This season has been a pretty steady one for Toronto. A win here, a win there, a couple losses here, a couple losses there. The thing that’s abnormal? They lost the reigning Rookie of the Year for about half the season to injury. When teams lose their star offensive player, they usually falter. But for the most part, they have kept afloat. But just being afloat probably won’t get you a playoff spot in the East. After splitting their last two games against Colorado and a heartbreaker against divisional foe Georgia, Toronto is in 4th place in the East Division playoff race with three games left. With two of those three against division opponents, they are still completely in control of their own destiny. With Tom Schreiber hopeful to return this week against Rochester, things are looking optimistic.
Everyone knows about Schreiber’s ability to change and dominate the game when he’s on the field, but to understand how Toronto has been able to hold up during Schreiber’s absence, and to understand what will help their offense take home the Champion’s Cup, we need look no further than one man.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one of the best unsung heroes, the key to the engine, Number 97, Reid Reinholdt.
What follow are some examples of his elite pick settings skills:
Reinholdt flashes to the middle before surprising Ian Hawksbee with an up pick for Adam Jones. Hawksbee realizes the danger that Reinholdt is as a roller and fights to get behind and then under him to discourage that pass. Matt Beers has sagged to cover the roll as well. As Hawksbee notices the pick and reacts to get under, Reinholdt reads his movement and perfectly times his roll to keep the defender on his back. Because both defenders are so worried about the roll, he creates an easy hands free shot for Jones.
Before the ball comes to his side, Reinholdt is already distracting Jake Withers and Luc Magnan with his cuts and fake off ball screens. They miscommunicate once on his cut to the middle, and then aren’t prepared to show on the pick. Magnan opts to play a drop ( https://medium.com/the-basketball-dictionary/drop-part-i-42add19791f1 ) coverage on the pick instead of showing hard to avoid a blow by from Jones. This once again leaves Jones with free hands to stick the goal.
Reinholdt is out here playing games with Brad Gillies. First, Reinholdt brings Gillies into a double pick scenario. Then, he rolls hard to the middle in a “Nations” look from Tom Schreiber. While Gillies is shutting off the feed to Reinholdt, Reid veers off course and sets a down screen for Dan Craig to come off of. There is no way the two defenders have time to communicate or get their feet set to play this action, and it’s all because Reid Reinholdt is a wizard.
Reinholdt doesn’t always have to be a wizard with his picking. Sometimes he just needs to give a little nudge. This time, instead of being sneaky, he made himself very obvious to John LaFontaine who braces for a big impact. Instead, Reinholdt brushes by him, barely catching his shoulder. By the time LaFontaine reacts to the brush and realizes he’s still standing, it is too late to close to Jones’ hands and prevent the goal.
In this one, Reinholdt reads the defense before determining his pick angle. As he approaches, Matt Spanger sees it out of the corner of his eye and moves to “Ice” ( https://medium.com/the-basketball-dictionary/ice-f9ea7d7d7d51 ) the pick, or force Jones away from it. So, Reinholdt just moves to the other side, setting a flat up pick. Because of the Ice move, John LaFontaine was in drop coverage expecting Spanger to still be applying ball pressure. But because Reinholdt shifted his pick to counter the Ice, Jones had his hands free to bury the goal.
If the Rock can work around the nucleus of Reinholdt and Schreiber, there could definitely be a cup in Toronto in May.