Vol. 1, Iss. 1: Top Of The Tree-0

They only had 27 games together, but let's take a look at what the trio of Booker, Ayton & Rubio did together on the offensive end.

Some Housekeeping

Before we dive into the first issue, I just wanted to briefly touch on a few housekeeping items:

1. Click through for YouTube - If you are currently reading this via your emails, firstly THANK YOU as it means you are a subscriber and that is awesome! But secondly, you are going to want to click through to the site so you can watch the embedded clips and read the notes instead of being re-directed to YouTube.
2. Feedback/Questions etc - I am very open to feedback on what you want to see, like/dislike, have issues with etc. So don’t be shy! I also love to discuss the Suns, not just yell at a cloud that doesn’t talk back - so please comment, discuss, ask questions.
3. Subscribe & Share! - A few people have asked about donating money. Maybe that will come if I can work out how to do it but this will NEVER be a “you must pay” newsletter. The offers are really kind but for now, if you like it - all I really ask is that you subscribe and tell your friends to subscribe too.

Time for the opening tip……

Do you remember what you were doing when the Suns signed Ricky Rubio on July 1, 2019? I sure do. No matter where you were or how you felt about it, I don’t think any of us expected to only see him play 27 games (I know, so far) with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

In 550 minutes so far this season, they logged a +9.2 Net Rating per NBA.com. So they were pretty good together. They were also pretty good for each other.

Rubio assisted Booker 91 times, the next best for Book was 26 (from Saric). Booker returned the favour with 51 dimes to Rubio, the next best again Saric (14). And they were both huge for Ayton, with 71 (Rubio) and 59 (Booker) assists to the big fella. Next best? You guessed it, Dario Saric with 13.

For my first deep dive into film, I wanted to focus on the trio that sit at the top of the Suns tree and how they worked together offensively.

7 Plays Or Less

You know I had to start off with a nod to the @7SOLpod. You’ll want your SOUND ON for this first video, as I talk through 7 of my favourite set plays involving Booker, Ayton & Rubio.

After that, all 7 plays again with no interruptions……

Q: What’s With The Fist?

A: If you see the fist signal, you can expect to see Ayton set a down screen for Booker on the low block. Booker prefers to be going to his right after curling off the screen.

We start the below video with Monty giving the fist signal, followed by Ricky communicating it to the team. You’ll then see the different reads out of the play. If the big DOESN’T step up to help….Booker J, if the big DOES step up….Ayton lob.

Q: Is It 52?

A: I think so. We see a lot of Booker/Ayton Horns action, but if you see or hear anyone signal “52” then you can expect the following. Ayton is going to set a cross screen to create space for Booker and make the defenders choose. Like “Fist”, Booker also has a preference on this play with which side of the floor they operate from.

Again, the clip begins with the play call from Book. “Fifty. Two. Fifty, Two” plus the hand signals. I’m convinced. Another set play to take advantage of Devin’s dual abilities. This time we see the same play but with 4 very different reads/outcomes:

  1. Hield fights over + Holmes slides across = Booker makes the easy lob to Ayton.

  2. Lowry goes under + Rondae sticks to DA = Booker still finds the lob to Ayton.

  3. Bazemore fights hard + Whiteside is slow = Booker gets to the cup.

  4. Houston switch + Booker runs decoy = Rubio drives to get Ayton the lob.

The Definition Of Gravity

noun - the force that attracts a body towards the centre of the earth, or towards any other physical body having mass.

Or in the case of this Suns team; the defenders Ayton can draw on a roll to the rim (something I’ve tracked since his Rookie Summer League) or that Booker can attract when on the ball. Or sometimes, both!

Notice how a lot of Rubio’s makes are from the left corner? And remember before when I mentioned running plays for Booker in a certain direction that he’s comfortable with? It’s not all fluke. Rubio is shooting 41.8% on catch and shoot threes this season and waaaaiiiit for ittttt……..18 of 35 (51.4%!!!!) from the left corner.

Ayton’s Non-Touch Assists

Whilst I’d like to see some more traditional assists from Ayton, #DidYouKnow we can count screen assists towards triple doubles now?

In all seriousness though, Ayton is Top 15 in the NBA this season with 4.1 screen assists generating 8.9 points per game.

Watch below for how Rubio often directs Ayton to go clean up for Booker, creating an open look.

Booker Being A Nuisance

I really hope most of you are still with me this far down the newsletter, because this might be my favourite little wrinkle I’ve picked up recently.

When Booker has a defender draped all over him all game, he loves to make a nuisance of himself. Watch how he turns the extra attention against his opponents, by going straight to the big and putting himself in the way. His defender is so interested in stopping him, they don’t recognise the need to help.

Ayton becomes the immediate beneficiary.

Want To Test Yourself?

Now that’s it for the first newsletter. If you got this far, I really hope you enjoyed it and that I was able to point out at least one interesting new wrinkle for you. The below video has a further example of each of the following:

  • Broken up Spain pick & roll.

  • Another Booker misdirection play.

  • Slow developing “Horns” action.

  • “Fist” play with an audible.

But they aren’t in that order. Check it out and see if you can identify which ones which.


Overtime?

And that’s the final buzzer but who doesn’t love FREE BASKETBALL.

You may know that I live in Melbourne, Australia and we are currently under a second Covid-19 wave lock-down for six more weeks. Our first lock-down with no NBA, helped me finish off some renovations on our house. But for this one, I’ve got nothing. Below are some things I’ve been getting into:

Music - HAIM’s new album on repeat. Also, watch this video of Sampa The Great!
Movies - Watched Athlete A (4 stars) and Guava Island (2.5 stars) in the last week.
Binged - The Chef Show and Fleabag recently on streaming services too.
Books - Been working through SprawlBall & Book of Basketball but I’m a slow reader.

What have you been digging lately? Feel free to drop some recommendations etc in the comments below.

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