Desmond Bane isn’t like the hidden gems I’ve profiled before. Unlike Jacob Poeltl or Jarred Vanderbilt, chances are you’ve at least heard of Bane and know that he can shoot the ball. However, what you may not know or appreciate about Bane is how he creates the space necessary to fire those shots.
Stand 3s are the easiest shots to hit. But shooting on the move and taking a lot of shots that way is a science. Bane is only in his second year in the league and already has a Ph.D. That makes him one of the most valuable shooters in the league.
NBA League Pass: Sign up to unlock games outside of the live market (7-day free trial)
We’re going to do something a little different this issue and audit Bane’s night school course on generating space. Much of its value is hidden, and we’re exposing it today.
Lesson 1: Make a great fake shot
One of Bane’s greatest weapons is his excellent fake bomb. He has earned the nickname FBK, or flying king, due to how often he causes defenders to overwhelm him helplessly. Watch him go from having two Mavericks contesting his shot to going wide in the blink of an eye.
Lesson 2: Learn to use screens
Like most other great on-the-go shooters, Bane opens up by running through a lot of screens. What separates him from the rest of the pack is that you don’t know where he’s going next.
Tune in to any game this year and you’ll see at least one example of Miami action. Your favorite team probably runs it. There are two screens: First, a dribbling transfer. Second, a ball screen. Here’s to Bane.
Bane makes more transfers than almost anyone in the league, and he’s very efficient at them. You can shoot from the screen for a 3, stop on a dime for a mid range jumper, or reach the edge. He has one of the most balanced shot profiles in the league, and he shoots better than the league average from all three levels of the floor.
Lesson 3: Fool overly aggressive defenders with good performances and fast breaks
Those double-screen actions are so common that defenders will often recognize them before they happen. But if they try to fool the screens, then Bane will go to his counter like he did here against the Bulls.
Bane is a great actor. A difficult step towards a similar double screen (this so-called chicago action) is enough to throw an overly aggressive defender off balance, opening up a cut for a layup.
That slick performance comes through all the time when you watch Bane up close. Some players are just going through the motions in sets. Bane runs them with the vigor of a multilevel marketer. Those false actions create hesitation, which opens up the space he needs to shoot.
Here’s another very common play throughout the league that the Grizzlies run for Bane, called Horned Chest or Horned Bengal. What makes this work for Bane is his footwork. He moves his feet and stops for a second like he’s setting up a ball screen midway through his route. That freezes a very good defender in Terrance Mann, who isn’t sure if he needs to help with the ball. That’s all Bane needs to shoot.
How about using a strategy of guarding Bane so hard that he can’t get the ball? He has the intelligence to listen to his teammates to set up blind pig action, the same play the Bulls used to run for Michael Jordan. He will cut and use that excess play to his advantage, creating room for a downhill catch.
Lesson 4: Use footwork to create space
Bane’s footwork is also excellent. He has mastered James Harden’s step back and used it to put Steph Curry on roller skates earlier this season.
Bane proves that fooling defenders with jabs and hesitant dribbles can be just as effective as blistering speed if used correctly.
When Bane doesn’t have the ball, he can appear to be running around like a chicken that’s had its head cut off. Actually, he is playing chess with his defender. Every play he has a fast break, and so he’s able to hit 14 shots and score 18 points a game without great speed or flurry.
Bane is much more than a marksman. He is an extremely intelligent all-around scorer, a solid defender Y a good passer which creates plans by itself knowing the geometry of the ground. He fell to No. 30 in the draft last year because he was an older player with a bad wingspan, but he’s proving that a great sensation can be more valuable than what shows up on a combined draft spreadsheet.
To really get to know Bane’s game, you have to notice what he does away from the ball. He is a master of his trade. Much of his ability is invisible to onlookers, but it’s beautiful to see once you know what to look for.