Last night against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Thunder pulled off a stunning win. Without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey, Oklahoma City were able to waltz to an easy victory behind good performances from Luguentz Dort and Isaiah Joe. Joe drained five threes on the night and his case for minutes was crystallised within his 27 minutes on the court.
Isaiah has played sparingly this season but when he has touched the hardwood, he has knocked down shots from deep at an efficient clip, 45.8% on 3.6 3PA per game. The Thunder are 20th in 3-point efficiency and badly need long-range bombers who can make the most of opportunities from deep.
Having a shooter like Isaiah opens up the game for the Thunder and allows the coaching staff to create off the ball pressure. Coach Daigneault has been successful in using Wiggins as a cutter who makes a defense uncertain with his movement.
He now has the opportunity to do the same with Isaiah Joe particularly if the Thunder can get him involved in the sort of give and go actions that the likes of Kyle Korver feasted on.
In this action, the Hawks run a weave action with Schroder dishing to Millsap at the start of the play. Millsap is Atlanta’s center in this play and him stepping out onto the perimeter opens up acres of space inside. Roberson steps up away from Korver to squeeze the paint and provide some semblance of rim protection.
Korver recognises the space provided to me and sprints towards the break where Millsap is waiting for him with a simple hand-off. The position Millsap takes up when he drops the ball to the Creighton sharpshooter is screen-like as he blocks off Roberson and creates room for Kyle to get a shot off.
It is a simple play but the dribble hand-off challenges the defense by making full use of the court. A defense cannot just step up and squeeze the court if they know that a counterpunch is lurking in the weak-side corner.
This action was used a fair bit last season with Lindy Waters III. Waters III is similar in play style to Joe, both players are pure shooters who are comfortable knocking down deep shots on the move. Whenever the Thunder ran this play last season, they seemed to find good results.
Last year, the Thunder averaged 3.8 hand-off possessions per game and that number is reduced even further this season, 3.0 hand-off possessions. In both seasons, Oklahoma City were towards the bottom of the league in terms of the frequency in which this play type was deployed.
The Thunder have the personnel to make this play a staple of their offense and I would like to see Daigneault use this action more frequently. It is worth noting that Oklahoma City also have Jaylin Williams, an Arkansas alum and former college teammate of Isaiah Joe, who is proficient at dishing the ball during handoff actions.
Williams and Joe were a useful tandem at the collegiate for Coach Musselman and Daigneault could look to replicate this success by finding minutes for the duo. Joe’s willingness to shoot and J-Will’s unselfishness seem to be a match made in heaven.
When Joe was signed by the Thunder from the Sixers, he was given a contract that runs to 2025. Vince Rozman, the Thunder’s VP for identification and intelligence, had his fingerprints all over this deal. Rozman drafted Joe in Philadelphia before watching the young guard get buried by Doc Rivers’ unwillingness to play younger players.
Rivers leans towards veterans in his regular rotation and usually has a short leash on younger, more error-prone players. Joe showed glimmers of promise for Philly but it never seemed that he earned Doc’s trust completely and always fell out of the rotation when the playoffs came around.
In his limited minutes within the Thunder, you can see Joe’s talent and the value that he brings to the team as a floor-spacer. He has a legitimate case for playing more minutes than he currently does and I think it would benefit the team as a whole. The likes of Shai and Giddey both function best with other offensive contributors on the floor.