Offenses have never been more lethal than they are in this era.
With primary ball-handlers becoming larger, the collective shooting
range expanding and teams leaning further into the importance of
spacing, it’s becoming even more difficult to keep the ball out of
With the game expanding, screening has become even more
important. A well-placed off-ball pick can free a movement shooter
for a triple or a catch-and-drive. On-ball screens can make shifty
ball-handlers even harder to deal with in pick-and-roll and open
the door for dump-offs, lobs and fruitful catch-and-shoot
Screeners come in all sizes these days, ranging from the burly
centers to mismatch-causing smalls. I can’t overstate how important
guard-screening has become, especially late in games.
This season, I want to keep tabs on who is — and isn’t — getting
the job done as screeners. Every week, I’ll be highlighting a
handful of the most powerful or shameful screen-setters in the
Let’s get into it.
*All stats are through games
played on October 29.*
BIG OF THE WEEK: STEVEN ADAMS
Assuming you’re not a student of the James Harden School of
Internet Consumption (JHSIC), you’re likely aware of Ja Morant’s
MVP-level tear to begin the season.
He’s once again living in the paint, making up finishing moves
in midair. If that wasn’t enough, he now has the audacity to bomb
away from three with blistering efficiency (56.5% on 4.6
Morant is nearly impossible to deal with in his own right; his
blend of speed, ball-handling, leaping ability and body control is
frankly unfair. With an oak tree like Steven Adams clearing a
runway, there really isn’t much you can do with him.
Among bigs who have set at least 75 on-ball picks, nobody has
done a better job of laying down the law than Adams, connecting on
83.8% of his screens, per Second Spectrum. The Grizzlies have
generated 1.04 points per possession (PPP) on trips featuring a
Morant-Adams ball screen, one of the better marks in the league
among high-volume pairings.
That value extends off the ball, with his partnership with
Desmond Bane being especially fruitful (1.24 PPP). Oh, he’s
generated contact on 75% of those screens too.
Adams may not get many buckets
off his rolls, but he makes the Grizzlies better. Keep it up, big
WE SEE YOU: AL HORFORD
We won't talk about the defense right now, but the Celtics have
generally been fun offensively. They rank first by a decent margin
in half-court offense (107.5 ORTG), according to the good folks at
Cleaning The Glass.
The off-ball movement of this group has hit differently since
the turn of the calendar. With Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both
comfortable attacking off screens, the Celtics often opt to have
one — or somtimes both of them at the same time — coming off
pindowns from the corner.
If you're watching a Celtic game and see that setup developing,
keep an eye on the side with Al Horford on it. He gets wide and
sturdy, consistently prying guys open for shots or drives.
SMALL OF THE WEEK: FRED VANVLEET
If the Raptors need a half-court bucket — which is pretty often,
considering they rank 26th in half-court offense right now — you
can expect them to turn to Pascal Siakam. And if they need want to
torture defenses in the process, they'll have Fred VanVleet set a
screen for Siakam.
The benefits are obvious. You generally don't want to switch
your point guards onto a mid-post bully like Siakam. If you're
caught trying to stay attached, you run the risk of opening a
driving window for Siakam, a three-point window for VanVleet or an
open shot for someone else while you try to recover.
A quick stat: the Raptors are generating a blistering 1.28 PPP
on trips featuring a Siakam-VanVleet ball screen. There really
isn't much you can do against it.
YOU SHOULD HAVE THE FACILITIES FOR THIS, BIG MAN:
There's an argument to be made that grace should be afforded
here. Anthony Davis has once again been dealing with body ailments,
and it isn't like there's a ton of space to roll into within the
Lakers' half-court offense.
But, man, some of the whiffs or lapses in effort are pretty
loud, even with that context.
I only went with three clips. You can find others elsewhere. He's connected
on less than half of his on-ball picks (47.7%) to this point of the
season. He needs help going off in this context, but he has to help
himself at a certain point. Commit to getting guys downhill and see
what may open up.
WE SEE YOU, TOO: ALEKSEJ POKUSEVSKI, MYLES
Poku, brother, I beg. We understand you're a slight guy, but at
least pretend to set an angle and give your guards something to
work with. Getting in the pocket doesn't mean as much if the
ball-handler's defender doesn't have to think about you at all.
Among 53 players to set at least 70 on-ball picks, Pokusevski
ranks 52nd in the percentage of screens he generates contact on
(41.7%). It simply won't do, especially if the Thunder actually
want to sprinkle in some Poku-at-5 minutes.
Who's 53rd on that list, you ask? Well, that honor would belong
to Myles Turner (33.8%).
I'm giving a little grace because he's has only played two games
this season. I emphasize "little" here, because this is a
multi-year trend with him. There's a thin line between slipping a
screen to keep the defense off balance or honest, and slipping
because you want the back — and leaving your ball-handler out to
dry in the process.
It's only been a couple of games, but these aren't the reps you
want to see to kick off the year.
Screen Time will be back next Saturday!