after Amare dares him to with :13 on the shot clock.
Granger iso on Toney Douglas. Despite a six-inch height advantage, Granger gets the ball at the elbow, steps back, and shoots a bad shot. Not much to say here, except Granger, the coach and the other players should have all recognized the huge mismatch by clearing Foster out and putting Danny in the post.
Granger iso on Ronny Turiaf. Turiaf is a good defender, and with no help and poor spacing, Danny attempts to create off the dribble. With Wilson Chandler sagging off of Posey and helping Turiaf, Danny loses control of his dribble and turns it over. The volume is low, but Knicks announcer Walt Frazier comments after the turnover that Danny looks baffled about what he should do with the ball.
Here are Danny's plays in our buzzer-beating win against the Hornets
Danny shoots a long two in transition. The shot on its own is good. His feet are set and he's wide open, but there's :20 on the shot clock and no other Pacer is in the paint when he lets it go. Therefore, miss or make, it's a bad shot, in my opinion.
Danny gets a cross-court pass from Posey, drives, then shoots a pull back jumper after creating space. It's about as good of a move as Danny can make on his own, but the shot is contested by NO.
Danny moves around the perimeter, gets a good pick from Foster, but retreads to the three point line and chucks a three. This doesn't appear to be a set play. It's just another example of our coach asking Danny to create on his own. Also, as a side note, it appears that NO is playing a box zone, which discourages Danny from driving.
Danny attempts to drive on three Bulls players in a recent loss to Chicago. This is a good play by Danny, but it's only one of a small amount of touches he got in the 4th quarter. Bulls announcers comment on Danny making a “rare drive”.
No real attempts to get our best scorer some easy looks in the 4th quarter is one of many reasons we've struggled this season. It puts a ton of pressure on Danny to do something he can't do, and of course he doesn't perform well. Danny receives criticism on PD for not being a leader, and while shot selection and effort are partly on Danny, the reality is that he was put in a position to fail.
A coaching change was made following that Bulls loss. Fast forward two weeks, and you can already see a significant difference in Danny's game. Here are a few plays from last night's win against the Bucks.
Danny pick and roll with Hibbert. Like the first play above against the Knicks, this is a good idea, but there are a few differences. Look at the spacing, which is great here. George is deep in one corner, but Collison is in line with the elbow at the top, rather than being in the other corner a la Rush/Posey vs. Knicks in the top example. This gives Collison's defender, Brandon Jennings, less time to react to Granger's penetration than Rush/Posey's defenders. Also, Hibbert sets a pick near the three point line, whereas Foster was setting the pick in the free throw circle in the top example. This creates much more space and air.
Another aside: spacing the floor is a great basketball ideal, but it means nothing if you're not using it. Here we're using picks to create opportunities for the penetrators and the shooters (if the opponent decides to focus on the penetrator).
Granger's defender turns his hips toward Hibbert in anticipation of a pick, so Danny adjusts and drives right. Using his defender's momentum against him, Danny stops, Hibbert repositions himself for another pick, and Danny gets free for one of the more wide open shots in a halfcourt set he's taken this season. Again, it's a wide open shot created from a set play with subtle (but good) spacing differences, but what we don't see are the other opportunities that may have unfolded had the play gone differently. Hibbert was open near the top, and Tyler was down low (instead of Ford) had Danny continued to penetrate.
Same exact set and spacing as the previous play, but this time Roy sets a pick on Danny's strong side. Danny drives to the basket, drawing Bogut. Roy continues to roll, Granger uses his body to create space from Bogut, and then feeds Roy for an easy hook. There was nearly an offensive foul and a three second violation on this play, but the opportunities created on this play were great. Keep in mind that Milwaukee is one of the top defensive teams in the league, if not the top.
This was my favorite play of the night. This was coming out of a timeout, a situation where we had struggled all season until about two weeks ago.
Before you watch this video or read below, rewatch the previous two videos and pay close attention to where Andrew Bogut is positioned as Danny makes his moves from Roy's picks.
Now that you've seen it, get ready to watch this play. It's the same exact set and spacing as the previous two plays. Bogut has not gone much beyond the free throw stripe on pick and rolls with two different scenarios; one where Danny drives and one where Danny shoots a three.
Knowing this, Vogel makes a small adjustment. This time, we have Roy set a pick on Danny's weakside. Knowing that Bogut won't come out, we have Danny take one dribble and step in a for wide open elbow jumper. This is the best perimeter look I've seen for Danny in a very, very long time. And the crazy thing is that it's a very simple, easy adjustment that any player can make if communicated correctly. It was my favorite play because it shows our coach making in-game adjustments at crucial periods that work. I cannot overstate how important that is, especially for a player like Danny who needs help with scoring. You get Danny to step into a free throw area jumper in crunch time and he knocks it down almost 100% of the time. His great shooting touch becomes a weapon because he's able to get an easy, open look.
Just to show the subtleties of adjustments, watch this last play with the previous three in mind. Milwaukee has adjusted to our pick and roll, which again has the same exact spacing. This time Bogut has adjusted and he's playing much further out from the free throw stripe than he was earlier.
I show this play because Danny still gets a good free throw line jumper despite Milwaukee's adjustment. This game had been decided by this point, but had this situation played out, I think Milwaukee's adjustment would've opened up some great low post opportunities for Roy. You can see here that a quicker reaction by Roy gets him a 4 foot hookshot.
We've read plenty of comments from Vogel and the players about the restructuring of our offense. We've seen our scoring and performances from players increase in quality and we've started winning. But now you can see why this is more than a honeymoon period. I look forward to seeing how the rest of the league adjusts to our changes, and then, how Vogel readjusts. It's an exciting time to be a Pacers fan again!