Welcome to Court Vision, a weekly video-breakdown column on emerging trends around the NBA that you might have missed.
Fueling the Warriors' fire
The league looked to have finally solved the Golden State Warriors' offense earlier in the season, as teams aggressively ignored everyone not named Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, or Kevin Durant. As a result, Golden State's beautiful motion offense ground to a halt.
Curry, Thompson, and Durant saw extra bodies every time they drove into the paint, while the likes of Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, and Kevon Looney failed to capitalize despite being left wide open. Curry's injury only made things worse as the Warriors slid in the standings with a 5-8 stretch through most of November and into December.
Everything came to a head on Christmas Day, when a fully equipped Warriors side - sans DeMarcus Cousins - got blown out by the Los Angeles Lakers on national television. Thompson, Green, and Curry combined for 24 points on 9-of-31 shooting, and it was clear that something had to change.
The solution was simple: Golden State started attacking the gaps. Since teams were completely ignoring the likes of Looney and Green, the Warriors had them screen for shooters, knowing that there would be no help.
This adjustment has fueled one of the scariest stretches of Curry's career - he's burned the New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, and Denver Nuggets for 28 threes in his last three games. Throw a healthy Cousins into the mix, and the Warriors are back to being unguardable.
Nets going zone
Brooklyn is playing competent basketball for the first time since 2014, as the team's Rockets-East style of pace-and-space offense has allowed the likes of D'Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie to thrive.
But the Nets won't seriously challenge teams in the playoffs until they address their defense. Brooklyn's guards allow too much dribble penetration, and Jarrett Allen can only erase so many mistakes at the basket. The Nets concede the fourth-most points per game and rank 21st in defensive efficiency.
The only time the Nets look passable on defense is when Kenny Atkinson goes to a 2-1-2 zone with Allen patrolling the middle. The Nets caught Boston completely off guard with this look and it helped create a 27-point advantage:
But as happens with any zone coverage in the pros, the Celtics ultimately solved it, nearly pulling off an exhilarating comeback in the fourth quarter. Brooklyn's gimmick is just that - a gimmick. They need to find a sustainable system of defense.
76ers accommodating Butler
Jimmy Butler is averaging 22 points per game on 56 percent shooting since challenging Brett Brown about his role in the team's offense.
The Philadelphia 76ers have also delivered two of their most resounding wins of the year - pummelling the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Indiana Pacers by a combined 68 points - to bury the story of Butler's blowup.
More importantly, Butler is finding his spots within the offense by playing away from the ball. He is creating havoc each time he curls around a screen from Joel Embiid, and it's leading to a handful of easy points.
Butler is also starting to click with Ben Simmons, who has made the four-time All-Star his favorite target. Simmons has thrown 24 percent of his passes to Butler in the six games since he called out Brown, as compared to 20 percent beforehand.
Fox-Hield as the next Wall-Beal
The Sacramento Kings dropped to 10th in the West after a blowout loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday, but nothing can dampen the excitement around the team.
De'Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield have emerged as franchise cornerstones. While they aren't exactly the second coming of the Splash Brothers that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive had hoped for, they do bear a resemblance to the Washington Wizards' combination of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
Fox is already better than Wall was as a sophomore. Fox is shooting 37 percent from deep and is also knocking down 10-16 foot mid-range shots at a respectable 44 percent clip, while Wall has never topped those rates in his nine seasons to date. Both players are lightning-quick lead guards who understand how to set up their teammates and guard their position on the other end.
|Statistic||Fox (18-19)||Wall (11-12)|
Hield has a legitimate case for Most Improved Player, as he's averaging better than 20 points per game while shooting 45 percent from deep on 7.4 attempts per game. He operates much in the same way Beal does; he thrives as a spot-up threat but can also create his own shot off the dribble. Hield's numbers are comparable to Beal's in his third season, although Beal was only 21 at the time while Hield is already 26.
|Statistic||Buddy Hield (18-19)||Beal (14-15)|
If the Wizards are the framework, then the Kings should invest in a defensively dependable center. Washington's wings were good enough to make noise in the playoffs, but the Wizards' reliance on Marcin Gortat kept the team from reaching its ceiling. Willie Cauley-Stein and Marvin Bagley are solid offensive players, but neither one profiles as a potential defensive anchor.
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