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From Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson to Luka Dončić, JJ Redick has another unique partner for his two-man game

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JJ Redick could help the Mavericks in many ways

NBA: New York Knicks at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks made a trade a few minutes before the deadline on March 25th by acquiring a 36-year-old veteran JJ Redick as well as Nicolo Melli from New Orleans for James Johnson, Wes Iwundu, and a 2021 second-round draft pick.

Although this wasn’t a high-profile trade that many Mavericks fans hoped for, it still got many excited. JJ Redick is not only a great shooter who can fill the gap created by Seth Curry’s departure, he is also a very interesting character. His Old Man and the Three podcast is one of the best basketball podcasts available, where Redick regularly shares what’s happening behind the scenes and in the NBA locker rooms.

Mavericks fans got the first dose of insider insights when Redick talked about the X and Os behind Luka Dončić’s game crazy winning shot against the Grizzlies on his last podcast episode. Now, if Redick can get every single Maverick player on his show (he had Zion Williamson, so yes we want Luka Doncic), this trade will be a huge win for Dallas fans.

A true shooter who will knock down open looks

Redick’s on-court impact, especially on the offense, is obvious. He’s one of the best and most consistent shooters in the league over the last thirteen seasons. And this Mavericks team needs shooting in a bad way. Dallas ranks 20th in the league in three-point shooting percentage and twelfth in the league in spot-up shooting per Synergy data. Ranking twelfth doesn’t sound that bad, but the Mavericks offense depends on Dončić creating open looks, and his teammates being able to knock them down. Last year Dallas ranked fourth in the league in spot-up shooting, and that was a big reason why they were the most efficient offense in the league.

Redick’s shot only 37 percent from beyond the three-point line this season with the Pelicans, which is not great. But Redick’s advanced shooting data show that Mavericks fans shouldn’t freak out. Redick started the season shooting poorly from beyond the arc, but has shot 48 percent since February. Redick hit six of twelve threes, or 50 percent in his first four games with the Mavericks.

JJ Redick - 3P% trend; source: Cleaning the Glass data

Redick is shooting 41 percent on spot-up shots this season, and 45 percent on shots where he doesn’t take any dribbles. It’s not difficult to envision Redick getting many no-dribble spot-up looks playing alongside Luka Dončić.

Rick Carlisle is a coach who knows how to use guards, and a shooter of Redick’s caliber will give him another option when more offense is needed. Carlisle is using a very short rotation, so any player that can help even in limited minutes is welcome. In the worst-case scenario, Redick will get most of Trey Burke’s minutes, which we could already see happening in the first few games where Redick was available to play.

Stepping into Barea’s shoes

Redick’s biggest impact might not even be on the court. When Mavericks released J.J. Barea the team lost their most experienced player and their veteran leader. Now, it’s up to the other JJ to fill the void. Experience, and more importantly playoff experience, is what Redick has plenty of. JJ Redick has appeared in 110 playoff games, all other players on the Mavericks roster have 104 combined.

We wanted shooting and think JJ will not only help spread the court but be an amazing teacher for our young guards,” Mark Cuban said shortly after the team acquired Redick.

The teaching part is where Redick’s impact could be invaluable. Redick has often talked about his knowledge on how to be a true professional in terms of preparation. If Luka Dončić picks up some of Redick's workout routines, shooting tips, and learns how to take care of his body, Redick's worth will go way beyond the threes he’ll make.

This play worked for Ben Simmons and Zion Williamson, is Luka Dončić next?

There is one other thing that makes JJ Redick’s veteran experience even more valuable.

In the last four years, Redick had a privilege no other NBA veteran had. Redick shared the locker room with the three most unique NBA players in Ben Simmons, Zion Williamson, and now Luka Dončić. These three, although each unique in their own way, have one thing in common: they’ve made us re-think how we look at the point guard position in the NBA (note: yes point Zion is a real thing).

All three are physically imposing players, that handle the ball, run the offense, and play as ball handlers in pick and roll actions. Defenses collapse around them when they drive, so having a shooter like Redick sets screens for them adds a challenge that most defenses are not used to. Redick talked about this kind of plays on his podcast talk with Williamson:

“We’re seeing this more where the guard sets screens for the big. I used to do it with Joel (Embiid), I did it with Ben as well. So, when you have a bigger player that can handle the ball and make plays out of those actions, then putting a shooter, and I’ll use another example Kevin Durrant handling (the ball) and Joe Harris setting the screen. Those are good actions for Brooklyn.”

Redick went into even more detail to explain their two-man game with Zion:

“We’re running this action either as a traditional high pick and roll, except is inverted. So, you (Zion) are the 4-man you’re handling, and I’m the 2-man I’m coming up and setting the screen. That’s one way we run it. The other way we run it is a step-up (screen) on the side, typically this is after free-throws. A step-up screen so I’m coming from under beneath the basket.”

The fact that Williamson loved playing with Redick should make all Mavericks fans happy when they think about the potential Redick - Dončić pairing. This is how playing with Redick looks from Williamson’s perspective (as described on the Redick’s podcast):

“I love our two-man game. It’s one of the easiest things to be a part of. If your defender goes under, all I have to do is toss the ball (to you) and just stand there (screen) and you get an open shot. If your man wants to overplay it, it’s just fake handoff and go. Or I get it and set the screen and if my defender steps up, he just leaves me for a wide-open layup or dunk.”

As Redick noted on his podcast they ran the similar two-man inverted pick and rolls with Ben Simmons in Philadelphia.

A two-man game with Dončić will give Carlisle another option at the end of close games

Recently I wrote an extensive article about the principles of the Mavericks offense. In a nutshell, the Mavericks want to call fewer set plays and play more “read and react” offense. Random, unpredictable actions are something that Maverick’s coaching staff strives for and the actions Redick ran with Simmons and Williamson fit in that mold perfectly. Playing in a ‘read and react’ offense requires players with a high basketball IQ, quick decision making, and experience to read how opposing teams defend. Redick is an intelligent player with vast experience, so he shouldn’t have problems fitting in the Mavericks offense. Here is another insight from Redick’s podcast with Zion, that shows how ‘read and react’ worked in their inverted pick and roll actions:

As I’m coming up (from beneath the basket to set a step-up screen), I’m trying to listen. Sometimes the opposition will tell you what they are going to do. They will tell you the coverage. The other thing I’m reading is your man’s body position.”

Adding actions where Redick sets screens for Dončić to the mix will give Carlisle another wrinkle to throw at opponents. Everybody knows Redick is a great shooter, but a more underrated part of his game is his screening. The man sets hard screens.

Coach Carlisle mentioned this part of Redick’s game in a recent post-game interview, He’s a very underrated screener, which is very important in today’s game.”

Mavericks often use guard-guard pick and roll actions to get Luka a favorable matchup, especially down the stretch in close games. Redick’s shooting and screening abilities make him a perfect partner for Dončić in these kinds of situations.

In a recent game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Ben Simmons was hounding Dončić throughout the game. In the third quarter when the game was still semi-competitive, Redick screened for Dončić on three consecutive possessions. On all three possessions, Dončić got the matchup he wanted, Dallas scored twice and got one foul call.

These were simple actions, but as Redick and Dončić develop more chemistry and feel for each other, we can hope to see more inverted pick and rolls, and step-up empty side actions that were so successful with Simmons and Williamson.

Limitations on defense might prevent Redick from playing a bigger role against the better teams. The trio of Dončić, Redick, and Porzingis sounds great on offense, but it gives opponents too many options to target on the defensive end. But even in a situational role, Redick adds excitement to this Mavericks team that we are pretty used to watching. Apart from Tim Hardaway Jr., there just aren’t many high variance role players on this team. Redick is a player that could swing a playoff game with his shooting, and this is all we can hope for.

If the Mavericks are down a bucket in a close game of a tough playoff series and you see Redick setting a step-up screen for Dončić, remember you saw it here first.