Assist charts

I created these passing-lane charts to trace the path of assists from the passer to the point where the scorer made the catch (the bright dot) to highlight passing tendencies, offensive schemes, and perhaps even some useful strategies for opposing defenders. These are the passing-lane charts for 15 stars of the 2019 playoffs.

One thing that stood out was the big black space on the left side of James Harden’s chart. On both his lobs and his kick-outs he prefers to pass from left to right — zipping around his array of left-handed hook-, sling-, and slip-passes — because he is less fluid and less accurate passing in the other direction

During their two matchups with Harden during the 2018-19 regular season, the Milwaukee Bucks devised a defensive scheme meant to exploit these weaknesses and downplay Harden’s strengths. In the first round of the 2019 playoffs the Utah Jazz tried to emulate the Bucks strategy for disrupting Harden’s  passing; but sloppy defensive rotations and miscommunication between teammates doomed the plan. The Jazz lost the series in 5 games. Harden’s next opponent, the Golden State Warriors, had their own approach to limit his lobs and corner-kick-outs.

 

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