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Explain One Play: David West’s pick and pop mastery

David West does it all off the pick and pop play in the Warriors-Grizzlies game on Mar 26, 2017.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Golden State Warriors
wild wild West
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

David West has settled into a helpful role for the Warriors. He comes off the bench and plays tough physical defense like Andrew Bogut did on big bruisers like Zach Randolph. (Did you realize that ESPN RPM, flawed as it is, rates West as the #7 defensive player in the NBA, and #2 power forward behind Draymond Green?)

And like Bogut did, West can get the ball up high and pass well to cutters. Unlike Bogut, he can shoot the midrange jumper like Marreese Speights.

This combination of skills makes West quite effective on the pick-and-pop play. You often hear about the pick-and-roll. The roll part is when the screener cuts to the basket after setting the screen. This is what Green or JaVale McGee or most big screeners do. The pick-and-pop is where the screener does not cut, but instead cuts to open space to threaten a catch-and-shoot jumper. (This is the play that got Speights all those midrange shots during his Warriors days.)

Let’s do a quick appreciation of David West’s skills at the different basic options on the pick-and-pop.

1. Shoot

The most obvious option is to pop out to space, catch the pass and fire the midrange jumper. The midrange jumper is going out of style nowadays, with the recognition that, with similar defensive attention, threes and layups have higher expected value. But as defenses skew to take away threes and layups, they allow more open midrange jumpers, which raises their expected value, if you have someone who can hit that shot.

Let’s look at this play, which comes at a delicate time of the game, with Memphis down only 5 with under 6 minutes.

Here David West make solid contact on a screen. Zach Randolph, whom the Dubs attacked all night with high screens, sags back to contain Curry’s drive while his defender catches up. This leaves West completely open for the long midrange jumper. Vince Carter stabs at him before returning to Green, Randolph lumbers out to begin a challenge, and somewhere in Houston, Daryl Morey gets indigestion. Swish.

David West’s jumper comes and goes, but he is currently one of the best catch and shoot guys in the league. West is tied for #6 in catch-and-shoot FG% (with Kevin Durant).

(While we’re on the topic, you can account for shooting more threes by looking at Effective FG% on catch-and-shoots, and of the guys who’ve played more than 50 games, #2 is... wait for it... Stephen Curry! Did you see my campaign for Curry for MVP last game?)

2. Pass

Another option after the pop besides shooting, is passing to cutters. In this sweet play, West sets a high screen for Thompson in early offense, attacking Mr. Randolph. Randolph sags back to contain Thompson’s drive, he kicks out to the popping West and...

A great cut from Thompson and a very precise, catchable pass. Why did Randolph leave Thompson and leave poor Tony Allen to trail behind? He was jumping out to contest West’s shot, because David West is a credible threat to shoot from there.

David West has a particularly good connection with Ian Clark on cuts, and has assisted on many Clark layups all year. (In fact on this play, Ian Clark also dived to the basket at the same time, so I imagine one of the two improvised his dive.)

West is a good enough reader and passer that Kerr trusts him to run the bench offense, either out of this pick-and-pop play, or out of the HORNS formation (bigs at elbows, smalls at corners, ball high) where West will hold the ball at the elbow and watch many dives, curls and pops, and usually make the right read and pass.

By the way, remember how it seemed like Tony Allen was in Thompson’s head (and jersey) during the 2015 playoffs? I think Thompson’s over it, shooting effectively with no conscience all night.

3. Have Gravity

Bogut was pretty good at doing the passing part of West’s role, but he had no range on his jumper, so if Bogut got the ball at the elbow or in most positions, opponents freely left him to have an extra defender elsewhere. With David West, you hesitate to leave him because of his jumper.

This play comes just a minute after the clip in part 1, where Randolph sagged way off West and was punished when West hit the jumper. So in this play, West will set a screen for Steph Curry and you’ll see Randolph (did I mention the Dubs attacked him with pick and pop/roll tonight?) stay close to West this time. Mike Conley — who had one heck of a game, canning contested jumper after jumper — starts to accelerate towards West’s screen. Everyone is preparing to deal with West’s screen, when Curry does something sneaky.

Curry sees Conley try to shoot between him and West’s screen, so he declines the screen by suddenly crossing over, then gets Conley sliding when Curry crosses back for the sweet off-the-dribble three that basically ended the game. Good to see the off-the-dribble three firebending is back on.

Why didn’t anyone help on Curry? Randolph was already hugging West, preparing to show on the other side of the screen. Thompson is curling around a double screen in the corner, so the other Grizzlies are far away and busy negotiating a three man switch and aren’t even really looking at Curry. A typical pick and roll (compare Westbrook pick and rolls) would have the other Warriors standing around the arc spacing. In this play, probably no help defense in the league could have stopped Curry’s quick shot, but you can see how this weakside action weakens the defense, as does having West be a credible pop shooter.

Final thoughts

Andre Iguodala had quite a game, and quite a month. He’s really stepped it up in Durant’s absence, looking to attack the rim, dunking multiple times a game, even hitting threes.

Also: all-time records for threes in a season:

  1. 402, alien from the future playing as Stephen Curry, 2015-16
  2. 286, Stephen Curry, 2014-15
  3. 282, Stephen Curry, who can’t shoot any more, 2016-17 with ten games to go.
  4. 276. Klay Thompson, 2015-16.

The press is so bored of Curry that there’s been little notice that he’s about to set the all-time record for threes in a season by a human. I think if James Harden had 282, we would be hearing about it non-stop. (He doesn’t, Harden is third in the league with 235. Klay just passed him for #2 with 238.)

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.

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