Every point guard, from high school to the NBA, should be studying video of Chris Paul’s performance in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Paul, bolstered by the efforts of a coaching staff that has set up a framework for him to do what he does best, offered up a textbook Tuesday night on how to run a successful pick-and-roll against just about any type of defense a team could jam into a 48-minute game.
Most of all, as someone who has been sentenced to watching the Trail Blazers’ awful defense for the last couple of seasons, I loved how Paul annihilated the Milwaukee Bucks’ switching tactics.
As a defense, don’t attempt to switch all screens if you are trying to hide a poor defender or two. Chris Paul – and any guard worth an average NBA salary – is going to hunt that bad defender and put him in a pick and roll so he can isolate him.
Paul vs. your worst defender is a bucket – for him or some lucky teammate.
I watched the Trail Blazers defend this way time after time and then get stuck with Carmelo Anthony or Enes Kanter struggling to defend the other team’s best offensive player.
Look, if you have five versatile defenders on the floor, switching is your best bet. Otherwise, you are very vulnerable.
But the Bucks tried several different tactics. They tried the old NBA favorite – drop coverage, where the big drops off and invites mid-range jumpers.
Paul eats that for breakfast. You just can’t do it unless he’s having one of those nights when he can’t get his 15-foot jumper to go down.
They tried blitzing him but his handles are so good he just pulls the double-team out a little farther, allowing for teammates to make hard cuts for dunks or just play four-on-three.
And what makes Paul so good is that you know he can score and you have to respect that – but he has a great feel for finding teammates on the fly.
If he continues to get the shots he got in Game 1, the Suns are likely going to win this series in a hurry. Or, he could have a game or two when the shots don’t fall for him.
My advice to the Bucks would be to be more physical with him. Mix the coverages up from possession to possession. Give him a little more to worry about by randomly sending double-teams. But don’t foul him.
And hope for a little luck. He won’t shoot that well every night.
Phoenix has built a very nice operation for Paul to run, too. The court is spread, the Suns run when they can, but get balanced scoring and have a lot of players feasting on the open shots Paul creates.
And Phoenix’s balance carries over to its shot selection – the Suns get open looks at the rim, from mid-range and from three-point territory.
It’s a very interesting team to watch – with a point guard giving nightly lessons on how to play the position.