Articles

Insider

The Trouble with Foul Trouble

When Victor Oladipo picked up two fouls in the first minute of Game 2, it raised a common question: what is the right way for coaches to manage foul trouble?

Shootaround: Cavs at Pacers, Game 3

Step inside the film sessions of the Cavs and Pacers to prepare for tonight's matchup. Coached by contributors Norm de Silva and KC Beard.

Feature Film: Playoff Tactics

Watch a strategic skirmish between the Blazers and Pelicans, the Heat catch the Sixers on mistakes of execution, and Draymond Green with an out-of-area box out.

Shootaround: Utah at OKC, Game 2

Step inside the film sessions of the Jazz and Thunder to prepare for tonight's matchup. Coached by Dylan Murphy and Steve Jones Jr.

In-Flight Adjustments: Wolves' Pick-and-Roll D

Minnesota couldn't stop the Rockets during the regular season. In Game 1, though, they changed their pick-and-roll tactics with some success. Contributor Liam Flynn breaks it down.

Battle at the Basket

The fourth quarter of Game 1 between New Orleans and Portland was all about defending the rim out of pick-and-roll. It was a battle New Orleans won in this first game — and it's one that will likely define the series.

Smart and Scary

The Sixers' defense has propelled them to a surprisingly successful season. Contributor Nick Sciria explores how they've done it: playing a style we might call "intelligently aggressive."

Feature Film: LeBron Show, Slipping the Pin, Double Big

Watch LeBron and the Cavs counter the show and time a slipped screen perfectly. Plus another example of two non-shooting bigs playing together successfully.

Shootaround: Bucks at Sixers

Introducing a new feature: Shootaround. Today's Shootaround brings you inside the film sessions of the Sixers and Bucks to prepare you for tonight's matchup.

Stat of the Week: Jokic's D

Analyzing Nikola Jokic's defensive statistics reveals a fundamental challenge in player evaluation.

Feature Film: College Education

Friday Film is now Feature Film. Watch college coaches implement the Xs and Os of the pros, with some thoughts on how basketball lessons translate across levels.

The Post Up is Dead, Long Live the Post Up

The conventional wisdom is that the post up is dying in the modern NBA. And that's true, to a point. On the rebirth of post play — with a twist.

Two-For-One or Two-For-None?

Two-for-ones have long been accepted as a key part of smart coaching. But are they really as valuable as we've come to believe? Contributor Positive Residual investigates.

Stat of the Week: Easy Points and the Mavs

What the Dallas offense tells us about the importance of looking at the context in which a team scores.

Friday Film: In the Zone, Grand Theft, Shading the Inbounder

Watch the NBA's zone defenses, a different kind of steals, and the importance of the inbounder defender.

Tank Blitz

There's an important distinction to make between short-term and long-term tanking, one that's particularly relevant this season.

Doing It Better

The Michigan Wolverines' run to the Final Four has, surprisingly, been on the back of one of the nation's best defenses. Contributor K.C. Beard explores what drove their improvement, and the lessons it teaches about coaching.

Stat of the Week: Gobert + Favors

The Gobert + Favors combo wasn't working for Utah at first — but that story has now flipped. On the cause, a part of the solution, and what it tells us about a question of larger coaching philosophy.

Friday Film: Swiping, Town's Help, Don't Push Back

Watch the importance of the swipe, Karl-Anthony Towns' lack of help, and a counter to push defenses.

Cutting the Defense Open

Contributor Dylan Murphy examines a specific kind of cut that is very effective at opening up teammates. It's a cut that represents the ongoing Xs and Os chess match between coaches — in more ways than one.

Mob Mentality

The Raptors bench mob has been a large part of what has propelled them to the level of play they've been seeking for years. What exactly is it that has made this unit work so well? Contributor Ryan Nguyen explores.

Stat of the Week: Isaiah Thomas' Finishing

Why Isaiah Thomas' finishing may be the most important indicator of his health.

Friday Film: Switch Counter, Double Stack, Back to Back

Watch Toronto's counter to the Rockets' switchy lineup, the Knicks tinkering with sets, and the Wizards run the same play twice in a row with the game on the line.

Eyes Off the Ball

When we watch basketball, our tendency is to focus on the ball. Contributor Dylan Murphy reveals an overlooked but important factor we miss when we do that.

Stat of the Week: C's Rebounding

The Celtics' rebounding has been a huge part of their defense — and it's changed drastically depending on what position Jayson Tatum has played.

Friday Film: Xs and Os Elegance

At first glance, Houston's 21 Nash set just looks like a simple middle pick-and-roll. But there are reasons why it's so effective — reasons that can teach us a lot about the modern NBA.

Live Looks

NCAA conference tournaments are underway. To front offices this time of year means something very different than to fans: the last opportunity to see players live. But how much does that matter?

Stat of the Week: Luc's D

The Rockets have been a major surprise on defense, and there may be no player more responsible than Luc Mbah a Moute. Introducing a new feature where I provide the detail behind an intriguing stat.

Friday Film: The Boban Show, Reading the Cut, Dennis Without Menace

Watch Boban as the center of a player vs. player chess match, smart cuts from the perimeter, and Dennis Smith's lack of fight on the interior.

End the Foul Out

If I could make one change to the on-court rules, it would be this: let’s end the foul out.

Friday Film: Cavs' Elbow, Redick's Movement, Wrong Foot

Watch a Cavs/Celtics chess match, what JJ Redick creates with his constant movement, and James Harden's craftiness in isolations.

Ask Ben: Kill the Assist, Playing Vets

Answering questions from subscribers: how to think about assists as a stat, and how teams approach the tradeoff of playing vets vs. young players.

Friday Film: New Team New Scheme, Rejecting Screens, Inverted PNR

Watch the learning curve of joining a new team, a useful pick-and-roll tactic, and the pick-and-roll flipped on its head.

The Cavalry Arrives

The Cavs transformed their roster on the afternoon of the trade deadline. On the unique challenge the Cleveland front office faced and the ramifications of these trades for this year and beyond.

The Aftershocks

What does the trade deadline tell us about the league as a whole, and what to expect this coming offseason?

Friday Film: Guile not Speed, On a String, 5/4 PNR

Watch Steph Curry use guile, not speed, to create a layup, the importance of subtle off-ball movement, and Marc Gasol run a quick-hitting center/power forward pick-and-roll.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Trade Deadline (But Didn’t Have Anyone to Ask)

What is the trade deadline like inside a team? I go through the questions posed by subscribers and lay it all out for you.

Friday Film: Pelicans Edition

Four plays from recent Pelicans games: watch the baby Bulls struggle to defend NOP's spread pick-and-roll, the Bulls recognize mismatches (or fail to), a twist on the back-screen pick-and-roll, and good off-ball cuts.

Missing Mirotic

An explanation of the rules that have held up the Nikola Mirotic trade, with a discussion of what this tells us about the Pelicans' offseason plans and how they got to this point.

Taking the Next Step

The Blake Griffin trade is unlikely to solve either team's problems, but that's less about the trade itself and more about what got them to this point. A front office strategy perspective on the deal.

Midseason Review: Marvin Bagley III

Marvin Bagley III has some special athletic gifts which, combined with great touch bode very well for his future. But is that enough to make up for two glaring deficiencies?

Friday Film: Free Board, Olynyk's Fakes, Stunting

Watch Steven Adams' unique free throw rebounding, Kelly Olynyk's deceptiveness, and the art of the stunt.

Midseason Review: Mo Bamba

Mo Bamba is a dominant college defender, with an enormous wingspan and the stats to match. But what does that tell us about his chance of NBA success?

Friday Film: Dennis' D, Hawks Run Hawk, Broken Hammer

Watch some reasons for Dennis Schroder's poor defensive statistics, the Hawks run their own Hawk set, and what happens when the Hammer set breaks.

Midseason Draft Review: Deandre Ayton

There aren't many questions about Deandre Ayton's physical ability. But does he have the basketball instincts to use that athleticism properly?

Friday Film: Mind the Gap, Flex Back, Pinch Post Pass

Watch Fred VanVleet disrupt the Nets with positioning, Olympiacos' clever wrinkle on a set the Celtics run, and another example of how the Spurs machine never stops.

Midseason Draft Review: Luka Doncic

Learn even a little bit about Luka Doncic, and it’s easy to believe in his future superstardom. But dig deeper, and there is plenty to study and discuss.

Friday Film: Staying Attached, Weakside Jumble, Double Drag Pin

Watch Kyle Korver burn the Celtics multiple times on the same basic action, the Rockets confuse the weak side defense, and a clever twist on a common transition screen.

Passing the Torch

Carmelo Anthony has left the Big Apple and the Knicks are now Kristaps Porzingis' team. But there’s one important way that Porzingis is following in Anthony’s footsteps — and it's not good.

Friday Film: Box Outs, Refs, and Speed vs. Switches

Watch Robin Lopez show that rebounding isn't all about rebounds, the importance of referee positioning, and John Wall attack the switch.

The Rolling Thunder

The Thunder are 11-4 in their last 15 games. Have they figured it out? Are their problems behind them?

Friday Film: Single/Double (and Inverted), Dummy Step-Up

Watch the Rockets smother Charlotte's single/double action, Miami's twist on it, and Cleveland fool the Wizards with a dummy step-up.

The Clairvoyance Test

A discussion of Luka Doncic reveals the importance of precise definitions and testable statements.

Friday Film: Dougie McBackcuts, Empty Side, Reading the Jump

Watch Doug McDermott's backcuts, a set designed to get an empty side pick-and-roll, and some jump ball craftiness.

Rocket Launcher

Is PJ Tucker the answer to the most important question in the NBA? Why the Rockets' 4th quarter comeback against Portland should turn some heads in the Bay Area.

Friday Film: Warriors' Anticipation, Getting Off the Ball, Single-Side Tag

Watch the Warriors' incredible anticipation, Orlando beat pressure through unselfishness, and a reason to dribble toward a crowd.

Anatomy of a Play: Thunder's Hawk Set

The Thunder ran their Hawk set on 9 of their final 10 halfcourt possessions last night. Let's break it down.

Ask Ben: Weak Hand and the D-League

Where I answer: (1) Many defenses try to force players to their weak hand, but how exactly do they determine this? (2) What is the philosophy behind D-League affiliates?

Friday Film: Smart's Error, OKC's Trio, LeBron's Cut

Watch Marcus Smart be a little too smart, the Thunder growing pains, and LeBron's tightrope act.

A Stormy Start

The Oklahoma City Thunder have the record of a mediocre team but the point differential of a very good one. Which matters more? And what does it tell us about the Thunder's future?

Ask Ben: Halftime, Changing Play Calls, and Technology Investment

Where I answer: (1) What happens at halftime? (1) How often do teams change their visuals? (3) How advanced are the techniques and technology used by NBA front offices?

The Celtic Surprise

Boston has won 16 games in a row and has the best record in the NBA. How have they done it? And can they possibly keep it up?

Friday Film: Reading the Defense, PNR Timing, Floppy

Watch Kyle Anderson anticipate the defensive rotations, the effectiveness of a slow pick-and-roll, and Denver's Floppy defense.

The Evolving NBA: Big-Big Pick-and-Rolls

Another battle site in the NBA's evolutionary arms race: big-big pick-and-rolls.

Friday Film: Clever Counter, Corner DHO, JaVale

Watch OKC's simple but clever counter to Boston's pick-and-roll defense, the Sixers generate a wide open three, and JaVale being JaVale.

Breaking Down the Bledsoe Deal

A deep-dive on the Eric Bledsoe trade: the strategic factors in play for both front offices, and an examination of Bledsoe's value as a player and fit in Milwaukee.

"You F*** Up Sometimes": Additional Thoughts

Some further thoughts following my article on Archie Goodwin and draft mistakes: discussing the importance of process, whether I was really wrong, and group dynamics.

Friday Film: Snake, Wedge, Getting Back

Watch a master demonstrate snaking the pick-and-roll, a clever variation of a common set, and an overeager rookie.

Is the Magic Real?

The Orlando Magic are 5-2, but how seriously should we take them? And what does answering that question tell us about early season results in general?

Friday Film: Hammer, Marc, Weak

San Antonio's (not so) surprising Hammer action, the craftiness of Marc Gasol, and "weaking" the middle pick-and-roll.

Ask Ben: Game-to-Game Strategy and Play-by-Play

Answering questions from subscribers: on game-to-game strategic coaching adjustments and play-by-play errors.

2017-18 Questions: Plus-Minus Machines

Part three of my questions for this coming season: will the plus-minus machines keep humming? On how to think about plus-minus metrics, and the players that will test our conclusions this year.

2017-18 Questions: Evolution of the Big Man

Part two of my questions for this coming season: how will the evolution of the big man continue? On New Orleans and San Antonio pushing their twin towers to the perimeter.

Anatomy of a Play: 10/17/17 BOS @ CLE

Breaking down a set the Cavaliers ran twice at the end of their opening night game against the Celtics.

2017-18 Questions: Only One Ball

Part one of my questions for this coming season: does it matter that there’s only one ball? On Oklahoma City and Houston's star acquisitions.

Features

The Whole is Greater than the Sum

Why Robin Lopez, Mike D'Antoni, and a game played on beaches should change the way we discuss fit — and sports in general.

Thank You

The subscriber response to Cleaning the Glass has been incredible — thank you for making this possible. Plus three site announcements.

Sloan's Evolution

What the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is — and what it is not. On the evolution of a conference and an industry, and the tensions it's now experiencing.

Deadline Dynamics

What happens behind the scenes during the trade deadline? The story of a deadline deal that changed the trajectory of a franchise.

Midseason Mindset

This is the time of year when NBA teams conduct their midseason draft review. What is a midseason review, and what's the right approach to take when evaluating prospects in January?

How to Get a Job in the NBA

It is the most frequent question I get asked: how can I get a job in the NBA? My advice, based on lessons from my story and experience working for teams.

"You F*** Up Sometimes"

Something to think about as scouting season gets underway: we all make mistakes in the draft. We shouldn't run from them, but learn from them.

Introducing Insider

Welcome to the next phase of Cleaning the Glass: Insider. What exactly is Insider? And why did I decide to go this route?

Cornered Market

Why don’t the Thunder sign big money free agents? Because the market isn’t what it seems. How max and rookie contracts distort the free agency market and alter the NBA landscape.

A Roll of the Dice, Part 3

If you’re not thinking about risk when you’re thinking about the draft, you’re missing something key. On Giannis, youth, and uncertainty vs. risk. The third and final part in this three part series about the draft.

A Roll of the Dice, Part 2

Scouting beats stats, but scouting plus stats beats anything else. What’s the right way to make front office decisions? There’s actually a science to it. The second in a three part series about the draft.

A Roll of the Dice, Part 1

On Bill Simmons' podcast, Malcolm Gladwell said that he doesn't believe there's "any great predictability" to the draft. Why he’s right - and why he’s wrong. The first in a three part series about the draft.

Making the Transition

The Cavs broke about every transition defense rule in the book in the Finals…and that might be reason for optimism. On transition defense in general, the Cavs' in particular, and what it tells us about what they do now.

LeBron Reads the Defense

A small demonstration of LeBron’s incredible basketball IQ: 30 seconds from Game 4.

Finals Notebook: Games 1 and 2

Three keys for Game 3, plus some subtle things you may have missed.

Working Out Workouts

Draft workouts can be a powerful evaluation tool - but they also are uniquely dangerous.

In the Arena

No coaches were fired this season. That shouldn’t be so notable, and yet it is. Why?

Flipping the Switch

Switching defenses are becoming more popular in the NBA and perhaps no team plays against them more than the Warriors. But Golden State has been able to attack switches in creative ways.

Size Matters

Houston has led the charge towards a new style of basketball, playing small and avoiding midrange shots - and the league has mostly followed suit. But one team is going the opposite direction. Who, how, and why?

The Worldwide Leader and the Cap Jump

How do the ESPN layoffs connect to the NBA’s changing financial landscape, and what might they mean for the future of the league?

On the Outside, Looking In

How do you watch the playoffs as a non-playoff team? A front office perspective. Plus some thoughts on playoff choking: I don’t know if some players choke in the playoffs, but I don’t think you do either.

The Best Adjustment

A break down of the Clippers vs. Jazz series through the first two games, with in-depth video examples and some general thoughts on playoff adjustments.

Why Are These Games Different from All Other Games?

A look at what distinguishes the playoffs from the regular season, using examples from the epic 2014 Portland-Houston series.

Do the Bucks Stop Here?

How the Bucks' defense reveals an underlying strategic tension in the game itself.

Welcome to Playoff Preparation

A short introduction to the upcoming period of playoff coverage on this site.