While You Weren't Watching: Top 10 most underrated plays of the week
The NBA regular season operates at a frenzied pace, with one game and storyline bleeding into the next. Every Friday here at SI.com, we'll slow things down in While You Weren't Watching – a spotlight on the little moments in the week's slate that might otherwise get lost in the shuffle. Here's what you may have missed...
• Flexibility. Tobias Harris is definitively playing the best basketball of his career by fully exploiting his skills as a tweener. Slower defenders are left behind as Harris looks more and more confident putting the ball on the floor. Those opponents who stray from him at the three-point line are starting to pay for doing so. And any natural small forward lined up against Harris is vulnerable to his work in the post, which has been remarkably consistent and efficient to date this season:
• Dubious intent. There is no better summation of Patrick Beverley than to say that I’m not entirely sure whether this play – in which the Rockets guard just so happens to clip an airborne Collison – is dirty or incidental:
• Officiating influence. As the block/charge distinction has become a critical component of NBA play, the need to avoid the charge has become all the more important. Basketball is played and officiated differently than it was 10 years ago, and because of that you see plays like this one – in which Darren Collison ends up traveling as he tries to evade a potential charge:
• Drifting. Nick Young has a natural fade on his shot, one that pulls him into a slight lean where a textbook shooter would keep vertical. Technically this is a defect, albeit one that hardly matters given that Young is a fine enough shooter. I wonder, though, if that slight drift – and the fact that it allows Young to get his shot off cleanly against pressure – might give Young some natural advantage in terms of converting his jumper after contact:
• Subtlety. After kicking the ball to J.J. Hickson out of a pick-and-roll, Ty Lawson spaces out to the perimeter only to find the ball back in his hands. At that point the defense is essentially zoned up with just two defenders to account for Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler. So Lawson pauses. He leans slightly toward Afflalo, feigning as if waiting for Afflalo to clear space. He resets his body toward the basket to convey some intention to shoot, and then finds Wilson Chandler – in the midst of a hot run – wide open in the corner for a good look. The league’s great players can get an awful lot done without ever really moving:
• Growth. The Pistons are force-feeding Andre Drummond in the post this season, the only sure way to accelerate development in his back-to-the-basket game. Progress on that front has been as slow as can be expected. Drummond does show flashes of judgment and technique, though, that suggest he could be a special player down the line. Here we see something rare of Drummond: A rocket, cross-court pass that hits D.J. Augustin on time and on target:
Also: What Caron Butler does to Drummond’s spacing on this play bordered on sabotage.
• Thoughtful hustle. Credit Dallas’ Brandan Wright here for making the right, disruptive play to rebuff Jrue Holiday in transition. Many of the league’s big men would attempt to block a smaller guard from behind when lined up in position to do so on the break. Instead, Wright busts downcourt to take away Holiday’s path to the rim. In doing so he removes the possibility of being faked out or lured into a foul, and instead makes New Orleans work within their half-court offense for a shot attempt:
• Kobe, for better or worse. When you’re already taking more field goal attempts than any other player in the league, shooting 39 percent from the field, and throwing your teammates under the bus, a shot attempt like this one seems actively damaging. Bryant can do so much with the ball, and yet on so many occasions he insists on making himself so easy to cover:
• Decisiveness. Golden State’s offense is adored around the league for its collective skill and willingness to share the ball. Not enough credit, though, is given to the fact that the Warriors across the board tend to make quick, confident moves. They’re empowered to do so by head coach Steve Kerr, yet players like Draymond Green also read the floor and process quickly enough to make the most out of a clearing like this one: