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Explain One Play: JaVale McGee assists(!) Curry 3, Kevon Looney dunks

A couple of nice plays from the new guys, Kevon Looney and JaVale McGee which show they’re starting to get the hang of the Warriors offense, in the Timberwolves-Warriors game on Nov 26, 2016.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors
Javale is droppin dime
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We take a quick look at a couple of nice plays from the new guys, Kevon Looney and JaVale McGee, which show they’re starting to get the hang of the Warriors offense. These are both versions of the Post-Cross play, which is the foundation of the Warriors offense. (A good starter article is Explain One Play: Durant Reverse Dunk and Curry 3 from Next Level Split Cuts.)

1. Kevon Looney, dropper of hammer

Just enjoy the play first.

If you’ve been reading these articles, you’ll know what I’m about to say. This whole play happens because of — wait for it — Stephen Curry’s screen. This is a classic high Post-Cross, where Curry throws the ball to a high passing post, Looney, and runs over to screen for Kevin Durant. It’s a solid screen and the Wolves must switch assignments, which puts little Ricky Rubio guarding Durant. Now this is a mismatch, since Durant can just shoot over Rubio. Durant immediately uses another screen from Looney so he has a lane to the basket because of the spacing of the other Warriors. So Karl-Anthony Towns comes over to help on Durant. Now unguarded, Looney makes an excellent cut to the basket, and Durant hits him with the nice pass. Nice dunk, semi-rookie!

This nice little play is a Three Man Game. If you search the Explain One Play index, you’ll see that one of the themes of the new offense is to beat the Switching Defense that the league plays against the Warriors, and one technique is to have tight plays that involve three players. It’s much harder for three defenders to switch assignments than two.

In general, Looney played a fine game, looking good on D against Towns and generally not making many mistakes.

2. JaVale McGee, dropper of dime

This play begins with the Warriors pushing the ball up in early offense, causing the Wolves to scramble to cover people. Zach Lavine has Curry, but Nemanja Bjelica is a stretch big and he ends up guarding quick Patrick McCaw while Andrew Wiggins is stuck guarding the bigger JaVale McGee. Now how do you exploit this mismatch? McGee can’t be trusted to post up a small, and McCaw can’t be trusted to isolate against a big yet. So instead...

You can see Curry directing this play from the start. He passes to McCaw, and as the ball leaves his hands, he hand signals McCaw to enter the ball to McGee in the post. McCaw is smart and understands immediately (he barely even looks at Curry’s signal) and he throws it into the post, and he knows it’s time for a Post-Cross.

McCaw sets a solid screen on Lavine and forces Bjelica to switch to Curry. This is the whole reason they are running this play: they don’t believe that Bjelica will be able to handle the switch because he’s a big and they aren’t used to switching on the perimeter. And even if he did switch, Curry would get to attack him in isolation or force a double-team.

In this case, Bjelica switches a split-second slow and that’s more than enough time for Curry to cut open to the corner. McGee hits him with the timely pass and that’s plenty of time for Curry to get off a shot.

Final thoughts

It’s nice to see the new guys, McGee, McCaw and Looney, playing roles well in the new offense. With Draymond Green and Ian Clark out, it was a good game for the new guys to make some contributions.

The Warriors double-teamed Towns early and often. With Green, they might have been able to avoid that, but as it was, they did a pretty good job with the blitz and recovery.

So, not the prettiest game, and the Warriors definitely had long stretches of ridiculous spaciness and general messing around. And for all the overblown “disrespect” that the uppity Warriors supposedly dish out, I’d say playing Anderson Varejao might rightfully count as an unforgivable insult to the opponent. He didn’t have much left in the tank last year, and he has even less this year. He doesn’t even look right in the offense, which was his silver lining last year.

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the rest of the series of Explain One Play articles. For the full, updated index, go to The Explain One Play series index.