Baseline to Baseline — October 18th
Welcome to Baseline to Baseline, a daily column where I will shed light on five basketball-nerdy things that tickled my fancy. From LeBron James skip passes to Ish Smith roadrunner drives to the rim, nothing will go unseen. Check back each day to bring out your inner basketball nerd. Or don’t — that’s fine too.
- D Loading, unlocked.
We all knew D’Angelo Russell was good when he came out of Ohio State. He was tall, long, shifty, could shoot the lights out, and knew how to manipulate the pick-and-roll at an elite level for someone of his youth. After two strained seasons in Los Angeles — including one spent soaking in the Mamba Mentality — a fresh start was in order for Russell to realize his potential. One game is far from a sufficient sample size, but it is pretty apparent that Brooklyn wants the ball in Russell’s hands early and often because well, he can do shit like this:
Russell makes this pass look so easy, but I promise you, it is not. He knows exactly how to manipulate Myles Turner and Thad Young, waiting for the moment that they overextend by the tiniest of margins before slinging a bullet right in the bread basket of DeMarre Carroll.
Brooklyn played a fun brand of basketball last season, but Russell boosts them up my unofficial League Pass power rankings.
2. My God, that’s Indiana Victor Oladipo’s music!
I was one of the few defendants of the Indiana Pacers for the haul they received in the Paul George trade … OK, it wasn’t great, but given the context of the situation, I feel like Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis wasn’t the worst return in the world. Could they have gotten a pick thrown in there? Probably. But who knows how those negotiations went down. Bottom line: the people of Indiana love them some Oladipo, and playing in Indiana full-time could ignite a continual spunk in Oladipo’s game.
He showed excellent anticipation on this steal, reading the action as it unfolded before breaking off his man and jetting the other way:
Later in the game, the Pacers used Oladipo as if he were prime Ray Allen, and he justified their faith by splashing a trey bomb at the top of the arc.
I’m higher on his game than most, but even I had to rewind and watch that sequence again a handful of times to ensure that Oladipo was the one coming off the screen. A consistent jump shot of any kind makes Oladipo a contender to take a mini leap and justify his 4-year/$85 million extension that kicks in this season.
Expectations need to be hampered because he was sparing with the Nets, but this was a positive showing by the former Hoosier.
3. Andre Drummond doing his best Rubio.
Drummond has routinely had a sub-optimal assist rate for a “focal point” of an offense, hovering around four percent for most of his career before shooting up to six percent last season. For the most part, he is an athletic lug that bullies other brutes in the paint, gobbles up rebounds by the dozen, and shanks free throws at a rate so poor that it is honestly impressive. Needless to say, he is not known as a crafty passer.
Until now …
Welcome to the NBA in 2017: where even Andre Drummond can slide an off-hand bounce pass through a tight window to a cutting Avery Bradley.
4. John Wall in the post.
Wall and Russell Westbrook are the best at backing their defender down deep in the post, waiting for the defense to show their hand, and then immediately pouncing on the mistake that was made. The mistake might not be seen by you and I, but as soon as Wall and Westbrook see it, a blur ensues.
This isn’t even awful defense really — Wall just side-eyes Dario Saric until he takes one false step before whizzing a pass thrown with such precision and velocity that the help is incapable of reacting in time. Saric recovers enough to make a challenge at the rim, but Gortat is one of the league’s best when it comes to holding the ball high and finishing quickly — a statistic I wish we were able to keep track of (average time between touch and finish).
Wall was unbelievable last night. He played with the emotional intensity of a playoff game, igniting the crowd and galvanizing his team to a win. I hope Gang Sign John Wall becomes a season-long thing:
5. The Spurs dropping the hammer.
I think the Spurs have been running this play for two decades now and it always, always, ALWAYS works.
New acquisition Rudy Gay (who looked especially feisty off the bench) spins towards the baseline, insinuating that he is making a move towards the basket. This action ignites the instincts of Karl Anthony-Towns as the help defender. Rather than looking to knife to rim, Gay immediately cocks the ball into a slinging position, waiting for Danny Green to flare to the corner by way of a LaMarcus Aldridge screen. It’s the same shit they’ve been running for years and nobody can stop it because it’s just so damn good.
Kawhi Leonard didn’t play and it didn’t really matter. The Spurs are like that team of dads that run the court at the gym for seven pickup games longer than they should and nobody knows how it even happens. No matter how well you play, you look up and you are somehow down by six at every point of the game. Kyle Anderson has half the vertical leap of Zach Randolph and he is somehow contributing real scoring oomph and other Spursy shenanigans.
Spurs gonna Spur. Always and forever.