Two ways OSU uses Jared Sullinger in their offense
Coming off a freshman season where he averaged 17.2 points per game with an accompanying 120.4 Offensive rating while using 25.2% of shots, Jared Sullinger is arguably the most dangerous returning offensive player. Today’s post will look at a few ways that Ohio State incorporates Sullinger into the offense by getting him open by having him set screens for his teammates.
Ball screen and dive to the rim
One screen Sullinger and OSU love is the ball screen at the top of the key followed by Sullinger diving to the rim for the pass. Most of the time, the screen is only a token screen by Sullinger to get his defender to show on the ball handler, allowing Sullinger a lane to the rim.
Here is example of this action from a game against Illinois. With the dangerous William Buford handling the ball, Mike Tisdale has to step out and show on Buford to prevent him from getting to the rim. Sullinger hardly stops, as his screen is less of a set screen and more of him simply getting in the way of the primary defender.
The brief time that Sullinger gets in the way of the on ball defender forces Tisdale to step out and allows Sullinger to dive to the rim. With sharp shooter Jon Diebler parked in the corner, the help defender is slow to rotate over and Sullinger has the open lane to the rim for the dunk.
Here is the full video of the play. Watch how Tisdale is forced to step out, while the help defender is late to rotate over, as he must be concerned with Diebler.
Here is a second example of this play from their tournament game against Kentucky. Sullinger sets a more traditional screen, forcing Josh Harrellson to step out. With the alignment of the rest of the Buckeyes on this play, the paint is not as open as the first play we saw. Sullinger instead dives to the block to post up. With Harrellson recovering from the hedge, Sullinger seals him on his back, which allows him to easily catch the entry pass and go one on one in the post.
Setting screens for teammates to get open on block
One of the best ways for a player to get open on the block is to set screens for his teammates before he tries to post up. By setting a screen for a teammate, his defender is often forced to hedge out to slow down the player receiving the screen, allowing the screener to pin his defender. Ohio State loves to do this with Sullinger, by having him to set a variety of different screens for his teammates.
Sullinger starts this play with a backscreen, followed by a ball screen. If any of the players get open off of these screens, Ohio State would feed them the ball, but the primary purpose of the screens set by Sullinger is not necessarily for the person using the screen to get open. You will see that the Buckeye using the screen does not cut hard off the screen and look to get open. Instead, the purpose of the screen is to get Sullinger’s defender moving and focused on the screening action, instead of Sullinger.
Look at where Sullinger’s defender is after the ball screen. He has to help on the ball screen but David Lighty is not looking to get to the rim, as he doesn’t come hard off the screen. The purpose of this screen is to occupy Sullinger’s defender and keep rotation the ball around the perimeter.
Dallas Lauderdale then flashes to the high post. Sullinger rubs off him as he cuts to the post and his defender, who is already trailing him, briefly gets screened by Lauderdale.
Look at the position Sullinger is able to get in the post. Coming off the ball screen and rubbing off Lauderdale, the defender is several steps behind Sullinger. Sullinger is able to get deep position in the post, with his defender on his back.
Sullinger is unable to convert this opportunity but he was set up to succeed by setting several screens for teammates. This was designed not to get his teammates open, but for Sullinger to get open on the block.
Here a few more plays that demonstrate this idea. In this first play, Sullinger sets a down screen for William Buford, then turns and pins his defender in the post. The second play has him also setting a screen for Buford. The brief moment that his defender separates from Sullinger to defend the screen allows him to gain position in the post.
Final Point: Sullinger’s post moves
You probably noticed that Sullinger failed to finish at the rim, despite getting the ball in great position often. His post moves are sub par, as he often leans on his strength and height to power through his defender, instead of trying to get himself an open shot at the rim. This may have worked against weaker defenders in high school but it doesn’t in college.
The few times he did show some footwork, he looked lost as he turned to the rim. He also showed a lack of touch around the rim, as several of his shots came hard off the backboard and bounced off the rim.
Sullinger has to improve his post skills for the upcoming season. He needs to learn better footwork in one on one situations to beat his defender in the post. If he doesn’t, he will still be able to find ways to score but teams will be able to double him less in the post, taking away the other options for the offense. If he does this, he will become probably the best offensive player in the country and Ohio State will be extremely tough to defend.