Some things just go together. Match made in heaven type stuff. Peanut Butter and Banana. Burger and Fries. Spaghetti and Meatballs. Tequila and Lime. Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne. Kevin Hart and The Rock. Kobe and Shaq.
Steven Adams and Desmond Bane. Yea, you read that right. This couple has clicked on an insane level and they have barely known each other for a year. Typically the relationship between a big and a wing thrives in the Pick and Roll aspect offensively, with a majority of the assists going from the guard/wing to the big on the roll or pop.
For example, the leading assist duo in the NBA is Trae Young to John Collins with 106 assists with 71 of them being at the rim. Other top duos consists of Chris Paul to DeAndre Ayton, Darius Garland to Jarrett Allen, Monte Morris to Nikola Jokic, Trae Young to Clint Cappela and Russell Westbrook to Anthony Davis. You get the point.
The leading assist duo on the Memphis Grizzlies is not Ja Morant to Steven Adams or Jaren Jackson Jr or Brandon Clarke. It’s not Tyus Jones to Brandon Clarke despite their extended, successful bench minutes together.
It is Steven Adams to Desmond Bane. The starting center of the Memphis Grizzlies and the team’s most lethal shooter are the most connected duo on the team. On top of that being wild, it’s how they do it that makes them different from the rest of the league.
Julius Randle to Evan Fournier is the leading big-to-wing assist duo in the NBA with 71 assists. However, 58 (82%) of this 71 lead to Fournier knocking down a triple. Their two man-game is predicated upon, typical inside out basketball or drive and kicks by Randle.
Draymond Green to Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic to Monte Morris are tied for second with 65 assists from their big to their point guards. Curry is hitting a triple on 71% of those assists from Green, while the Jokic-Morris connection is closer in similarity to what Adams and Bane do, at only 40% of Monte’s shots being threes.
Draymond to Wiggins is fourth with 60 assists, while Steven Adams to Desmond Bane is the fifth best big-to-wing assist duo in the NBA at 56. This is where it gets wild. Desmond Bane is 37th in the league in 3 point attempts per game (6.9) at a 42% clip which is third best amongst players who attempt the same amount or more per game, trailing Patty Mills (42.6%) and Lonzo Ball (42.3%).
A sniper in the truest sense of the word, yet only 25% of the assists from Adams to Bane are from deep. The closest duo to replicating that is Green to Wiggins at 30%. While Green to Wiggins is 50% at the rim, Adams to Bane is 36%, which is their highest rate of attempts.
Here is an example of how Jokic to a wing looks somewhat similar to what Adams does with Bane:
The give and go cut here is not foreign to Nikola Jokic, but Jokic’s role in the offense is vastly different. If he is not posting up, he is usually steering the offense from the top of the arc. From there he may run a pick and roll with Aaron Gordon, or dribble handoff to Will Barton.
From the elbow, Jokic often catches a weak side defender ball watching as someone like Bones Hyland cuts behind them for an easy lay. In regards to his connection with Morris, many of the two point attempts are pull middies as only 29% are actually at the rim.
Draymond Green is also a completely different type of player, from Adams as he often initiates the transition offense off of his rebound or also plays a point forward role similar to Jokic at times.
While the Grizzlies often initiated their offense with Jonas Valanciunas as the trail big stopping at the top of the arc, Adams often starts low and comes to the elbow or out for a ball screen. Here are three different looks from Adams to Bane:
Bane here is headed for the dribble handoff to either curl around for a mid range shot or step back for a three, based on the pursuit of the defender. However, the defender overplays the handoff and Bane cuts backdoor, while Adams puts it perfect for a floater.
This look is rather common for the pair. Bane starts with the ball and feeds Adams at the top. Adams coming up makes his defender vacate the paint, leaving plenty of room for Bane to cut. Bane’s defender is all over him, again discouraging a dribble hand off leading Bane to make an explosive backdoor cut giving Adams enough of a window to lead Bane to a lay up.
The threat of Bane coming off a dribble handoff causes Adams’ man to not play drop coverage in preparation for hedge or switch on the DHO.
This. This play right here gets you on your feet every time they do it. Again, Bane has the ball and feeds to Adams as he comes high. Bane comes around for a DHO, but his defender splits the gap. Adams reads that, turns and finds Bane who has now curled around with a step on his defender. That step, as well as no rim protection is all Adams and Bane need to complete this beautiful action that they have mastered.
Steven Adams may not be around Memphis for long, but this coaching staff has figured out how to incorporate his limited offensive game in a way that has made everyone, including him, better.