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 (and shameful) screen-setters in the
Let’s get into volume three.
*All stats are through games
played between November 19 and November 25, unless noted
BIG OF THE WEEK: JUSUF NURKIC
It can be easy to pick at some of the holes in Jusuf Nurkic's
game — ask me how I know — but sometimes you have to get back to
the obvious. There is value in being an incredibly large and strong
The backcourt of Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons can win
games with their filthy pull-ups. Josh Hart can puncture defenses
with drives. Shaedon Sharpe is becoming an artist curling from the
corner and flowing into pull-ups or taking an extra dribble to
float towards the rim. All of that is made easier when Nurkic is
the guy springing them free.
Nurkic had "Brick Wall" on Gold this week, connecting on nearly
78% of his on-ball screens and 68% of his off-ball ones, per Second
Spectrum. In both contexts, the Blazers generated well over 1.0
points per possession (PPP). The connection between Simons and
Nurkic was particularly fruitful.
Keep an eye on them moving foward.
SMALL OF THE WEEK: JOSH GREEN
Prying star players open is an important, but often thankless
job. Being the mismatch-hunter guy is especially tedious; you know
you're in the action because the opponent has put their weakest
defender on you, and your star teammate wants to attack.
This phenomenon is even more prevalent for the Fightin' Lukas,
where their games consist of countless ball screens and isolations
aimed at weak links. No team has faced more switches against their
pick-and-rolls than the Mavericks (534 total, 32.9 per 100
possessions) this season. Shockingly, Luka leads the NBA on the
individual level (304, 25.9 per 100 possessions).
It would be easy to go through the motions — let me
just get in the way so Luka can get his matchup — but I'd
like to applaud the buy-in from Josh Green. He's still screening
with juice, regardless of if he gets the ball or not. It warms my
heart when he does get rewarded with a touch. I
really enjoyed his work against Denver earlier this week.
It's been a quietly-successful third-year campaign for Green,
who looks more comfortable and confident on both ends of the floor.
The (lack of) coverage he saw during the Mavs' first round series
with the Utah Jazz must've weighed on him.
WHAT'S GOING ON HERE: KARL-ANTHONY TOWNS
It's still hard to get a feel for who these Wolves are. They wax
between harmony, confusion, indifference, and dominance. That leads
to sentences like "Huh, they're on a five-game winning streak" and
"Wait, they lost to those Hornets???"
If there's one thing clear, this isn't a team that can afford to
skirt past the little things. That includes screening, which brings
me to Karl-Anthony Towns. For someone with his blend of shooting,
driving power and overall footwork (offensively), I frankly never
know what to expect when he trots up to D'Angelo Russell or Anthony
Sometimes it's a well-placed screen. It could be a slip. It
could be an illegal screen because he leaned in, or because his
base was too wide. And then there are the possessions like
Towns seems unsure if Austin Rivers is even going to use his
pick, seems late to set one, and ultimately doesn't do any real
damage. The action swings to the other side and Edwards jets
downhill before Towns can really lay the lumber. Towns ends up with
the ball and scores, but how do you grade the process?
Statistically, I don't even know if you can call it a bad week.
The Wolves generated a solid 1.02 PPP on trips featuring an on-ball
screen from Towns. He connected on a shade under 54% of his on-ball
screens, a low mark (29th percentile), but one that makes sense
considering his slip or flare usage when paired with Rudy Gobert.
But even on those possessions, there's room for Towns to make
contact before flaring out. Like most things Wolves-related right
now, I just wish there was more consistency.
WE SEE YOU TOO: JEREMY SOCHAN
Not too much on the young buck, who the Spurs are allowing to do
a little bit of everything to start the season. I do think there's
some low-hanging fruit for him to grab when he's off the ball.
Sochan already maps the floor well for a guy his age. He buzzes
off the ball and often makes himself available for cuts. He'll
either get hit for easy shot attempts, or his well-timed cut will
open an opportunity for another teammate. It's genuinely good
He also seems to recognize when flare screens or pin-in screens
are appropriate to set. It would help if he ...
actually set them more consistently. He had some
notable whiffs or cancel-outs on film this week.
Too many "get behind me" points, not enough contact being made.
If a bozo like me can point this out, I'm sure it's been mentioned
elsewhere. He should be fine.
Screen Time will be back next Saturday! Check out last week's edition of
Screen Time here.