Being able to define your coaching approach in a 4-game span is already a remarkable thing. Ryan Saunders did it in his first 10 days as an interim head coach of the Wolves.
He allowed music during the practice, and he introduced remunerative rules to improve the shot selection. He’s taking different decisions from the get-go. They are not necessarily right and can’t be judged or compared with those of Thibs until mid-February/early March with a larger sample.
But after the blowout 149-107 loss against the Sixers and a 2-2 record, it’s time to give a first look at his offense.
CORRECTING SHOT SELECTION NEEDS TIME
In the last game, Wolves passed up good shots multiple times.
Hesitating on open 3’s is generally bad, but is not that unusual when a team is looking for a new balance in shot distribution.
Taking more three’s is not an instant upgrade to an offense. The Saunders purpose of deducing points on long 2-attempts and turnovers in the Wolves scrimmages is not getting rid of the mid-range jumpers, but cutting off a big portion of the turnaround/step backs contested shots and Teague’s ball hogging tendencies. In his debut against OKC, Saunders ran less “touch series” plays where Wiggins or Rose had to drive after a couple of handoffs, playing more freelance basketball, kick and drives, high PNR’s.
The Wolves took 53 percent of their FGA without dribbling against the Thunder, 9 percent more than usual. Entering sets earlier, spotting up better and generating 5 more 3PA in catch and shoot than their season average are just a few ways how Saunders would optimize the Wolves offense over the next few months.
QUICK ATO’S, OLD FLIP SETS, NEW PLAYS TO OPEN THE GAME
Ryan refreshed some offensive sets of his dad. He ran “5-52-Twist” (a variation of Flip’s “4-52-Twist”) to start the game against OKC.
Wiggs uses the Hawks screen, he cuts along the baseline coming off the stagger at the top, handoff between Towns and Teague, ball reversal to Wiggs, clearing space in the low post for Towns.
During Thibs tenure watching the same play with different counters wasn’t ordinary.
The first set is an ATO: cross screen near the free throw line, then Dieng ball screens for Rose. He could have two easy kick-out options: Saric at the top of the key and Okogie on the right corner. Next play, cross screens between Towns and Taj. Kat receives the ball, quick handoff with Wiggins, they swing in it and there’s the chance to create a good low post entry for Towns. Something different from the classic “rub series” or wedge actions where there’s basically just a cross screen between Towns and the other big.
Wolves opened the game against the Mavs with this fake stagger turned into an Okogie curl action, ball reversal to Wiggs, who plays PNR at the top. By splitting the double screen and executing that V cut, there’s just one Mavs left on the weak side. This play has a lot of misdirections, with a better timing and changing of speed, will create a lot of open looks.