How Rivers and Paul might work the pick-and-roll

August, 2, 2013
8/02/13
8:55
AM PT
Doc RiversJeff Gross/Getty ImagesDoc Rivers' emphasis on options out of the pick-and-roll may benefit Chris Paul.


The resounding complaint about the Los Angeles Clippers offense under former head coach Vinny Del Negro was that it lacked creativity and structure. The Clippers kept things simple for the most part, relying on their talent to make the most out of very vanilla offensive sets.
Maybe it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or overly difficult for defenses to figure out, but the isolated results were still impressive.

The Clippers ranked fourth in offensive efficiency each of the last two seasons, and according to, they were second in the league in points per possessions (PPP) used by pick-and-roll ballhandlers, and third in the league for the roll men in the pick-and-roll.

The general effectiveness of the Clippers pick-and-roll attack shouldn’t be questioned, but it’s fair to ask if it was optimal given the talent level of the primary participants.

With Del Negro out, the task of optimizing the pick-and-roll dance between Chris Paul and Blake Griffin now falls on Doc Rivers. What could that look like?

Doc’s Orders

In Boston, Rivers liked to run plays with very specific conclusions – this player, taking this shot, from this spot on the floor. To arrive at that point, the Celtics would run a lot of misdirection and a ton of off-ball screens, especially when Ray Allen was still around.

If the desired look wasn’t manufactured, the pick-and-roll was often the secondary, late shot clock option. Rondo was allowed to create in early transition opportunities or when a bailout was required, but the rest of the game belonged to Rivers.

If the Clippers’ offense more closely resembles what Rivers did in Boston, you’ll see less static pick-and-rolls and more fluidity in that setting. At least in theory, that means the ball will be out Paul’s hands early in the clock with much more frequency.

Is a possible dip in efficiency during an adjustment period worth it for more variety and less predictability in the postseason?

CP3 is the danger

You can certainly argue that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Perhaps the tweaks should be minor, and Paul’s offensive control should reign supreme.

So what are some of those tweaks?

The Clippers technically ran less pick-and-roll last season (despite its effectiveness) because very rarely were screens actually set. Teams emphasized zoning up against Paul in that setting, no matter his location on the floor.

Because the screens were so obvious and coming with no misdirection, Paul’s man could hop on his hip early and push him away from the screen.

This would often lead to Blake Griffin having awkward moments of indecisiveness as a screener, like you or I would playing chicken in the aisle of a grocery store. Griffin’s focus was almost always more on the potential pocket pass instead of creating contact.

That’s a place Rivers could make his impact. Kevin Garnett is one of the game’s all-time best (and dirtiest) screeners, and if Rivers can relay the importance of plastering a defender or even nicking them just enough to slow them down, the Clippers offense would be better off for it.

Common ground

Whether it’s Paul improvising and creating on his own or Rivers dialing up a specific set, the Clippers will always need space. That’s a must.

Here’s the good news: The Clips were fifth in the league in corner 3-pointers attempted last year. Even without a ton of structure, creative design or talent optimization, the offense regularly manufactured great looks.

The bad news? The shots just weren’t knocked down, as the team finished 16th in the league in 3-point percentage.

That’s where Redick and Jared Dudley come in. Adding two players who have shot over 39 percent from 3-point land on their careers (without the Chris Paul bump!) should create plenty of room offensively. Toss in assistant coach Alvin Gentry’s influence as a proponent of smallball and perimeter heavy offensive attacks, and everyone should be on the same page that everything else will stem off the pick-and-roll in this offense.

Paul has a great roll partner in Griffin, but for a long time he has craved someone who could occasionally take the constant pressure of creating off him -- someone who could find buckets without him, maintain spacing, and help out defensively.

Perhaps he's finally found all that in Doc Rivers.

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