Video Breakdown: Examining four straight losses -- OFFENSE

Video Breakdown: Examining four straight losses -- OFFENSE


First, I’d like to thank everyone for reading anything at BS and contributing to the conversation during this frustrating valley in the basketball season. Views on the coaching staff (as addressed very nicely by Dowd yesterday), the players (mentioned in my Penn State post game), and the future (J is on it today with this gem) have been discussed extensively, so feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below. It’s super therapeutic, and more productive than rage-induced property destruction. Meanwhile, since I’m the one writing this post and I’m pointing to player effort, I’ll leave you with these comments from (in my opinion) the best on-the-court leader during Coach Painter’s tenure:

Take those comments any way you will. I, for one, completely agree.

Anyway, here was the plan. I was going to go through video of the last four games, come up with some concise video evidence of where Purdue has been falling short, and present them with some semblance of order. The result: a folder with THREE GIGABYTES OF VIDEO CLIPS. Sooo….I’m splitting this post in two. The first one runs today (Tuesday), before our Boilers host Minnesota on Wednesday night, and will focus on the offensive side of the ball. The second post will run either Thursday or Friday, before Purdue travels to Ohio State this weekend, and will focus on defensive breakdowns and miscues.

I’ll start each post with some positivity, sponsored by the happy half of the AJ-O-Meter. Today: Hammons destroys Nik Stauskas with the most thunderous dunk of his career.


More after the break.

Hammons has been the rock of our team, often the first option offensively and the safety valve on defense. But maybe his inconsistent dominance and frequent energy lulls (perhaps due to conditioning issues) embody this team’s unpredictable nature better than anything else. Bill Simmons of Grantland (and I’m sure others as well) often says that every team adopts the personality of its best player…and, like it or not, AJ is by far our best player. That’s why Purdue struggles when AJ makes multiple unforced mistakes in the same game…like this:

Four. Traveling. Violations. In. The. Post. In. One. Game. Now, in full disclosure, this game happened during the night of the Purdue EE shooting and Andrew Boldt’s tragic passing, so it’s understood if everyone’s minds weren’t on the basketball court that night. But Hammons’ turnovers in the post aren’t isolated to the Northwestern game. That clip is so much more aggravating when you watch Hammons at his best, like thunderdunking off a pick-and-roll and destroying the Big Ten’s current player of the year.

AJ has the ability to dominate every center in the Big Ten (though Wisconsin is a bad matchup), but it seems like the only his mind and effort level can slow him down. Oh, and Purdue’s wing players’ complete inability to deliver a consistently decent entry pass. That too.

I know I said that only footage from the last four losses would appear here, but instead I put together a collection of awful entry passes from the last month. If this sounds familiar, it’s because I MADE THE EXACT SAME VIDEO JUST ABOUT A MONTH AGO. Coach Painter recently said “If you have the same mistake in January that you had in November, that might be who you are.” My first thought went directly to these entry pass abominations. We easily give away 4 good post possessions per game with awful entry passes like this, and it pushes the brunt of frustrations on the post player (usually Hammons or Jay Simpson).

Just in case you were wondering, the guilty offenders were basically all of Purdue’s perimeter players (Carter had 1, Smotherman 2, Ronnie Johnson 2, Peck 1, Stephens 2 [one not shown], Bryson 1 [not shown], and TJ 4 in the last month). Practice, chemistry, and attention are the ways to avoid this. Basically, it boils down to a lack of effort.

Speaking of a lack of effort (look at these killer transitions), lazy passes around the perimeter are slowly becoming another calling card of this roster. TJ, I’m looking at you:

Every one of those turnovers led to fast break points on the other end…and it’s all a result of carelessness or laziness. Look at every one of these passes; they’re all done after staring down the target (making it easy for the defense to identify/jump passing lanes) and they are delivered with a stunning brand of apathy by the passer. I don’t know if it’s fatigue setting in, or something completely mental…but it’s easily corrected by (YOU GUESSED IT) effort and intensity.

The last common offensive point linking these four losses is the consistently terrible shot selection. My Penn State recap brought this to light:

But now, allow your blood pressure to skyrocket as you watch our entire roster settle for long jumpers early in the shot clock!

This is, by far, my biggest basketball pet peeve. Let’s call it the Josh Smith rule (after Detroit Piston Josh Smith, who would be an extremely efficient offensive player if he didn’t take ~9,462 long jumpers per game). The long two pointer is the least efficient shot in basketball, and only a few current NBA players have been able to make it a true asset (Dirk Nowitzki, Chris Bosh, Lamarcus Aldridge, and David West immediately come to mind). It’s usually used by high-percentage shooters to space the floor, and as an equalizer against particularly great defenses who defend the paint and three-point arc at all costs. Unfortunately, none of those conditions applies in Purdue’s case. If you watch the offense in the video above, there is either very little off-ball movement or the ball-handler (RJ/Bryson) selfishly settles for a long jumper. Most of the possessions end in long twos very early in the shot clock, which makes it unbearable…college teams have 35 seconds before a shot clock violation, which is really enough for two or three complete offensive sets. Even 12-15 seconds is plenty of time to calmly reset the play and take on a more nuanced attack. So why did RJ force a contested jumper immediately after getting the ball with THIRTY ONE SECONDS LEFT ON THE SHOT CLOCK? God only knows.

At least it was a three-pointer, I guess.

SWAMY SPOTLIGHT: Crashing the Offensive Glass

This spotlight focuses on the Penn State game, where it seemed like the Boilers placed an increased emphasis on sending several bodies after offensive rebounds:

I’m not sure if this was a coaching maneuver or something the players chose to do, but as you can see the two baseline wing players actively crash the glass to supplement AJ Hammons’ constant activity inside. This is actually a fairly controversial move among the coaching ranks, and analytics are still being developed to support or reject sending extra bodies for offensive rebounds.

For now, it really depends on how much the coach trusts his/her wing defenders. To make this call, the coach must be confident in the two smaller wings at the top of the arc to get back very quickly on defense while the other three players crash the boards. There also has to be a high offensive rebounding rate in these situations; otherwise they become vulnerable to 3-on-2 or even 4-on-2 fast break situations, as we see in the clips above. Penn State capitalizes on Purdue sending extra men to crash the offensive glass, and scores in transition after snagging the rebound each time.

This is yet another reason to hate long jumpers, which usually result in long rebounds. The defense can have one entire side run after the loose ball, while the others sprint back into transition and create a matchup advantage once they have the ball. Sending extra bodies on the offensive glass is a fine strategy (especially with active wings like Ray Davis, Basil Smotherman, and Sterling Carter to aid Hammons), but RJ, TJ, Bryson, Stephens, and the other wings have to show a willingness to hustle back into favorable transition defensive positions. If they don’t, Purdue gives up free points, which is the last thing this roster can afford.

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