Using Kyrie Irving as a spot-up shooter will open up the floor for Brooklyn, giving them a better shot at competing in the playoffs.
It was midway through the first quarter of a home game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Kyrie Irving and Jarrett Allen were down the court trying to complete a pick and roll. Caris LeVert stood on the left-wing.
The defender on the opposing team, Wes Matthews, left him wide open to provide help defense on Kyrie. Kyrie, with no clear shot, was forced to pass the basketball to Taurean Prince. This wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last unless Kyrie changes his role.
Head coach, Kenny Atkinson, is currently running a pick and roll centric offense, as Brooklyn ranks fourth in the category, averaging 26 possessions per game. Unfortunately, the team has been ineffective out of the pick and roll, as they are shooting 39.8 percent from the field on 19.9 shot attempts per game.
The ineffectiveness is related to who Kenny Atkinson has as the primary ball-handler in pick and roll sets. Kyrie Irving currently accounts for 47.3 percent of the team’s pick and roll sets, averaging 12.3 per game. Kyrie, as the primary pick and roll ball handler, forces Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert to spend a significant portion of the game off the ball in the role of a spot-up shooter.
Spot up shooting is the biggest weakness in both their games, as they shoot 27.5 and 31 percent respectively, on catch and shoot threes. The inability to make catch and shoot threes consistently allows defenders to leave them wide open when they’re off the basketball.
The easiest way for Brooklyn to fix their spacing issues is to use Kyrie Irving as a spot-up shooter when Irving recovers from the sprain right knee he suffered last week. Using Kyrie as a spot-up shooter allows Kenny Atkinson to accentuate of Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert.
Caris and Spencer are players who thrive as primary ball handlers. For example, Kenny Atkinson allowed him to touch the basketball 59.4 times a game in 30.7 minutes per game during his 13 outings of last season. The 59.4 touches per game helped him attack the basket 14.5 times per game.
LeVert created 10.4 points and 0.9 assists per game for Brooklyn on these drives. The drive statistics accounted for 54.7 percent of his points and 24.3 percent of his assists as he averaged 19 points with 3.7 assists. Unfortunately, LeVert’s touches declined after the 13th game as he sustained a dislocated right foot midway through the 14th game.
On the other hand, Spencer had the best stretch of his career when Caris and Kyrie were sidelined with injuries this season as he averaged 81.1 touches per game over 22 outings. The 81.1 touches per game helped him attack the basket 21.6 times per game.
Spencer created 13.8 points and 1.8 assists per game for Brooklyn on these drives. The drive statistics accounted for 53.7 percent of his points and 25.3 percent of his assists as he averaged 25.7 points with 7.1 assists.
More importantly, Kyrie is a significantly better spot-up shooter as he is shooting 41.4 percent on catch and shoot threes. Kyrie, as a spot-up shooter, puts opponents in a bind as they have to choose between staying close to their assignments or collapsing on the ball handler.
If defenders stay close to their assignments, the ball handler will face single coverage, making it easier for him to score. On the other hand, if defenders collapse on the ball handler, he will have more confidence in passing the basketball to the perimeter for the open three.
Are the Nets at risk of not making the playoffs? No. Currently, even in a pick and roll offense, they rank as the 7th seed in the East. But using Kyrie as a spot-up shooter will open up the floor for Brooklyn, giving them a better shot at competing in the playoffs.