Hi, hello, and welcome to the
first edition of Roaming The Baseline! This will be a weekly
endeavor where I point out some things that caught my eye: a hot or
cold streak from a player, a developmental flash, a well-run play,
a funny tweet, who knows? There will be film -- it’s me, so of
course there will be film -- but this will also be a bit looser.
It’s an extension of my Twitter feed, if you will.
With that said, let’s roam the
DEVONTE’ GRAHAM IS BUZZING
The Charlotte Hornets have been
League Pass darlings all season long. Most of that was behind the
play of LaMelo Ball, though the enthusiasm of an Eric Collins call
is up there on the intrigue list. Seriously, that man is the Kevin
Harlan of local broadcasts.
Anyway, Ball is out of
commission with a wrist fracture. He’s missed the last five games,
and the Hornets… are 4-1, with their lone loss coming in overtime
against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday.
What stood out in that game --
aside from a blown and-1 against Miles Bridges and Devin Booker
Hornets’ early help --
was Devonte’ Graham’s shotmaking. That dude ran
Graham isn’t the only player
keeping the Hornets afloat; Terry Rozier continues to be a
#ClutchGawd, Gordon Hayward is doing his smooth-operator things in
the mid-post area, and Miles Bridges is dunking just about
But the bounceback for Graham
has been huge. Via InStat tracking, Graham has drained 40% of his
pull-up threes during this five-game stretch. It’s made him more or
less the type of pull-up threat he was during his breakout
(Can sophomore campaigns
classify as “breakouts” or do we just call that progression? Hello?
Getting back to that level of
shotmaking is going to help the Hornets stay afloat. And, on a more
personal note, reestablishing himself as that sort of threat is
going to help get him paid this summer.
Kudos to that man!
CHRISTYN WILLIAMS CAN BALL, TOO
The Lady Huskies of UConn have
made their 13th-straight Final Four appearance. The talk of the
town is guard Paige Bueckers, who is one of the best freshmen
guards we’ve seen in a looooong time. She’s been great during the
tourney, averaging 22.5 points (47/37/91 shooting split), 6.5
rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals.
But UConn is much more than a
one-woman show. They’ve gotten key contributions from a host of
players, but I’d like to spotlight Christyn Williams for a
The 5-foot-11 junior has been a
two-way force for the Huskies. She’s added value as a driver,
especially against closeouts. She’s also been bombing away from
three, drilling 41% of her triples on nearly six attempts per
contest. Her shot-making has been key to helping the offense loosen
things up against the zones they’ve faced.
Defensively, she’s been a
disruptor at the point-of-attack. Her on-ball tenacity played a
large part in Iowa sensation Caitlin Clark having her
third-least-efficient game of the season -- 0.75 points per play,
via the good folks at Her
This is more of a feel thing,
but the plays that Williams has made throughout the tourney have
felt timely. She doesn’t just hit threes -- she knocks ‘em down to
cap a run or to end one from the other team. She doesn’t just get
to the rim; she breaks up the side-to-side swings and adds some
juice to the offense near the end of the shot
Bueckers may be the driving
force, but the Huskies wouldn’t be in the Final Four without the
play of Williams.
OG ANUNOBY CAN GUARD ANYBODY
I mean anybody.
I mean anybody.
It freaking sucks that OG
Anunoby hasn’t been able to string together a large swath of games
since, like, January. His development was something I was looking
forward to this season, and so much has been outside of his
Even still, he’s averaging a
career high in points (14.7), rebounds (5.9), assists (1.8,
bleh), steals (1.7), blocks (0.8), and three-point shooting
(40.6% on 5.7 attempts). We’ve seen some fun on-ball flashes from
him, and the defense has been worthy of an All-Defensive team
selection. Let’s hope he stays healthy for the rest of the
THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO “HMMMM”
- Aaron Gordon averaged roughly 13 shot attempts
per game over his final three-ish seasons in Orlando. He’s taken 13
shots total in his first two games in Denver. It’s way too early to
know if that means anything meaningful, but there seems to be an
inherent buy-in on being a glue guy around the Jokic-Murray-Porter
- Very quietly, Andrew Wiggins is on a bit of an
upswing. In March, he’s drilled 54.1% of his threes on north of
five attempts per contest. The on-ball defense has largely held all
year long. Another thing to keep tabs on: the
Curry-Wiggins-Draymond trio without Kelly Oubre on the floor has a
plus-15.1 net rating in 221 minutes, per
- Going back to the UConn-Iowa matchup in the
Sweet 16, I still can’t believe Iowa went that entire game
without trying to attack Paige Bueckers in pick-and-roll. It is
unfathomable to run a pick-and-roll heavy offense against a team
that was willing to switch 1-through-3, and not attack the player
that doubles as the worst on-ball defender in the lineup
and their most important offensive player. What a
- Nearly a third of the Clippers’ shot attempts
have come at the rim over the past two weeks. That ranks 11th
during the stretch, and the actual number (32.9%) would rank 15th
if extrapolated over the course of the season. That isn’t an elite
mark by any stretch, but “average” is all they need to complement
their jump shooting. Also, 15th is a lot better than their actual
rank (29th). And they’ve done this without Rajon Rondo playing.
It’s almost like…
- It took until mid-February, but De’Anthony
Melton is a regular part of the Grizzlies’ rotation. And it is
glorious. He’s providing his usual brand of hungry-bulldog defense
across both guard spots. More intriguing: since February 19, he’s
shooting 44% from deep on four attempts per contest. His contract
(4/35) was a steal at the time of the signing. If his three-point
shot is even close to what it’s been this season, his agent may
have some ‘splainin’ to do.
PLAYS I LIKED
Marcus Smart made some, uh,
decisions later on in Boston’s loss to the Pelicans, but I liked
this possession from him. He pushed the ball after a made basket to
set up an early clock post-up. Robert Williams then lifts from the
free throw line as an outlet before receiving the pass from Smart.
From there, Kemba Walker curls around Williams to receive the
handoff, then Smart sets an impromptu screen to get Walker
I’m not sure if that’s a set
piece or some freelance goodness, but it looked pretty. So, here we
Mikal Bridges Fakes the Funk
What a freakin’ ATO. A simple,
but layered beauty.
This entire play is about
deception. The Suns love running Double Drag almost as much as the
Hawks do, so you can see hints of “Aha! We’re ready!” as Bogdan
Bogdanovic is preparing to switch the first action. He plays it
high as Trae Young trails Chris Paul, but the exchange never
Bridges pulls the football from
Charlie Brown, darting to the hoop for an easy deuce. The hidden
goodness is Devin Booker hauling tail to the left corner before
things kick off, essentially turning this into an empty corner
affair on the right side of the court. Danilo Gallinari tries to
rotate over, but he can’t get there.
The Heat have options
Everyone and their mother knows
that the Heat want to get Duncan Robinson looks from three. The
issue is that 1) he’s insanely good at getting open and 2) the Heat
do a fantastic job of making you think.
Quick, what does it look like
they’re setting up here?
I could argue that Goran Dragic
is setting a cross screen for Robinson so he can run off the Trevor
Ariza screen on the left side of the floor. I could also argue that
the Heat are setting up “Elevator” doors for Dragic to pop out on
the left wing. Heck, I could argue Dragic could reverse course and
come off of Ariza’s screen himself, then flow into a 1-4 PnR to
force (and attack) a switch.
This is what actually
Dragic aborts, then Robinson
basically crawls through a mouse door to shake loose for a three
from the left wing.
THE READING LIST
I’m still working out the kinks
of how I want this thing to flow, but I know this will be a staple.
People reach out to me pretty often (humbling, to say the least)
asking how to get better at this writing thing. I surely don’t have
all the answers -- I maintain that I’m not even the best Duncan
doing this -- but I do have one simple piece of advice: write a
ton, and read more than you write.
There is plenty of high-level
basketball content out here if you know where to look. It’ll help
you become smarter and better at what you do. I wouldn’t be where I
am as a writer without reading a ton of Zach Lowe or Chris Herring
or Caitlin Cooper or Mirin Fader or, well, you get the
Anyway, here are some -- not
all, but some! -- of the stories I’ve read this week (since 3/24)
that I think you should check out. Their Twitter handles will be
linked under their names, so click and follow if you don’t
Edmond Sumner’s usage, as well as the Sumner-TJ McConnell backcourt
Naimpally with a
fantastic deepdive on a fun Nets-Wizards game.
on the current value of
Williams with a
feature on Britta Brown,
the newly hired senior director of basketball administration for
the Detroit Pistons. Never a bad day to highlight a black woman in
a position of power in the sports world.
on the murky business of trades. I’d also recommend checking out her
appearance on the latest episode of
basketball-and-more podcast hosted by Haley