The out-of-bounds play "Short" used to be the Hornets' own highlight factory. It produced a number of alley-oops by Gerald Henderson his last two years in Charlotte as coach Steve Clifford's staff primarily used the play for the bouncy Duke Blue Devil.
For those interested, I did a full write-up on the specifics of the play back in November when Henderson visited Charlotte with his current team, the Portland Trail Blazers. Back then within four seconds of playing time the former Hornet faced an out-of-bounds situation and recognized what was about to come.
Unfortunately for him, Nicolas Batum also made an on-the-fly audible. Batum realized that Henderson had instructed young teammate Allen Crabbe to stay underneath the screen in anticipation for the lob pass, instead of following the Frenchman through the fake action. The small forward thus actually used the screen for real to pop out for a three-pointer:
It is only one of the four times that "Short", which used to have a rather good completion rate, has worked out this season. Jeremy Lamb, suited for the play due to his lank, has been on the finishing end twice.
Jeremy Lin has made the single successful lay-in off "Short" ever since the Hendo incident. Ironically, it occurred against the New York Knicks who now have been burnt by all three aforementioned players (twice by Hendo, once by Lamb and Lin, per my notes).
Given the fact that the team has mostly moved on from the play, it's almost as if the coaching staff couldn't help themselves and coach Clifford said to Patrick Ewing: "Ten bucks says that they fall for it again."
Other than that it seems as if the rest of the league has this set in their scouting report. After "Short" being heavily disrupted a number of times in November, the Hornets have rarely gone back to it.
Once opponents know that it's coming, it can be quite easy for them to crowd the paint where the recipient of the alley-oop should have space for his take-off. It can be as simple as the defender of the screen-setter stepping in Lamb's way and possibly switching with Lamb's defender altogether.
It has come to the point that "Short" is very likely to be a turnover in the makings. Here is Wizards assistant coach Pat Sullivan anticipating it and gesturing with his hands to demonstrate what is about to happen just like Henderson did:
With Charlotte's highlight-generating play likely being a thing of the past to which the team will return scarcely, here are three frequently used out-of-bounds sets that the Hornets have settled on.
Quite simply referred to as "Two-Four-Five" due to the positions of the players involved, it seemingly has been the most frequent Hornets out-of-bounds play as of late.
It starts off like this:
The two-guard (Nicolas Batum) exits his starting position underneath the basket to set a back-screen on the four's (Marvin Williams) defender somewhere near the free throw line:
It serves two purposes. Obviously, it would be great if Marv cut for an uncontested layup. However, if Batum's man takes a step off him to bother Williams and the path he's taken, it might give Batum enough space for what is about to come.
In this case, Philly's defenders are smart enough not to get hit dead-on with a back-screen.
The two-guard then instantly pops out to the corner through a screen set by the center (Cody Zeller):
If Batum's man sags off just a little bit to prevent that cut by the four-man, it might give him the necessary head start to get an open look. Just like it happens on this play with Jordan Clarkson trying to help out:
What makes this set smart is that there's even a way to transition seamlessly into the possession if the players choose to do so. In case the wing player didn't take or get a jumper, the movement can continue with the center setting a down-screen for the power forward so he appears for a post touch in motion:
In some cases it can also be a "One-Four-Five" if coach Clifford wants to involve the point guard. This way you can somewhat ensure the fact that he'll get the ball. In these scenarios the play might be more about simply finding him than getting a quick look at the basket.
Way more simpler of a play, yet also used regularly. A simple screen set by the center to free up one of Charlotte's power forwards for a baseline jumper.
One would have to assume that the main motivation behind this play is using our good shooters at the four spot - Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky.
Although an 18-foot mid-range look isn't the sexiest of shots, you could call it a fine way of getting yourself a decent look, especially if there's not much time left on the clock. If the opposition is playing two real bigs, they might not have the instincts or willingness to prevent Marvin or Kaminsky getting at least somewhat open.
An Over-the-Top Pass for Lamb
It's not an idea exclusive to the Hornets. Plenty of teams around the NBA have done this to capitalize on the defense's lack of attention or to use the athletic abilities of their own player(s).
Moreover, you certainly cannot rely on it day in and day out. It's a sneaky play moreso meant to catch one by surprise.
That being said, I enjoy seeing this use of Jeremy Lamb's freakishly long arms. It might be the closest thing to "Short" that we have left.
One more random note which probably isn't worthy of an article on its own before wrapping this up...
Courtney Lee's Lack of Offensive Activity
Courtney Lee has never been a particularly important offensive piece on any of his teams. He spaces the court, takes the open looks he gets and occasionally puts the ball on the court for what usually is a pull-up jumper, while doing his job admirably on defense. The Indiana native is a true 3&Lee player (awesome pun, isn't it?).
With that in mind, he's currently taking only 7.6 field goal attempts per 36 minutes in Charlotte, a clear career-low. However, it's not due to him passing good looks. As the table below shows his front court touches are also way down.
|Team||MIN||Front CT Touches||Front CT Touches per 36|
(Data per SportVU at nba.com as of March, the 9th)
Justise Winslow and Gerald Green have been the only perimeter players to average more than 25 minutes per game this season and touch the ball less often in the front court than Lee.
Courtney Lee's style of play makes him a good fit alongside the ball-dominant Kemba Walker.