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Explain One Play: James Michael McAdoo’s Three Dunks

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James Michael McAdoo dunked through his rare playing time in the Warriors-Rockets game on Jan 20, 2017.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Golden State Warriors
Yeah, it’s not against HOU. I work with what i got.
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The real story of the game was the Warriors’ ability to shut down Houston’s drive-and-kick 3 point game, by forcing James Harden into becoming a driver without fouling while covering the passing lanes. At least for tonight, Houston did not look nearly as lethal from three once players were forced to take a dribble. However, how often do I get to write about James Michael McAdoo?

Here’s Kevin Durant calling him the player of the game, which is obviously not true, but very kind:

Reportedly, Steve Kerr likes McAdoo. But you can’t tell given his subliminal levels of playing time this year (88 minutes total). Despite McAdoo’s agility and hops, David West is better on both ends, and JaVale McGee has taken on the role of athletic change-up off the bench.

Tonight, McAdoo looked as competent as he ever has, though he ended up in -5 in 12 minutes with 8 points and 3 turnovers. The turnovers weren’t all his fault — pass to Durant stolen on good defense, two late in garbage time. He also threw down several dunks, which we’ll have a look at.

The last two came on elementary pick-and-roll plays. McAdoo sets a pick, the ballhandler gets doubled, McAdoo rolls to the basket and gets open dunks.

First, this happens so often, you get used to it. Stephen Curry gets a pick from McAdoo, the defense flies at Curry, Steph passes to the roll man. I really don’t think blitzing Curry is generally the right defensive choice.

Second, W’s get lucky when Houston misses an open 3 (notice the solid box out by McAdoo) then Andre Iguodala pushes the ball in early offense and turns it into a quick pick and roll with McAdoo. McAdoo slips, catches, and dunks.

Curl Counter

Okay, the third dunk is slightly more interesting, since it’s a play we’ve seen before. The W’s very often have Klay Thompson curl up and around a screen. This is hard to guard since Thompson can stop and hit the mid-range jumper, or he can continue diving to the basket. Kevin Durant has started to run this route more often, as he has the same advantages. One defensive counter is to double the curler. So here the Nuggets double Klay, and he responds:

And here the Nuggets try a soft double on the curling Curry, but they leave enough room for the people’s choice, Zaza Pachulia, to sneak to the rim.

So by now you get the idea, and tonight, McAdoo sets a screen for Curry running a Loop, and then...

Here’s one last play, which is a defensive mistake by McAdoo. He goes for a steal, and gives up a dunk. But it’s interesting to watch the interactions after the play.

McAdoo holds up his hand to say, okay, that was my fault, I blew it. Then Durant gives him a hand slap as if to say, keep on working at it.

It seems pretty clear that McAdoo or Anderson Varejao needs to go so the W’s can bring on a wing. Ian Clark is a good backup, Iguodala and Shaun Livingston are old and minutes restricted, Patrick McCaw is promising but seems to have hit a rookie wall. Given that Varejao is very old and playing quite poorly, it seems like a no-brainer that he’d be the odd man out, despite Kerr’s belief in having good natured Brazliians to unite the team.

Final thoughts: system player All-star starters

I love Russell Westbrook’s limitless motor. I don’t like his unending immature disrespect to all opponents, and I don’t like how he’s a system player. Yeah, I said it. The system is that he needs to be on-ball dictating the play in isolation or simple pick and roll situations or in helter-skelter transition. Why does Draymond Green get called a system player because he blooms in systems requiring cooperation? Westbrook is a system player. Same with Harden: he needs the ball.

People talk about how Westbrook and Harden do more with less. Well, they CAUSED the less by being system players who don’t co-exist well with other players who need the ball.

It’s well documented that the Thunder help Westbrook pad his rebounding stats. Further, Westbrook prefers an offense where he makes the primary pass to a direct shot (hence racking up assists and triple-doubles). And do you realize that Westbrook has taken the 13th most shots in history through 44 games? (And he’s only 14 shots out of #6 spot.) On 42% shooting?

Now compare Stephen Curry. He gives up shots to Durant, he makes extra space in the offense to set up Durant (maybe too much), depressing his numbers. And yet, Curry still has racked up (if you want blunt counting stats), per game stats of 24.6 PTS, 4.2 REB, 6.1 AST and 1.8 STL. Do you know how many NBA seasons in history had those numbers? 16. And how many with a True Shooting % of 62.5? Exactly one other season, Curry last year. So it’s not like he’s had a bad year.

And off the stat sheet, Curry continues doing the little things. For instance, he screens his butt off. He racks up 1.6 screen assists per game, way ahead of all other guards. #2 is Giannis Antetokounmpo with 1.1, and after that is Patrick Beverley at 0.8. Curry is #3 in loose balls recovered, #6 in deflections. Curry is way ahead of the league in “Secondary Assists” — the pass to the assist — at 2.4 per game. #2 is Harden at 1.9, Westbrook is down at 1.2 at #23, just below Livingston.

These are all the team plays and hustle plays that don’t get you triple doubles, and instead get everyone saying you don’t deserve to start the All-Star Game and wondering why you’re slumping so badly.

So, I get it if you think Westbrook deserved to start over Curry, but don’t act like it’s some unthinkable slam dunk. And who cares who starts, anyway?

If you want to read more video breakdowns — one for well-nigh every Warriors’ win since 2015 — check out the Explain One Play Mega-Index, searchable and sortable by player, play, team and date.