The first step in running a successful offense is forcing a defense to move. Few players push movement like J.J. Redick.
Start shifting within a defense, and players are more likely to be caught out of position. That's when an offense can capitalize. And Redick gets defenders out of position all the time.
After struggling during the first few games of the season, the Los Angeles Clippers' shooting guard continued his recent hot streak Wednesday evening, draining four of his seven threes in a 20-point effort during the Clippers' 114-86 victory over the Orlando Magic. He's been on fire of late, sinking almost 46 percent of his long-range attempts over the past 14 games.
Even while piling up make after make from the outside, Redick has actually adjusted his style a bit this year, not necessarily acting solely as a catch-and-shoot or pick-and-roll option. And though we think of Redick as a pure shooter, the latter is actually an underrated skill for him.
The Clippers' best marksman has been a quality secondary ball-handler for their starting lineup ever since coming to LA—he just hasn't gotten the chance to show it often.
One reason is that when you have Chris Paul, you're naturally going to let the best point guard in the game handle the rock most of the time. Another is that Redick doesn't really go to the rim often or effectively in the half-court.
Redick can facilitate out of the pick-and-roll and is a skilled passer in those situations, but he usually doesn't score on anything other than a pull-up during those scenarios.
This year, though, something has changed in Redick's game. He's actually going to the hole in spurts, not necessarily every game, but for chunks of certain matches. But he's not doing it while dribbling around screens; he's doing it after running off them.
When Redick came off curls a year ago, plays would often end in jumpers, whether they were from outside or inside the three-point line. But now J.J. is actually putting the ball on the floor and curling inside the arc—mostly on the left side—with a little more frequency.
He's finishing at the rim on these plays enough to draw in the defense, too. And when you force the D to move, you're not just causing it to make potential mistakes—you're also opening up the floor for others.
That's how Redick ends up with assists like these:
The above play is from The Clippers' Dec. 1 blowout of the Minnesota Timberwolves, when Redick dropped 23 points in 23 minutes. And let's be honest: The plays at the basket are nice, but they're not what Redick does best. In the end, J.J. is all about what his nickname aptly suggests: the J.
He may be creating more, but he's still doing a lot of catching and shooting.
Redick made more than 42 percent of his catch-and-shoot three-point opportunities a year ago, and though his efficiency is down this season in those situations, his percentage of shots coming from them is almost identical. Eventually, especially considering how hot he's been of late, it stands to reason his accuracy on catch-and-shoot attempts will get back to normal.
It's not just the quick release and accuracy which allows Redick to shoot at such a high percentage, but also his ability to find space off the ball. So many people think successful shooting starts when receiving the rock and ends when releasing the shot. In reality, the starting point is much sooner than that.
The world's best shooters understand how to get open.
Ray Allen isn't the all-time three-point leader just because he has range all the way out of the arena; it's also because he finds holes within a defense. Redick is the same way.
Moving off the ball isn't just about running to spots, either. The slightest slide can make the biggest difference, especially with someone as smooth as Redick from the outside. Give him the teensiest bit of room, and he can get off a shot.
Redick has perfected the lateral slide after running off a screen, heading in a different direction than his defender for just one step. The advantage comes because it's his last move before shooting, a subtle jump-stop away from the screener that gives him enough last-second space between himself and the defender.
You can see an example below:
See the understated lateral veer as he fields the pass from Paul? That's the Redick Slide, not to be confused with others in the Slide family (see: Slide, Electric and Slide, Cha-Cha).
J.J. does this all the time. The move is the most essential part of the shot in this scenario, considering the defender, Corey Brewer, fought through the screen well enough to contest a shot in the area he thought Redick was curling. But because of the Redick Slide, J.J. was able to adjust.
Redick finds success in this move because of his ability to recognize how his defender is guarding him. Had Brewer gone around DeAndre Jordan's screen the other way, the Duke alum likely would've curled around it and either put up a shot or taken the defense off the bounce.
J.J. pulls off this move all the time when defenders guard against the curl. It's these small adjustments which make him so valuable within the Clippers offense. Even when he's not making shots, even when he's not getting the ball, he's forcing defenders to move and is implanting doubt in their minds.
Doubt causes hesitation, and the ability to embed apprehension in an opponent is a valuable skill in basketball, especially when you have Paul on your team. There isn't a point guard in the league who operates better dribbling around in the half-court and waiting for the defense to make a mistake. The more a defense moves and the more unsure it is while it's migrating, the more prone it is to those mishaps.
A shooter of Redick's quality and smarts fits into any NBA offense just fine, but on the Clippers his value increases. It's all about context, and after a slowish first few games, Redick is back to carving out a cozy niche in the LA attack.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.