Evaluating the day-in, day-out job of an NBA coach from a media perch will always be a supremely incomplete exercise. There’s just a ton of stuff that goes on within the confines of a given coach’s responsibilities that we’ll never see or hear about, and often some of the details herein are the biggest differentiators between what makes a good coach and a bad one.
There are bits of visible minutiae that allow us to judge a partial picture, though. Some of these are related to things like player development, in-game rotations, offensive and defensive schemes, and other elements – though even in these areas, player execution and other confounding factors will still always be at play. Over the years, though, one area that’s become a fun way to examine one distinct skill in a given coach’s arsenal has been looking at his team’s success on plays where coaches can have some of the largest tangible impact: out-of-bounds sets, particularly following timeouts and even more particularly in high-leverage situations.
Again, while this covers only a very small sub-section of a coach’s responsibilities and is absolutely influenced by external factors outside their control, it can be a fun proxy for which coaches are consistently the most inventive. A few guys have teams who consistently show up on the top end of efficiency for these kinds of plays year after year – at some point it’s no longer coincidence. It’s a real skill for coaches to draw up stuff that can create big openings given the constraints: just five seconds to get the ball inbounds, and a set defense waiting for trickery.
With that in mind, let’s have a little fun today. Here are a few examples, from basic to complex, of coaches running creative and exploitative out-of-bounds sets to get their teams some easy points. To the NBA junkie, this is more art than basketball (one quick clarification: these are not necessarily the teams or coaches who have the most consistent success, though several herein would be on that list).
Dwane Casey, like most coaches, has generally simple actions built into his scheme for out-of-bounds sets. He’s typically not looking for quick-hitters, but rather to get the ball inbounds safely to a free man and then initiate what’s been an efficient halfcourt offense in his time at the helm.
When teams start to prepare only for this, though, you can toss in the occasional wrinkle that preys on their assumption and finds an effortless look. See if you can spot the simple misdirection they use to get Cory Joseph a wide open three here:
James Johnson inbounds the ball, then immediately moves to take a Joseph down screen that looks like a standard way of getting Johnson into the post with good position on a smaller defender:
As he finishes his screen, though, Joseph leaps quickly up to the top of the key, and as he does, big man Lucas Nogueira activates what’s known as “screening for the screener” action, where he immediately sets a second pick for Joseph, whose man is already lagging way behind after trying to adjust for Joseph’s first screen. What results is gravy:
To be perfectly fair, some of the success on this play is Denver mangling their coverage somewhat badly. Jameer Nelson, checking Joseph, is a full second late realizing what’s happening. But it’s an example of how you can catch a team off guard with a small wrinkle if you normally run very simple stuff. The Raps are second in the league for sideline out-of-bounds efficiency, per Synergy Sports, and first for all after-timeout plays, in large part because they strike a good balance between low-risk stuff and the occasional bit of creativity.
More Inbounder Fun
Utilizing the inbounder as a piece of the resulting set is a popular way of creating some confusion, and Mike Budenholzer in Atlanta has an extremely simple way of doing so that’s almost guaranteed to create a mismatch at worst and a layup at best. It utilizes Paul Millsap (as the inbounder in this case) and Kyle Korver, two of the headiest players in the league, both of whom know exactly how their individual gravity will make defenses lean.
Millsap inbounds to the top of the key, then runs into a very similar Korver down screen as the one we saw from Toronto above. This is especially dangerous with Korver as the screen-setter – teams are quite wary by now of him setting screens as a way to get open threes for himself, and they don’t want to get burned. As a result, with no further complication needed, Millsap simply takes the screen and gets a layup when two OKC defenders are more focused on Korver:
It won’t always work this well, of course, but this easy set is nearly guaranteed to create at least small problems for the defense. At worst, Millsap likely ends up with good post position on a smaller defender who’s switched off of Korver, and if any D is too focused on Paul, one of the best off-screen shooters in league history gets an open triple. If they execute well and set firm screens, this is nearly guaranteed to create difficult rotations even in the best-case scenarios for the defense.
Another great way to find pockets of open space on inbound sets is to exploit the gravity certain shooters possess while on the floor, something the Hawks were doing above by utilizing Korver as their screen-setter. This can be done even more directly, though, and a couple coaches with some of the highest-gravity options in the game know just how to use them.
First take Rick Carlisle in Dallas, who has long been one of the strongest tactical minds in the game. Rick knows Dirk Nowitzki is one of the more unique gravity players to ever lace up – Dirk is big enough to set heavy screens on smaller guys, but such a threat from anywhere on the floor that teams are terrified of giving him any separation to help elsewhere.
We’ve slowed this one down so anyone watching carefully should be able to catch it. Watch as Dirk preps to set a basic cross-screen for Devin Harris to loop around (Dirk even motions for Harris to sell the façade), but a very easy counter (one that’s almost certainly at Harris’ own discretion when he sees the opening) gets one of the easiest layups you’ll see in the halfcourt:
Look what Jerami Grant (39), Dirk’s man, is doing as Harris cuts past him for the layup – he’s staring at Dirk:
In retrospect, Grant should have helped down on Harris to prevent the layup, which is a much more efficient shot in the long run than a Dirk jumper. But Carlisle and the Mavs are counting on defenses consistently overreacting to Dirk’s presence – his defenders have spent the better part of two decades hearing about how much trouble they’ll be in if they let this slow, lumbering seven-footer find an open jumper. Voila, you get a layup. Great stuff, Rick, and stuff he’ll have at his disposal in some form until the day Nowitzki hangs it up.
Another example of exploiting insane gravity from a single player comes from the Warriors, though in this case (like most of their stuff), it’s truly tough to discern how much is pre-planned involving Luke Walton or Steve Kerr and how much is just a group of remarkably heady players improvising awesomeness.
Steph Curry, of course, is the linchpin allowing space to open up everywhere else. Watch as he and Klay Thompson loop simultaneously, then proceed to enter into the “spin cycle” of confusion they’re better at than anyone else in the league, intentionally creating chaos within a group of players. Steph will often rocket out of these anarchical pockets with confused and defeated defenders too far behind, but on this occasion, he’s just a decoy for Klay:
Just…poetry. That’s all this is. Within a span of under half a second, Klay realizes that both his defender and Steph’s are going with Curry as he leaves the spin cycle and sprints back up outside the arc – so Thompson simply slips along the baseline and gets a wide open layup before anyone even knows what’s happening. The Dubs can do this kind of stuff from anywhere on the floor so long as Curry and Thompson (at least the former, at minimum) are in the game, and it’s no coincidence they’ve surrounded these guys with smart, unselfish ball-movers who can find them when they inevitably open up cracks.
The Usual Suspects
Opinions will differ regarding which coaches are truly the best with their out-of-bounds and after-timeout sets, but a few names will appear frequently on these lists. Budenholzer and Carlisle were both listed above, but three others are perhaps the most common you’ll hear, not only for this niche area but for coaching overall: Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich and Frank Vogel.
Brad Stevens in Boston has quickly developed a reputation as maybe the best in-game coach in the league, even surpassing guys like Pop and Carlisle in many eyes. He’s a legitimate savant for recognizing a trend or matchup that can yield his team an easy bucket, and while the execution can’t always be perfect, there’s an easy argument that he puts his group in a better position time in and time out than any other bench boss in the league. Watch the following Celtics set and see if you had even the slightest inkling of what was coming before it happened:
Not much analysis is really even necessary here. Stevens is the league’s foremost master at playing on what an opponent thinks is coming before pulling the wool over their eyes in an instant, and sets like these aren’t even uncommon at this point. Many keen observers would pick him over anyone else in the world if their life depended on an end-of-game OOB set working for two points.
Just a few years Stevens’ senior within the NBA ranks, Pacers coach Frank Vogel also has an excellent all-around reputation. The way he’s re-worked his team’s style on the fly this summer after wide roster turnover has been special, and the way he’s leveraged the shooting available to him on his roster has trickled down to some of his out-of-bounds actions. This one looks pretty standard at first glance, but see if you can catch what makes it work so well:
If you missed it, get ready for a slo-mo replay after we break it down, and keep a keen eye on the middle of the floor. Chase Budinger begins the set by streaking from the foul line past a Jordan Hill screen into the strong side corner, but this is a decoy action. C.J. Miles simultaneously moves over to set what appears to be a cross-screen for Monta Ellis to free Monta for a catch, but this is where it gets fun. Watch how Miles and Ellis do the same “spin cycle” reversal as the Warriors above, giving Hill his own extra beat to make his way in their direction before both Hill and Ellis end up screening for Miles as he backs out into an open triple:
Again, this is nothing complex – one decoy action to get eyes moving the wrong way, one extra reversal in the main action, and a lethal volume shooter gets an open three.
Finally, among the NBA’s OGs for creative play-calling is Spurs boss Gregg Popovich. To be totally honest, the 2015-16 iteration of the Spurs has involved less overall creativity on these sets than we might normally be accustomed to from Pop – he’s seemed more focused on entering the ball safely in general, allowing the Spurs to play the grind-it-out halfcourt style they’ve transitioned to on the year.
That doesn’t mean there’s no room for some ingenuity even on these sets, though. On this occasion watch Patty Mills, who starts the play on the strong side baseline – Mills makes as if to accept a pindown screen to the top of the key, but then acts almost as if he’s aborting his cut as the ball is instead inbounded to Manu Ginobili, slowing down as if to reset himself in the corner. But before the Bulls are ready, watch what Mills does next:
Yummy! One would prefer, of course, that Mills ended up behind the three-point line instead of shooting a long two, and the two cross-screens he gets from Spurs bigs could certainly have been better. But the quick action is designed as a way to catch a defense leaning the wrong way and initiate damning rotations, which the Spurs are the class of the league at exploiting. No one will ever out-Pop Pop.
NBA Daily: In Context: The Elam Ending & The 2019 NBA Finals
The “Elam Ending” brought more excitement to the NBA All-Star Game, but how would it affect games that matter most? Douglas Farmer takes a look at the 2019 NBA Finals through the Elam lens.
For all those bothered that Sunday’s All-Star Game ended on a free throw, let’s not remind them of the 2019 NBA Finals. Let’s not remember that — with less than a second remaining on the clock — Kawhi Leonard hit three free throws to turn a one-point lead into a four-point victory and a Toronto Raptors-winning championship.
Of course, if the “Elam Ending” had been in place for that Game 6, some different choices would have been made. That disclaimer aside, Leonard’s final free throw gave the Raptors what would likely have been the target score in that hypothetical. In fact, four of the six NBA Finals games ended on the likely target scores, anyway, while the other two never reached it.
Before walking through those scenarios, a quick description of the Elam Ending for those who did not follow Sunday’s exhibition: With a predetermined amount of time remaining, the clock is turned off; the game ends when a team reaches a “target score” established by adding a set number of points to the leading team’s score when the clock turns off. In the All-Star Game, the clock turned off for the entire fourth quarter, adding 24 points — a Kobe Bryant tribute — to the leading team’s score. For a more practical setting, it would be far less time and far fewer points.
Developed by a University of Dayton professor, Nick Elam, the well-named Elam Ending — which has been featured in the enormously-popular The Basketball Tournament over the last few years — adds eight points to the leading score at the first dead ball after the four-minute mark. If used in the NBA, Elam has suggested adding seven points at the last media timeout, coming at the first dead ball after the three-minute mark.
His rationale for seven stems from dividing typical full-game scoring rates by 16, but that fails to factor in late-game urgency and the inherent skewing to such a sample size. In short, the first three minutes will have less average scoring than the last three minutes simply because a bucket at the 2:59 mark is more likely than one a second into the game, not to mention a shot at 0:01 is more likely than one at 9:01.
Talked about this with Professor Elam and he made the point that starting the “ending” portion too early will wear everyone out, which is why his proposal is add 7 to high score at first stoppage under 3 minutes. https://t.co/GndXjOhyRz
— Anchorage Man (@SethPartnow) February 17, 2020
Thus, many have settled on eight — potentially another Kobe Bryant tribute — as the likely additional number if ever considered in the NBA. While the ending intends to remove any logic to intentionally fouling in late-game situations and thus preserving a truer state of the game we love, its effects go much further into strategy, lineup rotations and redefining the idea of “clutch.”
What it does not do, however, is shorten the game, at least in terms of points, as many incorrectly assume it does. Consider last year’s NBA Finals …
GAME 1: Raptors win, 118-109
First off, if we are to use the All-Star Game version of this drama-inducing ending, only two of the six Finals games would have reached the third quarter-dependent target score. Playoff games grind through the fourth quarter — but again, that was a gimmick for the exhibition contest. Any practical usage would have included a shorter ending.
The first dead ball after the three-minute mark in Game 1 came at the 2:35 mark with the Raptors leading 110-101, just after a Stephen Curry three-point play. Adding eight points to that 110 gives the final winning total, a number reached when Toronto guard Kyle Lowry hit a 28-foot three-pointer with 30 seconds left. At that point, it was essentially considered icing on the cake, turning a 115-106 lead into a 12-point margin — but in this theoretical, it would have been the game-winning shot.
Any 28-footer is dramatic, but that would have been quite the scene to start the Finals.
GAME 2: Warriors win, 109-104
The final minutes of this became a slog, so a more inspired conclusion would have been appreciated by all. A total of 3:18 passed between buckets from the 4:26 mark to the 1:08, keeping the score at 106-98 at the needed dead ball. Golden State added only an Andre Iguodala three-pointer with seven seconds remaining to stymie a Toronto charge that would’ve brought them within two. If the Warriors had needed to get to 114, it seems borderline-likely the Raptors would have pulled off the win and swept the series, considering that those were the only points Golden State scored in the final 5:39.
GAME 3: Raptors win, 123-109
Toronto led 115-103 at the last media timeout, while a Marc Gasol three made it 121-107 with 1:07 left before a Pascal Siakam layup reached the possible target score with a 14-point lead. Golden State was not coming back, so an Elam Ending would have at least expedited the ending. Jacob Evans may have been most appreciative of that as he missed two field-goal attempts after Siakam’s decisive points. Regardless, not much in the way of drama here.
GAME 4: Raptors win, 105-92
Again, it is hard to envision the Elam Ending changing much about this game — even with the inherent strategic shifts to it. Toronto led 99-89 with 2:48 left, but neither team exactly stressed in the final minutes. Curry turned a three-point play and the Raptors hit a trio of mid-range jumpers. Toronto did not reach the presumed 107 target score, but another mid-range shot from Siakam — who hit two of the aforementioned three — would not have taken long, and Golden State would not have rattled off 15 points before he hit it.
Both in real life and in this exercise, this blowout was the point in the series everyone began to realize what the Raptors really were about to do.
GAME 5: Raptors win, 106-105
As much as the Elam Ending was designed to eliminate an influx of free throws, it also puts an impetus on making shots. That might not sound revolutionary but, as often as not, games are determined by misses. Toronto led Game 5 by a score of 103-97 at the 2:59 mark when Draymond Green fouled Leonard. From that point on, the Raptors went 1-of-6 from the field.
Sure, Golden State hit a trio of three-pointers to take the lead and the game, while the Raptors struggled to get the ball anywhere near the hoop. But as impressive as the Warriors’ barrage was, wouldn’t everyone have preferred Curry or Klay Thompson to hit two more and break 111?
NBA, change the rules, make every fourth quarter like that fourth quarter…
— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) February 17, 2020
GAME 6: Raptors win, 114-110, and clinch the series
Here is where the Elam Ending would have provided a championship-worthy moment. In literal terms, Leonard’s three free throws with hardly any time remaining gave Toronto the 114 target score necessitated by a 106-101 lead at the 2:49 mark. For practicality, Golden State probably would not have melted down with back-to-back technical and personal fouls when they collectively realized a full-court, miracle three-pointer would be needed to win the game.
Instead, Iguodala would not have fouled Leonard at all — let alone earned the technical. The Raptors would have clung to a one-point lead, needing just three more to win the title.
The Elam Ending does not bring about the end of the game any faster in basketball terms — in real-time, though, the dearth of fouls unquestionably speeds things up — but it largely brings the dramatic moments we remember.
Of course, Anthony Davis’ clinching free throw was not all that abnormal.
Still, in the context of a recently-thrilling NBA Finals, it’s easy to see why the Elam Ending has people hyped to talk about basketball nuances again — naturally, however, it does not guarantee drama.
NBA Daily: Russell Westbrook — Full Throttle
When Houston traded for Russell Westbrook last summer, they had to embrace him, warts and all. Matt John goes into what the Rockets have done to achieve just that and how their most recent deals could net them the most efficient Westbrook they could’ve hoped for.
Russell Westbrook doesn’t care what you call him, whether a high-usage, low-efficiency chucker, an anti-spacer that clogs the lane, or an empty stat-chaser. To Westbrook, it’s all the same: noise, especially if you are focused on Basketball Betting.
And, no matter what you may think of him, nothing is stopping Westbrook from playing at his own pace: fast (to say the least).
Westbrook’s style is so lively, so twitchy, that it’s hard not to it in just about everything he does on the court. While it’s certainly contributed to many of his flaws, the aggression he’s played with, the bounce in his step, has helped him rack up the accolades and eye-popping stats that he has throughout his career.
As a basketball player, Westbrook is the quintessential perfect storm; a tornado of fire, accolades and counting stats.
But because his warts — his sans-Kevin Durant postseason success, his paltry shooting numbers (particularly this season) — are as obvious as his talent, nobody seemed enthralled when it was announced that Westbrook was set to rejoin James Harden, this time with the Houston Rockets. Dating back to Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal in 2010, there has arguably never been as little fanfare concerning two former MVPs joining forces.
There was one silver lining, however: in his new home, Westbrook would be surrounded by shooters. Better yet, shooters that would prove consistently reliable on the defensive end. In Houston, Westbrook wouldn’t have to be Mr. Do It All. But would it be enough?
No was the early, and loud, return. Through the season’s first two months, the Rockets were 23-11, a strong record, no doubt. But fans couldn’t help but wonder if Westbrook had helped, or hurt, their cause. By New Year’s Eve, Houston was plus-3.9 with Westbrook on the floor, but were somehow better — plus–9.5 — with him off.
The Rockets may have managed with Westbrook, but he wasn’t making them better. Of course, in that time, Westbrook had carried his weight as Houston’s no. 2 — 24.2 points and 7.1 assists — but his efficiency was as bad as it had ever been, if not worse. His 43/23/80 splits, while also coughing the ball up 4.4 times a game, had Rockets fans in shambles, the 23 percent from three-point range especially glaring as Westbrook was taking nearly five a game.
Making matters worse, Chris Paul, whom Daryl Morey traded for Westbrook, was not-so-quietly having his healthiest, most productive season since 2016 with the upstart Oklahoma City Thunder. On top of Westbrook’s struggles, Paul’s resurgence made it seem as if Morey had made a terrible mistake.
But, Westbrook seemed to turn a corner in the new year. In January, he averaged 32.5 points on 52/25/76 splits, while the Rockets were plus-2.5 with him on the court and minus-0.9 with him off. While that was an improvement, Houston went 7-7, though Westbrook missed four of those games. Even if he was technically better, he still served as the scapegoat.
Something was holding both the Rockets and Westbrook back.
That something, in Westbook’s case, was the Rockets. Morey and Co. had asked Westbrook to play their style, which meant spot-up threes — not exactly Westbrook’s forte — and a slower pace. In essence, it was the complete antithesis of Westbrook. In time, it became clear that, if Morey’s experiment was ever going to work, Houston would have to adapt to Westbrook, not the other way around.
And, because Morey would do anything and everything in his power to win, the Rockets did just that. By trading Clint Capela, who, while a young, proven and still promising big, was a poor fit with Westbrook, for Robert Covington, Houston embraced small-ball and, in turn, embraced Westbrook’s ability and game to the fullest extent.
Relying on Covington, Danuel House Jr and PJ Tucker to hold their own against much bigger frontcourts will be an interesting sight come playoff time. And trading Capela — a young, high-upside and cost-controlled big — is certainly a gamble. But this version of the Rockets may arguably be the closest thing we ever see to the “perfect team” around Westbrook, and it may just be Houston’s best bet to win a title.
Now, the lane is completely free. Westbrook will be playing with shooters virtually non-stop. That means fewer threes on his part, driving to the basket with no one to get in his way, opening up more room for those shooters. And, while Westbrook’s perfect team does not equate to the perfect team period, it could equate to a deeper playoff run.
Since Houston’s shift, the returns have been promising. Post-Capela (his last appearance was Jan. 29), Houston has played six games and gone 4-2. And, minus their stinker against Phoenix, another game in which Westbrook did not play, each of those games has provided ample proof that an entire small-ball squad can be viable. Houston came out the victor against two of the best teams in the NBA this season, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, and another team with plenty of size, the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Rockets have also averaged 115.9 points per game, while Westbrook has led the team with 34 points per game and shot 51.5 percent from the field. So, in other words, he’s being efficient. Just don’t ask about his three-point shooting.
A “sample size” disclaimer will probably haunt the Rockets between now and the postseason, but the headline here is that thus far, it’s working. It’s not all because of Westbrook — through this stretch, Houston has been a plus-0.9 when Westbrook’s hit the bench — but he’s not hurting them as he did before.
In due time, we’ll see if Morey’s latest experimental maneuvering will pay off. But it’s clear that, if they go down, they’ll go down with Westbrook, rather than against him. They’ll be confident for sure, because, come the postseason, Westbrook will hit the court as he always has: full throttle.
NBA Daily: Trade Deadline Gives Jerome Robinson Opportunity And Encouragement
After struggling to break into the Clippers’ stingy rotation, Jerome Robinson was part of a three-team trade last Thursday that landed him on the Washington Wizards. Drew Maresca explores the the new opportunity available to Robinson in Washington, D.C.
Always one of the most entertaining times of the year, the trade deadline is an annual must-see event for basketball fans. But in addition to the excitement it brings, it can also introduce a headwind of confusion. Case in point: The three-team trade between the New York Knicks, Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers.
After lots of posturing and deliberation, the Knicks agreed to trade Marcus Morris to the Clippers for Moe Harkless, an unprotected 2020 first-round pick and more.
But even with that structure decided upon, that aforementioned more remained undefined for longer than fans on either side would have liked. Even after the Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell rumors were debunked, there was still a lot of excitement in New York about potentially acquiring one or more of the following young talents: Terrance Mann, Mfiondu Kabengele or Jerome Robinson. All three had been rumored to be headed for the Big Apple at some point in the run-up to the deadline.
Just like the rest of us, Robinson watched as the trade continued to unfold.
“I knew that same day, that morning, that it could be the Knicks or the Wizards,” Robinson told Basketball Insiders. “At that point, I knew I was probably going to be out of [Los Angeles]. I didn’t know where to. But I eventually got a phone call and it was Washington.”
In short, Robinson is a 22-year-old former lottery pick — No. 13 overall back in 2018 — and a talented scorer that has struggled to acclimate and find consistent court time since he joined the league.
But it’s not entirely his fault.
At 6-foot-4, Robinson was chosen by a team with plenty of established shooting guards on the roster already. Immediately, Robinson was competing directly with established players like Avery Bradley and Lou Williams for the right to even step on the floor. And then there was Shamet too, another rookie that arrived in Los Angeles during the 2019 deadline and quickly gobbled up most of the remaining minutes.
As if the chances to develop weren’t hard enough to come by for Robinson, the Clippers’ successful offseason meant they would enter 2019-20 with legitimate championship aspirations. And with the team focused solely on reaching the NBA Finals, Robinson assumed he was in basketball purgatory — but the trade deadline brought along a new opportunity.
“I think [being traded] is a blessing in disguise,” Robinson told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase what I can do. I just have to go do it.”
Robinson received less than 10 minutes per game during his rookie season and only got a minuscule bump up to 11.3 this season. Given aspirations and additions, the team couldn’t give Robinson the playing time he needed to find some much-needed footing. Former head coach Doc Rivers’ main criticism of Robinson was that he didn’t look for his own shot enough.
These days, however, Scott Brooks — the Wizards’ head coach — and Robinson, unsurprisingly, have already spoken about this and the message is the same one that Rivers previously preached: Look for your shot.
“Me and Scott talked a couple of days ago,” Robinson said. “After practice, chopped it up for 10 or 15 minutes. He told me he wants me to just be me and not hesitate.
“Coach thinks that’s something I’ve always been able to do, but that I’ve been hesitant with at times in Los Angeles,” Robinson continued. “I told him that was due more to some kind of circumstances.”
But Robinson is obviously excited to play with more freedom and learn from in-game experiences.
“That’s something I can do here, whereas [with the Clippers], if you have a bad game, it’s kind of next man up.”
But there’s no rush in Washington.
The Wizards are still in the early stages of a rebuild and won’t likely be contenders soon, so Robinson will have the opportunity to become the first guard off the bench for the Wizards. And that newly-found chance will be invaluable as it’ll finally allow for him to prove that he belongs in the NBA.
Drew Gooden, the Wizards’ announcer and a 14-year NBA veteran, also spoke with Basketball Insiders about the good fortune Robinson will have at his new home.
“The situation that the Washington Wizards are in as an organization, you just don’t know what’s going to happen this summer at all,” Gooden said. “But he can definitely play himself into a better situation through your playing and willingness to be in the organization.”
So far, so good for Robinson and the Wizards. Since the move, Robinson’s minutes have already increased to 18.3 minutes per game — but other challenges lie ahead for the sophomore, like learning an entirely new playbook.
“That can be difficult,” Ish Smith told Basketball Insiders. “Especially for him because he’s playing right away. A lot of times when I’ve been moved, I wasn’t playing. The good thing about here with coach Brooks is that it’s free-flowing.
“We play so unselfishly that it makes it easier to adjust to and there’s not a lot to think about.”
Further, Gooden spoke about what Robinson must do to continue improving.
“I think there’s only so much on-the-court work you can, or I could, do with guys,” Gooden told Basketball Insiders. “Then it becomes mentoring and the mental aspect and adjustments. Lots of people forget that. It’s not just knocking down shots — it’s ‘how can I get that shot consistently?’ [and] ‘how can I knock it down more consistently?’ That’s the mental part.
“And then the preparation leading up to the game is another skill a player must have,” Gooden continued. “And it’s hard to have that as a younger player. So if there’s an opportunity to talk to him and steer him in the right direction on or off the court, I’m up for it.”
Despite a slow start in the league, Robinson still has loads of tools that are valuable in the modern NBA landscape. And that’s why the Wizards and those close to the team are excited for Robinson to ramp up.
“What I’ve seen so far is that [Robinson] has a lot of pop to his game,” Gooden said. “I know that term’s used in baseball more, but it translates to the NBA game in that when he’s on the court, something’s going to happen.
“He’s not just running back and forth,” Gooden added. “He’s either scoring the ball, creating a hard foul or turnover, something’s going to happen. I’ve seen him play really hard and with a lot of energy so far.”
Over his 10 years playing professional basketball, Smith has seen his fair share of new opportunities too — and he’s ready to see what Robinson does next.
“His talent is there,” Smith told Basketball Insiders. “He just needs to adjust to things – different coaching, teammates, areas of the country. But so far, so good. And it’s our job to make him comfortable so that he can succeed.”
If Smith and co. handle all that and Robinson flourishes with the Wizards, the young prospect might ultimately fulfill his potential. So even though Robinson’s career didn’t kick off as expected with a franchise with fast-moving aspirations, there’s always a chance to grow and get better.
And with the knowledgable encouragement of those around him like Brooks, Smith and Gooden, it’s officially Robinson’s turn to make a name for himself in Washington.