I pose the questions for these things on Monday nights or Tuesday mornings, so I was taking a guess that Ohio State would sic Craft on Michigan's alpha dog. He was surprisingly efficient but the question remains relevant:
We are now alarmed. What are teams doing to shut down Stauskas, and what can Michigan do to counter it?
BiSB: Like Seth, I was assuming Craft would be able to lock up Stauskas. Boy, are my cheeks red.
The Stauskas shackles are complicated but revolve around the same principle: put a little guy in his face who can shadow him. Stauskas isn't extraordinarily quick, so if you get a Ferrell/Craft type who can get over every screen and stick with him through curls and such, you can deny him good looks. Moreover, if they do that, bigs can sag off a bit, and as a result the pick-and-roll game has sputtered.
There are a number of theoretical options to Liberate the Stauskas, but I'm not the Xs and Os expert. Ideally you'd see more back-cuts to take advantage of the overplays, but for one reason or another those haven't been there. They can also try to find ways to take advantage of the size mismatch, but Stauskas hasn't really demonstrated much of a post game.
|This nearly got the cat called for a moving pick.|
So that leaves stuff like off-the-ball down-screens that see Stauskas take a Family Circus-like route to a catch-and-shoot. Stauskas can also generate his own pull-up 3s on occasion, which are both fun and profitable. Basically, we might need to add a "Nik Stauskas is probably Rip Hamilton" tag to the site. That might breathe new life into the Not Just A Shooter debate, but even if he is Just A Shooter sometimes, that's okay because he's still a really really good shooter. Also, Ferrell notwithstanding, chasing Nik in circles all game will take a toll on a guy on the offensive end; Craft had to rotate off of Stauskas a couple of times, and by the end of the game he wasn't even strong enough to shoot a basketball all the way to the hoop from 22 feet.
via user harryddunn
[After the jump, the spheroid of truth]
Ace: Aside from glossing over the fact that the play ESPN kept showing resulted in an open corner three and a putback opportunity, I thought Dan Dakich did a good job of explaining what teams have done to slow down Stauskas—shade over the top of him with a quick guard and use a big man to defend the baseline (taking away the backcuts that we've all wanted to see).
The solution, as we saw last night, is actually pretty simple: have your other players step up. If opponents want to dedicate 1.5 defenders to Stauskas, space should open up for everyone else. Yesterday, that meant open three-point looks for Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin, pick-and-roll opportunities for Derrick Walton, and plenty of putback chances after offensive rebounds—it's tough for a big to both guard the baseline against a cutter and be ready to box out his own man. In the Indiana and Iowa losses, Michigan's scoring was wildly imbalanced; against Ohio State, the points were spread quite evenly. The results speak for themselves.
|It's nice to get him to the net too. [Fuller]|
The other solution, also on display last night, is the maze of screens action that BiSB mentioned. All Stauskas needs is a tiny bit of daylight to get his shot off; I thought he did a fantastic job last night—other than a couple forced shots early—of selecting the right times to rise and fire. With Walton improving on the pick-and-roll and LeVert continuing to create his own shots with regularity, Stauskas doesn't have to be the focal point of the offense if teams are making a concerted effort to take him away; having the patience and discipline not to force matters is a critical trait for a player who expects to be at the top of the scoring column in every game.
Brian: Despite his efficiency, Stauskas was limited. Zero assists and a number of his shots were some level of bad idea brought about by frustration. He hit one, because he's Nik Stauskas. It's still an issue; Stauskas is more efficient than anyone else on the team and while getting limited by Aaron Craft is one thing, Mike Gesell is another. Michigan does have to figure out how to free up their top weapon.
As mentioned, having Derrick Walton do Burke things consistently is one way to do that. Walton did a lot of his damage against Shannon Scott, who's 95% of the defender Craft is. If he can go from sporadic weapon to true threat against teams that don't have a one-two perimeter defense punch like OSU, opponents will have a bad choice instead of an obvious one. Walton emerging into a guy who can punish you for putting a slower guy on him is the best hope for a liberated Stauskas.
Because I don't really see a way the most obvious option, posting up, is going to work. Stauskas tried it once against Indiana and didn't like it. Meanwhile, the last time Luke Winn checked, Michigan was literally most post-up averse team in the country. It's just not in either the player or the team's DNA to go all Jordan Taylor on the point guard matchup. I do think our complaints about Michigan not bringing the ball up with Stauskas could help out against some players. Doing it against Craft would be suicide, but a Gesell type probably not so much.
Stauskas could also stand to be more of a cheating bastard, a la a Chauncey Billups. If you're getting checked hard on the perimeter, start jerking yourself to and fro, and emphasize the fact that your movement is being impeded. Impede your own damn movement if you have to. Craft got a foul on Horford by burying himself in Horford's chest (gif via Ace); Luke Winn pointed out how Louisville's Luke Hancock has acquired a huge FT rate with a lot of help from fouls off the ball:
Stauskas isn't getting legit calls; he should try to get some illegitimate ones. Finally, transition makes it difficult to focus on any one player in particular. I'd like Michigan to step up their aggressiveness on defense, trading a few more fouls for a few more steals.
Seth: Here's what that scouting video had to say about the Duke/Indiana method:
It's not always using 1.5 defenders to stop him; it's using one defender, but a different defender than normal. Stauskas's athleticism can take advantage of 2s and 3s but he's on more equal footing with point guards and doesn't have the length to just go over them.
Brian hit on my two preferred answers:
- Unleash Walton. If their PG's on Stauskas that means Michigan's PG is drawing an athletic mismatch.
- Go through them. In the first play against Indiana in the video above they managed to double-screen the Yogi off of him and get an isolation with Vonleh while Ferrell and Etherington pointed at the top of the key going "oh no who's got that?" With the way charges are called nowadays, even in Assembly Hall there's nothing Vonleh can do to avoid a charge unless you don't let him make contact. Stauskas is also our best free throw shooter; get him to the line.
The last option Michigan had some success with last night, and that's to set the screen really high so that Stauskas comes off it looking like he's going to slash toward the basket yet still has some room to stop and put up a three. They also had success earlier this season with having LeVert bring the ball up and going immediately into a passing screen.
The Rip Hamilton/Reggie Miller option—having him run around in circles until his defenders are put on oxygen tanks—probably isn't much of an option unless we expect to sit Stauskas a lot. Those guys could do that because they had ridiculous cardio regimens over years. When they face Indiana again it may be worth trying in order to remove Ferrell from the offense.