[photo: K. Weidie, Truth About It.net]
A trademark of a Flip Saunders offense has long been exploiting the mid-range game for his wing players. This aspect of the game can be hard to master (especially considering shot location), but also tough to defend. Furthermore, working the middle gives a team good options to either create closer to the basket or beyond the three-point line (given that the intended mid-range shooter is also a willing passer). One thing Jordan Crawford hasn’t been able to grasp just yet is the mid-range game, at least not like Nick Young.
Maybe Crawford’s mid-range ability will come, but considering the progress Young made last season, his second under Saunders, the time for Crawford to advance might be warranted more sooner than later. Consider these stats:
Nick Young – Shots from 16-23 Feet Per 40 Minutes
Jordan Crawford – Shots from 16-23 Feet Per 40 Minutes
2011 (with Washington)
[Stats via HoopData.com]
Now, granted, Young and Crawford have different skill sets. This is partially predicated by size (Young is 6-7, Crawford is 6-4), but they are also both scorers, although Crawford is being partially groomed as a combo guard. Either way, Crawford has looked out of sorts in both facets thus far. But this post isn’t to criticize Crawford or to necessarily compare him to Young. This post is about, now that one of Saunders’ mid-range weapons has been returned to him, how the coach gets a player like Young a mid-range shot. Even a close mid-range shot, such as at the elbow (about 19 feet from the baseline, 15-16 feet away from the rim)… an opportunity Young would have pushed further away from the basket in his past.
Let’s just go to the Xs & Os courtesy of the FastDraw software from Fast Model Sports Technology, and then to video of the play in action (from Tuesday’s preseason game against the Sixers).
On the court for this play:
#1 – Shelvin Mack
#2 – Roger Mason
#3 – Nick Young
#4 – Trevor Booker
#5 – Ronny Turiaf
The first action coming down the court is for Turiaf to set a down screen for Mason, who is in the left block area. Booker starts at the right elbow while Young moves down the right side of the court, eventually aiming to set his defender up deeper and deeper.
Mack makes the pass to Mason popping out around the three-point line and then cuts through, receiving a screen from Booker who has migrated toward the left elbow.
If Mason doesn’t immediately have an open jumper, and he usually won’t this early in the offense, he looks to immediately dump the ball down to a posting up Turiaf. The big man needs to see if the point guard is open when cutting through, especially if it’s John Wall. (Since it’s Mack in this instance, he’s more of a decoy, especially as the play aims to get a shot for Young.)
As Mack moves through to the opposite corner, and Mason stays ball side for a pass in case the big is doubled, Booker goes back to the right elbow to screen for Young, who has adequately set up his man by now. As Young comes tight off the screen, he pops open to expose mid-range opportunity, receives the pass from Turiaf, takes one set-up dribble to the left elbow, and fires away.
In the past, Young might have faded from the elbow and more toward inside the three-point line. He misses the elbow jumper on this specific play, but it’s a good shot… within the offense of Saunders. Now it’s all about the Wizards achieving a balance of the players following, and the coach getting them to follow. Best of luck to that…
Let’s go to the video (regular speed and then slow motion)…