The Riggers have certainly had it rough this season. Being in the same division as Saskatchewan in general is a tough go. The good thing is, they locked up the 3 seed in the West with their win at Vancouver two weeks ago. While they don’t have a shot at moving up in the standings due to their loss against New England this weekend, any team can get lucky in a single-elimination tournament. Just getting in is the big deal here.
Now, the numbers of the season so far aren’t exactly in favor of the Roughnecks pulling any upsets, but there are some flashes of good from Riley Loewen, Curtis Dickson, and Wesley Berg that could change things if they get more opportunity to shine.
It is important to understand that the Roughnecks are good in 2-man situations, and are among the worst in the league in isolation dodges, so a good strategy move would be to ditch one-on-one’s altogether and start initiating the offense exclusively with Pick-and-Rolls. Curtis Dickson and Riley Loewen can help lead that strategy change:
Dickson does a great job of reading the defense. He sees that Brock Sorensen and Brodie Merrill are in a deeper drop, and that Merrill is out of position, leaving an open lane. Dickson knows he is quick enough to beat Merrill to the cage, and takes the goal home. The reason Dickson is such a good Pick and Roll Ball Handler is because he knows when to play subtle games with the defense and when to just go to the cage.
Loewen does a great job reacting to a strange pick defense here. Sheldon Burns is the original on ball defender, and so would generally be the one fighting through the screen. Instead, Burns moves to the “drop” ( https://medium.com/the-basketball-dictionary/drop-part-i-42add19791f1 ) role in the coverage and Bill Hostrawser jumps out at Loewen to take on-ball responsibility and “Ice” ( https://medium.com/the-basketball-dictionary/ice-f9ea7d7d7d51 ) the pick. Loewen jump cuts to avoid the body check, and then stays on his line to take Hostrawser right into the pick. Since Loewen beat the Ice attempt from Hostrawser, Burns is now out of position to switch the pick and Loewen gets a hands-free step down from the center of the field.
But what happens when the defense counters and takes away the lanes and the scoring from the ball handlers? Well, that’s where it’s been a little rough sometimes for Calgary this season, but that’s also where Curtis Dickson and Wesley Berg can make life a little easier:
This is such a shifty pick, and the defense gets all out of sorts with it. Initially, Dickson moves like he’s setting a seal on Sheldon Burns, which moves Burns out of position to play the pick that’s coming. If this were all that happened, the slight positioning difference on its own would not cause any issues. However, that’s not all that happens. Because the defense thinks it’s a seal, they communicate to defend a seal, and DON’T communicate for a pick. Because Dickson changes to setting a pick so quickly, that is the communication the defense is stuck with. Here’s what happens because of that, in order:
- Challen Rogers gets hit by a pick out of nowhere, and with no warning.
- Burns panics from the sudden change of circumstance and lunges at Wesley Berg, leaving a wide open passing lane.
- Curtis Dickson rolls to the cage.
- Rogers recovers enough to run behind Dickson, but no enough to disrupt the play in any way.
- Dickson ties the game up.
Slick pick setting by a savvy veteran. If Dickson gets more opportunities to toy with defenses like this, Calgary’s offense could start to look very formidable indeed.
Wesley Berg is another player that could really make a big impact in the 2-man game by being used as a picker. This starts out as a standard throw-down, pick-down action with Tyler Pace, which works really well if you can catch the defense off guard, and creates a nice sweeping look for the ball carrier. In this case, however, Robert Hope and Greg Downing see it coming and switch early. Berg and Tyler Pace then run a quick re-pick to get Pace going down the alley. Because of how quickly Berg flipped his pick, the defense is now forced into playing a Drop coverage, which Downing decides to turn into an Aggressive Drop. ( https://medium.com/the-basketball-dictionary/drop-part-ii-76d41f7d87a9 ) The sneaky thing that Wes Berg does to get this goal is the timing of the slip. He got a good feel for the exact moment when Hope and Downing switch on his first pick attempt, and knows they will switch at around the same moment again. So as soon as Hope moves to go over the screen, Berg pulls the chair out from under him and darts towards the cage for a score. This kind of savvy recognition can lead to a lot more goals that the Roughnecks will need.
The last thing that could give the Roughnecks some much needed surprise goals in the playoffs are Put Backs. Calgary is one of the best at converting offensive rebounds in the league. They’re not disastrous at defending transition opportunities, so a big shift would be to crash the boards hard. Even if they don’t get putbacks, they can use their extra settled possessions as mentioned above to generate more goals.
It will take some work and a little luck, but the Roughnecks definitely have the pieces to make some noise in the post-season.