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Bob Green
03-09-2011, 09:06 PM
Welcome to Phase V: The ACC Tournament! When I sat down to start drafting this post I figured it would be a really good idea to revisit last season's Phase V post and see what we were wondering about in order to see if the same concerns existed in 2011. Sure enough, I saw many of the same topics that are being bandied about in various threads the past week to 10 days. Next, I revisited this season's Phase IV post to see which topics to carry over. Here are my thoughts as we head into the post season:

1) Can Kyle Singler find his shooting efficiency again?

There is no question Kyle is mired in a prolonged shooting slump. His 3-point percentage was only 29.2% in the 16 ACC games. While Singler continues to be a fantastic player who is a strong defender as well as Duke's second leading scorer and second leading rebounder, there is no single improvement that can make as immediate an impact on Duke's ability to win the ACC Championship than Singler re-discovering his long range stroke.

2) Can Duke bring it for a full 40 minutes?

Slow starts and Duke basketball seem to be synonymous terms this season. However, just like Duke couldn't survive a slow start against Carolina last Saturday, Duke cannot afford slow starts in the ACC Tournament. It is the time of the season when the competition is desperate for a signature win to hang their NCAA Tournament bid hat on. Assuming we win on Friday night, we will most likely face a "bubble team" on Saturday. The Blue Devils need to figure out their propensity to start slow and they need to figure it out in a hurry.

3) Can Duke play strong transition and half court defense?

Both St. John's and Carolina have made our defense look bad this season. It is important this time of year for the defense to be clicking on all eight cylinders as games tend to be lower scoring in the post season. The first step to playing better defense is offensive efficiency. If we can take care of the basketball and score points, that will limit our opponent's transition opportunities and allow the defense to get back and in position to execute. It is theoretically simple but challenging to execute against quality opponents.

Two additional items to keep an eye on are on the ball defense, an area where Tyler Thornton could earn some playing time, and off the ball defense, an area where Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins need to work to make their man work extra hard to receive the ball in sccoring position.

4) Can Duke control the glass and prevent second chance points?

The team needs to prevent the opponent from scoring second chance points while simultaneously cashing in on offensive rebounds. Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler are the team's best on the boards, but it will be necessary for Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly to get into the action. One thing I have observed is our inside players tend to grab offensive rebounds and then make a move away from the basket. They need to take the ball at the rim or quickly kick it out to a spot up shooter.

On the defensive end of the court, we need to BOX OUT!

5) Is there a surprise performer ready to emerge in Greensboro?

There is no shortage on candidates to step up and explode in Greensboro. Seth Curry has been fairly consistent as the third scorer outside of the Virginia Tech game. Andre Dawkins scored double digit points 11 times this season with a season high of 28 against Bradley. Mason Plumlee scored 25 points against Marquette and 14 against UAB. Ryan Kelly sank 18 straight field goals at one point during the ACC schedule with a season high 20 points against Wake Forest.

Someone, or preferably, two of these candidates need to step and help carry the scoring load this weekend. Smith and Singler cannot score enough points by themselves to win ball games in March. Hopefully, one or two players will "find" their offense in Greensboro.

6) How well will we diversify our offense?

Nolan Smith can drive and score at the rim and multiple players can knock down perimeter jump shots, but can we score in other ways? Can our perimeter players feed the post? Can Smith drive and dump the ball to our bigs? Or, drive, locate the open shooter and dish the ball? It is important for the team to not settle for jump shots early in the shot clock but rather make the extra pass or two which results in better looks and easy points.

Offensive diversity is predicated upon good ball movement and good player movement. When the ball and the players are simultaneously moving good things will happen.

7) What new wrinkles will Coach K add?

The biggest advantage to having a Hall of Fame coach roaming the sideline is he always has something extra up his sleeve. Without a midweek game, Coach K has had two extra days to work on line-up combinations and fine tune execution. Will he choose to stick with the same starting five or will we see both Plumlees starting this weekend? If Duke jumps out to a lead, will Coach K smell blood and go for the kill by playing Curry and Dawkins at the same time to pressure the opponent's defense?

I'm not going to try and predict what new wrinkle we will see this weekend but I am confident Coach K will introduce something new.

Kedsy
03-09-2011, 10:35 PM
Welcome to Phase V: The ACC Tournament!

* * *

The team needs to prevent the opponent from scoring second chance points while simultaneously cashing in on offensive rebounds. Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler are the team's best on the boards, but it will be necessary for Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly to get into the action.

Good Phase report, Bob. Thanks.

The only thing I'd take issue with is, on a per 40 minute basis, Miles is actually our 2nd best rebounder. All he needs to show us is playing time, as we saw against UNC. Actually, from a per minute basis, Kyle is our 4th best rebounder (behind Ryan by a little bit).

Overall, I think our rebounding has been pretty good. In our past 18 games, we've only been outrebounded three times (the two UNC games and the Virginia Tech game), and even in those games it wasn't necessarily our big men who were responsible for the shortfall. In the two UNC games, for example, UNC's three bigs (Henson, Zeller, Knox) combined for 48 rebounds (in the two games combined), while our bigs (MP1, MP2, Ryan) totalled 46. If you add in Kyle and Barnes, our front line actually outrebounded UNC's frontline, 50 to 49 over the two games. (In the interest of full disclosure, our four guys also played a total of four more minutes than their four guys, combined in the two games, so basically it was a wash.)

Since people seem to think UNC's front line is especially impressive, I think the fact that our front line rebounded them to a standstill is pretty impressive. I'm not sure why some people identify rebounding as a shortcoming of our team.

gam7
03-10-2011, 01:21 AM
Nice work, Bob! Two comments:




The first step to playing better defense is offensive efficiency.

I agree that offensive efficiency contributes to a team's playing better defense, but I would argue that an even more important axiom is that a more efficient defense is a key to offensive efficiency (i.e., lower opponent effective field goal percentage, steals and blocked shots lead to easier transition scoring). That is, I think it all starts with our team playing more efficiently on the defensive end.



4) Can Duke control the glass and prevent second chance points?

The team needs to prevent the opponent from scoring second chance points while simultaneously cashing in on offensive rebounds. Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler are the team's best on the boards, but it will be necessary for Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly to get into the action. One thing I have observed is our inside players tend to grab offensive rebounds and then make a move away from the basket. They need to take the ball at the rim or quickly kick it out to a spot up shooter.



One thing I have noticed is that Miles seems to be the best of our bigs at going up for offensive rebounds and simply tipping them back towards the perimeter for our guards to pick up for open shots. The tip-out is effective because (1) a rebounder can tip the ball at a higher point than he would be able to pull it down for a rebound, and (2) it is the quickest way to get the ball out to guards for open outside shots. Zoubek was a master at this. Ryan and Mason tend not to try to tip it out. I'd like to see a bit more of this because of how effective it was last year.

Saratoga2
03-10-2011, 06:49 AM
Good synopsis of the problems facing Duke as it goes forward through the tournaments.

1) Can Kyle Singler find his shooting efficiency again?

Since Kyle has had such a long period to correct his shooting from outside, yet hasn't been able to do so, I think the odds of a major correction at this point are slight. Better to hope for Kelly or Dawkins to get it going than for Kyle to suddenly correct the issues he has had for the entire ACC season. I know of no physical issue he has had other than the wear and tear of Div I play. He has continually been short with his shot, other than that his form has looked okay.

2) Can Duke bring it for a full 40 minutes?

I don't see it in terms of bringing it for 40 minutes, instead, I see it as being unable to make shots early in the game under ACC defensive pressure. That has led to a dearth of early scoring by Duke and opportunities for the opponents to build an early lead. We have tried early 3 point shots from the corner, which just haven't helped us and feeding of the post with our propensity to either throw up a brick or turn the ball over. Not much of a help for a team early. Later, Nolan goes on one of his runs and the game stabilizes. What will help is for us to find a way to get our scoring going early on.

3) Can Duke play strong transition and half court defense?

We have problems with our bigs getting back quickly and in particular the Plumlees both often try to regain the ball and wind up being a step or two late getting down court. Also, when we shoot from the corner, we tend to see a shortage of defenders back in time to stop penetration.

I also think we are small at guard and in particular Seth has trouble staying with his man on defense but is so valuable on offense that he has to play. Andre has more potential to be a good defender and is also potentially a good scorer. Both have suffered as he seems torn by the idea he can't make a mistake out there for fear of being pulled. If there was a way to restore his confidence, it would give this team a big plus. Tyler is a more aggressive defender than any guard except possibly Nolan who is aggressive and smart. Tyler tends to pick up fouls for his efforts. I would love to see the coaches encourage him to try to slash and dish to relieve pressure on Nolan.

4) Can Duke control the glass and prevent second chance points?



On the defensive end of the court, we need to BOX OUT! Amen to that! When our bigs go for the blocks on help defense, the opponents can come in to the vacant space and get the rebounds. We haven't found a way to box out this entire season.

5) Is there a surprise performer ready to emerge in Greensboro?

In a way, you can add Kyle to the list of performers who have to step up. As far as surprises, I would think Tyler has shown flashes of offense. Having him go off for 10 would be a surprise, but certainly possible. Andre remains my hope as the others have had numderous chances and haven't come through recently.

Someone, or preferably, two of these candidates need to step and help carry the scoring load this weekend. Smith and Singler cannot score enough points by themselves to win ball games in March. Hopefully, one or two players will "find" their offense in Greensboro.

6) How well will we diversify our offense?

It is important for the team to not settle for jump shots early in the shot clock but rather make the extra pass or two which results in better looks and easy points.

When coach K sets up plays and we get open shots, as we have done in many games, we just have to hit a reasonable percentage of those shots. If we can't, we are done early this year. What we don't need is for players to force shots up early in the clock when there is time to look for something better.

Offensive diversity is predicated upon good ball movement and good player movement. When the ball and the players are simultaneously moving good things will happen.

7) What new wrinkles will Coach K add?

I doubt if there are a lot of wrinkles that coach K can develop for this week. He might get more out of Tyler and Andre. Nolan has been great all year. The other players have to suck it up and play hard while making less errors. Can Ryan get the form back on his jump shot? Right now, we are a team that needs a lot to be competitive at the highest level.

I buried my replies under your headings

FellowTraveler
03-10-2011, 09:09 AM
Long time lurker, first time poster. Please excuse the length, which is the result of trying to cram several months' of observations into a single post. I may post additional broader thoughts later, but for now I'll focus on three players Saratoga2 mentioned:

Since Kyle has had such a long period to correct his shooting from outside, yet hasn't been able to do so, I think the odds of a major correction at this point are slight. Better to hope for Kelly or Dawkins to get it going than for Kyle to suddenly correct the issues he has had for the entire ACC season.

Thereís a lot going on in those two sentences, which I agree with to some extent and with qualifications.

First, Kyle: I agree that Kyleís poor 3-point shooting has been going on for long enough that expecting a significant improvement might be overly optimistic. Heís made only 12% of his threes over the past 5 games, 22% over the past 10, 24% over the past 15, and 29% since the start of ACC play. That isnít good, it it isnít a blip. And, at the volume weíre talking about -- about 5.5 threes per game -- it's downright bad. The rebuttal is that 3.5 years of good three point shooting have more predictive value than 0.5 years of poor shooting. Iíd generally agree with that, but itís important to keep in mind that Kyle doesnít have 3.5 years of good three point shooting on this current Duke team, with its current players. He isnít getting the precise types of three-point shots he got in previous years (most obviously: Heís no longer being guarded by power forwards unaccustomed to playing perimeter D.) It seems to me that on this team, with these teammates, playing this style, Kyle Singlerís three point shooting is unlikely to be much of an asset. (Overall, of course, Singler remains an asset, and if he and his teammates are deployed in a way that best matches their strengths, heís a tremendous asset. But that is, perhaps, something I'll come back to in a later post.)

Now, Iíd love to see Ryan Kelly get it going. But to me, that doesnít mean three-pointers; that means the midrange game and buckets around the basket. Kelly has shown strength in both areas; he's hitting 63% of his two-point shots this season. (It also means Kelly getting the ball in the high post, and just above the FT line against a zone; heís good at feeding the low post from those spots, and can hit the jumper from there.) Thereís basically no reason to think that at this point, Ryan Kelly is a good three point shooter. He was bad last year (26%) and heís bad this year (32%.) Heís made only 6% of his three point shots over his last 5 games and 13 percent over his last 10. Designing an offense to get Ryan Kelly 5 three point shots a game is highly questionable. (Another problem: When he takes those corner threes and misses, both he and the guard who drove & kicked out to him are basically at their own baseline. So Kelly isnít in position to rebound, and neither he nor the guard is in position to get back on D. The wide-open corner three is generally a good shot for an offense to take -- but not by a big who isnít a good three-point shooter.)

Now, Dawkins. Itís interesting to me that so many people think Andre needs to ďget it goingĒ and break out of his slump and so on. Unlike Kyle and Ryan, Andre is an excellent three-point shooter who has been shooting well lately. I think the general perception is that his strong 3-point shooting percentage for the season (43%) is just an artifact of his hot start. Wrong. Heís hit half his threes over his past 5 games, and 43 percent over his last 10. Dawkins is not in a shooting slump; he just isnít getting as many minutes per game or shots per minute as he got earlier in the season.

So how does Dawkins get more shots? Like a lot of people, Iíve long thought he needs to move more without the ball rather than just standing around. I still think thatís true, but I no longer think itís his fault. Heís pretty obviously doing what heís told to do. Why is this obvious? Because the alternative is implausible. Does anyone really think that if Coach K told Andre "Get in there, Dawk, and run around Ďtill you lose your guy," Dawkins would go in the game and just stand there? Does anyone really think that if that happened, repeatedly, every game, Dawkins would ever play? Either Dawkins is flagrantly ignoring Coachís instructions, and K is allowing him to do so, or Dawkins is doing what heís supposed to do. Heís being told to stand outside at the wing, and wait for Nolan or Kyle to kick him the ball off a drive. But neither Nolan or Kyle is particularly strong at the drive-and-kick, and neither of them tends to look for Dawkins. (Seth and Mason, I think, do a better job of seeing whoís in a position to score and getting them the ball.) In any case, if thereís a problem with Dawkinsí offense, I think itís now clear that it lies in how heís deployed.

I donít agree with the common refrain that in missing 3 FTs against UNC, Andre looked overwhelmed or lost or depressed or whatever. He may be those things, but I donít see the FTs as evidence. I think his default facial expression is easily interpreted as ďafraidĒ or ďoverwhelmed,Ē particularly if thatís what youíre looking for. But itís just what he looks like. Worth keeping in mind: The three missed FTs against UNC were Andreís first FT attempts in more than a month. He had previously taken only 3 FTs since mid January. That doesnít excuse the misses; heís a good enough FT shooter that he has to make at least two of those. But even good FT shooters sometimes miss, and miss a few in a row. Kyle missed 3 of 4 in 9 seconds against NC State. Seth shot 2-6 from the FT line in that same game. It happens.

Again: Dawkins may really be dispirited. I donít know. But I do know thatís the kind of thing itís easy to find ďevidenceĒ of that fits our assumptions. I also know that the consensus is that Andre played good defense on Barnes (and at least once on Marshall) in the minutes leading up to those missed FT (whether or not he couldíve sustained it over the course of an entire game is a different question.) If Andreís in a funk thatís affecting his play, Iíd expect it to manifest itself on D rather than shooting FTs after getting fouled on a 3-pointer.

Finally, we regularly hear that Dawkins isnít getting playing time because of his D; that K benches players based on defensive mistakes/effort, not based on offense. Iíve always thought that was overstated, and the UNC game reinforces that belief. The consensus is that Dawkins played good D against Carolina. He had more success shutting Barnes down than anyone else did. Then he missed three FTs and was immediately benched for the rest of the game, even though Duke was in a situation in which it needed a flurry of threes in order to come back. And that, to me, is the second biggest reason why we don't get much production out of Andre: He (Miles, too) is given very little room for error. Few players develop when they get minimal PT and know that the first time they make a mistake or fail to execute successfully, they're likely to sit for a very long time. Nolan, for example, didn't make his leap until his junior year, when (I would argue not coincidentally) he knew he was going to get consistent PT and shots no matter what.

Saratoga2
03-10-2011, 09:20 AM
Long time lurker, first time poster. Please excuse the length, which is the result of trying to cram several months' of observations into a single post. I may post additional broader thoughts later, but for now I'll focus on three players Saratoga2 mentioned:

Since Kyle has had such a long period to correct his shooting from outside, yet hasn't been able to do so, I think the odds of a major correction at this point are slight. Better to hope for Kelly or Dawkins to get it going than for Kyle to suddenly correct the issues he has had for the entire ACC season.

Thereís a lot going on in those two sentences, which I agree with to some extent and with qualifications.

First, Kyle: I agree that Kyleís poor 3-point shooting has been going on for long enough that expecting a significant improvement might be overly optimistic. Heís made only 12% of his threes over the past 5 games, 22% over the past 10, 24% over the past 15, and 29% since the start of ACC play. That isnít good, it it isnít a blip. And, at the volume weíre talking about -- about 5.5 threes per game -- it's downright bad. The rebuttal is that 3.5 years of good three point shooting have more predictive value than 0.5 years of poor shooting. Iíd generally agree with that, but itís important to keep in mind that Kyle doesnít have 3.5 years of good three point shooting on this current Duke team, with its current players. He isnít getting the precise types of three-point shots he got in previous years (most obviously: Heís no longer being guarded by power forwards unaccustomed to playing perimeter D.) It seems to me that on this team, with these teammates, playing this style, Kyle Singlerís three point shooting is unlikely to be much of an asset. (Overall, of course, Singler remains an asset, and if he and his teammates are deployed in a way that best matches their strengths, heís a tremendous asset. But that is, perhaps, something I'll come back to in a later post.)

Now, Iíd love to see Ryan Kelly get it going. But to me, that doesnít mean three-pointers; that means the midrange game and buckets around the basket. Kelly has shown strength in both areas; he's hitting 63% of his two-point shots this season. (It also means Kelly getting the ball in the high post, and just above the FT line against a zone; heís good at feeding the low post from those spots, and can hit the jumper from there.) Thereís basically no reason to think that at this point, Ryan Kelly is a good three point shooter. He was bad last year (26%) and heís bad this year (32%.) Heís made only 6% of his three point shots over his last 5 games and 13 percent over his last 10. Designing an offense to get Ryan Kelly 5 three point shots a game is highly questionable. (Another problem: When he takes those corner threes and misses, both he and the guard who drove & kicked out to him are basically at their own baseline. So Kelly isnít in position to rebound, and neither he nor the guard is in position to get back on D. The wide-open corner three is generally a good shot for an offense to take -- but not by a big who isnít a good three-point shooter.)

Now, Dawkins. Itís interesting to me that so many people think Andre needs to ďget it goingĒ and break out of his slump and so on. Unlike Kyle and Ryan, Andre is an excellent three-point shooter who has been shooting well lately. I think the general perception is that his strong 3-point shooting percentage for the season (43%) is just an artifact of his hot start. Wrong. Heís hit half his threes over his past 5 games, and 43 percent over his last 10. Dawkins is not in a shooting slump; he just isnít getting as many minutes per game or shots per minute as he got earlier in the season.

So how does Dawkins get more shots? Like a lot of people, Iíve long thought he needs to move more without the ball rather than just standing around. I still think thatís true, but I no longer think itís his fault. Heís pretty obviously doing what heís told to do. Why is this obvious? Because the alternative is implausible. Does anyone really think that if Coach K told Andre "Get in there, Dawk, and run around Ďtill you lose your guy," Dawkins would go in the game and just stand there? Does anyone really think that if that happened, repeatedly, every game, Dawkins would ever play? Either Dawkins is flagrantly ignoring Coachís instructions, and K is allowing him to do so, or Dawkins is doing what heís supposed to do. Heís being told to stand outside at the wing, and wait for Nolan or Kyle to kick him the ball off a drive. But neither Nolan or Kyle is particularly strong at the drive-and-kick, and neither of them tends to look for Dawkins. (Seth and Mason, I think, do a better job of seeing whoís in a position to score and getting them the ball.) In any case, if thereís a problem with Dawkinsí offense, I think itís now clear that it lies in how heís deployed.

I donít agree with the common refrain that in missing 3 FTs against UNC, Andre looked overwhelmed or lost or depressed or whatever. He may be those things, but I donít see the FTs as evidence. I think his default facial expression is easily interpreted as ďafraidĒ or ďoverwhelmed,Ē particularly if thatís what youíre looking for. But itís just what he looks like. Worth keeping in mind: The three missed FTs against UNC were Andreís first FT attempts in more than a month. He had previously taken only 3 FTs since mid January. That doesnít excuse the misses; heís a good enough FT shooter that he has to make at least two of those. But even good FT shooters sometimes miss, and miss a few in a row. Kyle missed 3 of 4 in 9 seconds against NC State. Seth shot 2-6 from the FT line in that same game. It happens.

Again: Dawkins may really be dispirited. I donít know. But I do know thatís the kind of thing itís easy to find ďevidenceĒ of that fits our assumptions. I also know that the consensus is that Andre played good defense on Barnes (and at least once on Marshall) in the minutes leading up to those missed FT (whether or not he couldíve sustained it over the course of an entire game is a different question.) If Andreís in a funk thatís affecting his play, Iíd expect it to manifest itself on D rather than shooting FTs after getting fouled on a 3-pointer.

Finally, we regularly hear that Dawkins isnít getting playing time because of his D; that K benches players based on defensive mistakes/effort, not based on offense. Iíve always thought that was overstated, and the UNC game reinforces that belief. The consensus is that Dawkins played good D against Carolina. He had more success shutting Barnes down than anyone else did. Then he missed three FTs and was immediately benched for the rest of the game, even though Duke was in a situation in which it needed a flurry of threes in order to come back. And that, to me, is the second biggest reason why we don't get much production out of Andre: He (Miles, too) is given very little room for error. Few players develop when they get minimal PT and know that the first time they make a mistake or fail to execute successfully, they're likely to sit for a very long time. Nolan, for example, didn't make his leap until his junior year, when (I would argue not coincidentally) he knew he was going to get consistent PT and shots no matter what.

You have a good grasp of things and it would be an asset to this site if you continue to post your thoughts.

dukelifer
03-10-2011, 10:36 AM
Long time lurker, first time poster. Please excuse the length, which is the result of trying to cram several months' of observations into a single post. I may post additional broader thoughts later, but for now I'll focus on three players Saratoga2 mentioned:

Since Kyle has had such a long period to correct his shooting from outside, yet hasn't been able to do so, I think the odds of a major correction at this point are slight. Better to hope for Kelly or Dawkins to get it going than for Kyle to suddenly correct the issues he has had for the entire ACC season.

Thereís a lot going on in those two sentences, which I agree with to some extent and with qualifications.

First, Kyle: I agree that Kyleís poor 3-point shooting has been going on for long enough that expecting a significant improvement might be overly optimistic. Heís made only 12% of his threes over the past 5 games, 22% over the past 10, 24% over the past 15, and 29% since the start of ACC play. That isnít good, it it isnít a blip. And, at the volume weíre talking about -- about 5.5 threes per game -- it's downright bad. The rebuttal is that 3.5 years of good three point shooting have more predictive value than 0.5 years of poor shooting. Iíd generally agree with that, but itís important to keep in mind that Kyle doesnít have 3.5 years of good three point shooting on this current Duke team, with its current players. He isnít getting the precise types of three-point shots he got in previous years (most obviously: Heís no longer being guarded by power forwards unaccustomed to playing perimeter D.) It seems to me that on this team, with these teammates, playing this style, Kyle Singlerís three point shooting is unlikely to be much of an asset. (Overall, of course, Singler remains an asset, and if he and his teammates are deployed in a way that best matches their strengths, heís a tremendous asset. But that is, perhaps, something I'll come back to in a later post.)

Now, Iíd love to see Ryan Kelly get it going. But to me, that doesnít mean three-pointers; that means the midrange game and buckets around the basket. Kelly has shown strength in both areas; he's hitting 63% of his two-point shots this season. (It also means Kelly getting the ball in the high post, and just above the FT line against a zone; heís good at feeding the low post from those spots, and can hit the jumper from there.) Thereís basically no reason to think that at this point, Ryan Kelly is a good three point shooter. He was bad last year (26%) and heís bad this year (32%.) Heís made only 6% of his three point shots over his last 5 games and 13 percent over his last 10. Designing an offense to get Ryan Kelly 5 three point shots a game is highly questionable. (Another problem: When he takes those corner threes and misses, both he and the guard who drove & kicked out to him are basically at their own baseline. So Kelly isnít in position to rebound, and neither he nor the guard is in position to get back on D. The wide-open corner three is generally a good shot for an offense to take -- but not by a big who isnít a good three-point shooter.)

Now, Dawkins. Itís interesting to me that so many people think Andre needs to ďget it goingĒ and break out of his slump and so on. Unlike Kyle and Ryan, Andre is an excellent three-point shooter who has been shooting well lately. I think the general perception is that his strong 3-point shooting percentage for the season (43%) is just an artifact of his hot start. Wrong. Heís hit half his threes over his past 5 games, and 43 percent over his last 10. Dawkins is not in a shooting slump; he just isnít getting as many minutes per game or shots per minute as he got earlier in the season.

So how does Dawkins get more shots? Like a lot of people, Iíve long thought he needs to move more without the ball rather than just standing around. I still think thatís true, but I no longer think itís his fault. Heís pretty obviously doing what heís told to do. Why is this obvious? Because the alternative is implausible. Does anyone really think that if Coach K told Andre "Get in there, Dawk, and run around Ďtill you lose your guy," Dawkins would go in the game and just stand there? Does anyone really think that if that happened, repeatedly, every game, Dawkins would ever play? Either Dawkins is flagrantly ignoring Coachís instructions, and K is allowing him to do so, or Dawkins is doing what heís supposed to do. Heís being told to stand outside at the wing, and wait for Nolan or Kyle to kick him the ball off a drive. But neither Nolan or Kyle is particularly strong at the drive-and-kick, and neither of them tends to look for Dawkins. (Seth and Mason, I think, do a better job of seeing whoís in a position to score and getting them the ball.) In any case, if thereís a problem with Dawkinsí offense, I think itís now clear that it lies in how heís deployed.

I donít agree with the common refrain that in missing 3 FTs against UNC, Andre looked overwhelmed or lost or depressed or whatever. He may be those things, but I donít see the FTs as evidence. I think his default facial expression is easily interpreted as ďafraidĒ or ďoverwhelmed,Ē particularly if thatís what youíre looking for. But itís just what he looks like. Worth keeping in mind: The three missed FTs against UNC were Andreís first FT attempts in more than a month. He had previously taken only 3 FTs since mid January. That doesnít excuse the misses; heís a good enough FT shooter that he has to make at least two of those. But even good FT shooters sometimes miss, and miss a few in a row. Kyle missed 3 of 4 in 9 seconds against NC State. Seth shot 2-6 from the FT line in that same game. It happens.

Again: Dawkins may really be dispirited. I donít know. But I do know thatís the kind of thing itís easy to find ďevidenceĒ of that fits our assumptions. I also know that the consensus is that Andre played good defense on Barnes (and at least once on Marshall) in the minutes leading up to those missed FT (whether or not he couldíve sustained it over the course of an entire game is a different question.) If Andreís in a funk thatís affecting his play, Iíd expect it to manifest itself on D rather than shooting FTs after getting fouled on a 3-pointer.

Finally, we regularly hear that Dawkins isnít getting playing time because of his D; that K benches players based on defensive mistakes/effort, not based on offense. Iíve always thought that was overstated, and the UNC game reinforces that belief. The consensus is that Dawkins played good D against Carolina. He had more success shutting Barnes down than anyone else did. Then he missed three FTs and was immediately benched for the rest of the game, even though Duke was in a situation in which it needed a flurry of threes in order to come back. And that, to me, is the second biggest reason why we don't get much production out of Andre: He (Miles, too) is given very little room for error. Few players develop when they get minimal PT and know that the first time they make a mistake or fail to execute successfully, they're likely to sit for a very long time. Nolan, for example, didn't make his leap until his junior year, when (I would argue not coincidentally) he knew he was going to get consistent PT and shots no matter what.

These are all fair comments. I have been a strong advocate for using Dawkins more as the kid is an outstanding shooter with great range. He does, however, need to move more. I have a feeling that he has been told this often and for whatever reason is not showing much improvement and this is leading to the fast yank by K. The missed free throws were nerves. Miles also needs to be more aggressive. Andre needs some JJ hustle/movement in him and Miles needs some Blake Griffin intensity in him. A little more active motor in both will lead to more PT.

I agree Kelly's threes are an issue. I imagine he can hit them all day in practice- but he is not as reliable at game speed or under the pressure of a big game. Given their flat trajectories and the fact they are usually long rather than just short (e.g., Singler's misses) they lead to fast breaks and easy buckets. That is bad. Kelly has a nice 15 pt jumper that is very reliable and has better post moves than Miles or Mason.

Singler is missing too many threes for sure- although he seems to take them in rhythm, they are consistently short. He used to miss the ones where he was moving laterally. Now he is missing straight on threes with his feet set. The shooting problems are due to something subtle which may or may not be correctable at this stage. He is an excellent free throw shooter and like Kelly is more effective closer in. But again the team needs to move the ball better, pass better and have much more motion than they have been showing.

Right now- if you need a three, Curry, Dawkins and Smith are the best options.

mkline09
03-10-2011, 11:45 AM
1) Can Kyle Singler find his shooting efficiency again?

There is no question Kyle is mired in a prolonged shooting slump. His 3-point percentage was only 29.2% in the 16 ACC games. While Singler continues to be a fantastic player who is a strong defender as well as Duke's second leading scorer and second leading rebounder, there is no single improvement that can make as immediate an impact on Duke's ability to win the ACC Championship than Singler re-discovering his long range stroke.

.

I'm more concerned that he is hitting shots period. I don't care if they are threes or layups. He just needs to score. Get him back up to that solid 17 point per game or better average and make a higher percentage of his shots. It'd be nice if there were some threes mixed in but at this point if he can just hit anything I'd be happy.

If Sinlger can start scoring again and you get Curry continuing to be a third option Duke will do just fine.

Same with Kelly and Dawkins. Build some confidence shooting shots inside the arch and then work your way back out. Just my 2 cents.

fuse
03-10-2011, 12:04 PM
Point 4- rebounding, has been our achilles heel for the past few games. I agree controlling the glass (at least the defensive glass if nothing else) is key to the success of this team.

Great analysis by all- fun to read. Go Duke!

-g

superdave
03-10-2011, 12:11 PM
1) Can Kyle Singler find his shooting efficiency again?
2) Can Duke bring it for a full 40 minutes?
3) Can Duke play strong transition and half court defense?
4) Can Duke control the glass and prevent second chance points?
5) Is there a surprise performer ready to emerge in Greensboro?
6) How well will we diversify our offense?
7) What new wrinkles will Coach K add?


I've been worried about Duke's focus all season, that they are a little too enamored with dunking and hitting threes than they are with setting (and holding) a good screen or switching screens properly. Last year's team operated like a Swiss watch at this point in the year and seemed to enjoy it. This year's team does not seem to have the focus to do that, and is younger and can seem a little happy-go-lucky at times.

A good response to lack of focus is to come out of the gate fast. We cannot afford slow starts because our margin for error shrinks. Brett Favre never seemed to be completely focused in a game until he took his first shot from a defender. Then he was dialed in and played with energy and emotion. This team reminds me of that. I'd love to see our first several offensive possessions of each game be drives to the basket so we take that first shot from the defense. I'd love to see our most energetic play come at the beginning of the games this weekend.

I think it's a lot easier for this bunch to do the mundane things well after they have generated some energy and excitement amongst themselves.

This team has been grinding through a lot of games lately - think how ugly @ UVA was - and has not been able to take on its natural personality of fun and gun as much. I expect the ACC tournament to be a grind as well. Teams know each other and you have to out-execute your opponent this weekend. I'd like to see Coach K mix things up a little with zones, traps and presses for 2-3 possessions at time to throw the opponent off rhythm. I am also hoping we get guys playing with more of a sense of urgency since this is the one-and-done time of year. We just came out of the dog days of the season and if the team can grind for another weekend, I expect them to regain some of the joy of over-powering (and dunking on) a weaker opponent the first weekend of the NCAAs. I think that will be good medicine after the ACC grind.

elvis14
03-10-2011, 12:22 PM
You have a good grasp of things and it would be an asset to this site if you continue to post your thoughts.

I'll second that, I think FellowTraveller presented some pretty good arguments some of which have been made in other threads.

The waiting is killing me, I can't wait to see our guys play ACCT ball!

FellowTraveler
03-10-2011, 01:04 PM
Thanks for the encouragement, Saratoga2 & elvis14. As elvis14 notes, others have made many similar points before -- my first post, like this one, constitutes broad thoughts developed over the course of the season, and informed by much of what Iíve read on DBR. I donít claim to be introducing new concepts, and am definitely responding to broad themes Iíve seen here. I again ask forgiveness for the length of this post, which is my broad take on the season, and offer an assurance that my subsequent posts will be of more manageable scope & length.

I think the plan for this season, with Kyrie at the point, was to run much more than last year and have a much more diversified offense by virtue of Kyrieís skills as a playmaker and distributor, and to pressure more on defense. Since Kyrie went down, Duke has appeared to try to adopt last yearís model: 3 perimeter scorers and two interior rebounders/screen-setters. The team, and many fans, have been looking for a consistent 3rd scorer to emerge, and for Mason/Miles/Ryan to turn into Zoubek & Thomas. If thatís the model the team continues to follow, I suspect things will continue the way theyíve been going. Duke will be a very good team, capable of reaching Houston, and vulnerable to losing in the 2nd round. I see little reason to expect a significant improvement in either individual players or the team at this point in the season without a change in approach. Your mileage may vary with regard to whether you think such an improvement is necessary.

Personally, I do not think last yearís model fits this team. First, it must be said that last yearís model was extremely unusual. Because it won a national championship, it is natural to view it as The Way To Win. But itís an approach unlikely to work for most teams. For one thing, few teams ever have a Zoubek-level offensive rebounder and screen-setter. For another, itís very rare to have three consistent high-volume scorers. Take a look at the Top 25 -- you wonít see many teams with 2 players scoring at least 15 per game and another in double figures. And you wonít see any team with a player scoring 20+ ppg, another 15+ and a third 10+, which is where Duke would be if Seth or someone was scoring a little more. In general, third scorers -- even on the best teams -- arenít the third scorer every game. Instead, 2-4 players take turns being the third scorer, based on matchups and situations and who happens to be playing well and random chance.

That general model -- a diversified offense in which a variety of players can score in a variety of ways -- suits Dukeís personnel quite well. Mason, Ryan, Kyle, and even Miles are capable interior scorers. (Mason, for example, is making 57 percent of his shots for the season, 65 percent over the past 10 games.) Nolan, Seth, Andre and Kyle are all good-to-great three-point shooters. Nolan is strong off the dribble. Ryan and Kyle and Nolan have solid mid-range games. Etc.

But what that model requires, and what this team hasnít done particularly well, is consistently getting the ball to players in ways that suit their strengths. That means working to get open threes for Andre, not Ryan. That means feeding the ball to Mason in the post, and Ryan and Kyle working the midrange game. Not just once: Consistently. How many times have we seen, say, Mason score off a good move inside -- then go 15 minutes without getting the ball in the post? Or Andre hit a three -- then not get another chance to score again? (This isnít just about scoring, btw: Mason is a good passer with excellent court vision for a big. His assists-per-minute rate is significantly better than Singlerís, which is remarkable given how much less he handles the ball. Good things happen when Mason gets the ball. And Ryan is probably better than any other Duke player at feeding the post.) And, as I mentioned in my earlier post, it means giving players the freedom and confidence that comes with knowing they wonít get benched the first time they make a mistake or fail to execute. (Some players have this already -- Kyle, Nolan and maybe even Ryan can miss 3 threes and know theyíll get 3 more. Mason tends to stay on the court despite defensive lapses -- and Nolan and Kyle absolutely do. Andre and Miles have no such margin for error.)

People like to say "Coach K doesnít believe in positions" and that Dukeís offense is about making reads, not running plays. Yet last yearís model is in some ways a highly structured system in which players have extremely rigid roles: These three are the scorers, these two set screens and try for offensive rebounds, etc. That arguably compartmentalizes players much more than does the traditional 5-position mindset, and leads to a much more predictable and one-dimensional offense. It worked last year, but last year was a unique combination of players.

For both aesthetic and competitive reasons, Iíd like to see this Duke team play more in accordance with the principles we tend to talk about -- teamwork, reads, having "players" rather than "positions." To me, that means that everyone is a potential scorer (and everyone is responsible for good ball movement) and the team focuses on getting the ball to whoever is in a position to succeed. When a big has good post position, get them the ball. Run more screens for Andre, or move him to the corner for the threes Ryan tends to take. When the D collapses on a post player, kick it back out, or pass to a cutter. Etc. I think if that were to happen, Mason/Miles/Andre/Ryan would be more productive (collectively, at least. Maybe they wouldnít all thrive.) And that would make things easier for Nolan & Kyle.

To me, the big what-if of this season (aside from Kyrie) goes back to the Bradley game, when Nolan dished out 10 assists, Andre scored 28 on 17 shots, Miles shot 7-7, and the team made 15-33 three-pointers even with Nolan going 0-4. Nolan scored only 2 points, and didnít hit a FG, and the story goes that after the game, the coaching staff told him not to worry so much about being a distributor and to score more. And, for all the talk of Nolan having the chance to lead the ACC in scoring & assists, his gaudy assist totals came early in the season: Only 4 games of 7 or more assists since the start of ACC play; averaging 4.2 per game over his past 10.

Prior to the start of ACC play, Nolan was averaging 17.8 ppg on 53% shooting with 5.7 apg. Since ACC play began, heís at 23.9 ppg on 45% shooting with 4.8 apg. Thatís obviously very good. But I have to wonder what would have happened if Nolan had tried to score a little less and distribute a little more. Heíd still have scored -- heís too good not to; the Bradley game wasnít going to be the norm. But what would Duke look like if Nolan was at 19 or 20 ppg with 6+ assists over the past 19 games, rather than 24 and 4.8? I suspect Mason/Miles/Andre/Ryan/Seth wouldíve developed a bit more. Duke would be more balanced. That would make life easier for Nolan & Kyle, whoíd be scoring more efficiently as a result. Opposing teams would perhaps commit more fouls as a result of having to defend more scorers. Duke would likely be a better team, and probably a less vulnerable one due to relying less on the 3-pointer, and on two scorers.

Now, the disclaimers: Itís not certain that Nolan could have played more of a hybrid role; he has sometimes (not always) appeared to have a ďscoringĒ mode and a ďdistributingĒ mode, and doesnít blend them well. And I am absolutely not suggesting heís selfish: I believe that heís playing the role heís been assigned, and doing it at a very high level.

Iím actually pretty content with Dukeís D. Like many, I'd pull back the pressure a bit against big/long/athletic teams like UNC & St. Johns and focus on not giving up open looks within 16 feet and grabbing rebounds rather than trying to force turnovers. (This is one area in which I would like to be more like last yearís team.) And I firmly believe that the best (indirect) defensive strategy Duke should emphasize more is getting opposing players in foul trouble by going right at people who have 2 or 3, particularly if they are important players.

Finally, since Iím new here, I should probably stress that Iím quite fond of every player on this team. Iíve been watching Duke basketball closely since the late 1980s, and there has rarely been a team with as many players I like as much as this one. To the extent that I offer criticisms of the teamís play, it is simply out of a desire to see the team, and each player, be in a position to succeed.

superdave
03-10-2011, 01:45 PM
Personally, I do not think last year’s model fits this team. For one thing, few teams ever have a Zoubek-level offensive rebounder and screen-setter.
For another, it’s very rare to have three consistent high-volume scorers.
But what that model requires, and what this team hasn’t done particularly well, is consistently getting the ball to players in ways that suit their strengths. That means working to get open threes for Andre, not Ryan. That means feeding the ball to Mason in the post, and Ryan and Kyle working the midrange game. Not just once: Consistently.
Mason is a good passer with excellent court vision for a big.
For both aesthetic and competitive reasons, I’d like to see this Duke team play more in accordance with the principles we tend to talk about -- teamwork, reads, having "players" rather than "positions." To me, that means that everyone is a potential scorer (and everyone is responsible for good ball movement) and the team focuses on getting the ball to whoever is in a position to succeed.
To me, the big what-if of this season (aside from Kyrie) goes back to the Bradley game, when Nolan dished out 10 assists, Andre scored 28 on 17 shots, Miles shot 7-7, and the team made 15-33 three-pointers even with Nolan going 0-4. Nolan scored only 2 points, and didn’t hit a FG, and the story goes that after the game, the coaching staff told him not to worry so much about being a distributor and to score more.


I cherrypicked what I thought were some of your more interesting comments. I think you are right that this year's offense cannot replicate what last year's offense did all season, which is execute really well. Scheyer was so disciplined (and so were Thomas and Zoubek) on the offensive end. Also, once the two bigs started really going after offensive rebounds to kick out, we went from a great executing offense to a highly efficient offense that punished even good defenses. Nolan is not that kind of facilitator and a 3rd dominant scorer has not emerged consistently.

I agree with you on how this year's team needs to play to individual players' strengths more. I kept waiting all year for us to figure out some consistent lob and alley oop plays, or drive and kick plays to get Andre open 3s. But the younger guys each went through a down cycle or two and the two seniors simply took on more and more.

I do think it's a bit late to see any grand changes in anything we do. So my hope for the next 4 weeks is that we get out of the gates quickly, with a lot of energy and in attack mode. Also, I'd love to see us feed the low and high posts, not necessarily for hook shots, but so our bigs can look to pass opposite to another big or to a shooter. Mason looks to pass a lot when he faces up a player on offense and it could work well for us. Subtle wrinkles like that can make our offense less predictible and get more guys involved.

FellowTraveler
03-10-2011, 02:43 PM
I do think it's a bit late to see any grand changes in anything we do. So my hope for the next 4 weeks is that we get out of the gates quickly, with a lot of energy and in attack mode. Also, I'd love to see us feed the low and high posts, not necessarily for hook shots, but so our bigs can look to pass opposite to another big or to a shooter. Mason looks to pass a lot when he faces up a player on offense and it could work well for us. Subtle wrinkles like that can make our offense less predictible and get more guys involved.

I agree with this. Much as I'd love to see a Nolan/Seth/Andre/Kyle/Mason starting lineup, and/or increased use of simultaneous Plumlees, it's probably a bit late in the season to fundamentally change the way the team plays. The good news is that there's enough talent on hand that small changes could pay large dividends.

superdave
03-14-2011, 08:03 AM
Welcome to Phase V: The ACC Tournament! When I sat down to start drafting this post I figured it would be a really good idea to revisit last season's Phase V post and see what we were wondering about in order to see if the same concerns existed in 2011. Sure enough, I saw many of the same topics that are being bandied about in various threads the past week to 10 days. Next, I revisited this season's Phase IV post to see which topics to carry over. Here are my thoughts as we head into the post season:

1) Can Kyle Singler find his shooting efficiency again?

There is no question Kyle is mired in a prolonged shooting slump. His 3-point percentage was only 29.2% in the 16 ACC games. While Singler continues to be a fantastic player who is a strong defender as well as Duke's second leading scorer and second leading rebounder, there is no single improvement that can make as immediate an impact on Duke's ability to win the ACC Championship than Singler re-discovering his long range stroke.

2) Can Duke bring it for a full 40 minutes?

Slow starts and Duke basketball seem to be synonymous terms this season. However, just like Duke couldn't survive a slow start against Carolina last Saturday, Duke cannot afford slow starts in the ACC Tournament. It is the time of the season when the competition is desperate for a signature win to hang their NCAA Tournament bid hat on. Assuming we win on Friday night, we will most likely face a "bubble team" on Saturday. The Blue Devils need to figure out their propensity to start slow and they need to figure it out in a hurry.

3) Can Duke play strong transition and half court defense?

Both St. John's and Carolina have made our defense look bad this season. It is important this time of year for the defense to be clicking on all eight cylinders as games tend to be lower scoring in the post season. The first step to playing better defense is offensive efficiency. If we can take care of the basketball and score points, that will limit our opponent's transition opportunities and allow the defense to get back and in position to execute. It is theoretically simple but challenging to execute against quality opponents.

Two additional items to keep an eye on are on the ball defense, an area where Tyler Thornton could earn some playing time, and off the ball defense, an area where Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins need to work to make their man work extra hard to receive the ball in sccoring position.

4) Can Duke control the glass and prevent second chance points?

The team needs to prevent the opponent from scoring second chance points while simultaneously cashing in on offensive rebounds. Mason Plumlee and Kyle Singler are the team's best on the boards, but it will be necessary for Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly to get into the action. One thing I have observed is our inside players tend to grab offensive rebounds and then make a move away from the basket. They need to take the ball at the rim or quickly kick it out to a spot up shooter.

On the defensive end of the court, we need to BOX OUT!

5) Is there a surprise performer ready to emerge in Greensboro?

There is no shortage on candidates to step up and explode in Greensboro. Seth Curry has been fairly consistent as the third scorer outside of the Virginia Tech game. Andre Dawkins scored double digit points 11 times this season with a season high of 28 against Bradley. Mason Plumlee scored 25 points against Marquette and 14 against UAB. Ryan Kelly sank 18 straight field goals at one point during the ACC schedule with a season high 20 points against Wake Forest.

Someone, or preferably, two of these candidates need to step and help carry the scoring load this weekend. Smith and Singler cannot score enough points by themselves to win ball games in March. Hopefully, one or two players will "find" their offense in Greensboro.

6) How well will we diversify our offense?

Nolan Smith can drive and score at the rim and multiple players can knock down perimeter jump shots, but can we score in other ways? Can our perimeter players feed the post? Can Smith drive and dump the ball to our bigs? Or, drive, locate the open shooter and dish the ball? It is important for the team to not settle for jump shots early in the shot clock but rather make the extra pass or two which results in better looks and easy points.

Offensive diversity is predicated upon good ball movement and good player movement. When the ball and the players are simultaneously moving good things will happen.

7) What new wrinkles will Coach K add?

The biggest advantage to having a Hall of Fame coach roaming the sideline is he always has something extra up his sleeve. Without a midweek game, Coach K has had two extra days to work on line-up combinations and fine tune execution. Will he choose to stick with the same starting five or will we see both Plumlees starting this weekend? If Duke jumps out to a lead, will Coach K smell blood and go for the kill by playing Curry and Dawkins at the same time to pressure the opponent's defense?

I'm not going to try and predict what new wrinkle we will see this weekend but I am confident Coach K will introduce something new.

I thought Duke played a complete 40 minute game vs. Unc yesterday. First full 40 we've played all year. The offense was diverse and we controlled the glass the first half although Carolina had an advantage in the 2nd half. We also controlled the tempo of the game really well too. I'd love to see Kyle's jumper fall with more regularity but he's still playing well.

Nice insights, Bob.

Bluealum
03-14-2011, 09:08 AM
Thanks for the encouragement, Saratoga2 & elvis14. As elvis14 notes, others have made many similar points before -- my first post, like this one, constitutes broad thoughts developed over the course of the season, and informed by much of what Iíve read on DBR. I donít claim to be introducing new concepts, and am definitely responding to broad themes Iíve seen here. I again ask forgiveness for the length of this post, which is my broad take on the season, and offer an assurance that my subsequent posts will be of more manageable scope & length.

I think the plan for this season, with Kyrie at the point, was to run much more than last year and have a much more diversified offense by virtue of Kyrieís skills as a playmaker and distributor, and to pressure more on defense. Since Kyrie went down, Duke has appeared to try to adopt last yearís model: 3 perimeter scorers and two interior rebounders/screen-setters. The team, and many fans, have been looking for a consistent 3rd scorer to emerge, and for Mason/Miles/Ryan to turn into Zoubek & Thomas. If thatís the model the team continues to follow, I suspect things will continue the way theyíve been going. Duke will be a very good team, capable of reaching Houston, and vulnerable to losing in the 2nd round. I see little reason to expect a significant improvement in either individual players or the team at this point in the season without a change in approach. Your mileage may vary with regard to whether you think such an improvement is necessary.

Personally, I do not think last yearís model fits this team. First, it must be said that last yearís model was extremely unusual. Because it won a national championship, it is natural to view it as The Way To Win. But itís an approach unlikely to work for most teams. For one thing, few teams ever have a Zoubek-level offensive rebounder and screen-setter. For another, itís very rare to have three consistent high-volume scorers. Take a look at the Top 25 -- you wonít see many teams with 2 players scoring at least 15 per game and another in double figures. And you wonít see any team with a player scoring 20+ ppg, another 15+ and a third 10+, which is where Duke would be if Seth or someone was scoring a little more. In general, third scorers -- even on the best teams -- arenít the third scorer every game. Instead, 2-4 players take turns being the third scorer, based on matchups and situations and who happens to be playing well and random chance.

That general model -- a diversified offense in which a variety of players can score in a variety of ways -- suits Dukeís personnel quite well. Mason, Ryan, Kyle, and even Miles are capable interior scorers. (Mason, for example, is making 57 percent of his shots for the season, 65 percent over the past 10 games.) Nolan, Seth, Andre and Kyle are all good-to-great three-point shooters. Nolan is strong off the dribble. Ryan and Kyle and Nolan have solid mid-range games. Etc.

But what that model requires, and what this team hasnít done particularly well, is consistently getting the ball to players in ways that suit their strengths. That means working to get open threes for Andre, not Ryan. That means feeding the ball to Mason in the post, and Ryan and Kyle working the midrange game. Not just once: Consistently. How many times have we seen, say, Mason score off a good move inside -- then go 15 minutes without getting the ball in the post? Or Andre hit a three -- then not get another chance to score again? (This isnít just about scoring, btw: Mason is a good passer with excellent court vision for a big. His assists-per-minute rate is significantly better than Singlerís, which is remarkable given how much less he handles the ball. Good things happen when Mason gets the ball. And Ryan is probably better than any other Duke player at feeding the post.) And, as I mentioned in my earlier post, it means giving players the freedom and confidence that comes with knowing they wonít get benched the first time they make a mistake or fail to execute. (Some players have this already -- Kyle, Nolan and maybe even Ryan can miss 3 threes and know theyíll get 3 more. Mason tends to stay on the court despite defensive lapses -- and Nolan and Kyle absolutely do. Andre and Miles have no such margin for error.)

People like to say "Coach K doesnít believe in positions" and that Dukeís offense is about making reads, not running plays. Yet last yearís model is in some ways a highly structured system in which players have extremely rigid roles: These three are the scorers, these two set screens and try for offensive rebounds, etc. That arguably compartmentalizes players much more than does the traditional 5-position mindset, and leads to a much more predictable and one-dimensional offense. It worked last year, but last year was a unique combination of players.

For both aesthetic and competitive reasons, Iíd like to see this Duke team play more in accordance with the principles we tend to talk about -- teamwork, reads, having "players" rather than "positions." To me, that means that everyone is a potential scorer (and everyone is responsible for good ball movement) and the team focuses on getting the ball to whoever is in a position to succeed. When a big has good post position, get them the ball. Run more screens for Andre, or move him to the corner for the threes Ryan tends to take. When the D collapses on a post player, kick it back out, or pass to a cutter. Etc. I think if that were to happen, Mason/Miles/Andre/Ryan would be more productive (collectively, at least. Maybe they wouldnít all thrive.) And that would make things easier for Nolan & Kyle.

To me, the big what-if of this season (aside from Kyrie) goes back to the Bradley game, when Nolan dished out 10 assists, Andre scored 28 on 17 shots, Miles shot 7-7, and the team made 15-33 three-pointers even with Nolan going 0-4. Nolan scored only 2 points, and didnít hit a FG, and the story goes that after the game, the coaching staff told him not to worry so much about being a distributor and to score more. And, for all the talk of Nolan having the chance to lead the ACC in scoring & assists, his gaudy assist totals came early in the season: Only 4 games of 7 or more assists since the start of ACC play; averaging 4.2 per game over his past 10.

Prior to the start of ACC play, Nolan was averaging 17.8 ppg on 53% shooting with 5.7 apg. Since ACC play began, heís at 23.9 ppg on 45% shooting with 4.8 apg. Thatís obviously very good. But I have to wonder what would have happened if Nolan had tried to score a little less and distribute a little more. Heíd still have scored -- heís too good not to; the Bradley game wasnít going to be the norm. But what would Duke look like if Nolan was at 19 or 20 ppg with 6+ assists over the past 19 games, rather than 24 and 4.8? I suspect Mason/Miles/Andre/Ryan/Seth wouldíve developed a bit more. Duke would be more balanced. That would make life easier for Nolan & Kyle, whoíd be scoring more efficiently as a result. Opposing teams would perhaps commit more fouls as a result of having to defend more scorers. Duke would likely be a better team, and probably a less vulnerable one due to relying less on the 3-pointer, and on two scorers.

Now, the disclaimers: Itís not certain that Nolan could have played more of a hybrid role; he has sometimes (not always) appeared to have a ďscoringĒ mode and a ďdistributingĒ mode, and doesnít blend them well. And I am absolutely not suggesting heís selfish: I believe that heís playing the role heís been assigned, and doing it at a very high level.

Iím actually pretty content with Dukeís D. Like many, I'd pull back the pressure a bit against big/long/athletic teams like UNC & St. Johns and focus on not giving up open looks within 16 feet and grabbing rebounds rather than trying to force turnovers. (This is one area in which I would like to be more like last yearís team.) And I firmly believe that the best (indirect) defensive strategy Duke should emphasize more is getting opposing players in foul trouble by going right at people who have 2 or 3, particularly if they are important players.

Finally, since Iím new here, I should probably stress that Iím quite fond of every player on this team. Iíve been watching Duke basketball closely since the late 1980s, and there has rarely been a team with as many players I like as much as this one. To the extent that I offer criticisms of the teamís play, it is simply out of a desire to see the team, and each player, be in a position to succeed.

I have been reading DBR from the beginning, and have mostly lurked over that time. This is one of those insightful well thought out posts that make me appreciate again what a community full of people with insight and a real regard for the game we have.

I actually thought that during the first half of yesterday's game we saw much of what you were hoping for. Nolan was absolutely remarkable. His ability to drive with impunity, disrupt the defense and most often find the open shooter or big man was impressive. It's not a skill he has shown that often, despite his good assist numbers. I thought your mention of his declining assist numbers in ACC play was an important point which has not been discussed enough. He changed that yesterday and it created space, great opportunities for Andre, Miles, Mason, and Ryan and left the heels scratching their heads on how to defend a player who can get by his primary defender at will regardless of switches, hedging, and collapsing doubles.

I thought his performance and our team rebounding were absolutely key to our execution, our confidence, and in turn our defensive tenacity, which Nolan keyed as well. What a wonderful performance by him and our bigs (and Seth) for grabbing a vast majority of loose balls in all but a five minute stretch of the 2nd half. I thought Miles' performance this weekend was also fantastic and worthy of his 2nd team selection.

If Nolan focuses more on distributing early, the scoring opportunities will be there for him late in the game and I think will result in an offense with greater balance than last year, with more diversity to draw upon as we face teams with a variety of strategies and personnel. I hope we see more of this and credit the staff with making some of the adjustments that were made to make this possible.

We may have time yet to see some of the changes you were hoping for...it's good to have the quintessential college coach at the helm of our team!

ice-9
03-16-2011, 01:35 PM
But what that model requires, and what this team hasnít done particularly well, is consistently getting the ball to players in ways that suit their strengths. That means working to get open threes for Andre, not Ryan. That means feeding the ball to Mason in the post, and Ryan and Kyle working the midrange game. Not just once: Consistently. How many times have we seen, say, Mason score off a good move inside -- then go 15 minutes without getting the ball in the post? Or Andre hit a three -- then not get another chance to score again? (This isnít just about scoring, btw: Mason is a good passer with excellent court vision for a big. His assists-per-minute rate is significantly better than Singlerís, which is remarkable given how much less he handles the ball. Good things happen when Mason gets the ball. And Ryan is probably better than any other Duke player at feeding the post.) And, as I mentioned in my earlier post, it means giving players the freedom and confidence that comes with knowing they wonít get benched the first time they make a mistake or fail to execute. (Some players have this already -- Kyle, Nolan and maybe even Ryan can miss 3 threes and know theyíll get 3 more. Mason tends to stay on the court despite defensive lapses -- and Nolan and Kyle absolutely do. Andre and Miles have no such margin for error.)

People like to say "Coach K doesnít believe in positions" and that Dukeís offense is about making reads, not running plays. Yet last yearís model is in some ways a highly structured system in which players have extremely rigid roles: These three are the scorers, these two set screens and try for offensive rebounds, etc. That arguably compartmentalizes players much more than does the traditional 5-position mindset, and leads to a much more predictable and one-dimensional offense. It worked last year, but last year was a unique combination of players.

For both aesthetic and competitive reasons, Iíd like to see this Duke team play more in accordance with the principles we tend to talk about -- teamwork, reads, having "players" rather than "positions." To me, that means that everyone is a potential scorer (and everyone is responsible for good ball movement) and the team focuses on getting the ball to whoever is in a position to succeed. When a big has good post position, get them the ball. Run more screens for Andre, or move him to the corner for the threes Ryan tends to take. When the D collapses on a post player, kick it back out, or pass to a cutter. Etc. I think if that were to happen, Mason/Miles/Andre/Ryan would be more productive (collectively, at least. Maybe they wouldnít all thrive.) And that would make things easier for Nolan & Kyle.

To me, the big what-if of this season (aside from Kyrie) goes back to the Bradley game, when Nolan dished out 10 assists, Andre scored 28 on 17 shots, Miles shot 7-7, and the team made 15-33 three-pointers even with Nolan going 0-4. Nolan scored only 2 points, and didnít hit a FG, and the story goes that after the game, the coaching staff told him not to worry so much about being a distributor and to score more. And, for all the talk of Nolan having the chance to lead the ACC in scoring & assists, his gaudy assist totals came early in the season: Only 4 games of 7 or more assists since the start of ACC play; averaging 4.2 per game over his past 10.

Prior to the start of ACC play, Nolan was averaging 17.8 ppg on 53% shooting with 5.7 apg. Since ACC play began, heís at 23.9 ppg on 45% shooting with 4.8 apg. Thatís obviously very good. But I have to wonder what would have happened if Nolan had tried to score a little less and distribute a little more. Heíd still have scored -- heís too good not to; the Bradley game wasnít going to be the norm. But what would Duke look like if Nolan was at 19 or 20 ppg with 6+ assists over the past 19 games, rather than 24 and 4.8? I suspect Mason/Miles/Andre/Ryan/Seth wouldíve developed a bit more. Duke would be more balanced. That would make life easier for Nolan & Kyle, whoíd be scoring more efficiently as a result. Opposing teams would perhaps commit more fouls as a result of having to defend more scorers. Duke would likely be a better team, and probably a less vulnerable one due to relying less on the 3-pointer, and on two scorers.

Now, the disclaimers: Itís not certain that Nolan could have played more of a hybrid role; he has sometimes (not always) appeared to have a ďscoringĒ mode and a ďdistributingĒ mode, and doesnít blend them well. And I am absolutely not suggesting heís selfish: I believe that heís playing the role heís been assigned, and doing it at a very high level.

FellowTraveler, I read all your posts on this thread. I hope you don't continue to lurk because you are an excellent writer with interesting insights. You are an asset to this community and I hope you will continue to contribute!

I only just read this thread and while I was reading it, I couldn't help but think how much the team that dismantled UNC in the ACC tournament final resembled the one you wished we had above -- i.e. Dawkins and Curry taking shots in positions of strength, Mason getting more touches and making excellent passes, Singler working more in the mid-range, Nolan distributing, the team making reads instead of set plays.

My theory about Coach K's offensive approach is that he always starts first with what works most efficiently. What is the singular play that has the highest chance of getting a bucket? And then he builds the team around that style. Then as the season progresses, and as opponents catch on and design defenses around it, he adds wrinkles, involves more players, different movements, etc. that build on top of it. He uses a layered approach -- instead of teaching everything to a team and risking it all go over their heads, he purposely narrows "what we do" in the beginning and broadens it over time.

I am reminded of Henderson's progress in his 2008/2009 season. His offense started off as rather one dimensional -- it was always the semi-fadeaway, Kobe-esque jump shot. Many posters complained that Henderson took way too many of those shots, even though he made them at a decent percentage. Then, he began to drive, stop and shoot (and always the jumpshot). After a few games of that, he started to drive all the way to the hoop instead of always going for the jumper; but once he drove, he always drove to finish even against multiple defenders. Again, posters complained he should dish when a teammate is open. Finally, towards the end of the season, you started to see him doing just that (though he never got that good at it). In a season, he evolved from a jumpshooter to a jumpshooter and driver to a jumpshooter and driver and disher.

So is the case with this team post-Kyrie. When Kyrie went down, we needed a singular style of play that we could build on. That play is a big setting a screen at the top with Nolan driving into the post. At times it seemed like this is all we did and Nolan would always try to finish, even though he was defended by multiple players, then pass to an open teammate. Yet we won many games with precisely this one dimensional style. Then, towards the end of the ACC season, you can notice Nolan beginning to dish it to the cutting big man. Then he started flipping it out to shooters when their man left to double down on a driving Nolan. All of that culminated in the ACC championship game, where Nolan was simply masterful in penetrating and dishing to both bigs and shooters to the tune of 10 assists.

What I'm saying (in a very roundabout way!) is that it was all part of the plan -- that Coach K's teams really do grow over the course of the season. That's why Kyrie's toe was quite devastating, because Coach K lost two months that could've been used to push the evolution of our team further.

So when Duke teams look too one dimensional, have confidence that over time as the team gels and matures, so will the diversity of our offense.