Does this look familiar?
One of the reasons why Marcin Gortat was given a five-year, $60-million contract with the Wizards this offseason was because of his pick and roll chemistry with John Wall. Gortat can, for the most part, set good, legal screens and gets to the basket quicker than most bigs in the NBA. That, plus very soft hands, allows him to catch even the most difficult of passes when rolling to the rim.
As shown in the above clip, Kris Humphries displayed some of those same qualities in his first extended minutes of the season when the Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers on Saturday for the second time in four days. He grabbed a season-high nine rebounds, three on the offensive glass, in 19 minutes. It looks like now that Humphries has finally recovered from his preseason pinky surgery, he will start playing a larger role in Randy Wittman's ever-changing rotation of big men.
First off, the guy is tough. Ex-Wizard Trevor Booker was also a tough, gritty player but he was often too undersized to bang down low on every possession. Humphries has the toughness and, at 6'9'', the size as well. He's not Dwight Howard or Anthony Davis gobbling up 10-15 boards per game, but if I'm a young player looking to model my game after a rebounder in the NBA, I'm watching clips of Humphries.
I took a closer look at his movements throughout the game against the Pacers and there was one thing above the rest that stood out to me: he almost always has the inside position on his man.
Here, even on the offensive glass, he's got the inside track on Chris Copeland.
Humphries' positioning is really good all over the court, both offensively and defensively. He understands angles very well and uses that ability to take up space, making it difficult for the opposing team to find space to create.
The next clip shows two basic pick-and-rolls from Indiana involving Humphries defensively. Notice the angles he takes on both of them, his positioning, and his patience to let it all play out in front of him.
The key part of that last sentence? In front of him.
Lavoy Allen sets both screens in this play, but isn't a threat from that range near the three-point line. On the first screen, Humphries opts to hang back in the lane, ready to challenge Donald Sloan if he chooses to drive. But Wall's tight defense, plus the angle Humphries takes on Sloan's dribble, forces him to kick it back out to an unthreatening Allen. Humphries can easily jump back out and play his man.
On this second hand-off, Humphries subtly sags off Allen to help on the more active Damjan Rudez, who opts to use Allen's screen instead of cutting baseline, where Humphries' angle was baiting him to go. He and Kevin Seraphin could have closed out and trapped him if he went there.
Either way, if the screen wasn't such a weak one that allowed Otto Porter to stay with Rudez, Humphries is in perfect position to help.
And he's very aware of where his man is at all times. Excuse me for bringing up the dark times in D.C., but watching his positional awareness reminds me of the anti-JaVale McGee. Take a look at this play and think about what McGee, or even some other over-excited shot-blocking big men in the league, would have done instead.
Any ideas? Sad Wizards memories in my mind see a phantom big man with long, lanky arms flying out to try to block that Solomon Hill jumper, only to see Hill dump it off to his rolling teammate for an easy two. In reality, though, we saw Humphries stay on his feet and (lightly) contest the shot while being more aware of where his man was and keeping a hand and inside positioning on him in case of a missed shot.
It's important to note that his first instinct was to find his man and get a hand on him. Hill made the shot, but I'll take my chances on a semi-contested baseline jumper than an uncontested drive in the paint any day.
Here's another, somewhat similar, defensive play where he takes a good angle that allows him to help out on Garrett Temple's man, but close enough to jump back out quickly on his man and contest the shot.
Plus, Humphries sets hard screens. He doesn't shy away from contact anywhere on the floor. And his strong screens allow his teammates the space needed to make plays.
Check out this screen he sets for Porter.
That's how you set a screen to free up your teammate.
Also, go ahead and compare this screen to the two that Allen set earlier, when Humphries was able to sag off and help on Sloan and Rudez, respectfully. Compare the screens themselves and make note of the difference in spacing that each big man gives their teammates.
In any case, Humphries will bring a lot to this team and we're just starting to see what type of impact he can have when fully healthy. He didn't average double-doubles two times in his career by luck. He has a lot to offer and he's just beginning to show Wizards fans why.