Offensive Staple: Indiana’s Paul George Curls
This offseason series will look at plays from each team that they relied on throughout the year and the variations they ran off each set. To see the rest of the series, click on the ‘Offensive Staples’ category at the end of this post.
Paul George blossomed into a bonafide star in the 2012-2013 season, earning the NBA’s Most Improved Player award while seeing increases in his points, rebounds and assists per game during the regular season. He became a household name by averaging nearly 20 points per game in the playoffs and being one of the leaders on a Pacer team that took the eventual champions to a Game 7.
One aspect of George’s offensive game that allowed him to be successful was his cuts off of screens, especially his curls. Whenever he felt the defender lagging behind him and trailing him off the screen, this was his cue to immediately curl off the screen and get to the rim.
This is most prevalent in baseline sets, which are similar sets to the Philadelphia plays outlined here. While the Sixers got threes off this set, George often found himself curling to the rim if the defender trailed him off the screen.
In the following two frames, we see Lebron James trailing him off the screen from Roy Hibbert, setting up the curl off the baseline screen. James is hard to see in the first frame, but he is clearly trailing George in the second frame.
Chris Anderson is glued to Hibbert and provides no help to James on George coming into the lane. By the time he challenges the shot, George is close enough to power over him for the finish.
The remaining clips show similar curls off baseline sets out of different screening actions. As soon as George read that the defender was on his hip, he curled tightly off the screen and got into the paint for an easy finish off the pass or open drive to the rim.
George also was able to make similar cuts off of screens from different angles and spots on the court beside the baseline. Again, as soon as George sees his man is trailing, he curls off the screen into the paint.
Vince Carter trails George here off the two screens at the elbow, so George curls into the paint. Although the help defenender of Brandan Wright is properly positioned, he is no match for the quickness of George, who beats him with a terrific spin move.
The key to these cuts is how closely George curls off the screener. By rubbing right against the screener, he forces the defender to take a longer route around the screen, giving him the space necessary to separate himself from the defense. He takes a tight route off the screen, maximizing the effectiveness of the screen.
How to defend?
This is a tough play to defend, as it involves a read at the last second from George as to how he is going to use the screen. The key is that the defense is completely on the same page as to how they are going to cover the screen. If the primary defender is going to trail George off the screener, the screener’s defender has to sag off the screen and force George away from the paint, or be there to defend him off the catch.
This is what the Heat did poorly in the first two frames above, as Anderson stayed too close to Hibbert, giving George plenty of space to curl off the screen. However, even when the defense plays it well, as Dallas did in the second highlighted clip, George is dynamic enough to beat the bigger player.
Communication is the clear key here, as both defenders must be on the same page for the coverage. If they aren’t they have little chance of stopping George curling off the screen. Even if they do, though, George has evolved into a dangerous enough scorer to beat the help defender to the rim.