We'd like to walk through the subtle, but important, difference Peja Stojakovic makes on a nightly basis.
What is the impact of The Peja Presence?
What we all think of when we think about Peja is his uncanny ability to drill the long ball, but that is just the beginning of the impact he has on the offensive side of the ball. ... and impact that is influenced by the NBA-wide acknowledgement of what Rick Carlisle says about one of the Mavs' newest weapons:
"He's one of the greatest shooters of all-time,'' Carlisle says.
This clip (slowed to 50 percent, as all of them will be here) comes from the Mavs recent game against Utah. Peja is going to start on the near side and circle around to the far side while running off of a series of screens:
The most obvious, thing in this clip is Peja knocking down the 3, but what else is there?
The first thing we've highlighted are the two Jazz defenders committing to Peja. The second is how open Marion is on the baseline. In this sequence Peja catches the ball with ample airspace to get the shot away, but even if he hadn't there was a capable finisher wide-open along the baseline. This sort of attention translates to other situations even when plays aren't being run specifically for him.
There are a number of things happening in this next clip. Peja begins the play by curling off of a Dirk screen on the block. After he has cleared the area Chandler is going to come and set a pin down for Dirk to catch the ball in one of his favorite areas, the mid-post.
After receiving the pass, Dirk begins his drive into the lane. Here we've circled a gaping void in the lane with no defenders present. Kirilenko (and Bell in the corner) is hesitant to leave an excellent 3-point shooter to sink in and make things difficult for Nowitzki. The mere presence of Peja on the 3-point line has opened up that space for Dirk to drive. Frankly, Butler or Marion would not command that kind of respect from the defense.
Here is another example of Peja creating room for Dirk to operate, simply by standing on the 3-point line!
Our old friend Josh Howard is again unwilling to completely leave Peja in order to commit help to Dirk. The respect (or lack of BBIQ?) he and Nick Young are paying the Maverick shooters is what allows Chandler to sneak in for the putback.
Let's go to Tuesday night in Philly. The next clip illustrates just how much respect Peja receives. Terry is going to drive the baseline, at which point Haywood's man is going to sink off of him in order to deny Terry's path to the basket. Watch what Evan Turner does out top.
Turner is completely locked in on Peja and therefore fails to recognize that his teammate has left Haywood uncovered rolling to the rim.
The 76ers all cover their responsibilities, except for Turner. His desire to stick close to Peja (he was no doubt told in game-planning not to help down off of him) creates a defensive breakdown that leads to an easy Haywood flush.
The next clip comes from the game against Phoenix right before the All-Star Break. This is another clip with several things going on at once.
First you'll notice Chandler and Marion are running screen and roll at the elbow. Look closely at Vince Carter and Steve Nash. You can see that both players have one eye on the play and the other on their man at the arc.
Notice Carter circled under the basket. The fact that he came in to deny the lob to Chandler (there is that Chandler Effect again) forces Nash to rotate off of Jet in order to cover Peja in the corner. First of all, had Marion thrown a better pass, Nash would've been too late in to recover. Even though the pass was somewhat errant Nash's rotation opened up an easy look for Terry. Ideally after helping on the roll Carter would have immediately closed out to Peja and having seen Nash already coming one of the two could have picked up Terry. The fact of the matter was that in having Kidd and Peja stationed in the corners and Terry out front whoever helped off of their man was going to cause a defensive scramble that ended up in an easy Maverick 3-point shot (or a Chandler dunk if VC hadn't sunk down).
The respect Peja has earned around the arc causes multiple issues for the defense, even if he never touches the ball. The simple fact that he is there means he must be accounted for and, in all likelihood that he can't be helped off of. If you leave Peja to help either he or next Mavericks' shooter is going to get a great look at a three. And if you stay in his airspace and refuse to help? Well, that usually leads to a One-Legged Euro Lean-Back or a two-fisted flush by one of the Mavs' finishers. Thanks to DB.com's Mavs practice videos, you've seen what Stojakovic does from the arc in practice.
Now you get to see the in-game difference made by The Peja Presence.
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