UNLV did not feature a great offensive attack this season, and there were several reasons why the Rebels underperformed on that end of the floor. But as we head into the offseason, I’d like to spotlight a seemingly small part of the game that contributed greatly to the team’s scoring troubles.
For the 2014-15 season, UNLV scored 91.4 points per 100 possessions, a decent number that should have been higher. One facet of the offense that lagged behind was screening—on plays that ended with some sort of ball-screen action, the Rebels dropped to 72.3 points per 100 possessions.
Whether it was a pick-and-roll, a pick-and-pop, or just a ball screen set for the handler to penetrate, UNLV could never scrounge much offense from that chapter of the playbook this season. Cody Doolin, Patrick McCaw and Rashad Vaughn were the Rebels’ three primary ball-handlers, and all three posted lower numbers off of ball-screen action than they did overall for the season. And the team’s two primary screen setters—Chris Wood and Goodluck Okonoboh—combined to finish fewer than 50 plays off of pick-and-rolls (or pick-and-pops).
In 2013-14, UNLV’s offense was worse overall, averaging 89.8 points per 100, but they had better success than this year’s team when it came to ball screens, posting 78.6 points per possession on those plays.
I think the biggest reason why the Rebels didn’t generate good offense out of those plays was due to poor screening technique.
Take a look at some examples from the Rebels’ loss at Colorado State on Feb. 7. On this play, McCaw and Wood set up to run a ball screen on the right wing. McCaw wants to fire off and penetrate into the lane, but Wood barely brushes the on-ball defender, who sticks with McCaw all the way and forces a tough shot:
In another example from the CSU game, McCaw and Wood try another right-wing pick. Again, Wood barely obstructs the defender, who easily cuts off McCaw’s driving lane:
On the left wing this time, it’s Jelan Kendrick struggling to shake his defender. Wood does not impede the on-ball defender at all, and even gets pushed into Kendrick’s path at one point:
On this play, Doolin dribbles left-to-right at the top of the key, and his defender has no trouble eluding Wood’s pick. Wood then moves to the left wing and attempts to free up Rashad Vaughn with an off-ball screen, which again comes up empty:
Now in all fairness, Wood was not at the point of attack in the above clip. The play was designed to get him a post touch on the left block, and he really doesn’t have to set bone-rattling picks to make it work. But I think it speaks to the overall level of execution and provides an example of the type of plays UNLV needs to improve upon in order to field a better offense. It’s all about attention to detail.
This last play isn’t a ball screen, so it doesn’t figure into the numbers cited at the top of this story. But it’s another example of poor screening, the kind of stuff the Rebels had trouble executing all season long. Wood tries to free up Vaughn for a curl on the right side, but Vaughn’s defender plows right through Wood, sticks to Vaughn’s hip and blows up the play:
It may appear as though I’m picking on Chris Wood with these examples, but I’m not intentionally singling him out. The only reason Goodluck Okonoboh doesn’t appear in these clips is because he didn’t play in this game due to injury. Okonoboh had difficulties setting good screens as well and whiffed on more than his share of picks. Dwayne Morgan was probably the team’s best screener, but even he could use some improvement in that area.
In any case, these clips are all from one half of one game. And there were a bunch I didn’t even bother to post, because I thought five made the point well enough. If the Rebels want their offense to run with more precision next year, they would be wise to spend some time working on the fundamentals of setting screens.
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