To define a ‘small’ lineup in basketball and particularly in today’s NBA is to identify a floor spread with at least four shooters. Conventionally, these lineups consist of three guards and a small forward turned power forward to go with one traditional “big”, sacrificing size for more speed and scoring.
“Small ball”, as it pertains to the Wizards and their newfound strategy to dominate offensively and score more points, has had a pretty decent preseason run thus far thanks in part to the expanding range of Kris Humphries and his development as a stretch 4. Of course, Drew Gooden has already proven the threat of his line-drive heaves from downtown, but now with Hump appointed as a stretch 4 sergeant, the Wizards can essentially remain “small” throughout the entirety of a game, even with their 6’9/10″ forwards.
Sorry Nene, but thanks for understanding!
If you’re a stretch 4, you know your position can be a pretty fun one. Besides being sizey enough to bang down low, run a pick and roll, and occasionally post up, you also can shoot the ball fairly accurately from as far as the 3-point arc, forcing your head coach to run plays for you to do so. And as you start to take more of these 3-point shots, you begin to realize that a bit of hardship comes with them thanks to skilled defenders who have the ability to close out on you, especially if your shot release is slow. And by any deity it is that you worship, Kris Humphries’ shot release is SLOW.
However, in spite of Kris’ 3-point shot perpetually looking like someone filmed it using iOS Slow-Mo speed, the accuracy of it may improve (and I think it really may because he hasn’t been terrible so far, making 5 of 16 from that range). And as his accuracy improves, the defense against him will get tighter, forcing him to get better in one other area of his game – mobility and dribbling. Previous to the Wizards’ offensive revolution, having to dribble the basketball for more than two seconds wasn’t much of a concern for Humphries. Most of his shots came via spot ups from no more than 18-20 feet out, created by off-the-ball movement and screens. If he ever was forced to handle the ball, it was for a quick move to the basket, which he didn’t have much of a problem executing.
But with his range being extended, so has his path to the basket, creating a necessity for Kris to notch up his mobility on the court should he not have a clear look at the basket from deep. Kris’ court IQ is pretty solid so having to make a decision with the ball from that far out shouldn’t be a concern. It’s the execution of the play he inevitably decides to attempt – a pump fake-drive or a pump fake-shot off the dribble – that will require the extra mobility from him. I would expect more drives than dribble-shots just considering the amount of expected space in front of Kris after the initial pump fake. And with the floor as spread as it is, Hump shouldn’t be facing a lot of traffic until he gets met by rotating defenders at the rim, hopefully making his task of being more mobile and successfully dribbling past his defender easier to handle.
As the trial version of this upgraded offense continues to run its course over the next few weeks, the Kris Humphries element so far has proven to be worth the experiment. Humphries will very likely be penciled in as the starting 4 come opening night. Let’s see how much “Mr. Reliable” can maximize his reliability.