As I said in part I, only the point guard has complicated decisions to make in D’Antoni’s offense. For the rest of the team it should be a series of simple reactions. Hence point guard is the most important position in the SSOL. This year the main thing plaguing New York’s offense is Felton’s inability to make the perimeter shot. The more he misses, the more the defense slacks off onto Amare. This is why Felton is shooting so much. Additionally, the more the defense slacks off onto Amare, the fewer options Felton will have to make plays for others. Here’s a dandy chart showing the relationship between Felton’s TS% (X-axis) and Stoudemire’s TS% (Y-axis):
According to the above chart (data through the Clippers game on 2/9), on average each percentage point increase in Felton’s TS% increases Stoudemire’s TS% by 0.24 points. In other words, the more efficiently Felton scores, the better Amaré is.
Here’s the graph for Amare’s TS% (Y axis) and Nash’s (X axis) last season:
There is virtually no relationship between Stoudemire and Nash’s TS%. This to me suggests that, while teams respect Nash from the get-go and commit to defend him regardless of how well he shoots, they likely take a “wait and see” approach with Felton. If Felton can’t prove to them that he is a dangerous shotmaker, they lay off of him and commit to keeping Stoudemire out of the paint. The statistics bear this out: Stoudemire is taking a lot more shots out of isolation plays. Last year in Phoenix, 61% of his baskets came off assists. This year, only 48% of them do.
Why the skilled passer is important in D’Antoni’s offense:
• As we saw in the video clip from my first post, the window to make a pass to a perimeter player and to make interior passes to a roller opens and closes very very quickly. If the passer mistimes the pass, it may result in a turnover (either on the pass, or as we’ve seen sometimes, forcing Stoudemire into a charge) or more likely simply in a shot with a higher degree of difficulty (a covered three or a shot in the paint with more traffic).
• Understanding spacing and angles is also critical. When Felton dribbles through the pick, he has to make a judgment regarding how the defense is responding. Depending on how the defenders position themselves, Felton will have to go to different spaces on the floor in order to create an angle to pass the ball into Stoudemire.
• Finally, if Felton gets into the paint, good defenses will cover the easiest passes to the perimeter. Sometimes, the player who is most open will be the guy at the top of the key. Passing the ball out to a covered perimeter player, then rotating the ball takes longer and allows the defense more time to recover.