Dana Altman has always been known for his motion offense, and his matchup zone defense. However, this season the Ducks are not employing as much of those schemes as they have in years past. The main reason for this is personnel. Installing an offense and defense can be difficult with nine new players.
Offensively, Altman’s scheme is typically a four out, one in type of attack. Meaning there are generally four players outside the three point line, and one post/forward player. The goal is to get players in space, and allow them to attack the basket, either to score or make plays for their teammates. This type of offense is at it’s best when the Ducks are able to get mismatches that they can exploit.
The two players in recent years that made this offense so successful were Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks. The reason being is that with those two players, the Ducks were able to play “small ball” with both those players being able to play the power forward position. Most defenders at that position were unable to guard them on the perimeter.
Right now, the Ducks don’t have that type of player, and the guards are not consistently able to beat their man off the dribble and get to the hoop. As good as Payton Pritchard is, he can struggle with players that are more athletic than him. Will Richardson is starting to show flashes of his ability, but is only effective going to his dominant left hand. Chris Duarte is starting to get a feel for when to be aggressive towards the basket, but is still having to settle for tough, contested shots in the lane.
Because of this inconsistency from the guards, the offense is still quite stagnant in the half court. The ball movement isn’t always there, and when it is, sometimes the ball moves just to move, without purpose. I believe they need to run more sets to get good shots. More screens off the ball, post up the bigs, backdoor cuts, on-ball screens with better spacing, getting players in better spots on the court to make plays. All things that would maximize this team’s talents (I am planning a more detailed article showing this in the near future).
Altman has said that he did not install as many of his sets early on because of all the newcomers, however I think now is the time to implement more of them. The Ducks have been grinding out victories because of their grit, determination and natural talent. This team thrives in the open court, especially Pritchard, and with a few tweaks in the half court, this team can get to where their potential shows they can be.
Defensively, Altman’s matchup zone defense is at it’s best when anchored by an elite shot blocker (Kenny Wooten, Jordan Bell, Chris Boucher). The reason is simple: an aggressive style of defense that puts pressure on the ball on the perimeter will force drives. The problem, however, is that this year’s team does not currently have that shot blocker to clean up those drives.
N’Faly Dante has the most potential to be that player, but he is still adjusting to the speed of the game. He also still needs to learn his position on defense. Often times he finds himself one step out of position, then is forced to react rather than be aggressive for the block. Because of this, he also has found himself in foul trouble early in games. As the season goes on, he will continue to get more comfortable and make a bigger impact on games.
Even without a prominent shot blocker, the Ducks have held teams to 30% shooting from the three-point line, and 38% shooting overall. The biggest issue so far this season has been defensive rebounding. The Ducks have been giving up 10 offensive rebounds per game this season, leading to 11 more points for opponents. The Ducks have made up for this by grabbing nearly 11 offensive rebounds per game of their own. If they are able to clean up the defensive glass, they can eliminate a lot of what is causing them problems.
All that being said, this team is still 13-3 on the season, 2-1 in conference play and just won an extremely tough game against an uber-talented Arizona team. This is the deepest and most talented roster that Altman has had here at Oregon, and maybe it is just me, but I feel that we are not even close to seeing the best version of this team. The real question is, can they get there, and when? I guess that is why they play the games.
For now, this team is finding ways to win games, and that is what good teams do. They fight, they battle, and they never give up. These Ducks have heart, and I sure am excited to see what they can be.
Coach Alex Nordstrand
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo From Twitter
Spencer Thomas, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, is an attorney for the Social Security Administration in Atlanta, Georgia, and coaches football at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs, GA.
Alex is a lifelong Duck fan living in Eugene who goes to every Football and Basketball game that he can, and appreciates his wife for putting up with him during those seasons. Sports have always been his biggest passion, having played and coached Basketball at the High School level. He hopes to bring a unique and deeper understanding of both the Men’s and Women’s basketball teams at Oregon, and looks forward to nerding out with everyone while writing and talking Ducks!
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