With 2:52 left in the third quarter Sunday of the San Antonio Spurs’ Christmas Day win over the Chicago Bulls, Spurs guard Patty Mills and center Dewayne Dedmon ran a pick and roll set, but Chicago’s defense didn’t give up any ground. So, as they’ve done in the past, Mills and Dedmon ran another pick and roll, only in the opposite direction, and on the second attempt, Mills drove in, faked a jump shot and let the ball fly in the air as Dedmon caught the ball in mid-air for the alley-oop dunk to give the Spurs a 75-71 lead.
With the game being televised for the national audience, it might have been the first time some basketball fans got to see an alley-oop dunk this season between Mills and Dedmon. For those that have been following the Spurs closely through the first 30 games of the season, the Mills to Dedmon connection isn’t just something that happens out of the blue, but instead, there’s now a variety of ways for Mills to find Dedmon for scoring baskets.
Of Dedmon’s 50 made baskets this season, 37 have been assisted by a teammate. According to NBA.com’s data, Mills has been the Spur who has assisted the most to Dedmon this season, with nine assists to Dedmon. This makes sense considering Mills and Dedmon usually share most of their minutes together as they’re part of the Spurs’ second or ‘Juice’ unit. I’ve broken down the ways Mills has found Dedmon in several different sets, and as you’ll see below, it’s not always off of just alley-oop dunks.
The first assisted basket Mills had to Dedmon came on November 5, when the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Spurs in San Antonio. Dedmon had possession of the ball near the free throw line, and as the Clippers were playing solid defense on the other four Spurs trying to get free, Dedmon put the ball on the floor and used the dribble hand off action to give Mills the ball. After Dedmon provided Mills with the ball, he rolled to the rim and put his hand up for the lob, where Mills saw and made the correct pass.
On the Break
Another alley-oop between Dedmon and Mills came out of a fast break possession as Mills and Dedmon put together a give-and-go sequence in the open court that ended in a Dedmon slam.
This is the most common way Mills is finding Dedmon for scoring possessions, and since Mills is a lethal shooter coming off a screen from three or the mid-range area, defenses usually focus on him, which allows Dedmon to roll and slip away for the open dunk or layup near the rim.
Screen, then rescreen action
You can see chemistry brewing between Dedmon and Mills when they use the screen, then rescreen method, as was described in the opening of the piece. If the defense takes away the first action, both players know they can easily reset and use another pick-and-roll if time permits.
1 to 5 SLOB Alley-oop
I can’t be totally sure if this was the way the coaching staff designed this play, but the Spurs ran and executed it to perfection against the Pelicans. Here’s the Sideline out of bounds alley-oop play diagram.
Now, here’s the play in action:
The last way Mills has found Dedmon this season for a scoring basket was against the Bulls Sunday, when Kawhi Leonard drove in on the defense, they closed in on him, so Mills cut baseline. Leonard dished the ball to Mills, then, as the defense closed in on him, he passed to Dedmon for the layup.
In 22.9 minutes per game, Mills is having one of the best seasons of his career, scoring 11.1 points per game (4th highest on the team) and collecting 3.6 assists per game (2nd most on the team). In his first season with San Antonio, Dedmon is averaging 4.8 points on an efficient 57.5% shooting from the floor (mostly around the rim). Dedmon’s also grabbing 5.6 rebounds (4th highest on the team) and blocking 1.0 shots per game (2nd most on the team), while playing just 15.2 minutes per game.
Together, the duo are part of the Spurs’ bench which is ranked 13th in scoring (36.6 points per game) and first in bench assists (10.0 per game). Though it has been just 31 games of the season, the production and connection Mills and Dedmon are providing San Antonio has been a key part of the team’s early success.