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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007

    Style of play so far

    I was going to post this in response to the posts after the Charlotte game, but it's really about a larger issue, so I'll start a new thread. I've been saying for a while now that this team is going to be very good, capable of surprising a lot of doubters and fully equipped to challenge for a title. Part of my reasoning was the way I was envisioning this team look not just from a personnel standpoint, but also in terms of style of play and execution. We saw the building blocks of what I imagined in the first two games and then a huge example against Charlotte. And when Mason Plumlee comes back, things are only going to become clearer.

    Where to start in explaining this? How about last year's press conference after the loss to Villanova, where Coach K essentially admitted that there were times where we were playing 3-on-5 offensively. Something needed to change, and since we basically had our recruiting class in place, it had to come from a strategic perspective.

    Part of the changes were easy. Jon is a natural fit to set up the offense. Nolan, as we saw when he returned from his concussion, is much, much better with an attack mentality (glad the announcers are finally latching on to what we've all known and talked about for some time). Kyle is a matchup problem wherever you play him. We don't have a lot of guards, so we might as well play big. Simple. Cool. But what next?

    For starters, don't force a square peg into a round hole. We've got two combo guards and a do-it-all forward. Great! Let them move, cut, screen, make reads. Enough standing still. Enough spread and drive. Let's throw some motion back into the attack. Besides, we're more experienced that we've been, so the players should be ready to handle that.

    But what about the bigs? That still looks like 3-on-5. And how do they factor into an approach that involves ball skills, footwork, vision -- movement, passing, cutting? Well, Mason Plumlee was built to play that way. And Ryan Kelly is best utilized in that kind of an approach, too. They're both skilled, tall and can see the floor. Now we're getting somewhere.

    Then you're left wth Miles, Lance Zoubs -- and I guess Olek, too. Can they make this work? Well, Lance shouldn't be on the block anyway. Let's see what he can do up high, too. Miles is a freak athlete -- strong, pretty quick, super hops. If nothing else, he can finish down low. Zoubek can catch and finish off a good entry pass, and isn't a bad passer. So how about adding a little high-low action to the motion mix?

    Folks, what you're seeing is the early stages of an offensive system which, if it keeps developing, will be much, much tougher to stop on a tough day in March. Spread, drive and kick has its place in basketball, especially with the appropriate personnel. But when you can't get to the rim, or you're not knocking down threes, you're in trouble. From both an aesthetic standpoint, as well as one that gives you the most options and the most margin of error, some form of read-and-react motion is better.

    Jay Bilas was right at halftime -- Duke isn't running pure motion. There are a number of set plays. But there's plent of freelance motion going on, too. Players are looking for each other, both with the ball and without it (finding an open spot to cut, a covered man for which to screen). The ball movement is quicker and the passing is better. There are no real ball-stoppers (I loved G, but that was a minor issue, and the ball completely stopped movign when Elliot caught it; Nolan is the only one on this team with even a minor problem in that area, and his is truly minor). And -- this is key -- Players have clealry been instructed to shoot the ball. When Lance is open, he's popping mid-range jumpers. They don't look bad. They'll go in. He'll make himself a threat by midseason -- teams can't ignore him. He needs to keep shooting, and so does Ryan. Trust me on this. And when he's not ignored, he'll have an easier time feeding Miles or Zoubs or Mason in the post from the elbow. He'll be a better screener. Etc. When Olek Czyz is open for threes in the corner, he's taking them. And he's made a couple -- teams can't leave him alone. You're not going to cover Miles Plumlee from 12 feet away? Fine, he'll shoot the short jumper, and he'll make it. And then his confidence builds, so we throw him the ball on the block and he makes a pretty move on the baseline and finishes easily, because he's big and strong and athletic underneath. And you're going to rotate to Jon when he drives? Miles will finish a lob. Oh yes, he will.

    We know Dawkins can shoot it, and he's playing well enough already that he allowed K to go to a smaller lineup with Jon, Nolan, Andre and Kyle on the floor together for a stretch. And when Mason comes back? That's another big, skilled, versatile, athletic weapon.

    Oh yeah, and all that size? Helps on the boards. And not just because we have someone stationed underneath. With legit size, or even TWO guys with legit size. No, it also helps that instead of battling, say, Trevor Booker for position, Kyle Singler is now flying in for offensive boards while a much smaller player tries to box him out. Scheyer and Smith? Good rebounding guards. Much in the way a nose tackle occupies blockers so linebackers can make plays on D, so, too, do our big guys occupy bodies so our big wings can crash the boards.

    But guess what? We can still run, too. We can still pressure the ball, too. You saw that tonight. You'll see more of it going forward, especially when Mason gets back.

    Folks, this could get exciting. This team has a LOT of rough areas to smooth out. But there is a plan in place. It's a plan with perhaps the highest upside we've had in a while. It's a plan with built-in fallback options, with enough margin for error to beat a really good team even when certain things go wrong. This team is learning to play a style that is both cerebral and exciting, and as fun as that is for us to watch, it is that much more fun to play in. That should lead to improvement, too.

    I can't tell you how long I've been pushing for more motion, more variety
    in the attack, more margin for error. Pieces are coming together along those lines. Just get healthy and stay healthy, guys. The plan in place is a really good one.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Towson, MD
    Great post, I agree with your overall evaluation.

    I'm excited about this team because we have someone who I think is the best player in the country in Singler, a smart, crafty senior guard who never turns the ball over in Scheyer, and a breakout talent in Smith who gives Duke a much-needed option to break defenses down off the dribble. I believe most great (championship-caliber) teams need to have at least 3 primary scoring options. Not only does Duke have that, but all three guys have plenty of experience to complement their talent.

    As I have mentioned in other game threads, I believe the most important keys for this team are:

    - limiting offensive turnovers
    - developing a consistent scoring post presence (Miles and Mason, but more so Miles)
    - developing secondary scorers (Dawkins, Miles, Mason, Kelly)

    I believe this team's size and personnel will allow Duke to be able to count on a fairly consistent rebounding advantage. Defensively we will be playing more zone this season, but I think we can expect a solid defensive team, but obviously not a team that can play all-out man-to-man for a full game the way we've grown accustomed to with Coach K squads.

    For this team to be elite and to have a good chance at the Final Four, it will come down to significantly improving our offensive efficiency compared to the past several seasons. Because of the talent of our 3 star players and the talent of the rest of the roster, including the freshmen, I am hopeful that we will see a much better Duke team in March than we've seen in quite a long time (barring those pesky injuries, of course).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Texas/NC
    Something else people need to remember. When Lance pops to the top of the key after setting a screen, when he finds himself open to (a) shoot the mid-range jumper, (b) feed the post over the top, or (c) take the big man guarding him off the dribble for a basket or foul... that's going to be Mason Plumlee in a few weeks.

    I love Lance and think he is actually playing well on the offensive end, but Mason Plumlee was MADE to be put in that situation. It fits his game so perfectly. Mason is at his best when he is taking big men off the dribble and going to the hoop or hitting that short jumper.

    Imagine Nolan wheeling and dealing, Jon taking care of the rock and reading screens to get open for threes or drive the lane, Kyle doing...well EVERYTHING, Miles down low looking for the corner feed in the block or hi-low pass from his brother, and Mason running his offense out of the high post with his brother or taking less athletic men off the dribble. Talk about utilizing strengths.

    I just really really hope K keeps this bench as deep as he can.

    Another random observation: I think one of our go-to plays when we really need a bucket is Kyle/ Jon running across the lane (baseline) and curling around a post screen to the elbow for the pass and (a) quick shot which both love and can make or (b) driving the lane into the hole the big man has cleared out (as Jon often will do).

  4. Awesome, great post Jumbo!

    This is a nice boost of positivity after the extreme ups and downs of our off-season (Wall, Barnes, Mason's injury).

    I too am excited. The UNCG game already gave us a glimpse of what this team can do and the Charlotte game cemented it. Can't wait to get Mason back and to see how that'll take our game to the next level...

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Quote Originally Posted by BlueintheFace View Post
    Something else people need to remember. When Lance pops to the top of the key after setting a screen, when he finds himself open to (a) shoot the mid-range jumper, (b) feed the post over the top, or (c) take the big man guarding him off the dribble for a basket or foul... that's going to be Mason Plumlee in a few weeks.

    I love Lance and think he is actually playing well on the offensive end, but Mason Plumlee was MADE to be put in that situation. It fits his game so perfectly. Mason is at his best when he is taking big men off the dribble and going to the hoop or hitting that short jumper.

    Imagine Nolan wheeling and dealing, Jon taking care of the rock and reading screens to get open for threes or drive the lane, Kyle doing...well EVERYTHING, Miles down low looking for the corner feed in the block or hi-low pass from his brother, and Mason running his offense out of the high post with his brother or taking less athletic men off the dribble. Talk about utilizing strengths.

    I just really really hope K keeps this bench as deep as he can.

    Another random observation: I think one of our go-to plays when we really need a bucket is Kyle/ Jon running across the lane (baseline) and curling around a post screen to the elbow for the pass and (a) quick shot which both love and can make or (b) driving the lane into the hole the big man has cleared out (as Jon often will do).
    Great post. Definitely agree with it. But here are the questions: when is Mason coming back? Is his arm broken (which I've heard) or is it a really bad sprain (which I've also heard)? Did he break his dominant (shooting) hand?

    I think Mason is key. I am looking forward to his play. But I also really like Thomas in his current role. His defense is amazing, leadership great, and his skills complement the rest. I'm not advocating for LT to start over MP2 (I haven't seen MP2 play, so I don't know), but I really like LT right now. Always have, always will.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Halifax, Nova Scotia

    Easy baskets

    Quote Originally Posted by Jumbo View Post
    Well, Mason Plumlee was built to play that way. And Ryan Kelly is best utilized in that kind of an approach, too. They're both skilled, tall and can see the floor. Now we're getting somewhere.
    Great post! I really like seeing Ryan at the high post. He seems to be a really good passer from there and has enough offensive moves, that if he is overplayed I think he will at times be able to create something for himself there.
    Spread, drive and kick has its place in basketball, especially with the appropriate personnel. But when you can't get to the rim, or you're not knocking down threes, you're in trouble.
    This is what also really excites me. I didn't think there was anything wrong with the shots we were taking in the Michigan loss last year, it was just a matter of having other options to score when the outside shot isn't falling. When the team is having bad shooting nights (and there will be times when that happens against good teams) I still want us to win those games. I think this offensive system gives us a better chance in those games.
    And -- this is key -- Players have clealry been instructed to shoot the ball. When Lance is open, he's popping mid-range jumpers. They don't look bad. They'll go in. He'll make himself a threat by midseason -- teams can't ignore him. He needs to keep shooting, and so does Ryan. Trust me on this.
    I definitely trust you on this. I also like Lance taking his man strong to the basket as well, as long as he continues to work on his footwork, so he doesn't travel.
    And you're going to rotate to Jon when he drives? Miles will finish a lob. Oh yes, he will.
    Can't really argue with you on this point as it was proven emphatically last night.
    Oh yeah, and all that size? Helps on the boards. And not just because we have someone stationed underneath. With legit size, or even TWO guys with legit size.
    I was really impressed with our rebounding last year and just hope that now that we are bigger we don't stop putting effort in here. We could be an outstanding rebounding team. I felt like Miles and Z were huge presences on the defensive boards last night (and did a good job on offense as well) and there were a number of times where I felt very confident nobody was getting a rebound from them. I hope to see that continue.
    But guess what? We can still run, too. We can still pressure the ball, too. You saw that tonight. You'll see more of it going forward, especially when Mason gets back.

    I can't tell you how long I've been pushing for more motion, more variety
    in the attack, more margin for error. Pieces are coming together along those lines. Just get healthy and stay healthy, guys. The plan in place is a really good one.
    I really believe to be a consistently successful team, you need to be able to get easy baskets, as the team will have bad shooting nights. Whether that is off turnovers, fast break points or points in the paint, we need some easy baskets and I look forward to the team generating these in many different ways. Thanks Jumbo for highlighting other reasons to be excited about this team.

  7. #7
    Great summary Jumbo. Amazing how inserting Nolan into the line up makes so much come together. I have been telling anyone who would listen to me that this year's success rides heavily on Nolan's play and so far he has not disappointed. We have all the pieces to be a great team and Nolan is the catalyst in my opinion. GO DUKE, GTHC, GTH!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Watching carolina Go To HELL!
    I hate to be a bandwagon jumper, but Jumbo, that was an excellent evaluation!

    Watching the first half, well the first 17 minutes of the first half last night, it was how easily we scored that really impressed me. It certainly helps when the 3ball goes down, but the defense, movement and passing inside and out was a pleasure to see. Reminded me of 1999 and 2001

    Nolan had 2 rebounds where he REALLY soared above the rim to get them - all I could say was "WOW!" His quickness (and speed) really makes a difference in the style this team plays, and they play so well when all is clicking.

    In talking last night with others who have just heard rumors, they've heard that Mason will be back in somewhere between 1 and 4 more weeks. OK, that fits the 4 to 6 weeks we were told when he broke his wrist (it's his non-shooting wrist, to answer that question). Either way, it sounds like a NYC return, just a matter of if it is for the NIT next week or the Gonzaga game on 12/19.
    Ozzie, your paradigm of optimism!

    Go To Hell carolina, Go To Hell!
    9F 9F 9F
    http://www.EGLEW.com


  9. #9
    I agree with much of the observations made. After the Nova flameout last March and some recruiting loss I read about recently (like no one knows...LOL) some positive news is welcomed. My first impressions is that overall the team looks better than what I anticipated out of the block and it will be interesting to see their further development when Mason comes back and is worked back into the rotation as I see him being a significant part of that. That said, I look forward to see how the team plays and develops in the upcoming weeks against better quality opponents who will be better prepared both with players and coaching schemes. ASU will be the first barometer for us and hopefully UConn to follow along with Wisconsin. I think after those games we will get a better sense of where this season may take us and see how the team responds to adversity (i.e. - how they respond to other teams quality guard depth, ball pressure, equal size, better athletes, etc.) because as you know all teams, even the ones who win it all, will face some form of it during the year. This is a marathon and not a sprint and how the coaches and team responds and grows will be a very important aspect to the team's overall end game given their strengths and weaknesses.

  10. #10
    I think you're absolutely right about the players being instructed to shoot the ball wherever possible. I have been to all three regular season games and I just remember a sense of not really getting any chants going while Duke had the ball, because we would shoot within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock.

    At any rate, our offense will make happy those announcers who belabor the loss of the mid-range jumper!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    Charlotte, North Carolina

    Great post, Jumbo, and a question...

    I can't wait to see Mason Plumlee get added into what is already a really, really good mix. How much will his injury set him back? This is a kid with, from what you and other folks in the know have said, has great great potential. He's also a freshman who started his season off with a hand injury. When he's recovered and has a few games under his belt (say, hopefully, by January), do you anticipate he'll be a major contributor in the offense, or do you think he'll take a good part of the season to work himself into the system?

    Thanks for the info, as always.

  12. #12
    This style of play is such a positive because there really isn't a better way to take advantage of the talent on the roster. The make-up of the team, and the skills of the players individually and collectively really lends itself to this type of play. K has done a great job of seeing what his guys are good at and putting them in the best position to use those skills.

  13. #13
    Watching them playl, it appears that they enjoy playing together. Chemistry is a key factor in success in BB, and we have chemistry. I see a VERY high ceiling for this team - if they continue on this path.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Washington DC

    Shoot the pill!

    One of my high school teammates used to always yell "Shoot the pill" from our seats on the end of the bench. I was yelling that last night whenever LT, Ryan, or Andre got even a little bit open. I agree with Jumbo: shoot, baby, shoot! Having our 5-9 rotation guys willing and able to knock down open jumpers vastly expands our options.

    Also, with our 4's and 5's able to score, our ppg should go up from last year and easy buckets (stick backs, dunks) should be a larger share of our offense. This is always a good thing.

    It also looks like we have big men who can finish on the break. Miles got a steal, two hard dribbles and a dunk last night. I'm assuming Mason can do the same and hopefully Ryan and Olek too.

    But our personnel this year means we can match up with almost anyone, but very few will be able to match up with us. We have options, we have diversity and we have six weeks of games with a high margin for error to let guys shoot away.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    NYC

    not your typical BIG team

    Good OP here, I posted something along these lines in the game thread from last night, but I will reiterate it here. I am excited to see that this team filled with size does not play a "slow big 10 grind". We obviously have athletic big men (yes even Zoubs) and this type of play is encouraging thus far. Everyone that gets minutes minus Zoubs/LT/MP1 can shoot the 3 and drive, so while it may not be the drive and kick offense of last year, it is still a multi-dimensional offense.

    I think it will be interesting to see how we play against a grind it out team like ASU and then possibly Uconn who would obviously be the most athletic opponent yet.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Nashville
    To add to everything Jumbo and everyone else has already said, was anyone else impressed by how quickly we played on offense? I don't mean that we were running every single time but we made quick decisions in terms of passing or shooting, cutting, screening, etc. It was very smooth and impressive. Much less pounding the ball into the hardwood than last season. The motion offense looks even more promising when our passing is as decisive as it was for much of last night. It also dramatically increases our overall quickness as a team. Nolan, Kyle and Jon have all noticeably sped up their releases on their shots. If they get an inch of space, they can knock down the jumper. This forces defenses to play even closer to them which makes Nolan's quickness, Jon's craftiness, and Kyle's many talents even more dangerous for drives. I love it.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by superdave View Post
    One of my high school teammates used to always yell "Shoot the pill" from our seats on the end of the bench. I was yelling that last night whenever LT, Ryan, or Andre got even a little bit open. I agree with Jumbo: shoot, baby, shoot! Having our 5-9 rotation guys willing and able to knock down open jumpers vastly expands our options.

    Also, with our 4's and 5's able to score, our ppg should go up from last year and easy buckets (stick backs, dunks) should be a larger share of our offense. This is always a good thing.

    It also looks like we have big men who can finish on the break. Miles got a steal, two hard dribbles and a dunk last night. I'm assuming Mason can do the same and hopefully Ryan and Olek too.

    But our personnel this year means we can match up with almost anyone, but very few will be able to match up with us. We have options, we have diversity and we have six weeks of games with a high margin for error to let guys shoot away.
    It also doesn't hurt that we have a very good rebounding team either. That gives the team some confidence that if the shot misses there is a good chance for a offensive rebound and put back.

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Winston Salem, NC

    Great Post

    Jumbo once again you nailed it. I believe with Nolan and Mason coming back to the squad, we will be a very good team. Nolan looked so smooth and confident. His shot looks real good and is he quick? Miles is just an amazing athlete and he is showing confidence he lacked last year. LT is playing good perimeter defense and I agree he can hit the midrange jumper. I think when our guys are open, shoot it. We have a good offensive rebounding team and can make some put backs if we miss. One of the anouncers said that Mason would be evaluated today. Let's hope he comes back real soon. And for those that thought Jon could not run the offense, they are wrong. Sure, he's not your typical pg, but he does not make mistakes. Did he have a TO last night? I don't think he had one in the first two games. Man I'm excited about the ceiling of this team. Without anymore injuries, this team could really be hitting it's stride come Feb & Mar. Go Duke!

  19. #19
    Just to add a couple of observations to the jubilation:
    Jon has yet to make a turnover yet through 3 games, that has been talked about some already, but to go along with that, Ryan Kelly has yet to make a TO either and Miles already has more assists this year (2) than he had all of last year (1). We have had more assists than TOs so far, and the turnovers are coming mostly from LT and MP I, who are in general expected to turn the ball over as Forwards. The guards are not turning the ball over hardly at all and, in general, the bulk of our forwards are limiting TOs as well, this is great!
    Miles has made such a tremendous transformation so far, it is great to see that he his work in the off season is paying off.
    Z has also become, if not a star, a very valuable component of the team.
    Olek has also made a big transformation, from being essentially useless in most games, to being a moderately reliable option and worthy of getting serious minutes.
    It is nice to see that Andre has no qualms about jacking up 3s, hes taken 18 already!!!

  20. #20
    Lots of good points as usual Jumbo, but I still don't want Lance taking too many shots from the foul line on out. Reminds me of the Bulls and Knicks in the early '90s-- the Bulls would leave Charles Oakley wide open for the same 15-20 foot shot, making sure to cover the Knicks' bigger offensive threats, basically saying "If Charles Oakley is going to beat us, so be it."

    I've watched the games too the past 3 years, and I know Lance can make the shot, but I still want our best jump shooters taking most of the outside shots, whether they're covered or not. It's well worth running an extra 8-10 seconds of offense to get one of them open rather than having Lance pop a 17 footer with 25 seconds left on the shot clock just because he's wide open. Honestly, if a good team were to leave Lance WIDE open for a 15+ foot jumper all game and Lance took 50 shots, who would win?

    Lance should take that shot, but never as our first option.

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