Offenses have never been more lethal than they are in this era.
With primary ball-handlers becoming larger, the collective shooting
range expanding and teams leaning further into the importance of
spacing, it’s becoming even more difficult to keep the ball out of
With the game expanding, screening has become even more
important. A well-placed off-ball pick can free a movement shooter
for a triple or a catch-and-drive. On-ball screens can make shifty
ball-handlers even harder to deal with in pick-and-roll and open
the door for dump-offs, lobs and fruitful catch-and-shoot
Screeners come in all sizes these days, ranging from the burly
centers to mismatch-causing smalls. I can’t overstate how important
guard-screening has become, especially late in games.
This season, I want to keep tabs on who is — and isn’t — getting
the job done as screeners. Every week, I’ll be highlighting a
handful of the most powerful (and shameful) screen-setters in the
Let’s get into volume three.
*All stats are through games
played between November 12 and November 18, unless noted
BIG OF THE WEEK: ROBIN LOPEZ
It hasn’t been the best time for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After
jumping out to an 8-1 start, they’ve lost five of their last six
games — the win coming in double overtime against the Charlotte
Hornets on Friday night.
However, we’re not here to talk about the Cavs at large, or
their defense falling off a cliff over the last week
and a half.
We’re here to talk about Robin Lopez absolutely mauling
For all the joy derived from the sweeping hooks over either
shoulder, the foundation of Lopez’s offensive value is his ability
to clear runways. With Jarrett Allen missing two of the three games
the Cavs played this past week, Lopez filled in and made life
easier for the guards, particularly Darius Garland.
Watching Lopez spring Garland free was a hidden treasure of an
otherwise wonky stretch of basketball. The Garland-Lopez ball
screen was good for an absurd 1.33 points per play (PPP), per
Lopez was the most effective on-ball screener in the league this
week. He generated contact on 86.7% of screens, the highest clip
among 63 players to set at least 40 screens. Second Spectrum also
tracks “die-on” percentage, essentially the rate in which the
player screened gets wiped out by a pick. Lopez’s 8.9% clip also
lapped the field.
Quality work from the Other Lopez.
POINT GUARD WHO’S ACTUALLY A FORWARD TURNED BACKUP
CENTER OF THE WEEK: BEN SIMMONS
Confusing and otherwise outdated positional designations aside,
I found myself optimistic on the play of Ben Simmons this week. He
isn’t close to being the All-NBA player he was at his healthiest,
but it feels like the aggression is coming back, one game at a
By virtue of his team and (shifting) role, screening has become
a more important piece to Simmons’ game. After setting roughly nine
on-ball picks per 100 possessions in the 2020-21 season, Simmons
has more than doubled that volume this season (21.5 per 100). He’s
connecting on 72.5% of his screen this season, and had some fun
reps this past week.
The next step for Simmons, and something we saw inklings of this
week, will be rolling harder after the screen. He has serious
short-roll passing chops, but he has to make himself available for
SMALL OF THE WEEK: MONTE MORRIS
Prying star players open is an important, but often thankless
job. Prying other role players open is very much a thankless job.
Leave it to Monte Morris, Professional Point Guard, to make no
bones about it.
His job is to make his teammates better, whether that’s
orchestrating a ball screen, lifting up the arc when Bradley Beal
or someone else runs a ball screen, making timely cuts or being a
lead blocker as part of Washington’s continuity-based
Did you know the Wizards generated 1.5 PPP on possessions
featuring an off-ball screen from Morris this week? Now you do!
YOU SHOULD HAVE THE FACILITIES FOR THIS, BIG MAN:
Aye man, you just have to be better than this.
There are more clips, but we can leave it there.
DeAndre Jordan is on the roster to make life easier for folks —
particularly on the floor. His screen-setting and vertical presence
is supposed to be a change-of-pace from what Nikola Jokic (or Jeff
Green or Zeke Nnaji) provides at the 5 spot.
Frankly, Jordan hasn’t done enough. Among the aforementioned
63-man group that set at least 40 on-ball screens this week, nobody
did a worse job at connecting on them than Jordan did (35.4%
contact rate). To shoot him some bail, the guards were feeling
reject-heavy this week, particularly when defenses tried to ICE
them — meaning the on-ball defender forced the ball-handler down
Of course, we also got this rep he slipped out of.
Even in the high/middle ball screens, it was more likely that
Jordan turned and ran early or screened with his arm (yes,
singular) than anything else. Considering some of the issues that
have popped up for him defensively, he can’t afford to miss on the
little things like this.
WE SEE YOU TOO: BOL BOL
As the resident Bol Bol fan, I’m
practically begging him to at least pretend to seek out contact
sometimes. There’s only so much impact he can have with his frame,
but finding a defender’s hip more frequently would do a world of
good for him.
At the very least, if he’s going to slip as often as he does,
use the eight feet of arms and make himself a target. To slip and
still have his arms by his side doesn’t do anyone any
Screen Time will be back next Saturday! Check out last week’s edition of
Screen Time here.
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