How the trio of Harris, Olynyk and Sacre can function together
In Gonzaga’s season opener, they trotted out a starting lineup that featured 6-7″ Elias Harris at SF, 7-0″ Kelly Olynyk at PF and 7-0″ Robert Sacre at center. This is a lineup that will be taller than just about any other trio in the country. Harris played the PF spot the majority of the time last season, so I was interested to see in how the trio plays together.
Rebounding is the one area where Gonzaga should dominate nearly every game this season. With their frontline trio, they should improve their 33.1 offensive rebounding percentage from last season. In their first game, they rebounded an impressive 64.3 of available offensive rebounds (21 for a point of reference).
You should see why this is a major strength in the next few clips. Even if just a combination of two of these players are on the court, they should still have a height advantage. If they are aggressive on every possession and fight on the glass, there is no reason they should not be a top 10 offensive rebounding team this season.
Offensive rebounding is one of the best ways to get an open 3 point opportunity. Since the defensive guards are dropping to help get the defensive rebound, an offensive rebound and quick kick out can lead to an open three, as you see here.
Harris’ offensive game at the SF position
I think Harris is suited to play either in the post or on the perimeter. He is big and strong enough to battle in the post but athletic enough to handle himself on the perimeter.
Harris can run the floor on the fast break, which you want to see from your SF. With Sacre and Olynyk controlling the defensive glass, Harris is free to get out on the break. If he pulls out moves like this one, he will be unstoppable.
Harris will be roaming around the three point line when playing with Sacre and Olynyk, so it is imperative his offensive game on the perimeter must be respected. If it cannot, then the defense can sag on the post players and clog up the middle which could stall Gonzaga’s offense.
However, Harris must be respected on the perimeter. As you saw before (even though it was on the break) he has the skills to handle the ball and finish after driving. He also has a respectable three point shot. Last year, he made 45% (23-51) and he got off to a good start this season, making his only attempt.
Teams will have to respect him and play him tight on the perimeter which will open up both the lane (for Steven Gray and others to drive) and the block (for Sacre and Olynyk to post up). This is why I think the trio will be able to play together throughout the year.
If there is one place where this trio can be exploited, it is defense on the perimeter. While Harris and Olynyk have good lateral quickness for their size, if they get matched up with a quick player, that could spell trouble.
Here, Olynyk gets beat baseline by a player with a quick first step and explosiveness toward the basket.
While Harris initially cuts his man off here, he sags off too much on the help defense and gives up the open three point shot. It was not a poor sequence by Harris but he still needs to improve a bit on defending the perimeter players.
It is not all bad for the trio on the perimeter. After hitting the initial three point shot over Harris, Brandon Wright tries to take another three. Harris is right in his face and blocks it out of bounds. This is where Harris has the advantage as it will be difficult for smaller SFs to shoot over him.
I am not here to say that Harris and Olynyk can’t guard the perimeter. I just think that they can be beaten by the right player but they are agile enough to guard these players at times as well. Although we saw Olynyk get beat earlier, he cuts off his man in this clip, after Harris stops his man from driving as well. This leads to a contested missed three from Southern.
Of course, Southern does not have the athletes that Gonzaga will see from other teams this season. It will be interesting to see how they defend some of the better SFs that they will see. It is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Overall, I think it is a smart move to play Harris, Olynyk and Sacre together. They are their three best frontcourt players and their strengths outweigh any weaknesses they might have on defense.