Back in August, I wrote a piece on four current or former G League coaches from the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons that should be linked to NBA head coaching jobs. One of the names that was listed was Will Weaver, the 2019 NBA G League Coach of the Year.
The Coach of the Year honor came during the 2018-19 campaign where he led the Long Island Nets to a 34-15 record and an appearance in the G League Finals. In the subsequent season, he made the trek to Australia to become the head coach of the Sydney Kings in the NBL (National Basketball League).
Although he was in a brand new league and continent, the results were eerily similar. During the regular season, he led the team to an NBL-best 20-8 record before making a run to the NBL Grand Finals to compete against the Perth Wildcats. After losing two of the first three games in the best-of-5 series, Perth was named the champion after Games 4 and 5 were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With Weaver leading two separate teams to the Finals of their various leagues in back-to-back seasons, it shouldn’t have come as a surprised that he was one of the players that was featured in that August piece. Among that bunch, Weaver is the first coach to actually be linked to an NBA job, as ESPN Insider Brian Windhorst recently stated on an edition of “The Hoop Collective” podcast that the former Kings and Nets coach was an under-the-radar name that he heard being linked to the open New Orleans Pelicans job. As of the time of this piece, signs are pointing to Weaver still being in consideration for the job after fellow finalist Ty Lue was hired to be the next head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers.
With him still standing as a legitimate finalist to be the next head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, I thought it would be a good idea to use film to inform you about how a Will Weaver coached team looks like on both ends of the field within a two-part series. This inaugural part will be looking at how the offensive schemes and plays that he’s used during his time as a head coach.
No matter if it’s the G League or Australian NBL, Will Weaver loves his teams to get the ball up the floor quickly and get a shot up before the opposing team can get ready to defend. In 2018-19, Long Island averaged 108.5 possessions per 100, which placed them number one in pace. In the following season, the Kings finished second of the nine teams in pace, as they only trailed the Adelaide 36ers.
That emphasis on fast-paced offenses has made it necessary for Weaver’s players to be organized with how the players set up for a quick offensive possession. When it comes to the work in transition, that’s actually been a work in progress for the young head coach as Long Island struggled in that act by averaging .97 PPP (points per possession) in 2018-19, which placed them last in the G League, according to Synergy. Those issues come despite the fact that team did a good job of hustling down the court, moving the ball around, and getting in position.
Once he made the transition to the Sydney Kings, that transition efficiency zoomed up to 1.18 PPP, which placed them first in the NBL. Perhaps that rise in efficiency had something to do with former Ohio State wing Jae’sean Tate, who stood as a strong 6’4, 240 pound power forward for the team. Despite possibly being considered undersized, he possessed this rare ability to fight for defensive rebounds and then push the ball up the court in transition. Him being a big and mobile player that can push it down the court and finish in traffic allowed him to hit 71% on his shots in transition, according to Synergy Sports.
While the Kings were very good in transition, Weaver’s work as an offensive coach undoubtedly becomes more interesting when you start to look at his work in half-court sets. A lot of that has to do with basic creativity as he’s spent the last two years implementing different plays that you really don’t see from many other coaches. An example of that would be 1-5 or 2-5 pick-and-rolls where a backcourt player sets a screen for the center, whether that’s Alan Williams for Long Island or Andrew Bogut for Sydney. The second example of that is seen in the clip below as the NBA vet uses a side screen set by Casper Wear to drive to the rim and finish with a layup.
Those side screens have been common place within Weaver’s offensive schemes since his time with the Long Island Nets. Whether working on the left or right side, they use those screens to either set up pick-and-pop or pick-and-rolls rolls. Using side screens is more beneficial than top-of-the-key play as it works to attack the defense’s weak side with rolls to the rim or makes the defense work harder to close out on pick-and-pops.
Weaver’s emphasis on trying to get his defense to be out of rhythm is also seen through using the natural spacing within the offenses to create drive-and-kick opportunities. Although drive-and-kicks are seen in a lot in offenses at any level, it definitely feels like the subject of this piece uses it more often than most.
The drive-and-kicks that Sydney or Long Island used is extremely effective as facilitators like Casper Ware, Shaun Bruce, or Jordan McLuaghlin all did a great job of being able to draw the defenses in with their drives before kicking it out to a perimeter shooter or big stationed inside the paint. Also, that drive-and-kick can be the cog behind them moving the ball around the perimeter, if that initial recipient gets closed out on.
While a good amount of his team’s offense is built through perimeter play, Weaver was more than willing to use backcuts to create easy buckets. Of course, a lot of those plays wouldn’t have happened without the great post-up passing from bigs like Alan Williams and Andrew Bogut, who both did a great job of being able quickly to find players that are making backdoor cuts or open corner shooters.
Before I end this piece, I want to go back to the part about breaking down the creativity of Weaver’s offenses. Although that part was brief due to the writing instinct of wanting to talk about side screens, that 1-5 pick-and-roll isn’t the only example of him being a creative offensive coach. Honestly, the best visual sign of that is seen in the video that you’re be able to see below, which features a play that I don’t think I’ve seen in the years that I’ve been watching and writing about basketball.
This play starts out simply enough with Daniel Kickert and Shaun Bruce working together in a pick-and-roll where Kickert drops and Bruce drives. However, Kickert makes the turn once he hits the NBL logo as he starts to move to the paint. That definitely seems like a part of a play designed by Weaver as Bruce seems ready for it by throwing a pass right when the screener lands on the screen. So from my perspective, the clip that you see below is an example of what we’ll call a pick-and-roll-and-pop.
While I’ve used this piece to shine a light on Weaver’s success as a coach, and effectively using spacing to keep the defenses on their toes, that play alone makes me excited about his potential as a coach as it’s clear that he’s clearly a creative mind that is more than willing to think outside of the block when it comes to creating plays that opposing teams aren’t anticipating.