Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: Saint Joseph’s

Offense

Fun and fast, somewhat efficient

While Phil Martelli’s St. Joseph’s squads remained successful up until near the end of this tenure, you couldn’t always say they were incredibly fun to watch. The identity of the final few Martelli offenses was one of extreme turnover avoidance (no wonder Michigan hired him as a Juwan Howard assistant). That’s nice, because it helps you take a lot more shots. Unfortunately, none of Martelli’s final few teams could hit any shot with regularity, so they became quite a chore for both fans and neutral viewers to watch. Martelli did a lot of amazing things for St. Joseph’s over his extended tenure, but it was probably time for a change.

Enter Billy Lange, former Navy head coach (2005-2011) and Brett Brown’s assistant head coach on the Philadelphia 76ers. Under Brown, Lange helped coordinate the Sixers’ offense, which did actually look fairly good before they added Al Horford and Tobias Harris to gum it up. Long before a lot of coaches caught on, Lange ran a 5-out motion offense at Navy and was happy to have an offense on the floor where all five players were happy to take and make threes. As relatively normal as that sounds now, it was a fairly new invention in 2010:

This isn’t quite as unique anymore, but Lange still runs this now with his new Hawks team. (Fun stat for you: 77 6’7” or taller players took 100+ threes in 2010-2011; that number was 156 by 2018-2019.) It’s a pretty solid and above-average group that takes a metric ton of threes, which does solve the “is this fun to watch?” question that I had late in the Martelli tenure. Unfortunately for Lange, his team isn’t hitting too many of these threes yet.

The Hawks are just 29.3% from downtown thus far, which is a shame. It’s an offense that plays fast but doesn’t turn the ball over at a poor rate, an accomplishment that’s more difficult to achieve than you might think. Similar to his Navy teams, it’s not even that St. Joe’s really gets out in true transition offense a ton; they just take shots pretty early in the clock whenever they’re open and live with it.

It’s fun to watch, but, uh, gotta hit the shots when you take them. Lange’s offenses run a pretty good amount of ball-screens that are meant to either free up the ball-handler for a drive to the rim. St. Joe’s offense is positionless, which means that Ryan Daly, who nominally plays the 4 at 6’5”, is the main ball-handler in these sets and is pretty focused on getting to the rim:

Or to search out a spot-up shooter for a three, which no Hawk will ever turn down:

All five players will shoot threes happily

Again, this is a true 5-out offense. The Hawks aren’t fond of going to the post, equally because they’re at a frontcourt height disadvantage and because it doesn’t do well with the whole “play fast and get early shots” thing. The player with the best shooting percentage in the starting lineup is Taylor Funk, the 6’8” center who takes more threes than twos:

John Fulkerson likely won’t play a team other than LSU in conference play that will go small-ball for this long, so it’s a good test. Funk is an excellent shooter, but the other guy with ten made threes is Dahmir Bishop, the nominal small forward:

I can’t imagine he’ll get many open shots off with a mix of Keon Johnson/Josiah-Jordan James/Jaden Springer/Yves Pons guarding him, but he’s going to take them no matter what. With an offense this willing to shoot, this doesn’t seem like a game where you’d play Uros Plavsic or even a Pember type much at all.

As usual, here’s a quick scout on every member of the rotation that gets 10 minutes per game or more. Like I mentioned, the Hawks don’t really have positions, so I’m not bothering with that.

  • #22 Jordan Hall (guard). 6’7” freshman that’s been equally inconsistent from two and three. Hall is the best passer on the team, but he’s been prone to taking some bad shots off the dribble. Good at getting out in transition.
  • #11 Rahmir Moore (guard). 6’3” senior that almost never shoots the ball. I frequently forget he’s on the floor. This was Greg Foster’s starting role, but he’s missed the last two games for…?
  • #0 Dahmir Bishop (guard). 6’5” sophomore, second-best shooter on the team. Bishop has been the only member of the rotation to truly struggle with turnovers thus far, but the Hawks run a lot of plays for him to get open shots.
  • #1 Ryan Daly (guard). 6’5” and 225 pound senior that runs the offense. Daly draws 7 fouls per 40 minutes and looks for any opportunity to get to the rim and, thus, the free throw line. Runs most of the ball screens.
  • #33 Taylor Funk (forward). 6’8” “center.” The only true frontcourt player that the Hawks play takes more threes than twos. Funk is used a lot as the fulcrum piece of the pick-and-roll, which he’s equally rolled and popped out of. Fulkerson/Pons must be prepared for both.
  • #12 Anthony Longpre. Probably the only true center on the roster at 6’10”. Doesn’t shoot threes, commits a lot of fouls.
  • #13 Jadrian Tracey. Combo guard that rarely shoots.
  • #5 Greg Foster. I don’t know if he’ll be available, as he hasn’t been for either of the last two games. If he plays, watch for him to drive out of a spot-up situation for a mid-range two. It’s something he quite likes.
  • #3 Cameron Brown. Same as Foster in that I don’t know if he plays. Brown took a ton of threes last year and probably will this year.

NEXT PAGE: The defense is fun too, though not in a good way

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