David Arsenault Jr. made the jump from Grinnell College (where his father remains head coach), where Jack Taylor infamously scored 138 points in a single game, to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA’s D League and an affiliate of the Sacramento Kings organization. The Reno Bighorns currently lead the D League in points per game with an astounding 138.6 and call to mind in many ways the up tempo flash style of one Paul Westhead and his 1990-1991/1991-1992 Denver Nuggets.
What is The System?
The System of Arsenault’s is basically reliant on several core tenants, most commonly the following.
#1: Attempt at least 94 field goals per game.
#2: Of those 94 attempts, shoot nearly half from behind the arc as 3 point attempts. Roughly translated, a proper game should come out to 94 FGA with 47 of those shots being 3 point attempts.
#3: Play a full court press defense and try to force 32 or more turnovers. This gives the team roughly 32 more attempts at shooting and making a basket. The goal of any basketball game, after all, is to score more points than the opposing team.
#4: Tying into the third point, take 25 shots more than the opposition. Even shooting just 50%, a David Arsenault team should score an additional 12 points or more as a result.
#5: Grab an offensive rebound on 33% of their offensive misses, again giving the ball back to the offense.
#6: Use a 5 man rotation of players constantly, turning the basketball court into a makeshift ice hockey rink by constantly rotating players in and out in 90-120 second intervals and keeping fresh legs out there.
While the concept of shooting so many 3 point field goals seems anathema to most conventional old school basketball coaches, a 3 point shoot is also worth 1 point more than a basket scored anywhere inside the arc (and possibly worth 2 points more if a player can only make 1 of 2 free throw attempts). If a team takes 47 3 point shots and succeeds with a very good 40% clip, said team can score 57 points alone from their 3 point shots.
Now let’s say that said team also shoots 50% on their 47 2 point attempts (not including free throw attempts). That’s another 48 points. Just on field goals alone, this team is now able to score 105 points.
Arsenault’s Assault on the NBA D League
The other aspect of the Arsenault system relies on driving to the basket and either feeding open shooters beyond the arc or hammering the interior of the opposing team’s defense and scoring within the paint. By doing so, the system allows a trade off from the slightly lower success of a 3 point shot with the much higher success of scoring inside. As a result, both combine to represent a null overall shooting experience as the higher percentage inside scoring plays combine with the lower percentage outside long range shots.
With the constant rotations and heavy reliance on sharpshooters, players whom went undrafted such as Brady Heslip are finding new life on the court and making names for themselves as potential acquisitions for their pro league organization.
While a lot of focus is on the sharpshooters on the outside and how a player can get red hot immediately: David Stockton had a double/double against Bakersfield early in the year and Quincy Miller scored 26 against Idaho on Christmas Day, there is also a place for the big men in this system too.
Center Sim Bhullar, a mountain of a man at 7’5″ and 360 pounds had seen success in the system by being a big body inside to represent a stout rebounding presence and defender as well. One underutilized aspect is his ability to score points in the paint as a result of the up tempo nature of the offense and how it’s effectively helped Sim’s overall game. In a game against the Los Angeles D-Fenders, he was able to score 19 points with 11 rebounds and 5 blocked shots. An impressive stat line for any big man.
Along with Bhullar, players such as David Wear have showcased an ability to get after the glass and put up double double numbers despite most of the attention being focused on players such as Heslip, Quincy Miller, and Jordan Hamilton. In a game against the Rio Grande Vipers, another team influenced by Westhead’s up-tempo offensive system, Wear put up 14 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Shot Selection and Prowess
As mentioned earlier, the up tempo nature combined with the shot selection of Reno allows for a lot of shots from the paint and a lot of shots from beyond the arc. If one thinks about it, it makes sense as mid-range jump shots from just inside the arc represent a lower success rate without the added benefit of putting an additional point on the scoreboard. It’s better to trade off that shot for a 3 point attempt that can net 3 points instead of 2.
In taking a look at Reno’s shot chart for the 2014-2015 season it becomes pretty apparent not only their focuses but also how their success impacts their shooting.
From inside the paint and just inside the top of the free throw line, Reno has scored 844/1469, good for an impressive 57.5% success rate. Despite a 13-17 record so far on the season, Reno has been able to average 56 points a game just from inside the paint.
As mentioned earlier, a lot of teams rely on the mid-range jump shot. Reno has shot 102 of 260, a not so solid 39% from the field and again spotlights the belief that it’s better to step back a few feet and attempt a 3 point shot rather than a mid-range jump shot that doesn’t score as many points when made.
For proof, Reno has an insane 45.2% success rate from the corners where the 3 point shot is slightly closer to the basket due to the curvature of the line and is much closer to a long mid-range shot. Despite this, most of their shots have come from the top of the key and wings where they are still shooting a rather solid 36.4% on 1,196 shot attempts. With that much of a volume placed on shots beyond the arc, the Reno Bighorns have proven they can absolutely score in a hurry and suddenly as well. Against the Santa Cruz Warriors, Reno set a record by making 31 of 54 shots from behind the 3 point line (that’s over 57% which is an obscene, mind boggling success rate).
The Future of the System
Arsenault is in his first year with Reno and the team, despite an under .500 record, has been making a splash on the court and in attendance. It remains to be seen how the system influences teams around the D League and the college ranks but one thing can be said for certain, you’ll be seeing a lot of points scored.
You can watch NBA D League games live on Youtube courtesy of NBA’s DLeague.com as well as on NBA TV. Reno played Canton yesterday on 2/12/15. Their next game is against Austin on 2/19/15 at 7:00 PM PT/10:00 PM ET live on Youtube.
Credit to www.timesunion.com for feature image.