Where DOES Offense Happen?
Even a cursory examination demonstrates this to be a false understanding. Take a player like mascot Kyle Korver. Not to beat a dead horse, but his main skill is catching the ball and shooting it. Forcing him to do anything else is bad for the offense and good for the defense. However, if he is able to catch and shoot, his attempts are among the most valuable in the league. The defense being aware of this attempts to prevent him from doing so, sometimes going to rather extreme lengths in this regard.
We all know this more or less intuitively, but I've got numbers:
A few things are readily apparent from the chart:
- Shots were the defense is by definition not set (transition and immediately following an offensive rebound) are very good.
- Broken plays ("Other") do not often result in positive outcomes for the offense
- Attacking a set defense with the ball and the intention to score yourself is inefficient. The three categories where the player who initiates the play finishes it (Isolation, P&R ball-handler, Post ups) all consume a greater percentage of possessions than points they generate.
- Situations where a player is either moving or finding space without the ball and receives a pass are far more efficient ways of scoring in the half court, as the P&R Roll man, spot up shooters and cutters all generate more points than their percentage of possessions would indicate.
This brings me to the central quandary of good offense - without the "bad possessions," the good possessions become impossible or at least improbable. If an offense simply throws the ball around the perimeter (turn on your TV and watch any college game for interminable examples), they are unlikely to ever get the opportunity to catch and shoot, as the defense will be well positioned. A team needs players who can operate in isolation, P&R and post situations to "bend" the defense to allow players to find space off the ball, to force the defense into rotations, basically to allow defenders to make mistakes.
Thus, an "isolation" isn't necessarily bad. If the floor is well spaced and the player with the ball is threatening enough off the dribble, has reasonable court vision and is willing to move the ball, good things can happen. Where iso-heavy offenses break down is when the only likely product of the isolation is a contested mid range jump shot from the ball-handler. This is certainly the case for Cleveland, where as a result of poor shot clock management, spacing and chuck-happy personnel too many possessions end with this: