Breaking Down a Broke-Down Offense: Poor Spacing
Throughout the year, especially early, the Pacers have spaced the floor poorly. Paul George and, surprisingly, Lance Stephenson have both shot the ball well from beyond the arc so this seemingly shouldn’t be a huge issue. You have George Hill initiating an offense that is, for better or worse, based upon getting the ball inside to the bigs, and you just make sure the two wings stay far enough away from the basket to both leave room for the tall guys to work and be a threat to make a shot worth three points.
There is nothing too complex about that. And to his credit, it seems to be something that is intended to be a part of Frank Vogel’s offense.
One of the problems, then, is just a lackadaisical approach to proper spacing that is all too common. The perimeter players are the worst offenders. The more film you watch, the more often you see them just slowly drifting without purpose through the no man’s land that is the mid-range — or worse, with their heels on the three-point line.
If you’re going to run your offense through two giant men and ask them to score with their back to the hoop, you must provide them the room to do so. Roy Hibbert — with his giant frame, lumbering approach and general lack of quickness — needs more space than most to do his thing. This isn’t a criticism as much as it is just a recognition that he isn’t Zach Randolph, a guy who can score over a double team of Josh Smith clones in a phone booth.
Roy has sweeping, long moves that were all the rage in the 1990s. Today, they are not only less practiced, they are more difficult. Teams now routinely have three front-court players whose wingspans each near 7 feet. That means there are hands everywhere and rotating helpside defenders at every turn. So if you’re going to dump him the ball and ask him to get buckets, you have to — quite literally — put him in a position to succeed. And that means you have to force the defense to make a choice: play him with a smaller man or double. What you absolutely cannot do is have players not involved in the primary offensive action standing in a place where his man can both bother Roy’s move and keep guarding him. In short, you can’t allow one guy to defend to players.
That means spacing the floor with precision.
This isn’t just some buzz word that agents use to get their “stretch four” Ryan Anderson money. It is completely necessary in a post-Tom Thibodeau world. Standing 21 feet from the hoop when you’re supposed to be 24 feet from the hoop makes a huge difference. By doing so, you both permit your defender to still be in the way and put yourself in a place where the defense wants you to shoot from.
So, to me, one of the biggest ways Frank Vogel could improve the efficiency of this offense is to mandate that his players get to their spots. That they stand with precision. It’s not a big ask. And he can even borrow this catchphrase if he wants: “Get your ass to your spot or get your ass to the bench.”
Here is one particularly glaring example of players, quite literally, not being in a position to succeed. Just based upon where Indiana’s five players are standing, the Knicks could have guarded them 3-on-5.
Here is more terrible spacing against the Knicks. I think they call this play “The one where George Hill enjoys slow, aimless walks through the midrange.”
Or how about “The one where Gerald Green wanders around scratching his ear while Sam Young leisurely backpedals.”
Stuff like this makes a team very easy to defend. People like to complain about the aesthetic’s of even the Thunder’s offense, which when it involves Thabo Sefolosha, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka allows defenses to pile up against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Well, that is a limitation that OKC coach Scott Brooks likely understands. He puts limited offensive players on the court with the, I presume, belief that their positive contributions on the other end will marginalize what they may detract from the offense.
Well, here, Vogel isn’t even getting to make that choice. Green and Young are. By just lazily standing around, doing nothing and presenting no threat to even be ready to catch-and-shoot, they make everything on the interior that much more compressed, and the result is a Pacers’ offense that wastes nearly the entire shot clock before David West hoists a lazy fadeaway. A lazy end to a lazy possession.
Here is another that is just gross, both process-wise and outcome-wise. Until stuff like this becomes closer to eradicated, continue to expect the Pacers to waste five to ten possessions a game by shooting themselves in the foot with something as simple as putting their feet in the right places.