Following a disastrous season opener against Florida State the Gators have a lot of questions to answer before going forward on both the defensive and offensive side of the basketball. Neither clicked against a Seminoles squad that was seemingly quicker, tougher, and more athletic at each position and though that could be chalked up to a bad matchup for the Gators, one of the themes called back the same question the team had last year.
How can Florida gain an offensive identity?
With the Gators’ easiest stretch of the season now upon them (Charleston Southern, La Salle, Oklahoma, North Florida) they’ll need to find a way to get some confidence with the ball in their hands and develop a rhythm that can work against the stout defensive teams they have coming up afterwards like West Virginia and Michigan State. Here’s a look at some of the offensive issues from night one of the season to see how they can improve.
Finding Their Range
The jump shot wasn’t kind to the Gators on Tuesday as they went 6-24 from the three-point line, often taking well-contested shots later in the offense in due to the frantic Seminole defensive pressure. Andrew Nembhard’s 2-4 and Noah Locke’s 1-2 were the only good marks on the night as Jalen Hudson’s 1-5, Deaundrae Ballard’s 1-4, and Isaiah Stokes, Michael Okauru, and KeVaughn Allen’s 0-2 marks contributed to a rough night. When you look deeper into the jump shooting stats, you see the reason why the team didn’t shoot well.
They didn’t get good shots.
Of the 26 jump shots the Gators took on Tuesday, only 10 of them were catch and shoot while 16 of them were off the dribble. Usually over 75% of team’s jump shots are catch and shoot, particularly the best offenses in the country, and this inverted number shows how many tough shots the team had to take.
Furthermore, of the 10 catch and shoot shots only 3 of them were considered to be “open” while 7 of them were considered closely guarded. If you want to know how snake bitten Florida was, they were 0-3 on those open attempts.
Of the 16 jump shots off the dribble the Gators took, want to guess how many they made? Lock them in.
They made 3. 18.8% from the field on those looks.
And here’s the thing I find interesting. A jump shot off the dribble is a good look for Hudson when he’s hot, and often times you need to take a jump shot off the dribble because the shot clock is winding down, I get that. The thing is, the Gators only had 3 shots in the last 4 seconds of the shot clock all game. That means these difficult, contested looks weren’t just heaves they had to make because the clock was winding down, they were early in the clock before the team worked to run offense.
Working through offensive possessions and not taking tough jump shots early will be a major key moving forward.
It might not have looked like the Gators were playing fast against the Seminoles but 26.6% of their shots came off the break and they were actually somewhat efficient in that area shooting 42.9% and also getting fouled 28.6% of the time. Playing in transition is going to be extremely important for this group because if they can score early in the clock before the defense gets set they won’t have to deal with some of the problems they have had against set defenses. I know a lot of fans have been imploring the team to play faster and if you’re in that camp I think you’ll be happy to see that transition was the team’s best weapon on a night where there wasn’t a lot going well. Also surprisingly only 4 of the Gator turnovers came off transition so they actually took pretty good care of the ball in this area.
Pick And Roll
The pick and roll was used when a lot of the offense wasn’t working and though 3 of Nembhard’s turnovers came in this area, I thought it was a decent start to the offense.
However, here is what I’d like to see.
Most of Nembhard’s pick and rolls came with Kevarrius Hayes or Keith Stone. Hayes’ has been known to have some difficulty catching tough passes throughout his career and Stone is probably better as a floor spacer in the pick and roll or a pick and pop threat than a roll threat. So why not get Nembhard some minutes with the big-bodied Isaiah Stokes and allow them to work out of the pick and roll? Stokes’ ability to shoot would also make him a pick and pop threat and the defense would have to make a decision how they would defend him screening the basketball, opening up more room for Nembhard to make decisions. With Florida State having the Gators’ number the last few years they had the book on Stone and Hayes and they just weren’t respected them as roll threats and it rendered the play mostly ineffective. I’ll be looking to see if some rotation changes give Nembhard and Stokes the chance to run some two-man game together.
On The Drive
Driving lanes were tough to come by but when it happened the Gators capitalized going 8-12 at the rim. The problem for the Gators is that those attempts did not come often enough. If there is one piece missing in the Gators’ offensive attack it’s defending players that can get past their man and drive the basketball. This problem existed last year as well and if night one is any of an indication, it persists. KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, and Keith Stone are all players that shoot the ball better than drive it and Andrew Nembhard doesn’t have the quick first step that gives him a lot of blow-by ability. When teams don’t have to respect a team’s ability to drive the basketball they don’t have to set help side defenders and can instead pressure on the perimeter and try to deny passing lanes, something Florida State did excellently. When you don’t have players that can keep the defense honest by beating their man off the bounce running half-court offense can be tough and we saw that.
Truly, I think this is the biggest problem with Florida’s offense. You can look at the poor shooting numbers and say they’re an issue but to me I think they are a secondary problem that comes from the Gators not being able to drive the ball. Driving the ball forces help to come and frees up open shots, so if the Gators could get more offense going towards the rim they not only could get layups but also generate the open threes they desperately crave.
Coach White will have to find a way to get offense going towards the rim. I’d like to see him work some offense that has movement away from the ball to get cutters going towards the hoop as that wouldn’t rely on some of the players to somehow get better at beating their man off the dribble. If they’re going to use pick and roll they’ll need to find a way to get the ball into the roll man whether it’s spacing the floor so Nembhard can rifle in a bounce pass or having him give a quick swing to the wing to a player who dumps it down low. They need to be more dynamic by working the ball inside and out instead of just side-to-side.
We know Coach White can get his guys to defend but whether or not he can cook up a way to score could define the season.