Top 200 player pickups have been all the rage in the lead-up to the late-January draft-pool decision. In my best Zach Lowe-imitation style, I took a look at several Top 200 pickup games for a look at what sort of play we might see from draft-eligible players this year. Remember: these are all players who, by virtue of their place in the Top 200, have a good chance of being among the 150 new players in the draft pool. There’s plenty of good and plenty of bad. Clips are from Twitch streams by OhMyGiannis and lilshawn333.
Former league players, moving on defense
OffballTurnupShawn – Clipped by josiahcohen13
One attribute that is sorely neglected by too many players is off-ball defense. In a meta dominated by high pick-and-rolls, off-ball defense is more than stopping your corner opposition from cutting backdoor for an alley-oop. It’s the difference between winning and losing.
This is actually a nice play from the offense, with former Raptors Uprising center Yusuf_Scarbz screening for the shooting guard and fading for a three. Less exemplary is the weakside defense of Reese, who realizes the play too late and consequently isn’t in the right position to defend. In closing out, his man LegendaryTim cuts, and Yusuf finds him with a nice feed.
What’s great about this sequence is the offball defense of former Cavs Legion player Turnupdefense (who in these top 200 pickups has lived up to his name) and former Grizz Gaming strater DDouble2K. Here, Turnup collapses down to the paint from the corner to deter the layup and DDouble smartly covers the now-open corner. The play merits the result of a steal.
Whereas Redbull gives you wings, inbound plays give you points
BaselineInboundsPlay – Clipped by josiahcohen13
Ah, the old inbounds play. There are two inbounds in this clip, both from OfficialCousin to HiteDontLose. One is conventional, and one is creditable.
The first is your standard get-the-ball-in-play move. HiteDontLose gets close to the inbounder, secures his spot, and collects the two-inch inbounds pass. The team sets up its halfcourt offense, and away they go. The second, from the baseline, is far more appealing. Even with the defense overloaded on the far side, the center screens high for HiteDontLose and he gets wide open on the wing for a cross-court catch-and-shoot.
I don’t know why there aren’t more inbound plays. Jazz Gaming had a very nice one last season despite them rarely deploying it. But inbounding gives you a chance to get set and figure something out as well as create a look the defense isn’t accustomed to seeing. Take all the small advantages you can get.
Rock and Roll Gravity
OfficialSavageRollGravity – Clipped by josiahcohen13
OfficialSavage has some official roll gravity. When he slips the pick for HiteDontLose on a high pick-and-roll, he draws both corner defenders into the middle. That opens up passing lanes for days, and while MM can’t get the shot to fall, they should be happy with that look any time they can get it.
Really good centers consistently suck in help defenders and open up passing lines. In this iteration of NBA 2K, centers with roll gravity (think Clint Capela) are arguably more important than ballhandlers driving to the paint. The latter are often affected by pinching defenders and lose space and composure in tight. Without the ball, centers avoid those problems, but with a real threat of the ball coming their way they create passing lanes and offense very well.
The three, as the very next possession shows, does fall, here confirming that—as the great point guard Isaac Newton once showed—gravity is in fact at work:
AlphaSmokeRollGravity – Clipped by josiahcohen13
Sleep Sliding Away
Here is how not to play a wing cut:
LegendaryyTimSleep – Clipped by josiahcohen13
Here is how to steal a wing cut:
Double_D823Steal – Clipped by josiahcohen13
Takeover or no takeover, there are ways to prevent cuts from working without help defense (which is always nice). The best way to prevent cuts is to stay awake on defense. Ball watching is basically sleeping on your feet. Too many wing defenders are susceptible to ball watching.
Backdoor cuts are a slightly different matter. While the alley-oop is undeniably overpowered in the game, corner defenders can get in the way of cutters and take the pressure off their reaction time. Wing defenders have to worry about wraps up top (Pro-Am will explode when someone sets a downscreen for a corner shooter, apparently).
Positioning and reaction time are the key variables at play. Work to ensure you have the advantage in both and you’ll go from ball watching to ball denying and stealing.
It’s time to fix leaky transitions
YoTimChillLeaky – Clipped by josiahcohen13
Leaking out in transition early may be the off-ball attribute I dislike the most. Here, Yo Tim Chill sees a bad shot go up and is immediately running, despite his center being boxed out and his corner man going nowhere. The obvious happens: the center gets the board and kicks it out to the corner man for a wide open three, with the defender above the 3-point line.
Leaking out is a double-edged sword. It’s easy to say that, had Yo Tim Chill’s center gotten the rebound and thrown the outlet pass, this would be a very different story, and I might be castigating the corner man for not getting back in transition. To an extent, that’s fair.
But the problem is similarly multifaceted. Too many people stay below the 3-point line on offense when they should be getting back. Too many people are off and running whenever a shot goes up. The solution is to take things on an individual basis and not adhere to fallible general principles. In this case, see the individual boxout rather than the general bad shot. Save your team 3 points. There’s no guarantee in transition, either.