Hello everyone. First off, I would like to introduce myself to the Fear the Sword community. My name is Trevor Magnotti, and I am a graduate student at Ohio University, studying athletic training. I previously wrote over at Right Down Euclid, and contribute at Hoops Habit as well. My favorite current Cavalier is Dion, and my favorite All-Time Cavalier is Tyrone Hill. I have two pet tarantulas named Bleu and Kyrie. I think that's all the pertinent info; we can Q&A in the comments if there's anything else you'd like to know. Now let's talk about David Blatt.
Blatt has been widely regarded as a strong offensive mind, with a background playing for the legendary Pete Carril at Princeton, and having strong offensive teams throughout his tenure in Europe. His offense has been described as a "modified Princeton," filled with sets that utilize the pick-and-roll and off-ball movement to create good looks for his team. This sounds great on the surface; after all, this European-style offense is similar to what the Spurs have been doing for years.
However, not many have seen what this offense can do, as video of Israeli and Russian league basketball, where Blatt has spent most of the last 21 years, is not readily available. However, thanks to @j_069 on Twitter, we can look at some of the sets Blatt used with Maccabi Tel Aviv last season, and see how he might incorporate these sets for the Cavs.
Run out of your traditional "horns" set, with a point up top, bigs on the elbows, and shooters above the break at the three-point line, this set aims to set up a big for an isolated post-up. As you can see from the video, one big pops out to the three-point line to receive a pass, and the post that's the target seals his man for a post-up. The big then receives a post entry pass. It's an easy way to create a post ISO with options for a big. However, I'm not too confident in this play being used much by the Cavs, as it is really dependent on a dominating post player to draw attention to from the defense, and since the Cavs' best post-up threat might be Tristan Thompson.......yeah. However, it might be something Blatt can create variations off of, like the pick-n-roll at the end of the video.
This is a set I see working really well for Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack, and Matthew Dellavedova. A modified version of the "flex" offense that is so commonly used at the high school level, this play revolves around a shooter coming off a double screen from under the basket to the wing. It's a nice way to set up a catch-and-shoot opportunity for a sharpshooter, and can be turned into a post-up or a side PNR quite easily. It also puts the screen-setting big in great position for offensive rebounds, and the guy coming off the screen also can get a lane to the basket easily if the screen is set in the right spot. I see Dion thriving off of this play.
This is going to be a very effective play for the Cavaliers. The Twist is essentially a double-PNR that creates better looks for the point guard. It relies on the point guard being able to get his defender off balance on the second screen, creating the opportunity for the second big to slip the screen and get a good roll. Kyrie Irving has perhaps the best handle in the entire league, so this seems like a play that's perfectly designed to get him good PNR looks. The wings also get good looks out of this set, as they are set up in the corners, and the wing on the side of the PNR rotates down to the break as the point guard attacks as to give the big space for the roll. It's a play with a ton of options that plays to Irving's strengths, so it's literally the opposite of anything we saw this past season. I welcome its usage.
The "Gun" set is one that Blazers head coach Terry Stotts uses a lot, and it's a popular variation of the pistol set that's used commonly in the NBA. Essentially, it's a double pick set on the wing, where a wing screens for the point guard, and then runs off a screen from a big. The point guard can attack or pass, the big can roll to the hoop or pop out to the three-point line, and the wing is freed to pop to the three point line off the screen. It's a nice quick-hitter that can have a wide variety of variations created off of it, and that flexibility will be very weird to watch after last year. With how well it's worked for Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum in Portland, Irving and Wiggins should be the ones that most take advantage of this type of set.
Finally, Everyone's Favorite, ISOs!
Isolations will still be a part of the Cavs' offense. When you have Irving, Waiters, and Jack, it's hard to avoid. However, instituting situations where ISOs are allowed is something Blatt has historically done a good job of, and will be very helpful in limiting the stagnation that occurred in last year's ISOfest offense. MTA's isolations almost exclusively came when guards had big switched onto them, either in transition or off PNR looks. Guards rarely isolated except for when they had a clear mismatch. The other scenario that should see slightly more use in Cleveland was when the ballhandler got a defender off-balance with a dribble move coming up the floor.
Kyrie and Dion are pretty good at that, so they should be given slightly more freedom than MTA's guards in this regard. MTA also cleared plenty of space for the guard to drive, and wings moved off the ball to give the guards outlets in case they were contested at the rim. It's important to note that virtually all of the isolations in the above video resulted in threes or shots in the paint. This is what ISOs should be. With Blatt at the helm, I think the Cavs will be in better position to use isolation sets as a part of the offense, instead of "the entire offense."
Blatt's offense should have similar elements to what we saw from Mike Brown's offense last year, but should be more complex and efficient this season purely by design. While many of the players are the same, they will be used differently, and the result should be a more effective and aesthetically pleasing product. Blatt has said that he's open to molding the offense to his player's strengths, and that's promising as well. The Cavs might not be a top offense next year, but after last year's frustrating system, we can settle for "fun to watch."