The eye is trained to follow the ball when watching sports. In basketball, so much is going on away from the ball, most writers and analysts have to go back and watch film to catch the various off-ball movements that make up the majority of a basketball game. DIME scribes aren’t the usual basketball fans, though, and a lot of them watch away from the ball in real time. Here’s who they’re looking at, and why.
I pay extra attention to all non-shooters who do a lion’s share of playmaking. Rajon Rondo, Ricky Rubio, Michael Carter-Williams, and Elfrid Payton come to mind first as point guards, but guys like Dwyane Wade also fit that mold.
Are they spacing the floor to the arc on the weak side or standing a few steps inside it? Do they take advantage of defenders overloading the strong side with well-timed cuts that produce points? Do they take advantage of the defender going under in ball-screen action by confidently shooting jumpers?
Those are some of the questions that decide whether or not the glaring flaw of shooting can be somewhat mitigated. And in the modern NBA, answering them positively matters more than ever. There’s only so much space on the floor, and playing a small that doesn’t capably stretch it naturally limits the ceiling of a team’s offense. But players who present that problem can still lessen it with canny, active, and decisive movements; overall, that’s what I’m looking for more than anything else while watching them operate without the ball.