NBA Roundtable

Chris Paul Off The Ball

In General NBA on October 26, 2009 at 6:51 pm reports

After watching hours of film from last season’s first-round playoff disaster against the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Hornets Coach Byron Scott accepted the need to make changes in his offensive strategy.

Scott saw how the Nuggets’ guards easily hemmed Chris Paul to one side of the floor because of the Hornets’ predictable offensive attack that featured Paul and David West, or some other big man, on the pick and roll.

Paul handled the ball at the start of possessions a majority of the time, allowing Denver to stack the middle with the defenders, keep the lanes sealed and force the ball out of his hands with traps.

It eventually wore down Paul and rendered the Hornets’ offense ineffective.

The changes …

he Hornets are going to run a number of plays this season where Paul will play off the ball, allowing him to attack defenses from the wing and other uncustomary places, Scott said.Paul will remain the Hornets’ catalyst offensively, albeit from a different point on the court.

“When he’s (Paul) playing off the ball, you get the defense moving, ” Scott said. “When you get it back in his hands on a live dribble, it’s harder for the defense to load up on him.”

Scott said Paul still will see plenty of double-teams, but defenses will be more susceptible to his drives.

Chris Paul likes the alterations

“I love it because it gives me the opportunity to attack in spurts and not every possession, ” Paul said. “When it’s every possession, teams can sort of figure out and start different defensive schemes.”

Preseason sights

If the preseason is any indication, not knowing what spot Paul might strike from has made it more difficult for teams to isolate their coverage against him. He easily has beaten bigger front-court players on dribble drives and taken more spot-up jumpers.

“He’s the best decision-maker in the league, ” Scott said. “He can turn and see the defense and still run the offense.”

Said Paul: “Now I can go right or left, and they really can’t determine which way I’m going. On that wing, I can attack there or I can get the rebound and push it. It provides an added dimension to what we can do.”

“I think the ball moves a little bit more now, ” said West, who complained about the lack of ball movement during the series against Denver. “Being able to bring in Bobby or Darren gives him an opportunity to play off the ball and really makes defenses have to think. They are so used to him having the ball at all times.”

So, it sounds like we’re going to see a lot more two point guard lineups with the Hornets.

Meandering thoughts …

Hornets offense

  • The Hornets wings — mainly Peja — haven’t been effective enough coming off screens off the ball. That has reduced the number of quality shots the Hornets are getting with off the ball movement.
  • The Hornets lack go-to scorers
  • Most of the Hornets players is reliant on a creator. They’re finishers rather than creators. The difference between a stand still shooter like James Posey and a versatile ball handling wing like Marquis Daniels.
  • The majority of the Hornets wings are stagnant shooters. Only one of their players is a true slasher and that’s Julian Wright.
  • The Hornets lack passers. None of their bigs are above average passers (Marks is solid, but he doesn’t play enough). None of their wings are good enough off the dribble to create. That leaves their offense dependent on guard play for penetrating passes.

This leaves the Hornets with a lack of options offensively — a medium/long term problem that must be addressed but has ignored for two consecutive off-seasons.

The Hornets best chance, in the short term, to open up their offense is to go with a two guard backcourt. To play Chris Paul alongside another point guard, ideally Darren Collison.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul’s talents are maximized in an environment like the Hornets have made. To get the best out of Paul, his team needs to allow him to dominate the basketball. In order to make that a semi-successful strategy the team must surround him with finishers. Bigs who can play the pick and roll and knockdown shooters all around the perimeter.

The Hornets could change their offense and get some more out of their other players, but it would come at cost and that’s a reduction in Chris Paul’s individual impact.

For the most part, the Hornets are going the right way about things. They just need:

  • To upgrade their second and possibly third best players on the team. They need to find another player with high grade one-on-one skills to complement Chris Paul. That could be a wing or a big man, so long as they can fit inside a Chris Paul dominated offense.
  • Open up their fastbreak game. Bring in wings who are more athletic and will allow Paul to orchestrate a more effective fastbreak game.
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