Offense spreading the floor: The '07-'08 Duke Offense

Here's an article from the Daily Tar Heel about Duke's shift in philosophy this past season to a drive and kick offense. Much of what they do mimics what Mike D'Antoni does and is predicated on spacing & re-spacing.

The afterword to this article is that the Blue Devils finished 28-6. They finished 4th in the nation at 83.2 points per game and had 5 scorers average double figures. Duke was 16th in 3-pointers attempted and 12th in free throws attempts. These stats suggest they were a team that bought into getting to the rack or shooting the 3 while limiting mid-range jumpers. They ended up ranking 50th in the nation in offensive rebounding.

Duke started 4 guards and Kyle Singler who projects as wing. The question is did the personnel dictate the change or did the change in philosophy dictate the change in personnel?

By: Jesse Baumgartner, Senior Writer, The Daily Tar Heel
Issue date: 2/6/08 Section: Sports

DURHAM - It seems unnatural, as if the basketball court is somehow off-balance.

The open space in the middle of No. 2 Duke's offense begs for something to occupy it, remaining almost untouched as the Blue Devils camp on the 3-point arc.

But, in a nutshell, that space is what defines the lethal Duke scoring machine this year.

After they struggled to find the hoop last year without a true post player down low, coach Mike Krzyzewski has let his team loose on the fast break and built his half-court offense around versatile ball-handlers, shooters and the ever-important perimeter spacing - leading to the nation's third-best scoring average at 85.7 points per game heading into today's throwdown with No. 3 North Carolina.

The observant basketball fan will notice a touch of NBA style in the scheme, not surprising given that Krzyzewski has taken some of the Phoenix Suns' elements from his good friend - and offensive mastermind - Mike D'Antoni, who coached the USA Basketball team with Coach K this summer.

"I think our offense is growing," Krzyzewski said. "It's not exactly like the Phoenix Suns', but there are elements of it, especially the fact that we don't post as much. That's probably the biggest similarity, is they don't post Amare (Stoudemire) and we don't have Amare."

But while Duke lacks a Stoudemire, the team does spread the floor in a similar manner using guard-heavy lineups.

Off turnovers and rebounds, the smaller Blue Devils race down the court and often run players toward the corners rather than the basket to space out the floor.

And when Duke starts its half-court game, the team often puts four, and sometimes all five, players around the perimeter.

"I think the biggest thing was getting comfortable with it," said point guard Greg Paulus, who mentioned Jason Kidd as someone he watched to understand the concepts better.

"But we watched a lot of film on ourselves and on coach's USA team and the Suns. I think that has really helped us with our spacing and creating the type of shots early in the offense that we've gotten all year."

By spreading out the defense so much, Duke gives itself lots of room to maneuver, screen and create openings - particularly from the 3-point line.

For instance, Paulus can get a high-ball pick for his own long bomb or look to kick it back to the screener, who pops to the perimeter. Most dribble drives cause defenders to leave their men and help, but Duke players often maintain their spacing and wait for the open 3-pointer from the kick-out (see diagrams).

This is all made possible by Duke's shooting ability. Not surprisingly, the Blue Devils rank No. 20 in the country in 3-pointers made per game, with nine on 23.1 attempts. Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Taylor King and Demarcus Nelson all shoot .397 or better from the outside.

Both King and Paulus take more than 70 percent of their shots from 3-point land, and even 6-foot-8-inch freshman big man Kyle Singler steps out on the perimeter for more than 40 percent of his field goal attempts.

"I don't really consider myself a post player," Singler said. "I play a lot of outside, too, but I just happen to guard the post on the opposing team."

With the nation's No. 19 best field goal percentage, the Blue Devils also have seen plenty of success from inside the arc, thanks to Nelson and sophomore pogo stick Gerald Henderson, two slashers who take a minimal amount of 3's.

While the spacing helps the shooters, it also gives Nelson and Henderson - the team's best one-on-one players and leading scorers - lots of room to get to the basket themselves, allowing Duke to supplement its outside shooting.

And when the Blue Devils do miss, the paint often is free for offensive rebound chances because the defenders are leeched to their perimeter-hugging counterparts.

"It gives me lots of lanes to actually rebound a long miss or a floater or something of that nature," said pseudo-big man Lance Thomas, who ranks No. 3 on the team in offensive boards.

While the game plan can have its downfalls, such as 21 percent 3-point shooting in the loss to Pittsburgh, the Blue Devils already have ridden the free-wheeling Spatial Express to 19 wins and three 90-point games in their last five.

"Our offense has run pretty well," Krzyzewski said. "The more we do it, the better we're going to be at it."