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Billups Should Bring Additional Ball Movement to the Blazers

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Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups emphasized ball movement and secondary playmaking during his one-year stint on the Clippers’ bench.

2021 NBA Playoffs - LA Clippers v Utah Jazz Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers are set to officially announce the hiring of Head Coach Chauncey Billups in a press conference later today. Billups, who earned five All-Star Game appearances and an NBA Championship as a player, has limited experience in a coaching role. Regardless of his brief track record on the Clippers’ coaching staff, a video series from the team provided a look inside Billups’ coaching philosophy.

The Clippers featured Billups in a re-occurring series that focused primarily on the offensive side of the ball. These videos are relatively general, but they do provide a glimpse into Billups’ perspective.

The first video we are going to look at focuses on a philosophy that Billups calls “good to great”.

In his own words, Billups explains that this process relies on players turning down somewhat favorable opportunities for clear-cut open looks.

“We want to turn good shots into great shots. You can only do that with ball movement, unselfishness.”

The role that center Ivica Zubac played was consistently mentioned by Billups in the video. When facing zone-based defenses, the Clippers focused on disrupting backline defenders with a rolling big man and swing passes on the perimeter. In simple terms, Billups describes the crucial role that a center plays in that setup.

“When a big man rolls, it brings a lot of attention.”

For the Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic could stand as a clear winner in this setup. His statistical output might not increase, but his overall role could increase. It is worth noting that Zubac posted a career-best offensive rating in the 2020-21 regular season.

Billups continued to build on the “good to great” philosophy in a video that emphasized ball movement.

Kawhi Leonard and Damian Lillard have drastically different physical profiles, but the gravity that they create is similar. In this video, Billups explained that the Clippers focused on exploiting the extra pressure that Leonard received with above-average tertiary shooters. Outside of navigating double teams, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Clippers consistently tried to find the most favorable matchup for Leonard. Once that pressure was applied, the passing lanes opened.

Billups explained that everything is easier on offense when the ball is moving with purpose.

“That is how we want to play all year long. It creates easy basketball. It creates a lot of synergy out there when the ball is moving and guys are spacing and everybody is unselfish. It makes for great basketball.”

For Paul George and Leonard, this setup resulted in career-best assist averages.

The final video that we are going to look at focuses on secondary playmaking. Billups details how the Clippers’ system is built on getting and keeping the opposing defense off balance.

From leveraging mismatches to attacking closeouts, Billups detailed a system that puts players in position to maximize opportunities after the initial action passes. If Norman Powell returns to the Blazers, his role and impact should increase under that setup. Nurkic, who has shown that he can operate effectively as a secondary playmaker, also stands to gain.

To be clear, these videos cover basic philosophy. The system that Billups will implement should come into focus as his staff and the Blazers’ roster is assembled in the weeks ahead. It is also crucial to note that Billups was operating inside a staff that featured several established coaches. On the court, the Clippers benefited from an All-Star tandem of Leonard and George.