Blazers offense (part 3)
When an offense, even a decent one, is often forced into bad possessions if the defense deals with the first set of options. For example, Indiana is a roughly league average offensive team (1.046 PPP vs. league average of 1.04.) Running up against the elite defense of the Bulls, this can happen:
The Bulls are by any measure a great defensive team. sitting 3rd so far this year and either 6th or 8th last year in defensive PPP (per B-ref and Synergy respectively). Part of the reason is they have good-to-great individual defenders at 3 positions (Noah, Deng and Butler), with very capable defenders in their second unit with Taj Gibson and Kirk Hinrich. They are also extremely well coached, both in terms of knowing their own scheme as well as their scouting of the opposition. Watching a Bulls game, you can hear Coach Thibs yelling out offensive sets and actions are often clearly audible over the broadcast, as the players' (especially the bigs' coverage calls on pick-and-rolls.
This preparation and communication makes the Bulls extremely proficient at eliminating the first several looks from an offensive set, leading to break downs in continuity leading to isos (by the numbers the Bulls actually force a fairly low percentage of isos, but they also force an extremely high proportion of shots from the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, a shot with much in common with an isolation play, and defend these shots very well.) After forcing the offense into one-on-one play, the skill of the individual defenders takes over: the Bulls are presently the fourth best team in the league at defending isolation plays and 7th against pick-and-roll dribblers.
Therefore, against the bulls, the ability to run continuous action to avoid perimeter one-on-one looks is immensely helpful to an offense. Portland is one of the best teams in the league at avoiding possessions ending in isolation plays with only 4.9% of plays ending this way (the only other teams under 5% are the Spurs, the current gold standard for offensive execution, and the Jazz, though the Jazz also boast an extremely high rate of spot up jumpers taken, leading me to suspect that their possessions end in isolations, but their players are so bad off the dribble that they end up jacking a contested jumper rather than attempt a play off the dribble. Other low iso% teams are the Hawks with their son-of-Pop system, Dallas where Carlisle's offense is the blueprint for to Blazers and Memphis who pound the ball inside to Z-Bo and Marc Gasol.)
First a little bit of the theory: well-executed continuity not avoids isos, but also forces the defense to adjust to more threats. With more decisions and movements to make, the chance of an error, be it a bad rotation, missed assignment or simple lack of effort, increases. Even for the best defenses, these mistakes occur.
To look a little bit at how Portland flows from one look to the next, the following are several early plays from Saturday's Bulls/Blazers game, which might also sadly serve as the day Derrick Rose's career died.
#1 Keep the Ball and Players Moving
#2 Be Ready to Take Advantage of Mistakes
#3 Run Everything Like It's Going To Work
Unfortunately for myself, I think the next team offense series should probably be for a less eye-catching (at least in a good way) squad. My instincts say Cleveland, but who knows if Mike Brown lasts long enough to give me enough time to put even the first post together.